Given how intensive a ten-day trip of Rajasthan can get, we had long decided to tackle one place at a time. Mount Abu and Udaipur are accessible by train from Mumbai if one does not mind the 14 – 15 hour overnight journey. Jaipur, on the other hand, requires some planning to get a good deal on the tickets. We did it over a three-day weekend.
Where we stayed –
Practically everyone in Jaipur has an ancient lineage and an old haveli which they have converted into a hotel. We stayed at the Deviniketan, which was quite well rated on Tripadvisor. We quite liked the non-fussy Admiral Singh who runs it and its central location in C-scheme, which is 2.5 kilometers from the Old City.
What we did –
Jaipur has phases to it. The nearby Amber area was where it all started. The Old City in Jaipur came next and then the rest of the city developed.
It is easy to hire cars to do a rushed tick-off tour of all the places in one day. However, we preferred to savour each place. This meant on the first day, we managed to get through exactly three places in the Old City – City Palace, Hawa Mahal and Jantar Mantar.
All three places have helpful audio guides and also regular guides with published rates. The good thing about audio guides is you can do the tour at your own pace. The downside is that the numbers are not clearly marked and that makes for a bit of running around trying to figure out where the next number is located.
The City Palace had some delicate carvings on the buildings and gave an overall feeling of being quite large. Inside, the two things that impressed me most were the clothes museum and the armoury. Some of the clothes were so large, you rather wondered about the size of the kings who wore them. The armoury had all kinds of weapons from them – state of the art I would say.
Hawa Mahal is quite pretty and amazing, mostly for the wonderful jaalis through which the queens watched the world go by.
Jantar Mantar, on the other hand, was a bit of a mental challenge. The place was filled with all sorts of astronomical instruments. It did not help that by the time we got there, it was nap time and we had just finished a heavy Rajasthani lunch. I was ready to snooze (which I shamelessly did for half an hour in the lawns under the trees). After that, trying to figure out the latitudes and meridians was a bit painful. I wish we had taken a human guide who would have simplified it for us, instead of taking an audio guide.
With just these three, we called it a day, without having visited the Birla Mandir, the Birla museum for personal effects of the Birla family (modest, wouldn’t you say?), any of the normal museums (which was a pity) and the sunset from a temple filled with monkeys.
The next day we went to Pushkar via Ajmer. Ajmer has a famous Dargah that is super-crowded. Pushkar has a famous brahma temple. Personally, I could have lived without seeing those. However, we were lucky that the camel fair was going on and that made the trip worth it (separate post on that)
On the last day, we set off early to see Amber Fort. Though the place was already crowded by the time we got there and we could not take up the elephants to go to the top of the fort and had to stick to our car.
Amber Fort is a good place to potter about with an audio guide. The first challenge is getting hold of one on a crowded day, since they have limited number of machines. The second is figuring out where each number is (it is worse than the Old City). The third is getting around the disjointed quarters accessible by numerous stairs and ramps placed in random order. It was great fun though. The complex was large enough to absorb all the tourists and you could have enough privacy to let your mind wander to what it was like back in the days of the yore.
We could have seen Jaigarh Fort after this, but got lazy and just decided to act like decadent tourists, spending a bomb on a luxurious lunch.
What we ate –
The Rajasthani lunch at LMB on MI Road is so filling that at some point, your stomach no longer registers the food. But a good experience.
Devi niketan was located close to Four Seasons (not ‘The’ Four Seasons) and Little Italy, where we got a chance to see how the upper middle class locals ate (dress up mostly in fancy Indian clothes and go out in large groups)
The splurge meal was at the terrace in the Rambagh Palace, run by the Taj. After the hustle and bustle of three days, it was shocking to be somewhere this quiet and classy. Not to mention, the palace itself gave us a glimpse of what it was to have been rich and owning those views.
How we got around –
We took autos to the Old City and within the Old City, one can even take cycle rickshaws. For Amber, a car is required.
Where to shop –
Jaipur is a shopper's paradise. MI road in the Old City has everything to cater to the tourists. You can pick up textiles, lac jewellery, silver jewellery, blue pottery, jhoothis and other stuff here. However, if you have the patience to go to the specialists, then here is a list to get started with –
Sanganer village – blue ceramic pottery
Maniharon ka Rasta – Lac Jewellery
Pahar Gunj – semi precious stones and silver jewellery
There is also a state emporium run by the Rajasthan government opposite the Ajmer Gate, if you don’t want to bargain.
Of course, after all this research we did the tourist thing and let ourselves be lead into one of the many shops that have tie-ups with the travel agencies.