What to expect in Jaipur: it’s loud, it’s crazy and it’s utterly beautiful

Letter 162

Jaipur for me was a whirlwind and had many ups, a few downs and moments of pure confusion. We spent 3 days wandering around The Pink City, visiting palaces and forts, and taking in as much of this insane city as possible. There is so much to do, both in and out of the city, and it truly is a remarkable place. Where do I even begin with our stay here?

jaipur city 3

 

Tuk tuk around The Pink City & visit to the Monkey Temple

We made our first mistake about 9 seconds after disembarking the train. All we wanted was a tuk tuk to our hotel – simple. We ended up with a driver who seemed absolutely lovely. However, we should have learned by this point that the only reason he was being so sickly sweet was because he had motive. He wanted us to book him for our whole stay, to take us everywhere. Honestly, if we had done this, I’m sure it would’ve been great. He was nice, knowledgeable and cheap, but it’s not what we wanted. Plus the fact we could actually walk most places from our hotel.

Somehow, he managed to convince us to let him take us on a tour that evening, and as it was mum’s birthday, we agreed. The tour was great. We drove to the monkey temple, we both got to hold monkeys and the place was stunning. We then toured The Pink City which is lovely in the evening just before dark, and visited the outside of the brightly lit up museum.

When we got back to the hotel and told him thanks, but we don’t want to book with him for the whole stay, he was not happy. What was supposed to cost 700 rupees ended up being 1400 just so that we could get rid of him. We were past caring at this point and were knackered from the 6-hour train. Even with the rip off, it was a good evening and I’m still glad we saw these places.

jaipur monkey palace 1jaipur monkey temple 1jaipur monkey temple 2jaipur monkey temple 3jaipur monkey temple 8jaipur museum

Tuk tuk driver tips:

  • If you get a tuk tuk from a station from someone who comes up to you (as a foreigner) they are doing this to get more than just a one way journey with you. They will try to convince you to book other tours and trips with them – which you could well take them up on if it’s what you want.
  • Best way is to just be honest and say no, or take their number and say you’ll call if you need them (which you won’t because you’ll always find another one without having to pre-book).
  • Always agree on a price and be clear up front. We agreed on 700 for the evening, but we should have been clearer and said that it would DEFINITELY just be the evening, nothing more. He then would have charged more as it’s not a repeat booking, but at least we’d be clear.
  • Drivers talk. Once they know where you’re staying, they will let others know to look out for you. If you mention something you want to do or somewhere you want to go, don’t be surprised to see a tuk tuk waiting outside asking you whether you want to be taken there. It’s not a coincidence – it’s planned.
  • If they offer an interesting stop off (typically a market or shop) it’s because they either own it, know someone who owns it or get commission. It’s normal. Some places are probably worth seeing, but they will expect you to buy something and will probably be peed off if you don’t.
  • If they take you to a tourist attraction (say a palace or a fort) don’t be surprised if they introduce you to a guide straight away and send you off with them. Again, it will be a friend or someone they will get commission from, and you will be expected to pay them.

Even with these traps, tuk tuks are by far the best way to get around, with most small 15 minute journeys costing a mere 100 rupees. Just be honest and straightforward with them. They will think you’re just another tourist and they can get away with anything.

 

The City Palace

After a delicious dinner at the hotel café and a wonderful sleep in our spacious room, we headed out into Jaipur (on foot, not by tuk tuk, no matter how many times we were asked). We were in a great location, only about 10 minutes from one of the 7 gates to The Pink City, and a further 20 minutes through vibrant bazaars to the City Palace. After the amazing Udaipur City Palace (which you can read about here) we had high hopes. We were first greeted with expensive entry fees, but we assumed that was just because as we were now in the more touristy city of Jaipur, this was normal. We also paid extra for the audio guide.

The palace itself was beautiful. Stunning architecture, colours and detailing and it was lovely to wander around and gaze up at the majestic buildings. There was also lots of textiles and art to see, which I enjoyed and the audio guide was useful alongside this. However, to me it wasn’t quite as good as Udaipur. It seemed a lot smaller and you also had to pay extra to go to one side of the palace, which after high fees to begin with, I thought was a cheek. We didn’t do that. Either way, the photos speak for themselves and it was very striking, and also a peaceful break from the hectic streets of Jaipur.

jaipur city palace 1jaipur city palace 11jaipur city palace 3jaipur city palace 12jaipur city palace 4jaipur city palace 8

 

Hawa Mahal

No more than 10 minutes from the City Palace is the Wind Palace. This is the famous façade which everybody visits in Jaipur. I’m not sure the pictures quite convey it, but it really is striking. It rises high above the streets and the entire pink façade is completely covered in detailing which is incredible to witness. We didn’t go inside but I’m sure it’s lovely and I believe was only 200 rupees (we were palaced-out at this point).

jaipur city 2

 

Bazaars

The one thing I really loved (and kind of despised at the same time) in Jaipur were the bazaars. The colonnaded streets run through the whole of The Pink City and are filled with markets offering textiles, food, spices, jewellery and anything else you can think of. They are buzzing with locals, smell incredible and are brightly coloured throughout. Wandering through them is an experience in itself.

The thing I didn’t like was the pushy vendors. I have to say, this is mainly in the touristy bazaars, either near the attractions, or along the wall on the museum side, but they are really tiresome. You can’t glace at anything, or even just walk by, without someone trying to get you in their shop, telling you prices or trying to flog something. If you dare like something, they will be on you like a fly and will get you in their shop. When you come to pay, they will continuously try and sell you more stuff and it’s very hard to leave. We were just laughing about it in the end and literally walking out of the shop to make them let us pay and leave. Luckily, when you say no thank you, they are good at leaving you alone in general.

In the ‘bazaars for locals’ they are not as pushy. You can look at stuff and even pop in without being totally harassed. Tourists aren’t their main market so it’s not a big deal. I don’t think you can get such good prices here, but the people were nicer I found.

jaipur city 1jaipur pink city 1

 

Nahargarh Fort

After escaping the madness of The Pink City, grabbing a delicious lassi on the way, we walked back to the hotel. We thought we’d have time to rest up a bit before heading out again, but we decided to go to the ‘Tiger Fort’, and that would be shutting at 5. We booked a taxi through our hotel, which we thought might’ve been pricey but was actually very reasonable, and headed out to the fort. We didn’t really look it up beforehand, we just knew it was recommended. When we got there we were surprised, confused and had no idea what to do. We paid our entrance and wandered in aimlessly. We had no map, couldn’t really see what was here and the first things we came across were a wax museum and a deserted food court.

When we actually walked around a bit we discovered it was a pretty nice place. There is a cool stepwell, an amazing building with a rooftop (no idea what it is though) and you can walk along the fort wall with views across the vast city. We were still confused when we came out and I’m not sure it was worth the half an hour drive to get there, but it was nice and quiet and very pretty.

jaipur nahargarh fort 1jaipur nahargarh fort 2jaipur nahargarh fort 4jaipur nahargarh fort 5

On the way back, we stopped to take a look at the ‘Lake Palace’, which I’d seen pictures of before. It is absolutely stunning and picture perfect. It also seemed really lively around the area, which might’ve been nice to explore, but alas, we headed back tired and hungry.

jaipur lake palace 1

 

Peacock Rooftop Restaurant

I never really write about places we’ve eaten, even though we’ve had some cracking meals, but this place was amazing! It was pretty touristy, in that there were no locals in sight and it was the busiest restaurant we’d been in since arriving, but the food was excellent, the décor was divine and the ambience was very enjoyable. There was even a band playing after the meal.

jaipur peacock restaurant 1jaipur peacock restaurant 2

 

Museums, parks and theatres

Jaipur has a lot more to offer than just the standard tourist attractions, which is what we discovered on our 2nd full day. We woke up with no real plan in mind and decided to just go for a walk through the Pink City. We had thought about trying to buy some jewellery, but honestly couldn’t face the vendors. We walked through the pink streets, wandered through some more bazaars and eventually exited through another of the 7 gates, near the museum. We’d seen it at night already, but in the day time it was just as spectacular.

jaipur city 2jaipur city 3jaipur city 4

Just nearby we saw a park so decided to head in for a walk around. It was blissfully quiet, very green and a good shady place to take a few minutes out. We then took a slow walk back to our hotel for a meal, passing the theatre, and had a lovely curry at the café.

jaipur museumjaipur park 1jaipur park 2jaipur cinema

 

Amber Fort & Stepwell

The last thing we did around Jaipur, was the Amber Fort. This is raved about so we knew we had to go. On the approach it was astounding. This majestic orange building rising out of the hillside, with steep paths winding their way up to it. Our taxi driver drove us around the back of the fort and up the hill, stopping at the stepwell on the way, which is well worth seeing.

jaipur amer stepwell 2

Amber Fort truly is amazing. I see why it is raved about. It is an absolutely huge maze of indoor and outdoor spaces, that we wandered around trying to figure out what everything was. We had intended to get the audio guide, but it wasn’t available that day, so we just tried to follow the numbers so as not to miss anything. I don’t think we completely succeeded in this, but we felt we saw the majority of the fort. It’s just a shame that a lot of the time we didn’t know what we were looking at. Still a formidable place and well worth visiting. It is probably much better in the morning, but we planned it for the afternoon so that we could stay and do the sound and light show after. Unfortunately, due to a festival, it wasn’t on that day, so we just walked about in the afternoon heat anyway. Most of the time we were, yet again, a bit confused, but enjoying what we were looking at.

jaipur amber fort 2jaipur amber fort 4jaipur amber fort 5jaipur amber fort 6jaipur amber fort 8jaipur amber fort 9

 

We left Jaipur the following day after a chilled out morning in the hotel garden. We needed some time to relax and then picked up our train to Sawai Madhoper. Again, the train station was remarkably easy to navigate and we had no problems at all. Another comfortable train ride.

I’m still trying to reconcile what I thought of Jaipur. I loved the bustling streets, but found the people too pushy. I thought the palaces and forts were stunning, but felt ever so slightly underwhelmed, probably due to the amazing things we’ve been lucky to see so far. I enjoyed being busy and seeing so many things, but I missed the relaxed nature of Jodhpur and Udaipur.

Overall, I think Jaipur is a fabulous city, full of noise, colour and life. It’s a place I’m really glad we visited and one that I’d like to return to. I’d like to visit more of the hidden bazaars and step into the temples we’d passed. I’d also like to try more of the street food which was everywhere and all looked delicious. I didn’t get as attached to Jaipur as I did to Jodhpur, but I will look back fondly on my memories of this crazy place.

Next up was perhaps the highlight of the whole trip and I can’t wait to share it!

 

From Lou

About Me

 

Costings (prices in rupees; 90 to the £):

  • 1st night tuk tuk ride 1400
  • City Palace adult ticket 700
    • Student ticket 400
    • Audio guide 200
  • Taxi with hotel 150 per hour (trip to each fort was 3 hours)
  • Nahargarh Fort adult ticket 200
    • Student ticket 25
  • Dinner at Peacock restaurant inc. tip 950
  • Park entrance 20
  • Amber Fort adult ticket 500
    • Student 100

 

PS. Apologies for ridiculously long post, I was desperate to catch up!

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