Our journey into Jaipur started off in mystery and adventure, with no hostel booked, the rough guide having no budget suggestions and only a vague idea of where to look in this sprawling city. We ended up getting very lucky, (thanks partly to a local, who then went a bit crazy when we turned down a guided tour of Jaipur in his car), and have been staying in an actual hotel for £2 each per night.
Jaipur itself has been a great city, despite the slight inconvenience of the hotel district being a tuk tuk ride away from the sights. Fortunately a favourite place of ours in Delhi, the authentic and charming ‘Indian Coffee House’ turns out to be a bit of a chain and became our base in central Jaipur. Having somewhere to escape the afternoon sun with a decent coffee and without being hassled is a delight in India! Hopefully we will come across more Indian Coffee Houses on our journey.
Jaipur is part of India’s golden triangle of sights and I (Toby) would say deservedly so. The highlight had to be the Amber Fort which we visited this morning. A short local bus ride (no A/C tourist buses for us) took us to the lake at the base of the Amber Fort. A spectacular construction up high on a cliff with its outer walls snaking around the neighbouring hilltops, which featured fantastic architecture throughout it. Above the Amber Fort atop the hill lay Jai Gargh fort, which turned out to be worth the steep climb simply for the views down onto Amber Fort and the valley.
The walled pink city in central Jaipur is very different to other urban areas we have been to in India in that it is designed in an orderly grid pattern. Imagine New York and then remove absolutely every single attribute of it other than its grid appearance and you have the pink city! Being able to see straight down long stretches of road was a new experience in India and it did make it simpler to navigate.
Within the pink city was Hawa Mahal, whose façade graces our ‘Rough Guide to Rajasthan’ cover. I gave the building more credit than the rough guide with it being interesting to explore internally and also providing great views over the pink city. Also within the city was the palace which I chose to give a miss, but Joe said it was nice with the highlights being the intricately decorated doorways. Beside this was the astronomy park, which featured huge ancient sculptures that were used to tell the time and the positions of the stars.
Outside the pink city the highlight was the British designed Albert Hall, which from the exterior boasted exceptional design, albeit with the interior not matching the grandeur of the outside. Whilst being in Jaipur we treated ourselves to a meat extravaganza of a meal at a recommended rooftop restaurant called Sheesa. With both of us being on mainly vegetation diets, (a heavy contrast to our English diets), Sheesa provided us with a welcome opportunity to devour chicken, lamb and goat in one sitting – it was fantastic.
Another highlight has been Lassi Walla, which serves up fantastic Lassi (a yogurty drink) in terracotta pots. These pots are single use, with it being cheaper to make new ones than clean and re-use! I don’t think India would win any awards for environmental awareness.
We finished Jaipur with a climb up to Naragagh Fort that overlooks the city. Whilst being unspectacular in itself, it gave great views over the whole city, letting us see where we have been exploring the past couple of days. I also got a roadside shave on the way back that was fun, and he’s done a great job!
So that pretty much sums up Jaipur, our final city in Rajasthan. Tomorrow we’re up to catch a 7am train to Agra, where I think there is some kind of mediocre monument to see…