Oh Beautiful Jaipur, the capital city of the state of Rajasthan , home to Monkey temples, Historical effigies, the Amer Fort, a few, in fact many, beautiful palaces, and a city that commands your attention .
Enjoy this beautiful song as I take you on a lovely journey through the Pink City:
We left late afternoon from most forgettable city of Pushkar ( see my TR on Pushkar here : Pushkar: An Unnecessary Detour ) for a short 3 hour drive . We arrived to the melodic chaos of the Pink City, which really is Pink. Why is it pink? Well it in 1878 upon the arrival of the Prince of Edward VII and Queen Victoria, the Maharaja Singh painted the avenues and walls of the city Pink.
Here’s your Cliff’s Notes info on Jaipur courtesy of Wikipedia:
Jaipur i/ˈdʒaɪpʊər/ is the capital and largest city of the Indian state of Rajasthan in Northern India. It was founded on 18 November 1727 by Maharaja Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amer after whom the city is named. As of 2011, the city has a population of 6.66 million, making it the tenth most populous city in the country. Jaipur is also known as the Pink City of India.
Located at a distance of 260 km from the Indian capital New Delhi, it forms a part of the Golden Triangle tourist circuit along with Agra (240 km). Jaipur is a popular tourist destination in India and serves as a gateway to other tourist destinations in Rajasthan such as Jodhpur (348 km), Jaisalmer (571 km) and Udaipur (421 km).
Tired and exhausted we checked into our hotel to freshen up. We checked into the gorgeous Samode Haveli. Samode Haveli is a mansion of the former rulers of Samode who’s descendants still live there today. It was such a sight to behold and we were just filled with joy when we realized that we are about to check into paradise .. ( anything better than Pushkar) . The Haveli, was so tranquil, and peacefully beautiful. Our room up a few stairs and towards to the back was huge and so lovely . The staff there was equally lovely. We sent a suitcase worth filled with our “gently used ” clothing for cleaning .
The hotel has a beautiful open air dining setting, a darker yet regal dining room, where we had our breakfasts, lovely pool side with spa upstairs, and just so many pretty nooks and crannies to explore and enjoy the opulent architecture and decor of a Haveli. At night we’d dine under the stars and it was really such a beautiful experience. You can read more about my reviews on this hotel at: TripAdvisor.
After some nice freshly squeezed lemon juice and a nice freshen up, we were met by our driver along with a very shady creature ie. Tour Guide. We knew we would have one, but he was really weird and sketchy and I could see the dollar signs glowing in his eyes. Never the less, we were off for a quick tour of the city as the sun is at it’s last quarter and we were itching to see the city.
First stop, Albert Hall Museum. A nice little museum, and by little I mean little. It like everywhere else in India, was chaotic. With people not understanding personal space or how to truly enjoy an exhibition. I guess I was just tired, but I really didn’t enjoy this place too much. There are some displays of armor, elephant tusks, and a few mummies. The place is very rundown , and the exterior a bit filthy. However, we came, we saw, we moved on.
Next was the Birla Mandir Temple. High up on a beautiful hill proudly stands this opulent eye goggling temple. There are Birla temples located all throughout India, as the Birla family , being very powerful and influential built their dedicated temples to the Gods as a tribute to gratitude for their wealth . Built in 1988, yes 1988, it looks as if it was built in some romantic time of ancient India. Bright white with stunning stupas and marble stair cases, it is no wonder why this is such a heavy trafficked site. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and his wife Goddess Lakshmi. It was heavenly and definitely worth the visit.
Filled with the spirit, we were then off to Galta Ji Temple.Galta Ji is a large Hindu temple complex that lies to the east of Jaipur. Galta Ji Jaipur is a unique Hindu temple as it is centered around a natural spring that has been channeled to fill seven large pools. I originally thought this temple was a temple in honor of the Monkey King/ God Hanuman. But what I didn’t know is that because of it natural springs and pools, it is a place for Ascetics to go and wash their sins away. However, it is of no wonder why tourist companies bill this place as the monkey temple as there are hundreds of Monkeys who have taken refuge in this beautiful temple set in the Aravali hills. There are families upon families of them fighting, drinking the dirty water, tending to their young and begging for food. When you enter the temple, you have the opportunity to purchase peanuts to feed the monkeys for a very very small fee. The temple itself is free. So we each bought a bag of peanuts and made our way deep into the temple. There were monks with their students enjoying the late hour of the setting sun by playing a bit of Football ( american soccer)
The temple complex is enormous and beautiful. I can see why and how anyone would want to slip into deep meditation here as the surrounding area is beautiful. We climbed a few steps up and up passing a few cows who were also enjoying the views, until we came across our first monkey. So cute!!!! and yet, so scary. Thank God I got my Rabies shots before coming as some of the monkeys were aggressive. We saw for the most part the typical Macaque monkeys who have a more tan and fury coat. They are not natives to India but to other parts of south east asia. They are very aggressive and are master thieves in the city, perfect beggars , and very rough bullies to the local indigenous Lagur with their old man faces, dark taupe fur with charcoal colored faces. They remind me of some of the sadhoos who could strike a yoga pose at any time. We passed by a few of the lovely pools with not so lovely water, a few dogs taking a sip and a few monkey playing and enjoying the water. We fed the monkeys who loved their sister Year of the Monkey , Kelly, and felt no shame jumping up and taking food from her while attached to her hip. At the top is a temple shrine with a Priest to which for a small donation, did some nice prayer for me and I felt fulfilled. It was dusk now and the sun cast a golden hue over the temple grounds which added to the majesty and magic of the place. Fulfilled we decided it was time to go home for dinner relaxation.
I forgot to mention that during our travels, Kelly’s suitcase incurred some zipper damage and we sought out through the help of the hotel , a master fixer upper who was currently working on her bag. We also mentioned to the skeeze ball tour guide that tomorrow among many things to see, we wanted to try our hand at looking for some lovely carpets/ rugs for possible purchase. Again with the dollar signs illuminating out of his eyes.
We got back to the hotel, showered and got a pretty, and enjoyed a beautiful dinner Al Fresco under the beautiful stars. Life is Great!
Woke up fresh and ready to conquer the day. We had a lovely Indian Breakfast ( I just can’t get enough of the food here its too good) in the restaurant surrounded by silver. All fueled up we set out for our day early. So much to see and do, and we need to be back in time to get ready for another Invited Dinner by the Taj Hotel groupp, at Rambagh Palace .
Now I can’t remember the order of the day with regards to what we saw first, but I’m just going to start with :
Jantar Mantar: is a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments, built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh, and completed in 1738. It features the world’s largest stone sundial and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is really expansive and such a marvel to behold. I’m always fascinated by the human mind and their ability to manipulate space for function. This was really amazing and of course Kelly and I quickly located our astrological sign . The instruments allow the purveyor to know exactly when a sign is in its time slot. I guess that’s the best way I can explain it. The tour , on our own pace, took about an hour or less. It was really a good visit.
Next to Jantar Mantar, is the City Palace of Jaipur. The City Palace of Jaipur is a palace complex within the Pink City and was the original Seat of Power for the Maharaja of Jaipur. The Palace has a very interesting past, starting from the middle 1700’s and has seen much internal wars between the Rajput Kings. It was built by the the Maharaja who ruled from the Amber Fort and his successors continued to maintain and build this palace into what it is today. It’s last ruling Maharaja to live at the Palace was Maharaja Man Singh II. He later build the awe-inspiring Rambaugh Palace where he and his absolutely gorgeous 3rd wife Maharani Gayatri Devi. She was truly a beauty , and I was and am a little obsessed with her life and beauty.
The palace is still inhabited by sectors of the ruling family. Even though India is an independent country , the former ruling classes, maharajas and the likes, still enjoy a princely life, albeit an influence on their people.
We enjoyed visiting the different parts of the palace, the mini museum of armor and the Queen’s rooms were of great beauty. But what really got me going was when we exited the palace immediately to my right was a SNAKE CHARMER! I did everything I could not to scream. The charmer was playing his flute , while the cobra, looked around ready to strike. Ofcourse he called me over to sit and pet the snake, but what he didn’t know is that I’m deathly afraid of snakes. No better time to face my fears I guess. Ofcourse , Kelly, felt no pain sitting down and petting the snake. UGGGGG> Scary times … 🙂
Next to the City Palace and actually sort of part of the complex is the stunning Hawal Mahal ( The Palace of Winds) It is a palace for the Maharanis as a sort of shield from the public eye. It is built with Pink Sandstone and stands so elegantly against the Jaipur sky. Depending on the ranking, each Maharani would have their own floor and viewing windows to allow them to see the street and fairs or parades that were happening. Because it is forbidden to look upon the Maharani, they were subjected to viewing through little Jowli windows. At first look , it seems as if the views are really not that great for the Maharanis but at closer look you can totally see clearly everything that is going on before you. As previously mentioned, the higher the rank you are , the better seat you get, something that I heard caused some problems amongst the queens . Oh the horror. hahahaha.
Hungry, infact, famished, we decided to go for a bite to eat. I can’t understand why I don’t remember the places we have been eating. But I do know this, Kelly and I had the hopes of coming back from India skinny , but with all our successful meals and next to zero incidents of Delhi Belly, coming back skinny doesn’t look like it was going to happen. So to sort of monitor or monitor our weight , since the food is absolutely stunning, we opted for Lassi Drinks (a popular yogurt drink mixed with fresh fruits and spices) instead for lunch.
After our filling lunch hahahahaha, we decided to take on the great big world of Carpet haggling. I was really interested in buying a carpet for my house. And being that we were in India, I thought the prices would be decent enough ( way less than USA) to buy and send home, and would make a most memorable piece to share stories about. Well, we went through a few, and went through the normal how its made blah blah blah, show me the CARPETS!!!! We finally made it upstairs to one of the rooms and was shown so many different types of carpets. kashmir, Camel Wool, Silk, silk blends , you name it we saw it . And omg how beautiful they are. Especially the Silks, I mean really gorgeous. However, the price is not so gorgeous. at $20,000 starting for some silks, and around $8-10,000 for silk blends, it wasn’t looking very fruitful. But I really did enjoy the Chai Masala drinks I was downing and tweaking off of . 🙂
We went to two Carpet houses, and our sketchy guide was trying to manipulate us by trying to get us to buy. Ofcourse he gets a huge commission on it and we were non the stupid about it , either. Exhausted, we decided it was time to return to the hotel for a nice rest and to get ready for our Dinner Adventure at the Rambaugh Palace..
At 6pm on the dot, we received a call that our driver and representative of the Palace is waiting for us in the lobby. All dolled up, Kelly again in a stunning dress, and me in my comfort pants, we set off in a gorgeous jaguar to the Palace.
Upon arriving we could see the roof tops peaking out in the distance and we were not ready for the pure magnitude of this stunning place. As has become the tradition thus far, we were greeted at the entrance to the lobby by a beautiful Sari dressed woman who gave us a bindhi blessing on our third eye, and a lovely beaded lei. We were shown around the property but especially down to the Jiva Spa. OMG how amazing.
Rambaugh Palace: was built in 1835 by the Current Queen for her favorite hand maiden. So much love went into building this place, that later became the final residence for the last raining maharaja and the beautiful Maharani Gayatri Devi. Beautiful appointed rooms, fantastic Jiva Spa, a train coach turned into a Lunch lounge, marble everything, fabulous courtyards, and an expansive dining room with wall to wall thick Pink silk carpeting with tables decorated with solid gold dining plates and Goldwear. This was by far the most opulent of all the Palaces we had visited thus far. We took the opportunity to visit the grounds and at the end of our tour we were shown the bedroom of the late Queen which is now the presidential suite and were asked where we would like to dine. Alfresco? or in that magnificent Dining room. Magnificent dining room for 2 please!
Our dinner was immaculate, all thanks to the fact that they offered my blind eyes an option of reading glasses so that I may read the menu. Even my purse had a stool for it. And I must say, eating off of Gold plates was quite lovely, as was the beautiful bottle of White …
We woke the next morning so grateful again for all the experiences we were having. Today is our last full day and night in the Pink City, and we are off to visit the mammoth of a Fort/ Castle called the Amber Fort.
Our first stop was to a smaller fort below the Amber / Amer Fort called Jaggar Fort, and it was a fort for the soldiers who were guarding Amer.
Amber Fort / Amer is actually located in Amer , a few minutes ride outside the City of Jaipur, Hense the name Amer Fort. I don’t know why its called Amber but oh well. It was built in the 1500’s by the ruling Singh Dynasty and it over looks through its vantage point high on a hill, the city of Amer. It is constructed with Hindu style elements and is really a sight to behold. To get to the Fort most tourist go by elephant. I refused to do so because I know that elephants cannot support the weight of humans or anything really, on their backs and have cause much damage to elephants in the past. So instead I decided to drive up its back gates and enter from there. The Fort is really intricate, with many many rooms and beautiful architecture. I could just imagine the royal family going about their daily business, all the while, with a watchful eye, entranced by the city below. There is even a SILVER dining room where everything is made out of silver. A little gaudy for me, but interesting non the less.
The Hot Noon Sun started to wear us down, We decided to head back to the hotel for some lunch and a nice massage . On our way we were treated by wondering elephants with their owners trying to get out of the hot sun as well. But first, one last try at carpet buying, to which we again returned unsuccessful.
Back at the hotel, we indulged in said massage/ spa treatment and it was definitely something I needed. Tonight we dined Al Fresco again, and enjoyed the starry night .
With a fabulous rest, and dreams of monkeys, palaces, queens, and elephants, we packed our bags full of our freshly cleaned clothing, and said good bye to the beautiful Pink City of Jaipur.. It was something out of a fairy tale , as this trip thus far has been, but it is definitely a city I’m anxious to return to.
Next stop, the most tremendous tribute to love, The Taj Mahal.