Jaipur was one of the first cities thus far in India that I was not impressed with. It was my first of many planned stops in the western state of Rajasthan, a state known for its many palaces and forts and miles and miles of desert. Jaipur is considered part of the “Golden Triangle”, along with Delhi and Agra, and is usually visited by people who have limited time (read: one week) in India. With over a million people, tall skyscrapers and chain stores, Jaipur oozed “big city”, but lacking the British colonial charm of Kolkata. There were a few sights I wished to see, but I vowed not to spend any additional time there, as I had heard better things about the other cities on my Rajasthan agenda (Pushkar, Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer). Prices were definitely more expensive here in all aspects (with the exception of Backpacker Panda!), but still nothing when compared to Western prices.
This was an interesting area to walk around, as the buildings have their light brown hue that gives Jaipur its “Pink City” moniker. Home to many types of bazaars-silk, leather, jewelry, etc, it’s easy to get corralled into one of the many shops by the enterprising shop owner. Also impressive about the Old City are the city gates which line the perimeter, and offer only a few places to enter and exit the city.
Located inside of the Old City, this palace, the home of the Maharaja, is very popular with tourists. The palace offered a variety of different exhibits that were interesting to walk through, including an armoury as well as the ballroom where the Maharajas would host their special events.
This outdoor observatory was constructed in the 18th century to monitor the calendar and astronomical tables. While very interesting in theory, I found myself getting bored rather quickly, as the different structures weren’t interactive at all and the descriptions of each one were rather limited.
The Amer Fort is probably the flagship attraction in Jaipur. Located about 11 km outside of the city, it is best accessed by tuk-tuk. Usually you can negotiate for the driver to wait while you tour the fort and drive you back to the city afterwards. Situated high up on a hill, it is a very impressive sight. I advise not to participate in the elephant rides up to the fort. Not only are they expensive (1,000 rupees!), but the elephants are forced to repeat the charade multiple times a day, and do not have the best quality of life. Do yourself a favor and ascend on foot-if only for the added exercise!
The inside of the fort was PACKED with people. Opting out of a guide, I chose to meander my way around the magnificent fort on my own pace, ascending obscure stairwells and passageways to see what I could come across. Of course, there isn’t too much to see here other than the actual structure of the fort itself. The Sheesh Mahal or “Mirror Palace”, with its mirrored ceilings is a nice contrast from the rest of the fort.
Situated even higher than Amer Fort, Jaigarh Fort offers stunning views of Amer Fort as well as the surrounding area below. Notable less crowded, I enjoyed this fort as much as the more famous Amer Fort. Another cool thing was traversing through an underground tunnel from Amer Fort to get to the path to Jaigarh. There was an interesting photography exhibit showing the Maharajas during the 1900’s that I enjoyed. I find the photographs of actual people to be more interesting than the many paintings of the various Hindu gods and goddesses that often line the walls.
Raj Mandir Cinema
I was very excited to go see my first Bollywood movie. Like everywhere else in India, it is extremely difficult to book anything online with a foreign credit card. As such, I had to join the queue for the remaining tickets that starts 45 minutes before the scheduled showtime. Not wanting to miss out, I arrived well in advance and was one of the first people in line. There were a couple of security guards present to supervise, so I guess things can get intense! Luckily, I was able to snag a ticket!
The theatre itself was very fancy. The lobby was adorned with lights and chandeliers, similar to an actual theatre in America for plays and concerts. There was only one theatre, but it held over 1,000 seats. Prior to the start of the show, the screen was covered by a red curtain. When the curtain began to rise, the audience clapped in anticipation for the film to start!
Previous to this, my impression of a Bollywood movie was that all of them were very cheesy in nature with many synchronized song and dance numbers. The movie I saw, Kapoor and Sons, was more of a Western style drama, albeit with a a couple dance numbers with the ensemble cast. While the movie was in Hindi with no subtitles, I was able to follow along with the movie (or so I thought). The plot revolved around a family living in Southern India with two adult sons having returned for a visit from their new lives in London and New Jersey. They both fall in love with the same girl, as well as various other dramatics between the different family members. When I read the plot synopsis online, I realized that I had in fact missed several of the numerous plot lines that the story spun, but it did not dampen my movie going experience.
Stay: Backpacker Panda for affordable prices, clean facilities and a free to use washing machine!
Drink: Lassiwala. Served in charming earthenware cups and has been around since 1944. Numerous copycats have sprung up, but only the original has the “since 1944” words located on its signage.
See: Hawa Mahal, the “Wind Palace”. While also worth wandering around, few buildings cause your jaw to drop like this one, with its impressive curved structure and over 900 windows.
Watch: a Bollywood movie at Rajmandir. Indians treat their movie-going experience seriously, and it’s comparable to a night out at a theatre.
See: Amer Fort. Situated outside of the city in the countryside, the fort is very impressive, located on the top of a hill overlooking a small lake.
Eat: Ganesh’s-in the Old City for some delicious paneer butter masala!