The Supposedly Pink City

We didn’t have huge expectations of Jaipur, we were a little disillusioned after Delhi and expected Jaipur to be a big, ‘new’ Indian city ie. a bit of a mess with not much of interest to see. Our train left Delhi at 4.30am, but we both managed to catch some sleep and much to our surprise and delight a friendly driver from our guest house spotted us coming down the stairs and greeted us by smiling and waving his little piece of paper that said ‘Hotel Anuraag Welcomes Anthony’ with a floral border.

Alexandra looks across towards Jantar Mantar from the Hawa Mahal

We were staying a couple of km out of town and it was a great decision. Our room was massive, there was a lovely communal living room with the daily papers and a gorgeous garden. Wifi was practically free and worked pretty well. So we were happy! Unfortunately the food let the place down a little, as did the incredibly friendly restaurant staff who spoke practically no English. I don’t know how many times I said ‘scrambled eggs’ and heard ‘boiled eggs’ repeated back to me! We didn’t do much on our first afternoon, just sat in the garden reading and relaxing. In the evening we decided to try an Italian restaurant and again, much to our surprise it was excellent! I would have been happy eating the pizza in New York or London.

On Saturday morning we got up reasonably early, but had a slow breakfast and read the papers before heading into town for a walking tour of the old city. Jaipur was very carefully designed by Maharaja Jai Singh II in 1727 when he moved his capital here from Amber. The city was laid out according to an ancient Hindu architectural treatise called the Shilpa-Shastra and is remarkably well planned. Wide avenues divide the city into neat rectangles, each one specialising in different crafts. It was a joy to walk around an old city that not only had footpaths but was fragrant with the delicious scent of spice and rose water stalls as opposed to the more common human urine and cow shit. The tour took us to the Iswari Minar Swarga Sal, a tower that overlooks the city. As we’re spending more time here we’re learning how to deal with ‘tip’ situations. This time I requested that we walk to the top alone, no, we didn’t need someone to take our photographs or to make sure we didn’t get lost on the single path to the summit. Then we made our way to the City Palace, not really all that great after the spectacular Mehrangarh Fort in Jodphur, but worth the visit nonetheless.

On our way out of the old city we were stopped by a young man on a scooter who wanted to talk to us about why tourists are always shopping (we weren’t) and why they didn’t really make much of an effort to talk to Indian people. We were pleasantly surprised to enter into a decent conversation with a local and spoke about how we found it really difficult, because at first we talked to everyone and really tried to get to know people, but the longer we travelled here the more we realised that the majority of people who approach you and start a seemingly innocuous conversation end up wanting to sell you something or to take you to their shop. We explained that you can’t really blame people, but it made it a bit hard to ‘get to know’ local people. So we chatted for a while, then he asked for our ‘help’. He said he had an uncle with a gem shop in London and that they have to pay 280% tax on everything they ship, and would we go with him to the post office and send the gems as ‘gifts’ to someone in London and then they’d pay us 100% of the cost as an thank you. So Anthony read him the ‘gem scam’ section of the Lonely Planet, I told him I was a lawyer and that what he was doing was illegal and that if we were to help we would be commiting a crime. I told him the reason he was probably being taxed so much is that the goods are cheap in India and are sold at a huge profit in the UK, and that if the gem dealers have a problem with it then they should petition the governments of the UK and India and not ask tourists to take part in illegal activity (obviously at some point we would have been asked for money and we would have never seen any cash or gems). Finally we told him that obviously we were right about noone wanting to talk to us just for the conversation, but only because they wanted something from us, highlighting to him that he was just like all the other people who wanted something from us! All in all, we think we dealt with it quite well!

On Sunday we took an auto-rickshaw to the lovely Hawa Mahal in the old city. The Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds, is a 5 storey, delicately honeycombed, pink sandstone structure constructed in 1799 to enable the ladies of the royal household to watch the life and processions of the city (at the time they were all under strict purdah, meaning they were not allowed to be seen in public). After this we went out to the Amber Fort. Much more impressive than the City Palace, we spent a couple of hours wandering around, listening to the slightly odd audio tour. Then we headed home and had a fantastic (for me… Anthony’s person didn’t sound too great!) ayurvedic massage.

All in all Jaipur was a very relaxing and lovely place to be. Only minor annoyances were the auto-rickshaw drivers who, like in Delhi, seem to delight at the prospect of ripping tourists off! I suppose the other disappointing thing is that there wasn’t all that much pink! Probably more blue really.

Alexandra Written by:


  1. Heather
    March 9

    Not enough Pink! Now that is upsetting!

  2. mysticWindibank
    March 9

    ahhh so you finally went to my little summer house
    hope you remembered to water the plants while you were there!

    K x

  3. March 10

    Hawa Mahal looks incredible!

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