In 1876, when the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria visited India on a tour, Maharaja Ram Singh had the whole city painted pink. The pink colour is meant to welcome the guests because it is the colour of hospitality. Today, the city is mandated to be kept up pink to maintain the tradition and attract tourism. We visited Jaipur for two days and tried to pack in as much as possible on our agenda. Though that visit may have been short it covered a lot of ground, so here is a quick guide to Jaipur, India’s Pink City.
Hire a guide & a driver
Jaipur has a rich and fantastic history. There are many little secrets around the city which only a well-versed guide can show you. We had a guide for a day and he was really beneficial. This very lovely man not only showed us the secrets of Jaipur but also served as a kind of bodyguard in the markets and advised on purchases.
Shop the markets
Rajasthan is where many of the items sold across India come from. Similarly, most of the precious stones come through and are made here as well – the mountains are very healthy! I bought some unique pieces, like the skirt below, representative of the local embroidery pattern. Most tours here would involve a stop at some sort of jewelry shop. Our stop proved to be very fruitful. Not only did I find some great earrings at a fraction of North American cost I also had a custom ring made. Many of these quick finds might require tailoring. My skirt, for example, needed a custom waistline finish, tailored to my body. Both the skirt and the ring were delivered to me the same day to a place I indicated I’ll be at a specific hour.
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Splurge & sleep like royalty at the Rambagh Palace*
The hotel is currently run by the Taj company but for many years was home to the Rajasthani royalty. It is an unforgettable treat to stay here, read more about it here.
Spend time with elephants
There are many places you can do that but not all are ethical. Riding elephants is incredibly painful for the animals, even though you can see many of them dressed up for the occasion around town. Elephants of Jaipur live in the Elephant Village where various organizations take care of them.
A friend did a lot of research on the topic and chose Elefantastic because they appeared most ethically responsible. Many of the elephants are circus rescues. Some of them were born in the village, and the only way you can ride them is bareback. This is also not advised but much kinder and more uncomfortable than painful for the animal. Riding the elephants is really only popular because tourists want to, so help the elephants by not riding them. The owner is a lovely man. We spent a few hours in the park and got to feed and wash the elephants. This time period was enough to build a small bond with these majestic animals. My elephant, Chanda, was born and raised in the village and knows to be a bit of a moody creature, but we found common ground easily. Dear Chanda, I still miss you!
Tip: See me wearing pants? Don’t follow that example, it’s too hot and too uncomfortable and I was dumb.
And now, on to the cultural & architectural sites!
Hawa Mahal translates to Palace of Winds. This is one of the most photographed places in Jaipur, as you may have noticed on Instagram. Built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh this palace was primarily a zenana – women’s chambers. The women of the main palace used it as a way to observe street processions and daily life while they couldn’t be seen themselves. We had a rather quick stop near the Palace but there is a cafe across the street that offers a great view.
This is an observatory built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II. I know, names are hard to keep up with but they make these places more personal. The site is home to a collection of 19 architectural astronomical instruments including the biggest stone sundial in the world! With mad accuracy, I might add. Among many other structures – instruments – each zodiac sign has its own structure. Jai Singh built the site to be able to better predict the position of celestial objects. There is a mini version of this in New Delhi but it’s not nearly as impressive.
This entire site is absolutely majestic! I won’t retell the whole story because it’s a lot and you should hear it while visiting the Fort. But in short: Amer Fort is the center of Amer Town. It was built by Meenas and later ruled by Raja Man Singh I. As the town grew, the city of Jaipur, as we know it now, was built below. That land was chosen for Jaipur because of its flat nature in order to facilitate Jantar Mantar, in addition to all the people of course. The views of the surrounding area from the Amer Fort gates are fantastic!
Patrika Gate is the 9th gate of Jaipur is located in Jawahar Circle. On the other side of the gate is a nice park but the gate itself is absolutely stunning! From the outside, it is decorated with intricate stone carvings. On the inside, the colours, fine lines, and layers create an incredibly intricate frame. A lot of people, naturally come here to take pictures, but it’s also a nice place to relax.
To see the India trip on Instagram look up #xoIndia18.