From Delhi we took the train to Jaipur – it was a 4 hour and 20 minutes train journey and we really travelled in style. The air conditioned compartments are spacious and come with their own attendant. Without asking he started to serve us breakfast as soon as we sat down. It was not just a cup of tea or coffee, no – it was a four course feast!
We had (1) tea with cookies (2) cornflakes with milk (3) idlis with curry (4) more tea and fresh bread rolls with butter and jam. It was quite incredible. The attendant took his time, so we could sit there, take in the scenery (Delhi is very big – it felt as if the first 40 minutes on the train we were still going through its suburbs) and just chat or relax. Some of our group used the time to catch up on sleep, others had already imported the first set of pictures into Lightroom and were editing and post-processing.
There were only one or two stops on the route and it was a very smooth train journey. By 11am we had arrived in Jaipur and were greeted by our driver. He took us to our hotel, the Traditional Heritage Haveli, where we were going to stay three nights. It is a little further away from the city centre, but it is a quiet, clean and modern hotel – actually it is quite posh, each room is in a different Rajasthani style and the lobby is huge with a big chandelier and lots of decorations.
The hotel had a nice restaurant where they cooked some interesting Indian food that was inspired by Chinese (I’ve been told that this Indian-Chinese cuisine only exists in India) which was tasty. We ate their a few times. The service was a bit of a hit and miss and you could not count on your drinks orders to be fulfilled correctly, but the staff was trying very hard. They were all friendly and helpful.
After checking in, we left for the city centre – our plan was just to walk around the Pink City. Jaipur was painted all in pink to commemorate the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1876. No one is quite sure why they settled on the colour pink, but since that day, all buildings in the city centre of Jaipur must be painted that colour.
Jaipur has a population of 3.1 million. The city is unusual among pre-modern Indian cities in the regularity of its streets, and the division of the city into six sectors by broad streets – but there is a lot of traffic and it is easy to get lost. So we decided to meet at the “Palace of Winds”.
Hawa Mahal was built in 1798 in the form of the crown of Krishna, the Hindu god. Its unique five-storey exterior is also akin to the honeycomb of the beehive with its 953 small windows that are decorated with intricate latticework. From there the ladies of the royal household could enjoy the breeze and look out on Jaipur without disobeying the laws of purdah.
We used Hawa Mahal as our meeting point and started to explore the busy streets around us. First of all we noticed all the pink colour around us. Later on we also noticed that in the backstreets some houses have different shades of pink or coloured some parts of their house in a different colour – clearly it’s more flexible the further away you live from the main city.
There were lots of animals in the city, we saw donkeys, horses, camels and elephants on the street, an old man feeding his goats…
… dogs and cats in the alleys – and lots of monkeys on the roofs of the houses. I stayed as far as way as possible from them, not being worried that they would steal my camera, but I’ve been fined before for handing a banana to a monkey – that was one expensive banana. So no thanks, no monkeys for me (but there must be a monkey temple close to Jaipur, I read this post about it).
We saw lots of shops everywhere – the ones that I liked best were the little ones outside the proper shops. That’s where the vegetable and fruit sellers just sat down and showed what they had on offer. It was a feast of colours, but I did not recognise everything they were selling:
We kept walking through the streets, greeting the curious residents, nodding at them – stopping here and there to have a chat. That’s also how I discovered this tiny shop with a very friendly shopkeeper and his customer. Would you not like to stop any buy something from here?