Exploring the pink city of Jaipur
Visiting Hawa Mahal, jantar mantar and the Albert Hall Museum.
Encompassing India day 1 part 2
We arrived at our destination hotel in Jaipur around midday,and rather than relaxing, we had a change of clothes and set off straight away to explore the beautiful city of Jaipur.
We arrived in Jaipur in December : the winter months offer far tolerable temperatures with the temperatures in the mid 20's. The air is dry and parched. There is also dust everywhere due to this so it's better to have a lip moisturizer with you or you'll probably end up with a painful split lip.
You should probably get a local sim with you when you travel around in India. This gives you to access the 4G networks and more importantly to hail uber Cabs and access Google maps. This being said, obtaining a sim can be a fickle thing. We had ours arranged by our hotel's connoisseur and went to a shop nearby as per his instructions (he even provided us with a local who guided us there).
It cost us 600 rupees for the sim and they took down passport copies, a small passport size photograph (that I had with me handily) and our hotel particulars. It was a good bargain since I had about 1GB to play around while on the road. Which was more than enough.
But an Indian sim takes more than 48 hours to activate, so for the first 2 days we'd be dependent on the hotel and restaurant WiFi.
Since it was our first day on the city getting oriented to the streets can be a bit daunting. We had gone through Google maps prior to coming and had a rough set of directions in our notes as well as help from the hotel staff.
We had chosen our hotel so we could almost walk to the city Palace so that's exactly what we did on our first day. It was great way to explore and experience the city and is a must do.
Although named the pink city, Jaipur has a tan and orange hue all throughout its architecture. Tantalizingly pleasing to the eye, the shade adds a nostalgic vibe to the city.
Jaipur was one of the first purpose built city incorporating a dedicated city plan and it shows. The streets are well laid out and when you walk among the main routes, the sidewalks are home to home colorful and cheerful shops. You always get a sense of being inside a walled compound, and this is due to all the beautiful ramparts that Mark out the city Palace perimeter, and the gates that let traffic in and out of sections of the city. But rather than feeling boxed in, it gives you the feel and aura of a city steeped in traditional and rich history.
Visiting Hawa Mahal.
Hawa Mahal is almost at the center of jaipur, and was only about 10 mins away, but we almost spent 30 mins getting there - just taking in the sights of the city was enough to distract us from our destination.
Built in 1799, by the then a maharaja of jaipur, Sawai Pratap Singh, the Hawa Mahal, or wind Palace was made as a facade for the Court ladies of the jaipur Palace. Part of the women's quarters of the city Palace, the many windowed Hawa Mahal allowed the court ladies to see the city streets (and processions on the streets) with the anonymity from prying eyes. The beautiful and intricately decorated structure sits right next to the street, and is beautiful to behold.
Hawa Mahal is five stories high and has almost a thousand small windows ( called jharokhas) and are decorated with intricate lattice work, with a white color detailing. Being constructed out of pink sandstone, the white detailing gives a contrasting relief to the structure, and adds to the grandeur of the building. The many windows are also part of the name, (Hawa Mahal meaning wind Palace) where in the summer, the many windows providing natural ventilation to ease out the summer heat.
Hawa Mahal doesn't require a entrance ticket to see as it can be seen from the street, but we didn't venture inside. The best way to view the Hawa mahal is either from the the streets or better yet, you can go to the one of the rooftop cafés that are right opposite. You'll be obliged to order, if you plan on taking photos from these Cafe viewpoints (nothing comes free) but the cafes have excellent menus and food!
We'll be writing a detailed blog post on where to go, when it come to the cafes. We'll cover everything you need to know in our next blog so keep tuned in.
The midday sun wasn't THAT harsh, but we were glad to have a wee time to relax in the shade, while at the rooftop restaurant at one of the cafés. We stayed there for about an hour and slowly made our way down back into the streets.
Amzing Jantar Manter
The magnificent jantar mantar complex is close by to the Hawa Mahal, and we went through a few historic gates to get to where the ticket counter was. Upto this point there weren't any touts trying to hassle us, but close to the gate of the jantar mantar, there were many who tried their best to offer us their services. Initially it can be amusing, but at times it can be awkward : we just smiled and walk past.
One of the few phrases we had learnt in Hindi was to say “no thank you” and “no” and we started using it more and more. We were spared from most touts because of our appearance : being Sri Lankan, we looked like the locals in most regards ( most thought us south Indians) that led to many pleasant and a few hair-raising encounters.
The tickets were about 200 Indian rupees per person, and although the queue for the ticket counter was teeming with locals we got through quite easily (there were very few foreign tourists there)
Built in the early 18th century, by the then ruler of Jaipur - Maharaja Jai Singh II constructed five Jantar Mantars in total. They are located in New Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain, Mathura and Varanasi; completed between 1724 and 1735 they are a proud testament to the science of astrology even in those days. The jantar mantar in Jaipur is the largest among then and has been declared a UNESCO heritage site.
The jaipur jantar mantar has almost 19 instruments that each serve a specific purpose, relating to astrological measurement. Key among them is the Brihat Samrat, probably the largest gnomon-sundial ever built. With a gnomon arm 22.6m high, almost high as the Hawa Mahal itself.
There are steps leading down to the base of the Brihat Samrat, and we had a grand time exploring the structure and understanding what it was used for. The two lateral quadrant that extend on both sides of the main gnomon arm (sundial) were amazing to see. If you look closely you can see the shadow moving across its surface with impressive consistency : it's no wonder that this sundial could tell the local time to an accuracy of 2 seconds!!
A quick visit to Albert Hall
After exploring the jantar mantar complex we hurried along to see the Albert Hall museum. Since it was already late evening, with the sun already in the lower quadrants of the horizon, we hopped on one of the many small taxis that were everywhere and hurried along to Albert Hall.
Along the way we passed through a few gates that ring the city compound, and rattled our way through seemingly deadlocked traffic. It was great to see the odd camel hitched onto a cart and a few donkeys with saddles full of produce in among the modern cars and vans : both the motorists and Carters were equally impatient though, and a few angry words were seen to pass around.
Albert Hall is impressively charming in the evening. The structure itself is a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture and is now used as the state museum of Rajasthan. When we arrived it was near to closing time so we explored the Albert Hall grounds instead.
There are many horses and horse carriages in and around the museum, although the animals were beautifully adorned and great to look at, we don't take a ride.
Jaipur is a city of pigeons : you find them everywhere in massive numbers. The locals feed the flocks and for a few rupees, you can feed them yourselves too - this makes it teeming with birds that seem to flutter away at the slightest disturbance.
We got our introduction to this phenomena at Albert Hall, and at it was heartwarming and exciting to see. But you need to be a bit mindful when the birds take flight though, as we discovered soon. A small child ran after the birds, and the entire flock took off - right into an elderly couple who were blissfully feeding the flock. A few slammed into the husband and the I really think the wife got more than a fair share of feathers in her face. Luckily they weren't hurt, but it was a important lesson for us (we got the same treatment the next couple of days)
We didn't stay that long at Albert Hall, with the sun going down we wanted to be back at our hotel. So we haggled a price with one of the tuk tuk drivers nearby, and made our way back.
As the tuk tuk bounded its way back to the hotel, we could see and smell the vendors with street food beginning their night shift. Although we wanted to try out some very badly we were bead tired and wanted some shut eye, the next day being an early starter.
We passed thongs of people heading back home stuck (along with us) in traffic, the sky turn g a deep blue with the onset of dusk - but the most amazing thing we saw on our ride back was the Hawa Mahal being lit up by lights. We made a promise to each other that we'd come back to visit Hawa Mahal the next day at night, just to see it lit up by the lights.
Finally after a hard and exhausting day of exploring, we arrived at the hotel and practically threw ourselves on the bed. What a great day it had been.
We hope you enjoyed reading our adventure and also got some insight if you are planning to go to Jaipur yourselves. For us, it was an adventure that kept surpassing our expectations and gave us an insight into India in a unique and amazing way.
So that's it for our first day in Jaipur : stay tuned for the next blog post detailing day 2 of our adventures. If you havent read the first part of our Journey to India - here's the link to part 01 of our adventure.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for our next blog post about our adventure.
Happy trails everyone!