Asia, India, Travel

Traveling Through India – Jaipur

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There was no way we could travel to India and not see some of the best sights in Jaipur!  We were fortunate enough to have a driver/tour guide with us to take us from New Delhi to Jaipur, as it’s a six-hour drive!

In this post, I’ll cover our drive, who we hired, what we saw, and where we stayed/dined.

The Drive to Jaipur

The drive to Jaipur is a long one.  It took us six hours to get there for a variety of reasons – traffic, toll booths, villages, horrific intersections, etc.  It was through this drive, through, that you begin to experience the other side of India – the side that is the most talked about and also very sad.

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It is true, while people (and animals) coexist with each other, there is also a defined caste system in place.  Outside of the metropolitan area of New Delhi/Noida, we saw homes in villages that could crumble at the slightest touch (it looked almost war-torn), tents and makeshift roofs attached to sticks; and even just areas where people’s belongings were, indicating they were sleeping on the dirt.  With each area we drove through, we saw massive amounts of people everywhere, proving that the country grew too fast and couldn’t support all of its inhabitants.  The interesting thing about this is that each and every individual does what they can to support themselves and their families, despite their living conditions.  Women with babies would incessantly knock on your windows, begging for money, until it was your turn at the toll booth; and older kids would be selling their wares in traffic.  Not once would you see an officer, or any other native individual, prevent it from happening.  It is an unspoken reality that they all do what they can to survive.

Our drive was mostly this, as well as farm land, until it abruptly gave way to the Himalayans and the city of Jaipur.

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Jal Mahal, across from our hotel.

Things to See/Do

Amber Fort and Palace (1000rs per foreign visitor)

The Amber Fort is pretty amazing.  It’s a series of interconnected palaces and areas, making up one, large fort.  The Mughal (Muslim) architecture is so ornate and so wondrous that you could spend quite a bit of time taking in each and every detail.  And, from the tops of each tower, you get an incredible view of Jaipur and the Himalayas!

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Pink City

The Pink City is appropriately named for the pink (salmon)-colored buildings throughout. This was a mandate of Maharaja (Sawai Ram Singh) over his capital to impress Prince Albert during his 1876 tour of India.  The mandate is still in effect today.

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Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds)

City Palace (1000rs per foreign visitor)

Located in the Pink City, is the City Palace.  This was one of my favorite things to see in Jaipur because not only is it pink, it also still dons a ton of crystal chandeliers, as well as two of the world’s largest sterling silver urns (which were used to carry holy water from the Ganges, to London).

Jantar Mantar (200rs per foreign visitor)

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Built in 1728, Jantar Mantar is one of Sawai Jai Singh’s observatories.  It has instruments that have been scientifically designed to predict the movement of the major stars accurately. While it was built in medieval times, it is still used today to predict weather patterns, sunrises and sunsets, monsoons, etc.  Take the time to read each description of each instrument – it’s pretty fascinating!

Elephant Ride

I debated sharing this because of my experience. In Jaipur, there are several places where you can get elephant rides and all of them are not good.  The most popular place is at the Amber Fort but the elephants look sickly.  (The ironic thing about this is that at almost all forts, back in the days of the forts being inhabited, elephant fighting was a source of entertainment.  But I digress.)

We were advised to go to Elefantastic however, our tour guide preferred to take us to Elephant Village.  Initially, we were offered the deluxe package of 9500rs per person to ride, wash, feed, paint, and hug the elephant.  I managed to get the owner down to 4500rs for two people for a ride and a picture (which I will not be posting).  I immediately regretted it upon seeing the female elephant.  It was clear she was not in good shape and looked quite sad.  Unfortunately, the deal had already been done and if anything at all, it gave me an opportunity to be with this lady for 20 minutes or so.

The ride itself was awful – the jungle was full of bugs, and it took us around the property, exposing that they keep their elephants tied up in large barns, isolated from one another.  By the time the ride was over, I was sad and angry.  When we went to take the picture, I reached over and petted the trunk of the elephant whispering, “It’s okay sweet girl”.  This little lady actually shed a tear and it completely broke my heart.  While it’s impossible to know if elephants weep from emotion, it certainly got at me.  It was enough to make me extremely angry when I left.

While it seemed like a great, authentic experience to do, I’d highly suggest a camel ride instead – they are everywhere in Jaipur!

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Place to Stay

The best part of our trip to Jaipur was our accommodations.  We stayed at the Hotel Trident on Amber Fort Road (across from Jal Mahal).  We had a garden view room.  However, from the moment we walked in to check-in, we were treated like royalty.  I’ve never interacted with a more accommodating and welcoming staff! The only word that comes to mind for this hotel is “impeccable”.

We also ate most of our meals at the hotel.  If you choose to stay there, make sure to get breakfast included.  Our mornings started off with one of the best breakfast buffet spreads I have ever had, which of course, we took by the pool.  It was truly impressive.

Where Not To Eat

After our day at the Pink City, we were taken, by our tour guide, to City Palace Restaurant.  Unfortunately, the owner/manager, as well as the food, were horrible.  Almost all the dishes were undercooked and inedible.  We were urged to order many different things to try (which we were happy to) and when we left much of our food on the plates, were individually questioned, as to why.  While we didn’t have the heart to tell them we do not eat our food undercooked, we should have.  They stopped speaking to us, once the check was paid.  I advise anyone who is urged to go there, to NOT!

My suggestion, do research for the best restaurants in the area and demand your guide take you there instead.

Where We Shopped

Our tour guide took us over to Channi Carpets and Textiles to learn the difference between handmade Persian and Turkish rugs are made.  It was incredible to see the looming, pulling, burning, and finishing process.  Some of these carpets take up to two years to make!  We ended up buying a 4X6 camel hair carpet for $450USD, which is a bit of a steal, considering how much they go for in the US.

Tour Guide Company Information

We had our tour guide for four nights and five days.  We paid a total of 56,600rs for hotels (including breakfast), English speaking driver/guide, taxes, tip, and driver accommodations.

The company that handled the planning was Tours Mangalam.  We worked with Malika Kapoor – the owner of the company.

 

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