Sunday, May 27, 2018

Jaipur, Rajasthan travelogue | Three days Jaipur itinerary & budget | Exploring Pink City


Dining and partying in palaces, watching the sun go down from a fort, lunch with a view and some delectable Rajasthani dessert - some of the fondest Jaipur memories. Experiences in Jaipur - both, the good and bad - will be remembered for a lifetime. But here are some key highlights I'm compiling into a blog post - with all deets about what I did, what I did wrong, what you could do for a great experience, budget, getting around, etc etc etc! Hope you enjoy it...



From Goa to Jaipur (via Delhi)

The Pink City has always been alluring. It was the first thing that came to my mind whenever I thought of Rajasthan. Everything from the royal palaces to the local culture seemed interesting. Probably that’s exactly a reason why I chose to begin my Rajasthan backpacking trip from Jaipur. Second reason being, it’s connected by an airport and one can fly directly into Jaipur from Delhi!

Jaipur, like many other places, has accessibility through train, bus and aircraft. However, a train journey from Goa wasn’t a way forward considering it took 25 hours to get there. While checking for direct flights, it was tough to find one that directly took me to Jaipur from Goa airport. So I had to pick one with a layover in Bangalore and Delhi. And I picked Delhi!



First impression of Jaipur and checking in to Zostel Jaipur

It was on a Saturday morning that I reached Jaipur and got completely consumed by its grandeur and palatial vibe. It was a busy city and a perfect blend of vintage architecture with modern-day charm. Though it is the most touristy place in whole of Rajasthan (among the six places I visited), it has it’s own aura that blows you away.

Starting off, we stayed at Zostel Jaipur, which is located right within the Pink City. The Pink City isn’t exactly ‘pink’, but it’s more of a dusty orange+pink (I don’t know what exactly to call it). Though the colour was disappointing, the Pink City didn’t. Living in the heart of the Pink City meant many places were at a walkable distance. But, considering it was summer, we hardly even could walk (not that weaklings like me can walk in the winters anyways).




Breakfast with a view of Hawa Mahal

When we ventured out, we stepped right into the Sireh Deori Bazaar (Hawa Mahal market). The plan was to grab breakfast at a cafe nearby recommended by a friend. So off we walked for a good ten minutes to find ourselves right in front of Hawa Mahal. While we stared at it standing there in all its glory, we were distracted by our grambling stomachs. So we climbed up a flight of stairs in a dingy ancient building to reach a terrace restaurant.

We were at Wind View Cafe that offered an unobstructed view of Hawa Mahal and the entire lane below. It’s truly fantastic – seeing the Hawa Mahal from this point as we sipped on chai was a great decision. We munched on some random food (that included a pizza and a sandwich) and washed it down with some juice before heading to the topmost floor of the cafe. Tattoo Cafe right next to it also offers the same view, but it only opened as we were leaving!
















Exploring the inside of Hawa Mahal

It was almost noon by the time we left and the sun was getting to us. We still decided to stop by at Hawa Mahal because we were so fascinated by it. I mean, I’ve seen it in photographs, but seeing the whole five storeys honeycombed hive with over 800 windows is something I can’t explain. The dizzying tall structure was constructed by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 so the ladies of the royal family along with their servants could watch the city without people seeing them.

The Hawa Mahal offers a view of the entire market on one side and the view of the Jaipur palace and Jantar Mantar on the other. Though the structure is massive, there’s no entrance in the front. It’s just windows! Finding the entrance in the side is quite tricky. Though the entrance is to its left, we were misguided by shopkeepers to take a narrow lane passing between shops to the right of Hawa Mahal, while they kept pestering us to buy their wares.

On finally reaching the main entrance and getting the ticket, we were quite disappointed. What’s on the inside doesn’t match the outside at all. All that we saw was dusty narrow lanes leading you into the building with multiple windows. It was also super crowded and hot, so we left within no time. But before that, we stopped by at a few windows and looked out of the windows of Hawa Mahal just to figure what the queens saw. And surprisingly, you cans see the entire market without people outside noticing you.









A visit to Jantar Mantar

On getting out, we were tricked one more time by the autodriver. Though our hostel was walking distance, the autos were tempting in the heat and we decided to board one. He however insisted we stopped by Jantar Mantar on our way and we didn’t resist. That was a mistake.

It is an astronomical observation site that was built in the early 18th century to observe the astronomical positions with the naked eye. The set of approx twenty main instruments represent several architectural and instrumental innovations and is a very significant historic destination that’s even a part of the UNESCO world heritage sites. It truly is wonderful if you hold an interest in anatomy, considering everything is explained at the location with little signboards. However, the place was so crowded with tourists when we went, we chose to walk away after a few minutes.

As we walked back, we reconsidered our decision of visiting Rajasthan. Almost everyone told us Rajasthan isn’t a place worth a visit, and we rebelled to be there. We saved up for a couple of months, planned our trip by ourselves and even booked our tickets...only to be disappointed by such an extent. Varshitha even said, “Flex I think Rajasthan isn’t meant for us. We had to stick to the initial Himachal plan.” But little did we know what Rajasthan had in store for us. This was just our first destination!









An evening visiting Jal Mahal

After spending the afternoon at the hostel (did I say they have a fantastic common area and most of their guests are foreign backpackers?) we headed out for the evening. I love palaces 9all thanks to Bollywood perid dramas), so I was super excited to visit Jal Mahal – the water palace situated right between Sagar lake. It’s gives an illusion that it’s a floating structure and looks very serene. But you cannot access it – again disappointed!





Dining at a palace

We didn’t see a point staying there for longer because the area around was a busy market and there were tons of tourists and hawkers irritating us! So we headed for an early dinner at a palace. We found an Instagrammable lounge called Bar Palladio, located inside the Narain Niwas palace. But getting there was quite an adventure considering it was on the other side of the city and we took approximately 45 minutes to get there by auto! Also, we thought it’s a standalone lounge and kept looking for it, not realising its inside a palace (until we called the number mentioned on Google maps).

We were taken aback on realising it’s too fancy a place. But we decided to give it a try anyways! So off we went, not even dressed right for the place as compared to everyone else who looked pretty fancy! We found a corner spot and the place indeed was absolutely stunning. While we soaked in the vibe, sipped on some chilled wine (trying to be classy, you see?) and munched on some starters, we forgot that we didn’t fit in this place and just let loose and enjoyed ourselves. After all, it’s not every day that you dine at a palace. The food was a tad bit expensive (but not as expensive as I imagined it to be), but truly delicious.




Exploring the market and tasting Rajasthani dessert

The evening was spent in Johri Bazar/ Bapu Bazar doing some shopping and gorging on some dessert. We headed to Laxmi Misthan Bhandar (a sweet shop) that had some of the finest Rajasthani dessert. It awakened the dessert queen within me and I went all out trying some authentic Rajasthani dessert, and was it delicious? Someone give me more! I tried the malpua, laccha rabri, rajbogh and china kishti and I couldn’t tell which one I loved more! The rest of the evening was spent shopping for some knick-knacks at the market. They have some real fabulous accessories and jewellery. We got a bunch of Rajasthani-looking wallets, handbags, pens, jewellery, etc.









A taste of Jaipur nightlife – partying in a palace

On coming back to the hostel, we realised people were prepping for a pub crawl (it was almost 10 pm!) and we decided to join in. We weren’t really in the party mode, but considering it was Saturday, and considering this was the only time to experience Rajasthan nightlife, we decided to give in and just head out! Our roomies (three girls who drove down from Delhi) were super friendly and we joined them along the other guests.

We parked in front of a palace and as I was wondering where the club is, we were escorted inside a palace. That’s when it hit me that we are going to party inside a palace! The Naila BAgh Palace has a club called Club Naila and it is one of those happening places on a Saturday night. It’s a short walk from the main entrance to reach the Club and it’s truly fantastic. The booze is quite pricey, but we got some discounts through Zostel and we let our hair loose and danced the night away. We munched on some more food, met some more people, and enjoyed our first night in Rajasthan!

Ending day 1 with some thoughts

It was almost 2 pm when we left (I am not sure) and the drive back was so serene. This was the Jaipur I wished to see – empty lanes and all palatial structures illuminated in its full glory. As we drove past the illuminated Hawa Mahal, shining brightly in the night, I couldn’t help was thank the stars for making this trip possible! Though we had some bad experiences in the day, the good ones were enough to cover up! As we retired for the night, all I remembered was the magnificent Hawa Mahal, the experience dining and partying in palaces and excitement of what the next day had in store!

Beginning day 1 with breakfast at Zostel

Since we didn't really want to head out for breakfast, we decided to start the day at Zostel itself and ate at the common area. Their btreakfast is on till 10.30 am and it was still there when we woke up late! We had a couple of things lined up for the day and off we went to explore the other parts of Jaipur.


Panna Meena Ka Kund

The day started on a really fabulous note. We visited a pleasant historic, and less touristy place on the way to Amer. Panna Meena Ka Kund is a stepwell located somewhere in between Jaipur and Amer, very close to Anokhi Museum. It's an eight storey pool surrounded by step walls, making this stepwell really fascinating and photogenic. You cannot stop but be in awe of the geometric symmetry and elegance of this 16th century structure. Though you aren't allowed to go down, a little pleading with the guard works!





A morning at Amer Fort and Amber Palace in Amer

You can hop onto an auto or hire a jeep to go up and then be dropped back at the base of the fort. The fort is massive, and is divided into several parts. There are a couple of palaces made in marble and pink sandstone. This is a very confusing palace to explore on your own and we kept finding ourselves in blind alleyways not knowing which side to go. After getting lost for a while and spending a couple of hours soaking in it's grandeur, we drove back! 






















Lunch with a view at Stag Rooftop Restuarant

You may be wondering why we weren't trying any local food just yet, but let me tell you here, it was a ten day trip and there was lots of time for that. So for the time being we were focusing on these wonderful views and having a great time! Also, we couldn't really find authentic and non-touristy places. Also, it was too hot to find a place at that time. So spending the afternoon at this cozy little restaurant right opposite Amer Fort seemed like a great choice.

Stag Rooftop Restaurant has an indoor space as well, but the outdoor space is more intriguing because of the wonderful view of the entire fort that it offers. They serve basic lounge food including a mix of pizzas, pastas, burgers and the likes. We sipped on some iced teas and grabbed some food! Let me tell you another thing - all of the food was vegetarian, but quite delicious. Though I hoped for a non-vegetarian place, finding one in Rajasthan was becoming quite tough. We spent the entire afternoon here and headed to our next destination only when the sun mellowed a little.




Drive to Nahargarh Fort

Now, we had two options - Jaigarh Fort and Nahargarh Fort. Both had distinct sunset views and great architecture and we instinctively decided to visit Nahargarh Fort. That was quite an expensive affair, because most of the cabs/rickshaws were over charging. But honestly, it was totally worth it. It's a good fifteen minute uphill drive and then a long walk within the fort, but the spectacular view from the top makes everything wonderful!

Apparently, when Jaipur wasn't the capital of Rajasthan, Amber/Amer city was the capital of the Rajputs. And Nahargarh Fort, along with Amer Fort and Jaigarh Fort were the defense for the capital city. Legend also has it that the fort is haunted (as with many other structures in Rajasthan). There's a wax museum and a mirror palace within the fort, but we skipped that and headed towards the sunset point which offers a breathtakingly beautiful view of the city! This my friend, was the best moment I spent in Jaipur - watching the sun go down creating such a wonderful spectacle. 










Finally some non-veg food for dinner

When you come from a place where you're so used to eating non-vegetarian food, no amount of prepping for a vegetarian week works! We were craving for some nice food and were lucky enough to find a little spot in the marklet outside Hawa Mahal as we were walking back to our hostel. The little restaurant/street food joint called Roop Laxmi Hotel served the best mutton with fluffy rotis. We even asked for another serving!







The weather was getting to us and we retied for the night early. The hostel was offering a night walk in the Pink City and I was very excited to go for it, but exhaustion has taken over and I just decided to call it a night. The next day was our last day in Jaipur and I was pumped!

Last day of exploring Jaipur

 After a quick breakfast at our hostel, we walked to the Jaipur City Palace, which is one of the most iconic attractions around. We were planning to skip it, but considering it was so close to where we stayed, we decided to give it a try and were quite disappointed. It was SO touristy! The galleries and some parts of the palace are open for public with a regular ticket. To enter the real deal, you are over charged and nope, it's not worth it! Honestly, if you aren't the touristy type, skip it! And thank me later :) 

We spent our morning there and it was pretty much an end to our Jaipur trip. Did I wish I stayed longer? No! I expected Jaipur to be more traditional, authentic and real. But it was very touristy and nothing like what I imagined it to be (expect a few places). Jaipur was my first impression of Rajasthan and while I was just thinking Rajasthan couldn't get any worse, it started getting better. It just got better the moment we left Jaipur for Pushkar and kept getting better as we visited Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Udaipur. Stay tuned!










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Other places of interest and things to do in and around Jaipur

Albert Hall: We saw it from the outside, but I'm told it's really cool to visit as well. The graceful building of Albert Hall is a central museum located in Ram Niwas garden comprising of a rare collection of archaeological and handicraft items. 

Laxmi Narayan or Birla Temple: The white marble temple with intricate marble carvings is located below the Moti Doongri.

Jaigarh Fort: It's directly opposite to Nahargarh Fort and overlooks Amber city and the palaces. 

Dolls Museum: It has a collection of dolls from all over the world.

Elephant Village: Just 4 km from Amber lies this village where elephants and humans co-exist. You can go and interact with the elephants (even feed and bathe them) and spend a jolly evening there! 

Choki Dhani: A mini Rajasthan some 40 kms from Jaipur where you can experience the food and culture under one roof. 

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Some tips while traveling to Jaipur

I hope you enjoyed my travelogue. I was in Jaipur for just two and a half days and it was my first stop in my ten day Rajasthan trip. Jaipur is more expensive than other cities in Rajasthan because it's the most touristy. Secondly, everyone is trying to dupe you by selling you something you don't want, auto drivers trying to cheat you, etc. So you need to be very careful. Here are some FAQs that may help!

Getting there and getting around

You can reach Jaipur by flight, train or bus depending on your location. You can just take an overnight bus or train if you're in nearby places. But for going from South India, a flight is recommended to avoid the 25 hours in a train. However, if you are traveling from a small city, you may have to take a connecting flight. Traveling from big cities is more convenient and prices are cheaper too. Book your flight tickets in advance. I got a flight from Goa to Jaipur (with a layover in Delhi) for INR 4,000. I booked three months in advance and tried applying some promo codes etc to get a good deal.

Tarveling within the city can be on foot, auto rickshaws or cabs (there's Ola and Uber too). But they aren't really cheap. The rickshaws don't use a meter and over charge you depending on the location you're at and time of the day. Also, exploring the far off places in Jaipur (like the forts on hill tops) are an expensive affair. The auto can charge up to INR 600 for a one way trip. But do not skip it - because it's well worth it! However a good option would be to drive down and then drive around the city, instead of taking autos. Most of the tourist attractions have an entry ticket. If you plan to visit more than one place, a composite ticket is recommended, so you can save time, energy and money.


Accommodation options

Accommodation is pretty decent - you can either opt for a hotel, heritage property, resort or a hostel depending on your purpose of travel and budget. If you are looking for hostels, Zostel Jaipur or Mustache Jaipur are good options. They are pretty cheap and you also meet really nice people there. Also, if you are a solo traveller or a group of girls, this would be your safe haven! The folks at the reception are pretty cool too - they help you plan itineraries and get around. They also have some daily activities which are either free or at a nominal cost - these include city walks, night walks, pub crawl, visit to some place, etc. It's a good idea to join them because you tend to meet and interact with more travelers and also travel in a way that's less touristy and more focused on exploring well!


Budget 

Your budget will vary depending on things you do, mode of travel, accommodation choice, restaurants you visit and other factors. We (two of us) spent a total of INR 8500 excluding (excluding flight tickets) for two and a half days in Jaipur. It includes hostel tariff, food, internal travel and entry fees to places.

Comment below and let me know if this helped. Do comment below if you have any questions or need help planning a trip to Jaipur. 
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