Jaipur: Exploring the Pink City

June 16, 2019 Wanderlusting

When I told some friends that I’d recently visited India, I got that questioning look, and I knew what they were thinking.

It took also a lot of self-convincing and prodding from friends before I finally decided to book that ticket. Even after that, I tried to back out. That was how worried I was. I was really daunted by some of the photos I saw and the experiences I read about in blogs, social media, and books.

I am glad the India I met was different from what I expected.

My first stop in India was Jaipur, the capital and largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan. I came to India because I wanted to visit Ladakh, which famed travel writer Pico Iyer dubbed as the “gateway to heaven.” I booked a flight via Jaipur, because those flights were cheaper when compared to Delhi flights. After seeing some photos of the “pink city” online, I decided to spend a day there exploring. 


Patrika Gate from Jahawar Circle

During breakfast, we met Krishan Goyal, an affable man who loves writing letters. He was the picture of joy. In the middle of his daily morning routine, he looked up, saw us, smiled, then invited us to join him.



Letter-writing is an interest I had long forgotten because of my fast-paced life. Nowadays, I rarely sit down to write my thoughts. I knew he was the reason we went to Jaipur Coffee House, to remind me of the necessity to spend time to reconnect with myself and the people I love.  

He said he lives in the old pink city and invited us to visit him. Jaipur is well-known for its walled historic center, where every building is terracotta and painted pink. The color, which denotes hospitality, was chosen to welcome Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, in 1876.

That was part of our itinerary that day, but we decided to see the Patrika Gate first, which was kinda apt. Jaipur is known for its elaborately designed gates. Krishan did not recommend it, though.

Patrika Gate, the entrance to Jawahar Circle, is currently one of Jaipur’s most Instagrammed spots because of its beautifully blending pastel colors and elaborate designs. There were a few tourists when we arrived, but we still managed to snap a few unobstructed pics. I’d hoped the area would be ours alone so I would have more quiet time as I took in each and every piece of art, but that was wishful thinking. We decided to just walk in the park. 

Inside Patrika Gate
Patrika Gate from the streets
One thing you should know about Jaipur: it is both green and easily walkable. 

After Patrika Gate, we dropped by Birla Mandir, which we saw on our way to the gate. Unfortunately, we arrived just as the temple was about to close, so we only had a few minutes to admire this white marble creation. 

I couldn’t help but gape at its stunning domed ceiling when we entered. I barely noticed that they were already closing the altars. 

The temple is one of the many magnificent prayer and meditation sanctuaries made by the Birla family in different cities in India. It is located on elevated ground, so it gives a panoramic view of the city. 


From there, we proceeded to the “old pink city.”

I got a taste of exasperating India on our way to the “old pink city,” but that did not really affect me, because it was just slightly more maddening than Manila, where I am from. 

We managed to find a quiet spot in a coffee shop called Tattoo Café and Lounge, four stories above the streets that seethed with traffic. There, we enjoyed a good view of Hawa Mahal.

Hawa Mahal, which translates to “Palace of Winds” or “Palace of the Breeze,” is a five-story monument with 953 windows. It looks like a honeycomb and is constructed with red and pink sandstones. The windows were built to allow royal ladies to observe the happenings around the city without being seen. The windows also allow cool air to pass through.


What I regret doing, though, is looking at the shops around it. We prioritized sightseeing, but even on our way to our next destination, I had to control myself from yelling “stop” every time I saw a nice storefront. 

Our next stop was Panna Meena Ka Kund, a stepwell and rainwater catchment system, which also draws in tourists because of its picturesque, symmetrical stairways. It was also featured in one of Pico Iyer’s articles.



We spent quite some time there. We hoped that we would eventually be given permission to descend the stairs and we also had difficulty with booking our ride to Amer Fort. After some time, we chose to just walk there instead. Some locals were nice enough to give us directions.

On our way, we found Jagat Shiromani.

The temple’s grand staircase and the ornate pylons caught our attention, so we decided to look inside. 


As soon as we reached the temple grounds, we heard joyous singing. We learned later on that the women were singing praises for spring. This incredible experience really brought the temple to life for us. I even had the chance to dance with them a bit.
 

A friendly local told us that the temple is quite unique. According to her, this is the only temple of Meera Bai—poetess, saint, and a devout follower of Lord Krishna—in Rajasthan. The temple also contains a statue of Krishna believed to be the same statue worshipped by Meera Bai.


The temple is filled with beautiful carvings of gods, elephants, and tigers. The sculptures were really awe-inspiring. There is just so much artistry, and it is beautifully preserved.
 

It started drizzling when we left. It was already pouring by the time we reached Amer Fort.

We quickly climbed its cobbled paths, then huddled with other tourists near the ticket stall in the main courtyard. Even during the downpour, it was still easy to see the beauty of the fort.


The fort, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013 along with other forts in Rajasthan, was constructed using red sandstones and marble. It also gives a sweeping view of the city.



We decided to end our tour there and cap the day with a nice meal in a café. It was still difficult booking a ride, but while waiting, locals approached us to ask for selfies. Actually, even when we were waiting for our ride at Birla Mandir, locals also approached us for selfies.

We had dinner at Stepout, a café cum library, then stopped for ice cream on our way back to the Moustache Hotel. It was not for me, though. I’m not a fan of desserts. 

And that was how India was introduced to me — charming and gracious. It was a good prelude to the rest of my stay in this lovely country. 

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