I am not the sort of traveller to keep a bucket list but Jaipur had been on my mind for a very long time. The pink city, with its rich history and grandeur, has never failed to entice anyone and who am I to not get seduced by those perfect picturesque forts and colourful palaces?
I am glad that I am currently residing in the national capital which is pretty near to Jaipur. The X-mas weekend was the only opportunity for me to finally fulfil my dream of visiting this mesmerising city and learn about the Rajput culture. A 45 minute flight saved my time.
Arrival time at Jaipur airport: 10:30am.
Place of stay: The Lalit, Jaipur. It is within 2km distance of the airport and a 10 minute Ola ride through wide and smooth roads took me there.
The Lalit is a four star premium hotel but the way the staff at the reception treated my check-in was third grade. I had booked a suite for three women and had talked to them previously that I want to do the check-in by 11am. The reception personnel said that I cannot check-in before 11:30am and I have to pay 9510 bucks for the special and compulsory Gala Dinner. I was short of money on that day and had to save for the trip as well, so it was not possible for me to pay the whole amount in one go. The reception staff refused the check me in without that payment and they did this with other travellers also, some of whom were students.
The room assigned to me was a normal deluxe room with two queen size beds with no space for a third bed. When I asked the service guy that where will he keep the third bed, he pointed to the only walking space in the room. A suite is supposed to have a king size bed, an extra table and sofas with enough space for a single bed, but here, I could not see any such amenities. When I called up the reception, they were clueless. After returning to the reception and having a conversation with the manager, I paid half the amount for the gala dinner on 24th and was assigned the suite that I had booked.
In ideal conditions, our suite should have had three sets of cutlery, toiletries and other provisions. But I think the staff here is too dumb to understand that and we were always provided just one set, even when we ordered for in room dining.
Lunch in the suite: I had ordered Dal Tadka, Dal Baluchi and normal rotis for our lunch. We were provided complimentary mini desserts which were in the prettiest shapes – a lipstick, mascara, a pair of lips etc. Both the Dals were amazing in taste and full of flavours with the rotis reminding of the home made variety we have. The desserts were just sugar painted in different colours and we chose to leave them instead of harming our bellies.
Hawa Mahal at 4pm:
It was crowded as hell because of the long weekend but we were able to make through and relish the colourful interiors. The courtyard was soothing and the rooftop is a good place to observe the setting sun. There is World View Café just on the opposite side on the road from where you can climb upstairs and get your picture clicked with Hawa Mahal in the background.
Virajosa/Night Tour bus at 6pm: We had expected a lot from the night tour bus but this proved to be a damper on our spirits. They started early and asked us to reach Amar Jawan Jyoti (the second stop) instead of the assembly point which was the World Trade Park. We pointlessly waited for 30 minutes – in that time, we would have reached the assembly point and boarded the bus.
We had chosen roof top seats and they assigned us a six seater with a couple. Not good.
We were greeted with vegetarian Manchurian which was average in taste. A cold sandwich with juice and biscuits followed. The rooftop should have been in glass as shown in the pictures but it was covered in a green mesh which marred the experience of beholding the Jaipur skyline in the night.
Usually, in night tours, they have stops at specific places where a guide describes the history of the place but no such thing happened at the various halts mentioned except Jal Mahal. No description was given and we were bundled into jeeps which took us to Nahargarh Fort.
The jeep ride was eventful and scary in the night. The fort is situated on the hills and the winding, dark and deserted roads, cool air and a bumpy ride ensure the adventure which was missing in the bus. The jeep riders also told us about the history of forts here which was a welcome change.
Nahargarh Fort used to be a retreat for the queens of Sawai Madho Singh and a hunting residence for the kings. The city of Jaipur, when alit in the night, presents a beautiful picture from the railings of the fort.
There is a new Sheesh Mahal fashioned at the Nahargarh Fort and the entry fee is 200 bucks. Multi hued mirrors in medieval cuts and patterns greet you as you take a carefully treaded stroll wearing double layered carry bags as footwear. I was reminded of the “Sheesh Mahal special” song from Mughal-e-Azam.
We were offered a vegetarian Rajasthani thali on our way back in the bus and the taste was average.
Back at Lalit, we ordered Masala peanuts and grilled fish with vegetables and potato mash. The peanuts tasted stale and the fish was the only good aspect of the second dish. The vegetables were not sautéed but were boiled and instead of the potato mash, chopped potatoes were there. No class from a 4 star.
Day2: Because of my stomach infection, we got late and could only venture out for Amber Fort at 8:30 am. Because of the long weekend rush, we reached by 9:45 am and hired an ASI approved local guide. He took us through a short cut passage towards the fort where we encountered the alluring Jagat Shiromani temple which is dedicated to Meera Bai and Lord Krishna and has a huge flight of stairs. The architecture is mesmerising but our dear guide was in a hurry to get more customers so he rushed us through.
Jalebi chowk – This is the main courtyard which connects the Sun Gate with the rest of the palace. From here, the entrances to the Kali temple, Diwan –i-am and the Shahi Hamam proceed.
Diwan-i-am – A pillared hall on a raised platform with elephants adorning the pillars. You can stand near the railings and revel in the brilliant sunshine and comforting winds.
Diwan-i-khas – Diwan-i-khas of any fort is worth two or three visits. Be it the Agra fort, the Delhi Red fort or even the Mysore Palace, the “hall of the special” is an exquisite world in itself. Amber fort was no different. Sheesh Mahal is one of the main attractions here. Fashioned from marble and having inlaid colourful mirror work, this hall will definitely take your breathe away.
From Amber, it takes half an hour to reach the Jaigarh Fort which is situated uphill. This fort holds the biggest cannon of the world which was only fired once and its target was 40km away.
This used to be the stronghold of the royal battalion & defence and was constructed from security point of view. I found this one better than Amber, maybe because of lesser crowd and maybe because of its “fort like” qualities. Tough and imposing walls surround you as you enter this. It is not as ornate as Amber and no embellishments and decorations are there to allure you. But as you move along this one, you get to see Jaipur from the view point of the warriors who used to man the ramparts of Amber. Jal Mahal, Amber, Nahargarh, you name it, and you can view it.
Because it is situated at a greater height than Amber, the flowing wind soothes your mind and cures you of tiredness as you walk on the hardened stone floor. Langurs, pigeons and parrots carefully move away as you tread towards the light house. What a travel state!
The Gala dinner at The Lalit on 24th December was disappointing to say the least. The hotel made it compulsory for every traveller but did not make the necessary arrangements for it. We were asked to wait for 10-15 minutes and when we argued against it, the hotel staff mentioned that we are coming at a time of rush. The timings are from 7-10pm and people will come at their own convenience to which the hotel staff does not agree. After many arguments, we were assigned a table.
The cheapness of the hotel does not end here. They were serving the lowest grade of Sula red wine and the food was pathetic. The cold cuts and the cheese tasted stale. I was concerned about my stomach so did not eat much.
Day3: City Palace
Our plan was to explore the city palace for an hour and then rush back to the airport for our flight. But thanks to an ignorant cab driver who instead of listening to us and following our directions to the destination followed his own gut feeling and got us to Taj Mahal Palace hotel (imagine the frustration), we only got 15 minutes for the residential palace.
I think I am getting exhausted of writing on and on that how clean the palaces and forts of Jaipur are. The frescoes and cravings are maintained till date and the colours and the beauty intact. There is a queue for getting snapped at the famed peacock door and you do require patience for that.
I wish to visit Jaipur again because there are so many places that I was unable to visit and so many dishes to hog on.
Jaipur, let us meet again!