Wednesday, November 04, 2009


This is the city of the most annoying people on earth. Since I traveled with four other foreign girls, people landed on us like flies -- rickshaw drivers, salespeople, street peddlers, beggars, gaping men -- and it was impossible to brush them off. We couldn't stand still for one minute without them flocking around us, trying to sell us their wares or poke their noses into our business. Even a harsh word or a shove was interpreted as encouragement. In short, Jaipur made sure that I felt like a foreigner in a city that makes money off of foreigners.

But even with the aggravating people and the searing 90+ degree weather, there were redeeming factors of the weekend.


Jaipur is a (relatively) short 6-hour busride away from Delhi. We arrived early in the morning, and checked into the most wonderful guest house called Sunder Palace. The place was artfully decorated, with spotless rooms and a charming rooftop restaurant where we spent the morning lounging around -- all for Rs200 ($4) a night.

The city itself wasn't much to speak of, but the attractions were very interesting.

First, we visited the Jantar Mantar observatory. It was built in the 17th century by emperor Jai Singh, who was obsessed (obsessed may even be too light a word) with astrology and astronomy. He devoted his life to studying celestial movements, and for that purpose he built 18 gigantic structures. Walking into the park was like walking into some futuristic zone with toys made by giants. The scientific rigor apparent in the instruments was impressive; one of them is the world's largest sundial at 90ft high, which displays the time to 2 seconds accuracy. It is worth reading more about them here.

Giant sundial -- the panel that swoops down catches the shade from the sun and is demarcated by the hours/minutes/seconds of the day.

Two corresponding hemispheres representing the earth. There are lines on the marble representing zodiac signs. Look closely and you'll see a wire suspended over the top, with a copper disc in the middle. The shadow of the disc rises and falls during the day. Whichever zodiac line the shadow touches is the relevant sign for the present period.

Next, we walked to the City Palace, also constructed by Jai Singh, home of the royal family. Royal descendants still live on the premises.

Connected to the City Palace was the Hawa Mahal, the women's chamber, which was historically constructed so that women could observe the goings-on in the streets without being seen themselves.

Thoroughly starving after exploring main Jaipur on foot, we had a late lunch of stuffed tomato curry, makai roganjosh (baby corn curry), kashmiri pulao (fruit rice), paneer tikka (marinated and baked cheese), and of course, sweet lassi.

We spent the rest of the day wandering Jaipur's bazaars. The city is the textile and jewelry place in India, which was made apparent by the neverending rows of shops.

A pair of leather shoes and peacock-motif harem pants and a couple of scarves later, we went back to our hotel, had some pineapple and milkshakes, and called it a night.


Ambled on over next door to the neighboring guest house, Peacock Hotel, to check out their rooftop restaurant. Had a luxuriously slow, delicious brunch of baigan ka bharta (roasted, fried, spiced eggplant) and karai chicken (fall-off-the-bone and soaked in spices!), with nutella toast for dessert and an iced coffee that gives Starbucks a run for its money.

Today, we took an auto to Amber Fort, which lies a ways outside of the city proper. The ancient citadel was situated atop an imposing hillside, surrounded on all sides by 10 miles of a giant barrier reminiscent of the Great Wall. The view from outside was stunning. Inside, the architecture was an interesting blend of both Hindu and Muslim influences.

This is only half of the Amber Fort. The citadel was perhaps three times as expansive as this photo shows.

From the Amber Fort, we did some exploration of the 1000-year-old Old City of Jaipur, which included a visit to a government textile emporium. There, we saw a demonstration of traditional block-printing methods, as well as rug-weaving.

On the way out of the Old City, we stopped by a floating palace, the Jal Mahal. The only way there is by boat. Which begs the question of how on earth this was constructed.

The roadside was lined with elephants, and we considered riding one for fun, but decided that a highway wasn't the best backdrop for something as romantic as an elephant ride.

Our last stop of the day was the Monkey Temple, located in a small neighboring town called Galta. The place was absolutely overrun by playful monkeys. We decided that their antics were much more interesting than yet another temple, so we spent the whole time observing them.

Incredible views from the top of the cobbled climb to the temple.

For dinner, we switched things up and sampled some South Indian cuisine: mysore masala dosa (fried dough stuffed with spiced potatoes), tomato dosa, cheese uttapam (a sort of pancake topped with tomato, onion, and paneer cheese), and sauteed mushrooms. The dosas were fine, but I think I prefer North Indian food.


Today we did nothing. Well, nothing except lounge around the Peacock rooftop restaurant, eating and chatting. We had banana nutella crepes, followed by alu palak (spinach and tomato curry).

I was happy to go home. Even at our slow, unrushed pace, we had seen all of Jaipur we wanted to see.

More pictures here.


Lexie said...

sundials will forever remind me latin class and mrs tinsley. i miss her!

Anonymous said...

Faye, it's lovely to follow your travels. I hope to have a chance to soak in another culture after I graduate as well.

Anonymous said...

Agreed - the people there are totally annoying. Out of all places in India that place is the worst. And I paid $60 per night for the same hotel you paid for $4 :(......

Gillion said...

Have you tried dumplings and roast ducks? They are the famous and traditional Beijing dieshes. And also bird's nest soup? Its a delicacy in China.

Enjoy your days~~~