Pink City | Old City | City with so much history
A while ago, I got to visit the amazing and historic city of Jaipur on work. For one day. It was a chance not to be missed. I cleverly planned the trip for a Friday so that I could use the weekend to see as much of the city as possible.
So far, I have never indulged in solo travel. I like to have someone with me to listen to my oohs and aahs. Also, beautiful sights move me to tears, and I need to clap sometimes. It helps to have someone by my side so that I don’t look demented clapping or crying alone at the sight of a beautiful sunrise or a cute pup.
I asked a friend to come along. Said friend landed right on time by Friday evening, just as I was winding up my official work. Perfect!
The friend may have landed on time, but it took me nearly an hour to figure out where the accommodation for the next 2 nights was. Google couldn’t help us much! The place was that well-hidden. But it was absolutely worth the hunt for this treasure!
We had booked ourselves into a quaint Airbnb home. It was an artist’s home, and was small but done up beautifully. The main door was an old and intricately carved wooden masterpiece.
The entry to our room had so many plants and twinkling fairy lights. We knew we were in for a good time!
A Royal Meal and a Sick Feeling
While we were busy admiring the room we had rented, and looking forward to the rest of the trip, I had been ignoring the fact that I was not fully well. My stomach seemed a little off, and I was feeling a tad bit feverish. But there was no time to fall sick. I had only a day and a half to make the most of this trip. So I bashed on.
First up on the itinerary was the extremely famous resort and restaurant called ChokiDhani. Food is always high on the agenda on any trip.
Especially vegetarian food loaded with ghee.
My mouth was watering with the very thought of being served cups full of ghee along with all the dishes the place was renowned for.
ChokiDhani was a good 45-minute ride from where we were. We hired a cab and reached the place by around 8 pm. We entered and were immediately transported to a different world. It was a food and culture carnival. It was a walk into the past. It was a test of our ability to take in so much action and olfactory sensations.
At the entrance was a stall where a man was busy stirring a huge cauldron of yellow, creamy, mouthwatering milk laced with kesar, badam, and other dry fruits. It looked and smelled heady. We had to grab a kulhar (a cup made of clay) of it immediately. However, I couldn’t finish my cup of badam milk. I should have sensed trouble brewing.
Next, we decided to head straight to the dining hall. There were a few. And all of them were very very very crowded. There was a queue in front of each dinner hall, and each queue looked like it was several kilometers long. We figured we might have to stay all night, and the next day, to get our chance at the dinner table.
There was not much of a choice. We had to have dinner. That’s what we were there for. So we picked a dining hall and established our slot in the queue. And waited for what seemed like hours. I was beginning to fade out. I should have sensed trouble brewing.
Finally, it was our turn to enter the dining hall and partake a heavenly meal. Couldn’t wait. The meal was to be eaten sitting cross-legged on the floor. As people kept eating, fresh rotis of different varieties and a slew of curries were served in assembly-line fashion. Each curry looked more appetizing than the previous. And of course, ghee was served as many times as you wanted.
But, none of it had any impact on me. My friend was attacking the food as if we will never see a meal like this again in our life. But I was not impressed. Somehow everything felt tasteless and below par. I was disappointed because I had heard so many rave reviews of the food at this place.
I should have suspected that something was amiss at least now.
We finished dinner and spent the next hour or so roaming around the vast campus of ChokiDhani. It was awesome. Camel rides and elephant rides for kids. Multiple kiosks with short eats spread all over. Artisan village huts and crafts on display. A woman cooking on a chulha (traditional clay stove with a wood fire). There was so much to see.
By this time, I was feeling very tired and we decided to head home.
Reached the gate and hailed a cab. I could barely stand by now. By the time we reached home, I was ready to crash. Soon after that, I developed a raging fever. Suddenly my friend turned from trip partner to babysitter providing me with medicines, fetching me water to drink, and generally keeping an eye on me through the night. By morning, I had swallowed antibiotics, and felt a tad bit better. Thank God! Imagine spending the one day we had at such a pretty place lying in bed with a fever.
Sightseeing — Hawa Mahal
Since I was an invalid by now, we decided not to have an aggressive itinerary for the day.
No visit to Jaipur counts until we have seen the famous Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds. Built with pink sandstone, the palace is a visual treat. The tiny windows provide a cool breeze in the otherwise sweltering city, and afford an interesting view of the street below, where you can imagine the queens of yore must have watched life go by.
To gain entry into the Hawa Mahal one has to get into the City Palace. The palace is spread over a massive area and is a sight to behold.
By the time we braved the heat and traffic of Jaipur and got our fill of the Hawa Mahal, it was time for lunch.
Colorful Turbans and Ghee-drenched Food
Anyone who gives you travel advice about Jaipur will be sure to tell you to visit Hawa Mahal, and eat at LMB — Laxmi Misthan Bhandar.
In order to reach this place from Hawa Mahal, we had to walk through the colorful market called Johri Bazar. This walk is an absolute visual bonanza. Rows and rows of shops selling bright printed Rajasthani quilts, bangles, turbans, salwars, sarees, and so on.
One of the best sights was a row of multicolored turbans arranged on a high wall. I am not sure whether they were up for sale or just there as decor. Either way, I could not help but stop and click away at these headless headgears.
After a walk through a sea of humanity and a color overload sidewalk, we reached LMB. And what did we see? A serpentine queue that seemed to have no end at all.
We had to literally elbow our way in to locate the chappie who was writing down names to establish priority in the queue. There was a severe lack of oxygen inside since the people in the queue had to also make way for people who wanted to buy sweets. Yup! In addition to lunch, LMB is also famous for a wide variety of authentic Rajasthani sweets. There were several counters filled with all kinds of sweets, and people were fighting their way in to buy them. As I write this, my mind is filled with memories of the sweets, and my mouth is filled with saliva. I miss them!
Finally, after a long wait where we were tortured by the heady smell of sweets and other food items being served inside, our turn came along. And it was well worth the wait. The multi-item meal was finger-licking good. We ate until our stomachs felt like they might burst.
Happy with the meal, and barely able to move, we wisely decided to head home and sleep off the food-induced state of stupor that we were in.
A Romantic Evening
After a refreshing siesta, we were ready to tackle the next part of our trip. A double-decker tour bus that would show us some sights around the city, and lead us to the light and sound show at Amer Fort.
Riding on the top floor of a double-decker bus while listening to the audio tour guide, and soaking in the city lights was a lovely experience.
Things went up a notch when we were served light snacks and cold beverages somewhere during the 1 hr journey.
We finally reached Amer Fort. We had to walk a bit to reach the scene of the light and sound show. The walk was very beautiful. We were lucky to have landed on a full moon night.
Amer Fort is situated atop a mountain and surrounded by several peaks. While walking to the fort, we caught the full moon shining on top of the dark mountains. It was breathtaking.
The light and sound show against the backdrop of the Amer Fort was a show to remember. Sitting on the steps listening to the way the Rajputs led their lives, re-living a slice of history, being transported to a time when people actually lived like kings, all this under a blanket of stars on a cool night. It was heady!
Feeling warm and fuzzy, we walked back to the bus. Soon after we found our seats, a meal was served. Aah! Life was good. By the time we finished the meal, the on-board DJ started playing some songs.
I suddenly recognized the song that had just started. I was super excited about the song, and announced the name of the song to my friend, ‘Everything I do, I do it for you.’
There was a slight pause, and then my friend said, ‘Thank you, I appreciate it!’ Hmph! Killed my buzz right there!
Nightlife at Jaipur
When we reached our AirBnB, the night was still young. We decided to check out the nightlife. I called a friend who had lived in Jaipur for most of her life. Mistake. She assured me that there was no such thing called nightlife in Jaipur.
We didn’t give up. A little bit of Google-based research, and we found that there was a club within walking distance of where we were.
We wore our dancing shoes and went off to drink and dance. We weren’t disappointed. We had a lovely couple of hours intermittently guzzling beer and dancing to energetic Bollywood music.
Finally, when we could move no more, we headed home and collapsed into well-earned slumber.
Time to Leave
Too soon, it was time to head home. We woke up and lounged outside the room. The tiny plant-filled patio urged us to imitate sloths. That’s what we did until we absolutely had to leave.
With a cell phone full of photos, and a head full of memories about the lives of the brave Rajputs, we returned to our regular lives.
There is so much more to see and experience in Jaipur. But I believe in seizing the moment rather than living off a checklist. We covered only Hawa Mahal and Amer Fort. And discovered nightlife. And ate awesome food. Without rushing around breathlessly. I would say that given just a day and a half, we did pretty good!