At first look, Jaipur looks like any other city. In fact, while driving around, my husband and I were discussing how certain areas look exactly like Delhi. A city is a city is a city, right? Not really. Not if you look closely; certainly not, if you look and interact with its people.
Each city is distinct mainly because of its people and secondarily due to its culture and history. The things that make Jaipur different from any other city are visible even before you enter the city when you see women dressed in vibrant traditional chaniya choli and men in white dhoti-kurta and colorful turbans. The stark contrast, between the natives still imbibing traditions on one hand and modern buildings & infrastructure on the other, gives it a unique characteristic.
The other important thing that gives Jaipur a distinctive colour is the impeccable hospitality of its people. I am not just talking about the royal welcomes and smiles at grand heritage hotels here. The proverbial Rajasthani hospitality is palpable even on the streets making you feel as if the entire city is there to welcome you. Walk through the old bazaar and you will know what I am talking about. Ask someone for direction and they will take a minute to explain it properly to you. The shopkeepers attend to you with patience reinforcing the adage that the customer is king. If you live in a bigger city, you know that these little things have been long lost in the age of technology. People still seem to value the personal touch here. It is for this reason that I feel the city is pink not just in colour but in health too. That is, of course, if you ignore the pollution and traffic chaos that cripples most of our cities.
During my many visits to the city, I have discovered few spots that truly represent the spirit of Jaipur. While the Pink City has many tourist attractions, here are some recommendations to catch the pulse of this vibrant city.
Visit The Palace of Winds
Your trip to Jaipur would be incomplete without including this distinctive landmark in your itinerary. Known as Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds is the reason why Jaipur is called the Pink City. Built in 1799 for Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, it is essentially a façade which is just one room deep in most places. Boasting 953 windows, it was designed to allow the women of the royal court to look at the processions on the streets. Spare some time to walk around the market and also to indulge in some retail therapy.
Watch Sunset at Nahargarh Fort
According to a legend, the spirit of a dead prince (Nahar Singh) kept disrupting the construction of the fort being built to protect the city. Whatever was built during the day was ruined at night by the spirit. He agreed to leave the site only on the condition that the fort would be named after him. More fascinating than the legend, is the sight of the city from atop the fort. Try watching either sunrise or sunset from here; it’s better to go for the latter since there are plenty of restaurants open at that time.
Watch a movie at Rajmandir Movie Theatre
You might wonder how watching a movie qualifies to be a recommendation to experience a city. But this cinema hall is something you might have never seen before. Owned by Bhuramal Surana, the theatre was built as a hall that could hold its audience for its architecture and class. Elegantly designed, the theatre has seen several movie premieres and is an icon for Jaipur.
Walk Around Johari Bazaar
The oldest market in Jaipur is the best place to get acquainted with the city. The market has an old world charm not just by its design but also because of its people, as mentioned above. While it is a popular shopping hub, it is also a fascinating place to know the city. You can, of course, shop for textiles, handicrafts, Rajasthani bedsheets, and silver jewellery here. Put your bargaining skills to use here to get good deals. Also, check out the street eateries here to get a taste of local cuisine.
Visit Amer Fort
Truth be told, I skipped visiting this popular tourist attraction the first two times I visited Jaipur. The sheer size of the Amer or Amber fort made it look too exhausting for me to stroll around. However, when I let than feeling settle during my third visit, I was left spellbound seeing this magnificent fort. The extensive palace complex built from yellow and pink sandstone and white marble is spectacular. Further, the blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture is fascinating. Stick around for the Amber Light & Sound show in the evening; it will enrich your experience further.
There are several other attractions in the city such as Jal Mahal, Jantar Mantar, Jaigarh Fort, City Palace, et al which are equally fascinating. The ones listed above, however, are representative of the vibrancy of this beautiful city.
Also Read about must try eateries in Jaipur.
The article was first published in the magazine Viva L’Amore