The Musts in Jaipur, India. Part 1.
Posted on January 25 2018
The most memorable experiences of a city, are frequently not those you read about in the travel books or hear about from your Western companions in your hotel but the strange and wonderful things that you fall upon whilst delving into the streets beyond the main path. Allow yourself to truly experience the myriad of sensory delights by sampling the local foods, engaging in the ways the locals earn a living, staying in their homes in homestays and involving yourself in their family lives. In Jaipur, like many other parts of the world, it's the artisan districts, the street foods and the early morning flower markets that will really throw you into the insights of Indian life.
As you will have undoubtedly heard or read many a time, Jaipur is an absolute sensory over load. Bustling streets filled with horn-blowing tuk-tuks, warm smells (sometimes nice, sometimes less so) and finally an abundance of colour everywhere you look. With all this going on, it is sometimes near impossible to notice the architecture on every street - but try - strain your eyes through the crowds when you can. It is more than worth it.
When you first touch down in India, the hustle and bustle can certainly take a little adjusting to. An area of peace and tranquility can be hard to come by, and if this is what you are looking for, then I could not recommend highly enough a leisurely breakfast at Caffe Palladio.
With a soft saffron interior and murals adorned with strutting birds, orange blossoms and tropical palms, you are swept into an etherial dream world. The menu is inspired by Sicily - with a fusion of Arab and Italian cultures resulting in delectable tagines, pastas and mezzes. However, I must admit that it was the pain au chocolat at breakfast that really got me. Trust me, and go and try one, you will not regret it.
A trip to Jaipur is not complete without a trip to Amber Fort. But do pick your day and time carefully, as a popular tourist attraction, it can get very full, particularly on festival days.
There is, of course, a lot that one could write about the Amber Fort, however, I am no fact-filled tour guide, so instead I would like to mention one of my favourite places in the fort - the Sheesh Mahal. This is a hall, with a roof scattered with small mosaicked mirrors that makes you feel like you are stepping inside a disco ball. It is said that the hall is designed in such a way that if only one single ray of light were to enter, this light would be reflected in the mirrors and the entire hall would be filled with natural light. Well worth a visit wouldn't you say!
At this point, we would like to strongly recommend that you do not take an elephant trip here. These are not happy elephants but it is the tourists that keep this trade alive. If it is an elephant trip that you are after, then my gosh we have the answer. And it comes with a glass of G&T too.
About 45 minutes outside of the city centre is a private camp called "Dera Amer". Despite having only just left the city, you feel as if you have been transported to a remote resort, miles from anywhere. Here you will find happy elephants, rescued and taken great care of by their 'mahouts' - a job I found myself rather keen on! You can start your experience by washing the elephants (and quite frequently them 'washing' you back) and attempting to paint them in the traditional fashion. This I thought, being an artistic trio, we would be rather good at. It would appear not (see below our attempt, and that of a rather more radiant version). You then start the ride, where you realise that sipping a G&T on the back of an elephant really is not that easy...
One evening, we decided to go and get our palms read (a story for another time!), and found ourselves meandering, a little lost, down narrow streets in the Old City. The air was thick with what seemed like perfectly white dust, and the streets filled with high pitched noises. We were in Khazane Walon ka Rasta, the stone and marble quarter. Open studio after open studio was filled with talented artisans chiseling and buffing their sculptures, each enthusiastically beckoning us in to admire their masterpieces. We liked the idea of all the creative artisans gathering together in the same areas to continue their craft - this was seen not only here with the marble work but also with the wood carvers (for block printing fabric), on the outskirts of Jaipur and the furniture painters in Sankheda in Western India to name but a few. Being a designer myself, I absolutely love the days spent in studios surrounded by like mind people, expressing their talents. It only inspires and encourages you further.
Jaipur excites, thrills, inspires and tires ..... but it is a MUST.....
Photo credit - Stone/Marble