Pretty in pink, Jaipur, India

December 19, 2012 at 7:56 pm Leave a comment

If Delhi was a cold slap in the face, Jaipur was a warm hug from a pot-bellied uncle. Big-hearted, welcoming and strangely familiar, the so-called ‘Pink City’ is the capital city of Rajasthan, India’s desert state. And it’s a lot to take in.

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For me Jaipur means endless pink walls with imposing gates; honeycombed balconies stacked sky-high; horns blaring through a wall of smog; monkeys beating tin roofs; cows lazing on hot tarmac roads; and polished jewels behind dusty windows. It means rickshaws overflowing with waving schoolchildren, contageous smiles and hello-how-are-yous. Put simply, Japiur was everything I had imagined India to be.

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Famous for its silver, jewelery and fabrics, the heart of Jaipur beats in the Old Town, among the jam-packed shopfronts of the bazaars. This huge area is divided by trade – so if you need a new curry pot you go to the copper district or for a bit of bling before a big event, it’s off to the bangle street with you. Jaipur’s Old Town is an incredible place to wander and (besides from a few tourist-centric spots) makes for largely hassle-free people-watching.

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Of course there are enough major sights to set the mouth of any culture buff watering. First on the hit-list is the iconic Hawa Mahal Palace whose owner covered the face of his home in balconies, so the women in his life could watch processions in the street even if they weren’t permitted to part-take.

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Meanwhile, the City Palace makes for a beautiful and peaceful visit, especially for those new arrivals to India who may not yet be all palaced-out (don’t worry, it’ll come.)

Spawned by the same mind that gave us the city of Jaipur and the City Palace, is the 18th century Jantar Mantar. The best-preserved of five such observatories, this collection of elaborate constructions is still in use today and is considered by astronomers to be fairly accurate. There’s even a sundial that can tell the time of day to within 20 seconds. Considering the time of construction, that’s pretty damn cool, right?Jaipur-83

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While the key sights of Jaipur made for great anchors around which to tie our rambles, it was the journey that made our visit. A few days in, we made a pact – we would say yes to everything and everyone, at least initially. It was okay, we decided, to back out if it ended up being a scam, illegal or morally dubious.

Granted our new rule meant a lot of posing for photos, a few awkward sales pitches and one last groping, but we also got to drive a rickshaw, met some wonderful people and sat in the courtyard of a temple while a well-dressed Indian man dictated a two-page love letter to be written in Irish for his girlfriend in Cork.

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The verdict: Definitely visit Jaipur if you can. With a few worthwhile trips within easy rickshaw distance (post on these to follow), it merits at least two days but could easily fill three or four at a more enjoyable pace. If you do have the chance to visit we recommend the lovely Hotel Pearl Palace and its rooftop Peacock Restaurant – both of which are well priced with fantastic service and great taste.

There are more pictures from Jaipur in the gallery

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New trip. New Delhi, India Daytrippin’ around Jaipur, India

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