Rajashtan, the Land of the Kings, is India’s most colour-charged state. Half desert, half bony-hills, the everyday is shot with searing colour – brilliant fabrics flash like flames against the stark landscape. (Lonely Planet – India, 2005)
Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan state in India, a colorful city with the old and new parts of town sitting side by side, separated by City Palace. They call Jaipur as Pink City. Towards the end of winter, the air was cool during the day and even you can feel the chill in the evening. We came by car from Agra, where the beautiful Taj Mahal sits, by rental car. It was almost 4 hours drive, relatively smooth and all the way you can see the hues of color wore by the female dwellers or farmers. Our journey to Jaipur was part of a 10-day escapade, which started from Amritsar up in northern Punjab, Agra, Jaipur and New Delhi. The last three cities are usually called the golden triangle.
Parts of the city we visited were City Palace, Jantar Mantar, went around the Old City, Johari Bazaar a busy and bustling market in the Old City. City Palace occupies a large area – a complex of courtyards, gardens and buildings. It is a pure Rajasthani and Mughal artchitecture. Not far from City Palace is Jantar Mantar, an observatory begun by Jai Singh in 18th century. Be prepared for a bumper to bumper traffic with your driver on the horn all the time. It is a truly a competitive world on the street, amongst the rickshaws, the cars, motorcycles and death-defying pedestrians. Whether it is necessary or not, they will keep on the horn, as if to notify other dwellers that ‘hey, I am here and am using this road, too.. so give way!’
People usually asked why travel to India? India never stops to awe me. Every city which I visited, gives a new meaning to life experiences, things which are taken for granted. Be it business or especially, leisure trips. The struggle of the people to survive, the fact that they are now rated number one for their IT competence, cheapest and readiness for their call centre and many other high-tech related matters. They are actually being recognized globally! Nothing less than the way they compete and struggle on day-to-day basis. So modern but yet, so thick with traditions. The sights and sounds are vivid and inviting! Every state is different; northern and southern India are so apart; let alone the food, the language and character of its people.
We were on a budget trip and as much as possible, stayed in guest houses or bed and breakfast accommodation. In Jaipur, we booked Madhuban Heritage house (www.madhuban.net). It is located in the leafy Bani Park area. If you got the opportunity to stay here, you can request for a room on the second floor. The internet rate booking is about USD80 per night or INR3800, inclusive breakfast. The room was clean with en-suite bathroom and hot water. During leisure time, we sat around in the garden and ordered hot chai. The services were quite helpful, only the way the reception was located in a booth felt so remote. He helped us to finalize our flight booking to New Delhi and booked the car and driver, which turned out to be one of the best and reliable one during our trip.
Various block prints (on table cloth, bed cover, bed sheets and pillow cases) have their varieties in colors and patterns, also cotton wrinkled skirts, shirts, Indian printed batik, jutis (traditional flat shoes). The best selection to shop is either at the reknowned cottage industries (the prices here are relatively fixed) or at the Johari Bazaar (bargain half price!). Outside Jaipur, visit Sanganer or Bagru villages, which are famous for its handmade paper and blue pottery.
Jaipur is famous for its precious, or semi-precious stones or gems. One of the best ‘factory outlet’ we visited was Molto Belto Gems in Amer Road, near Valmiki Bhawan. Yogi and Sam were our charming shop-assistants. Choose carefully and bargain endlessly. I saw everybody came and go, but we sticked around for a while… too many selections, too limited eyes to choose!
Food was always a feast in India, especially in Jaipur. We stopped by for lunch at Samode Haveli, tucked away with narrow streets of the old city, in a 200-year-old building. We chose Indian buffet. Loved the pistachio kulfi dessert. Heaven! We enjoyed our lunch while entertained by father and son song-and-dance. Even though we did not stay in this five-star we got the opportunity to look around their property, as well as other properties which they have such as Samode Bagh (luxurious 44-set of tents) or Samode Palace (an old palace up in the hill). Another place worth visiting is Rajputana, an old palace converted to a 5-star hotel.
Some useful links are as follows:
http://www.rajasthantourism.gov.in/destinations/jaipur/jaipuroverview.htm, informative resource to find out more about Jaipur, Udaipur and surroundings.
http://www.hotelsjaipur.com/ various hotel’s reference from bed and breakfast to the 5-star category.
Next destination when we come back to Rajasthan, must go to Udaipur, highly acclaimed as the most romantic city, and to visit Lake Palace surrounded by Lake Pichola. Always a dream!
Reference to Lonely Planet India in their late edition is always helpful.