Jaipur, the capital and largest city in Rajasthan is, without a doubt, one of the places I enjoyed the most, when I visited India. Rajasthan, in case you’re interested, is located in the northwest; and it’s the largest state in the Republic of India. Because it was painted pink to welcome Edward, Prince of Wales in 1876, Jaipur is also known as the Pink City.
And having been there, I’m not surprised that Jaipur is a very popular tourist destination.
Our stop there came at the beginning of a month-long trip. We started in Delhi and went on to Agra where, among other things, we visited the Taj Mahal. New Years Eve was spent in Samode, a small village not far from Jaipur. We stayed in a heritage palace hotel, as we did throughout Rajasthan, and the News Years celebration they organized was nothing short of magical.
That deserves a blog post of its own. But just to give you a taste of what we experienced, we dined, exquisitely, in a huge tent, with walls of silk panels, open at the top so we could enjoy both the starlit sky and midnight fireworks extravaganza; and then partied with two brothers, Princes, whose family own the hotel where we stayed, and two others, near by.
The next day, after a drive of several hours (nothing is really close in India), we finally arrived at our destination. The absolutely spectacular, Rambagh Palace. You must check out the link.
Like so many of the luxury hotels throughout India, it defies description. Silk robes waiting for you in the closet, heated towel racks, marble soaking tubs, exotic flowers everywhere, including on your pillow. The morning newspaper hanging, in a silk pouch, on the outside of your door. Gorgeous peacocks roaming freely on the hotel grounds. Different coloured turbans adorning the heads of all the male members of the staff, while the women were dressed in beautiful saris.
We arrived late in the afternoon, in time for a quick cup of tea. I became quite addicted to ginger tea when I was there. And then we were off to a factory, where we’d watch them make carpets and do block printing, which they are known for, in this region. The factory was on the main floor. Upstairs were showrooms for carpets, shawls, clothing, bed coverings, you name it. All available for purchase.
There were many items on my shopping list for India, but a carpet was not one of them. So nobody was more surprised than I was, when I bought the carpet in the photo. I haggled (expected) for a long time, but eventually got it for a price I was willing to pay. Very reasonable. They had every kind of carpet you can imagine, but this one was so unusual I had to have it.
It’s made out of camel wool. I’d certainly never find one like it here. And all the colour is made from pure vegetable dyes. These people ship all over the world and they really knew what they were doing. They told me it would arrive a week after I got home, and that it did. Right to my front door. And now I have a little bit of India, a little bit of Jaipur, with me all the time.
But we did more than shop. There’s much to see and do here. We rode elephants. Toured the city. Spent a long time going through Amber Fort, a marvellous example of Rajput architecture. You have no idea how many forts there are, in India. By the time we’d reached the mid way point in our trip, I said that I’d scream if we had to go to one more fort. Needless to say, we kept on going to them. And, needless to say, I didn’t scream.
At the City Palace Museum, we saw an imposing blend of traditional Rajasthani and Mughal art. But the two attractions I loved the most were the Palace of Winds (Hawa Mahal) and an observatory (Jantar Mantar), that was built in 1726 AD, and is still accurate! To this day. And it’s still used. Absolutely mind-blowing.
Hawa Mahal is a pink, five-storied wonder, with a spectacular pyramidal facade. It features overhanging windows with latticed screens, domes and spires; and it is where royal ladies were able to observe everyday life, without being seen. What is fascinating is, there’s no back to it. It’s not a building at all. It’s a very elaborate front, behind which the women would ‘hang out’.
So that we could take good photographs of it, we went to the roof of a building across the street. I have some amazing shots. It looks like a big, pink, ornately-decorated wedding cake.
What I didn’t get to see, was the Albert Hall Museum, which is based on London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. We just ran out of time. That’s something you learn to accept when travelling in India. It is a vast country, with so much to see, to experience, to learn, to taste, to feel, to absorb, it is just impossible to do it all. You have to make tough choices, sometimes.
And hope that you’re lucky enough to return, one day. Oh, joy!