Jaipur, or the Pink city as it is commonly known, is simply an assault to the senses! It’s big, dusty, loud, colourful and often smelly (frequently a tango of both good and bad aromas!) and I can remember feeling quite overwhelmed by it all, having never experienced anything quite like it before! So, after living there for a month, not only did I fall in love with its somewhat chaotic charm, but I learnt a thing or two which I hope I can pass on to fellow travellers! So Here it is…. My Top 10 Things to do in Jaipur (and a few other helpful hints)!
So, first thing’s first….. Getting Around!!
We often found as tourists, the best way to get around was by Uber. It is well established in the city and there’s no need to haggle as the price is set according to mileage – this can be a welcome relief when you spend all day every day battling with cheeky locals wanting to make a pretty penny from naive tourists! I could not recommend this option more for travel to the Amer Fort as this is a little way out of town and otherwise hard to get to!
However, as we lived on the outskirts of the city we often opted to take the bus into the central shopping area. If you’re feeling brave and want the authentic local experience, sitting on a cramped sticky bus with no air conditioning is for you! It’s also amazingly cheap – 10 rupees for a ticket! However, the buses can be quite hard to navigate as the stops are often not well marked. Another Indian quirk to be aware of (which we learned after nearly missing the bus several times); bus stops appear to be for decoration only! Leave all Western preconceptions about bus stops behind you, as even if there is a bus stop, it is unlikely the driver will choose to stop at it! Look out for where the locals are queuing and follow suit! You can read more about out Indian bus experience here….. http://travelsofababy-vet.com/getting-my-hands-dirty/
Once in the city, unless you’re feeling lazy most things are within walking distance just try to keep your bearings as there are several large pink gates to the city which, as we found out look very similar and can easily be confused! Getting lost at night in Jaipur as we did, after coming out the wrong gate is not advisable! Tuk Tuk is an option too, but be prepared for fierce haggling and you will probably still get absolutely fleeced, but it’s a fun novel way to get around and is quintessentially Indian so it’s worth the cost for a short journey!
So, you’ve made it to the city…Now what? My Top 10 things to Do in Jaipur
- Amer Fort – Leave yourself at least half a day for this, as it’s a big place and there’s lots to appreciate! This beautifully preserved 17th century fort was built by one of the many Hindu Rajas. It’s a decent walk to the top, though elephants are available as a novel taxi up the hill (though don’t get me started on the welfare implications of this…) but the views are spectacular. Inside the fort itself are beautifully kept symmetrical gardens, intricate mirror work decorating the walls and fabulous paintings all done with vegetable dye prints. We found a tour guide very useful as the place is absolutely gargantuan and I definitely benefitted from learning a little about the history of the fort as we were exploring. If you find yourself there in the evening there is a spectacular light show every evening starting at 6.30pm. The Amer fort is definitely one of the tourist hotspots I’d prioritise on your visit! (https://www.amberfort.org) Here’s more on our time exploring the Amber Fort… http://travelsofababy-vet.com/exploring-the-amber-fort/
- City Palace – The city palace is the beautiful residence of the current Jaipur royalty. You could spend a good few hours whiling away your time getting engrossed in the history of the Jaipur royal family and marvelling at the grandeur and splendour of this beautiful building. If you would like a top notch dining experience, the restaurant in the palace serves AMAZING food, it will set you back a little more money than your average street food stall but sometimes you need to appreciate the finer things in life and we REALLY appreciated the food in this restaurant!
- Hawa Mahal – ‘The Palace of the Winds.’ Brace yourselves for a steep climb up several flights of rather precariously narrow stairs, in this traditional pink-stoned beehive. As reward for your climb, spectacular views of Jaipur await you at the top! (http://www.hawa-mahal.com)
- Jantar Mantar – Also known as ‘The Giant Sundial’ – The one place on my list we didn’t visit but wish we had! We heard numerous positive reports from other travellers about this place, So I advise you don’t miss out and go and see it! It is a collection of astronomy observatories and is a recognised UNESCO world heritage site. It is right next to Hawa Mahal so enjoy both in the same day! (http://www.jantarmantar.org)
- Jal Mahal – ‘The Water Palace’ sits in the centre of the Lake Man Sagar. Unfortunately, you can’t access it as a tourist but it’s beautiful to observe in all its grandeur from afar. My advice…. Take an Uber taxi to the Amer Fort and on the way back (so you’re on the right side of the road) you will pass Jal Mahal. Ask the driver to pull up at the roadside so you can run to the water’s edge and take a few photos.
- Jaipur Markets – In my opinion there is no better place to pick up souvenirs! This explosion of colour in the centre of Jaipur is made up of rows and rows of stalls selling an abundance of wares; jewellery, furniture, clothing, trinkets and shoes – you really are spoilt for choice! My advice; take your time, practice your haggling skills and don’t be alarmed if you end up in the back store-room of the shop – it seems to be the norm there. For a keen shopper, or those with a list of souvenirs for relatives here is the place to stock up! But be warned… ensure you are prepared to play packing Tetris when you are then trying to transport all your exciting new purchases home!
- Get some Henna – it’s so touristy and kind of cheesy but can we really help ourselves?! The women who paint you are incredible, I have no idea how they conjure that sticky brown liquid into a perfect pattern, but by some form of witchcraft, they manage it! Look for places where the locals are going, these will often be cheaper and better-quality henna than the more touristy stands, avoid the thick runny looking stuff as this doesn’t leave a very distinct pattern.
- Do A Cooking Class – We used Jaipur cooking school (http://www.jaipurcookingclasses.com) which is recommended by trip advisor, lonely planet and the like, and we were not disappointed! It’s quite pricey (for India) but in my opinion worth it! It’s hosted by Lokesh who has cooked in world class hotels across the Middle East, in their beautiful home. We had a fantastic time, with lots of laughter; both Lokesh and his wife have a great sense of humour and all sit down with you to eat the meal you prepared (it feels like an Indian Dinner Party with old friends!). You get a booklet of recipes so you can cook for friends and family back home and I actually felt like I learnt a lot, I am now a pro samosa folder (not everyone can put that on their CV)! Besides, can you really leave India without learning how to make a decent curry?
- Crash a hotel Swimming pool – If you’re travelling on a budget and touring around, staying in hostels or cheap B&Bs it’s unlikely you’ll have a swimming pool. Jaipur can be hot, sticky and dusty (a terrible combination anywhere!) so sometimes all you need is a quick dip in the pool! Most 5* hotels have swimming pools and are happy for tourists to use their pool for a small fee and it’s definitely worth doing. Ladies, my advice would be to wear a swimming costume or take a t shirt to swim in because even the hotel staff will stop what they are doing and stare at any pasty skinned folk taking a dip in the pool. It’s harmless and we saw the funny side but if you’re feeling modest, alleviate the stares by covering up a little.
- Choki Dhani – (http://www.chokhidhani.com/village/concept) This place really blew me away and was one of my most enjoyable evenings in Jaipur. Choki Dhani is a recreated traditional Rajasthani village where you can partake and witness a number of traditional regional activities. We belly danced (badly) with some Rajasthani men dressed as women in traditional clothing – While men in drag is a fairly new concept in the western world, we were surprised to discover in Rajasthan this is actually a deep-seated tradition! There were ‘Punch and Judy’ style puppet shows, men balancing spinning plates on their chins, and the whole place was lit up like something out of a fairy-tale with strings of twinkling lights. It kind of reminded me of an old school carnival and we wandered around blown away by everything there was to see. One of the best parts was the meal – you have a traditional Indian Thali (like a tapas situation) sat on cushions on the floor, eating from plates made out of leaves. It was one of the best Indian eating experiences we had on our travels! If you want to read more about my experience at Choki Dhani follow he link here… http://travelsofababy-vet.com/an-evening-at-chokki-dhani/
So that’s it folks! I hope any intrepid Indian adventurer found this post useful. If you want to read more about my adventures in India, the good the bad and the ugly, read some more of my scribbles here…. http://travelsofababy-vet.com/category/asia/india-asia/ or if you have any questions follow this link to my contact page…. http://travelsofababy-vet.com/about/