Jaipur – the not Pink City
Jaipur is advertised as the Pink City, but it’s not. The Old City is full of terracotta colored buildings and they say that when the sun is setting and hits the Old City walls just right, it takes on a pinkish hue – but we didn’t see it. Jaipur is the most hectic city in Rajasthan and the bustling commercial capitol of the state. It has a couple of impressive tourist attractions but I was primarily looking forward to this stop because it is also the city where our tour leader grew up and where his parents live. He’s been a phenomenal leader throughout the trip but having that extra hometown knowledge was great.
The lingering remains of the monsoon have been following us around so our first afternoon was a wet one, keeping us indoors for most of it. We had the chance to go to our leaders home for chai and to get an inside look at middle class comfort. His home has been in the family for many generations and is one of the largest still intact in the Old City. Knick knacks and decor alluded to a well to do past of hunting tigers and playing polo in a family from the warrior class. We also got to take advantage of the family’s on-call barber and henna artists. While one of the gentlemen in our group got a shave, I went for my first henna.
The Bapu Bazaar was another intense experience, wading through stalls selling colorful saris, clothes, flowers, copper pots and pretty much anything and everything needed for daily Rajasthani life.
The main sight in Jaipur is the Amber Fort. It’s really more of a palace surrounded by a larger Fort and connected to the mostly-intact city wall. It was absolutely stunning! The palaces and forts in Rajasthan have been unreal and having this one as the grand finale leaves a permanent footprint in my memory. We started with a guide and then had a few hours to just wander the halls, pavilions, and gardens.
It had started as a cloudy day and I thought we wouldn’t be able to go to Jantar Mantar, an observatory, but the sun came out to play and within minutes it was beating down on us. Perfect to go have a look at this medieval observatory from the 1720s, albeit hotter than hot. We hired an animated tour guide and were led through the various instruments and sundials, amazed at the genius behind each of them. Predictions are made here regarding the moon, the monsoon, summer, astrology etc. Some of the sun dials got to within 10 seconds of actual time and the main one we experimented with was within 13 minutes.
As a final stop, I went for a browse through Hawa Mahal, also known as the Palace of the Winds. The most prominent feature of this Old City structure are all the latticed windows, allowing women to see but not be seen – a practice brought to this land by the Mughals.
The Not Pink City was a good one and our last urban stop in Rajasthan. Our biggest disappointment was not getting to go to a polo match, as it got cancelled due to the rain. From here we traveled a few hours to the Bharatpur-Keoladeo Ghana National Park – a bird sanctuary. Given that it was not the right time of year to see any of the more interesting birds out in the wild (peacocks!) I decided to pass on the park outing and just enjoyed about 18 hours holed up in our hotel. It was also our “rest stop” so the hotel was nicer than usual with a pool, good food and lots of outdoor seating to lounge and read and rest up for another mack daddy stop – the Taj Mahal.