Just a few hours away from Delhi by train is the city of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. It sits on one point of “The Golden Triangle” that comprises of Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. Karl and I travelled here in 2009 and again (with my Mum) in 2014.
The first thing you will notice about the old city of Jaipur is the colour. Is it puce, coral, salmon? Whatever you call it, it is pink. Originally the buildings were slightly pink, well a sort of red, when the city was first constructed, due to the colour of the local sandstone. However, when Prince Albert (The Prince of Wales) was on a royal tour of India in 1876, the Maharajah wanted to do something special for him.
Historically in India, pink was the colour of welcome, and so all the buildings were daubed in the famous rosy blush. The Maharajah’s wife, the Maharani, loved the facelift and so the colour of the city was written into law.
Hidden within the pink walls of Jaipur is a park full of other worldly structures. It is a geometrist’s wet dream.
They aren’t just a Joan Miro painting come to life, they are actually a series of giant instruments for measuring the astrological world. This was a highly advanced set of measuring apparatus, considering it was constructed in the early 18th century by Jai Singh II, the Maharajah. He built similar parks in Delhi as well so if you can’t make it to Jaipur, you have a second chance.
The City Palace
Next, it is time to delve into the heart of the blushing city, the city palace. Here we see a mix of Mughal and European styles, partly designed by Jai Singh II (remember him!?). The main entrance is in a courtyard where Karl and I quickly attracted the attention of a school group who were also visiting. The central building housed a small museum full of weapons and clothing.
You then emerge into another area, a large courtyard with an open audience hall in the centre. This houses two giant silver jars called Gangajalis. These are the largest items made of solid silver in the world and must weigh a substantial amount empty. Now imagine them full of water from the Ganges. This is what the Maharajah took with him all the way to the UK for Edward VII’s coronation. (It was he that the city was painted pink for).
Passing through a beautiful gate on the left of the courtyard, you find yourself in another courtyard.
Around the edge of this courtyard are stunning mosiaced doors. My favourites were the lotus and peacock gates which were alive with brightly coloured tiles.
Just around the corner from the City Palace is an incredibly striking building. Venturing inside, you will see that the majority of this is just a facade, but it served a very important purpose.
The ladies of the court weren’t to be seen in public, and so when large parades or festivals took place, they secreted themselves behind this array of windows to watch the party down below. They remained screened from the outside world but could still enjoy the festivities.
Behind the initial, room wide wall, you see the women’s quarters that surround a lovely fountain. The breeze comes through the screened windows and this, combined with the fountain give a sense that it cooler than the street outside.
It was fun exploring this 2D maze of rooms and spotting the cars, people and the odd camel down below.
The Amber Fort (also known as the Amer Fort) is a little outside the city, in Amer. It is a very easy, very cheap bus ride; you can catch the bus from the crossroads right by the Hawa Mahal. The bus drops you just outside the gates to the lower gardens of the fort, and you pass along the paths, through the green grass to reach the first courtyard. From there, you need to climb a large staircase to enter.
The palace is constructed in a series of courtyards. The first one that you enter contains an Italianate garden. When we visited a group of secondary school students were daring each other to dash across it. None of them built up enough courage to do more than jump down into it before scrambling out again a hurry.
To one side of the courtyard is a gorgeously intricate temple which contracts with the garden. We struggled to get in close as it was packed solid with a huge tour group but we admired it from afar, unwilling to join the clamour in the heat.
Following the prescribed you will continue through more gates, more courtyards but in my honest opinion, the first one is the nicest so don’t rush through it. When you reach the end of the tour, there is a welcome coffee shop selling cold drinks. You may need one for the next stop on the itinerary.
Jaigarh Fort and Jaivana
Up a steep slope which can be traversed on foot, or by elephant (but I wouldn’t recommend that for animal welfare reasons) you find a second fort. The walk takes 15/20 minutes and you will be thankful for that overpriced Mirinda you are clutching.
The fort is a little dustier than its counterpart down the hill but there are some nice rooms showing furniture set up in a typical fashion. And speaking of fashion, there was a small exhibition of palace clothing. We also stopped to watch a traditional puppet show. This was actually very engrossing and very enjoyable.
The view down to the the Amber Fort are lovely and you can pick out the parts you visited from above. Originally Jaigarh Fort was built to protect the Amber Fort, hence the fantastic vantage. In the opposite direction you can take in the whole city.
Up on the very top of the fort is a huge gun, or cannon if you are feeling fancy. Mr Fluskey loves a cannon and he was pretty happy with this one. It was the largest cannon on wheels when it was built and it is no surprise that they built a good gun. An incredibly well known cannon foundary was housed in the fort for many years.
Take in the view, read the plaques and let the sun go down on Jaipur.
By now, you must be exhausted. You have earned a yummy dinner. Luckily, Jaipur is full of scrummy places to eat.
We took the chance to try some South Indian cuisine after over a week of North Indian food. Dasaprakesh serves up crisp dosa, light veg curries and filling idli. It is based right on the M.I. Road quote so it is known by most tuk tuk drivers. It’s location near the Albert Hall would make it a good spot for lunch on day two if you have either dinner plans for this evening.
Now it’s time to explore some more of Jaipur’s delights. We hired a tuk tuk for the day but you could get a air conditioned taxi or try and tackle it all with public transport. It will take you a long time if you choose public transport.
This small temple’s name translates as the Sun Temple. It is part of a wider Monkey Temple complex and as such is home to several monkeys who skitter about and enjoy the offering left by devotees.
After you are dropped at the base of the hill, there is quite an exposed walk up to the top so bring some water. When you reach the top you’ll step inside the white marble temple.
The temple itself is nice but nothing spectacular. However, this hill is another spot from which you will get a great view of the surrounding city. We enjoyed a bit of people watching from up here, but even more we enjoyed watching the monkeys. Look closely and you will see them performing acrobatics across the cities rooftops and washing lines.
We weren’t the only ones taking in the view.
Half way up the hill, if you take the left hand fork in the path, you end up in the actual Monkey Temple complex (Galta Ji)…something we entirely missed. Doh! Here you will find the temple to the monkey god Hanuman. The Temple is large, ornate and surrounded by lakes (water tanks). It looks rather lovely, shame we missed it really.
Albert Hall Museum
Unrelated to the famous Royal Albert Hall in London, this is a museum packed with crafts. Construction began in 1887 when the rince of Wales laid the foundation stone, and was finished in 1887 (the same year its London namesake opened). Architecturally, you will find a very imperial mix of British and Indian design. It is truly a building of the empire age. The outside is multi-layered and has turrets, arches and balconies.
The museum interior is full of textiles, carvings and musical instruments. You can see works made of ivory, crystal and metal. There was a series of tiny clay models in various yoga poses that I fell in love with. If only I’d known I would one day be writing about them (and if there was a no photography rule inside), I’d have taken some photos!
Outside, you could almost be forgiven for thinking you were in London (albeit on an annually hot day). Pigeons are everywhere!! The museums open courtyard has to be covered in a huge net to protect it from the avian onslaught.
It’s lunch time, you’ve earned it!
This is a bit of a two for one. You have seen some sights and settled into the rhythms of Indian life, and so it’s time to hit the markets.
You can get some fantastic street food. Just remember to buy from somewhere that is cooking fresh and hot. The bigger the crowd, the fresher the food will be and the less chance there is that you will get struck down by Delhi belly.
Once you’ve filled up on lovely fried snacks, you can wander the streets of the old town to find inexpensive bangles and other costume jewellery. Alternatively, hit M.I Road for fashion shops. This should take you until your train departs, or it’s time for dinner.
Jaipur is a cultural delight, and so close to the capital of India. If you are coming through, please try and make the trip. Just top up the sun cream to avoid getting sunburnt, or you’ll blend into the pink buildings in the background of all your snaps!
You can read about some more personal experiences I had in Jaipur here.