City trip in Rajasthan: Jaipur

In the late afternoon, we arrived in the capital city of Rajasthan after a five-hour train ride from Jodhpur. It felt like the April heat in Jaipur just slapped me in the face. Whether you like it or not, you will sweat. Also, it appeared that another ten trains or so had arrived at the same time as us, so it was incredibly busy and crowded at the station.

We had to wait for almost two hours before our driver finally showed to pick us up. In the meantime, dozens and dozens of offers were made to us take us and our luggage anywhere we wanted to go for a “special prize, only for you my friend”.

jaipur-rajasthan-india

Eventually the driver found us in the crowd. The driver wasn’t actually driving the car, but he was the one who was going to show us around. Actually, he is an employee at the company Nipun’s parents own. They also welcomed us in their home in Delhi one week ago. The driver was a short, but enthusiastic guy who’s English was just good enough and who kept being overly worried about our happiness and comfort. He was so eager to start showing us around, it took a lot of arguments to convince him that we wanted to take a minute to rest and freshen up. After we did exactly that, we left the Metropolitian Hotel (fyi: wifi not included, crazy right?!) to start our city tour.

During the drive to our first must-see it became clear to us why Jaipur is also known as the Pink City: all the buildings have a rusty, pastel reddish/pink color.

jaipur-rajasthan-india

jaipur-rajasthan-india

We started by visiting Hawa Mahal, also known as the Palace of Winds. The façade is famous for its characteristic 365 windows made up of colored glass. A long time ago, these windows were the only way for the royal women living in the palace to look at the outside world without outsiders seeing them. Because of their religion and royal traditions, they were not allowed to come on the street.

Next, we continued on foot to the City Palace, where we had a small snack and breathed in the atmosphere of this monarchistic location. We skipped the close-by must-see Jantar Mantar due to lack of time (and, frankly, because there is no shadow to escape into when it gets too hot).

jaipur-rajasthan-hawa-mahal

jaipur-india-rajasthan

jaipur-rajasthan-india-hawa-mahal

jaipur-india-rajasthan

In the afternoon we headed to Jal Mahal and Fort Amer. Jal Mahal is a private property that consists of a big, yellow, “sunken” palace in the middle of a lake. You can admire from a cozy boulevard, passing by a little improvised market place.

Fort Amer is, again, very different from all the forts we’ve seen so far. I don’t think I have to tell you that this fort is amber-colored? It is “guarded” by a whole family of monkeys. I think – and am not at all ashamed! – that we were looking at them for about twenty minutes. They just kept doing funny things that I wanted to film and photograph!

amer-fort-jaipur-rajasthan

amer-fort-jaipur-rajasthan

amer-fort-jaipur-rajasthan

amer-fort-jaipur-rajasthan

I think, even if you do know the way, you could still easily spend half a day in Fort Amer. It’s so big! I seriously got lost and, blonde and naive as I am, almost got cheated when I asked one of the “guards” to show me the way to the exit, for which he asked a tip. Jeez… At the exit my mouth fell open: there was an actual Starbucks here! Even though it being there seemed totally inappropriate, I was so thirsty by that time that I bought a cold drink anyway.

That night, we had a nice dinner in a restaurant we’d found on TripAdvisor.

amer-fort-jaipur-rajasthan

amer-fort-jaipur-rajasthan

amer-fort-jaipur-rajasthan

The next day, my dad was feeling the worst yet despite the medicine cocktail he had been taken the past few days. I found out why this was the case: at the entrance of Fort Amer he had drunken not just one but two of the cold drinks offered at one of the stalls. It is a drink with lime and salt, Indians love it and apparently, my dad does too. But one important lesson you should remember when traveling in India: never drink water if you can’t tell where it is coming from (which should be a sealed bottle)! Otherwise you can never know whether it is filtered. So I am 99% sure this is why my dad got sick. You are warned!

jaipur-rajasthan-india

jaipur-rajasthan-india

I visited most of the sights alone the next day… in the driver and his sister’s company. We visited two more forts: Jaigarh Fort, which offers a panoramic view over Amer Fort and which houses the biggest canon ever used, and Nahargarh Fort, which basically consists of a maze of corridors. From the roof you also get a beautiful panoramic view over the city of Jaipur.

The afternoon I spent by the pool on the roof of the hotel, while my dad went back to the room to get some rest. In the evening we visited the driver’s home and his family.

jaipur-fort-rajasthan-india

jaipur-rajasthan-fort-india

jaipur-fort-rajasthan-india

Afterwards, we went on to discover the Disney-esque village Choki Dhani. It is a beautifully lit, artificial town where you can learn more about the state’s history and try out the traditional dishes from the area. You can enjoy performances and take part in some activities, such as an elephant ride. I love these kinds of places!

We couldn’t stay long though. I was very tired from walking around all day in the heat, my dad was still feeling unwell. Nevertheless, Choki Dhani was absolutely one of the highlights of our visit to Jaipur.

choki-dhani-jaipur-rajasthan

choki-dhani-jaipur-rajasthan

choki-dhani-jaipur-rajasthan

choki-dhani-jaipur-rajasthan

The next morning, we left really early to the airport to fly off to our next adventure, the place that should be the absolute highlight of this whole trip: Kashmir.

Advertisements
3CMGM-Adventures-India

The Indian Fairytale in Rajasthan: Jodhpur

The only thing you are sure about when you make a roundtrip in India is that you simply cannot skip Rajasthan. Why? Because the state is described as the land where all the tales of the Arabian Nights are set. Because the tradition of real princes is nowhere as obvious as it is here. And because you can ride camels in the desert.

Well, I didn’t get to go on a camel tour myself unfortunately. Good thing I got the opportunity to ride a camel before in Puri, right? Udaipur is typically the place where these tours take place, but in March and April it is way too hot. This and the fact that our schedule was already super tight made us decide to skip this activity. But if you go during winter season, you should definitely go. Apparently, every angle in Udaipur is a photo genetic one!

After a long train ride from Delhi, we arrived in Jodhpur. Dad and I had to travel in different classes. To make the story short, what happened was: we booked our beds too late and were on a waiting list. Apparently, this journey is particularly popular. The moment we had to board the train, we officially had only one ticket (in first class). In our compartment (which had four beds instead of the usual eight), one of our fellow passengers had an extra ticket for third class that was not being used. He just gave it to us. How generous can someone be?!

Seeing as I had traveled several times already in third class and my dad wasn’t as comfortable with his first time taking a train in India, I offered to take the third-class ticket. But in the end, I stayed in the first class because for a second I had forgotten that, of course, this is India and probably it wouldn’t be appropriate if I were to stay alone in third class… And since the men in our compartment seemed really nice, and kind, and helpful, it seemed like the best solution. (And honestly, I slept much better in first class!)

In Jodhpur, we had to arrange everything ourselves. At the train station, I booked an Ola and ordered chai while we waited. I keep thinking it’s so funny when the chaiwalla (a guy serving tea) makes a face when I go order with them. Actually, this tea, when it is served in the street, is a poor people’s drink (or at least that’s what I’ve been told). But I can’t help it I like it so much!

balsamand-lake-palace-jodhpur-india

Our Ola driver took us to the hotel. Balsamand Lake Palace used to be a real palace. Even in the hotel itself you can easily spend half a day discovering the grounds. While we were waiting until the room was ready, we got some more masala chai. Then another guy appeared with a giant golf cart to take us and our luggage to the room.

Let me take a moment to describe our room, because it was quite spectacular. After walking into the building’s marble hall, we climbed up the marble stairs and arrived at a double door which looked like it could be the entrance to a dungeon. The doors opened into a giant room. Our room. More marble. The ceiling reached several meters above us. There were two super soft beds, a living room area, two desks, a swing bed and the windows were completely made of colored glass art. On each side of the room there was a bathroom also… completely made of marble. In any other western country, this could be the presidential suite. But still, we didn’t pay that much more than a junior suite in London for example.

balsamand-palace-india-jodhpur

balsamand-india-jodhpur

As it was more than 40° Celsius in Jodhpur (+100°F), the first thing we did was go for a refreshing dive in “the royal pool”, where we stayed until the highest temperature peak had passed. Then we made our way into the old city. Being alone at this pool at this time of the day, it really felt like we were enjoying our own private oasis. sigh

Jodhpur is also known as the Blue City, and you can see why as soon as you go to higher places. We discovered the Old Town and braved the busy market where bracelets, bangles, saree fabric, spices and more were being sold. But from here, you can’t really tell the city is “blue”.

I also had my dad taste his first pani puri, but since he was already not feeling too good while adjusting to the Indian food – which is totally normal obviously – he only tasted one. Pani puri is a typical street food from Rajasthan. It is a kind of crunchy rice ball. With your thumb you push a hole into it and fill it with spiced water (pani means water by the way). It’s a bit hot.

jodhpur-blue-city-india-market

blue-city-jodhpur-rajasthan

But beware! Standard rule in India: if you try street food, always go where the Indians go. This way, chances are already a bit higher that the food is prepared (relatively) more hygienically. Trying pani puri is actually taking an unnecessary risk of getting sick: you don’t know if the water that is used was filtered for starters. Lucky me that I choose a good stall!

I booked a new Ola to take us to On The Rocks, which was recommended to us by one of the passengers in my compartment in the train. The best way I can describe it is as a cave complex filled with restaurants, shops and bars. That night we decided to sit outside on the patio underneath the starry sky.

Mehrangarh-jodhpur-rajasthan

rajasthan-fort-jodhpur

Mehrangarh-jodhpur-rajasthan

The next morning the Ola cab took us to the 600 year-old Mehrangarh Fort, also known as “the Petra of Rajasthan”, because it looks like the fort is made out of the rock itself. It is a very exhausting place to visit in this heat. You have to climb up and down a few steep hills. But once you reach the top you will experience why Jodhpur is known as the Blue City! Inside the fort you also have a few museums, which will let you cool down a bit. A short tuktuk ride out of the fort you can also visit a beautiful temple called Jaswant Thada. A famous maharaja (i.e. Indian king) is buried here.

jaswant-thada-jodhpur-rajasthan

jaswant-thada-jodhpur-rajasthan

At noon, we had the idea of having lunch in the most impressive (and expensive) hotel in the city: Umaid Palace. But just to get inside, you’ll need to come up with Rs. 10,000 (or €140). So we turned around and went back to On The Rocks. As the heat wasn’t doing my dad any good on top of how he was already feeling, we decided to spend the afternoon at the hotel pool again.

jodhpur-rajasthan-balsamand

balsamand-jodhpur-rajasthan-india

The last evening, we had dinner at another restaurant that was recommended to us by the same guy from the train. Hawant Mahal is located on the top of a mountain and comes with a spectacular view of the city lights and Umaid Palace. The food was also amazing and plentiful.

The next morning, we prepared to leave quite early. We were going on another train ride to continue our journey in Rajasthan. On the way to Jaipur!