From the desert city of Jaisalmer, we continued our journey eastwards towards one of the most popular destinations in India. Along with Delhi and Agra, Jaipur forms the third corner of India’s tourist circuit, the Golden Triangle. At the heart of Jaipur lies the Pink City, an old walled quarter packed with extravagant royal palaces, Hindu temples and Asia’s most colorful bazaars. These lavish edifices – scattered all over the chaotic city – are remnants of India’s strongest empire.
Jaipur can be overwhelming with its pushy vendors, dense crowd and polluted streets (it was far from being our favorite city in India), but if enjoyed at a slow pace, the world-class architecture is astounding. Hawa Mahal, or the Palace of Winds (pictured above), is an excellent example of Jaipur’s beauty. It’s best appreciated from the outside, especially in the evening.
Hotel Raj Palace
Arriving at Raj Palace at dawn, we saw the palace shimmering in the sun’s rays. Winner of numerous tourism and hotel awards, the Raj Palace is definitely one of the best places to stay in Jaipur for both its history and setting.
The 300-year-old palace was once home to Jaipur’s Maharaja (royal king) and is still a property of his descendants. Converted into a luxury heritage hotel, the Raj Palace has been restored to its original glory.
Each suite in the hotel is decorated with 200-year-old antiques: brass figures, golden-plated pillars and bronze furnishing. Our suite even had a mini-museum with artifacts on display and old photos of the Maharani (Princess) who used to live in the palace.
The Maharaja Suite ($15,000 a night) below is the hotel’s biggest suite for now. With three rooms (the gold, silver and ivory rooms), a golden-walled lobby and an internal elevator, the suite definitely gives one the feeling of entering the Maharajas’ home.
Within the suite, you’ll also find a glassed area where the king’s throne sits. The suite is also floored by one of the world’s biggest and oldest carpets. One of India’s biggest chandeliers also sit in the hotel.
The hotel is still in the process of restoring more rooms. One suite in particular is the Shahi-Maha suite, which will be the world’s most expensive suite, priced at $42,000 a night (min. 2 nights).
Jaipur City Palace
Jaipur City Palace is evidently restored immaculately, with shimmering chandeliers, perfectly arched gates and intricately-carved patios.
Its display of photos is particularly interesting, showing the Viceroy of Great Britain on his visit and the Maharaja of Jaipur holding his court sessions in the majestic court house.
Poised imposingly on the hilltop of Amber, the sheer size of the Amber Fort itself is dramatic and awe-inspiring. As the main battle ground of the powerful Rajputs, the Amber Fort is massive and laid out with numerous courtyards, rooms and patios. Although the interior has not been restored, and is nowhere near the City Palace in terms of grandeur, the setting of the fort atop the craggy, narrow ridge makes it worth a visit.
Jaipur is best known for its bustling bazaars stocked full of handicraft, textiles, jewellery and pottery. At Tripolia Bazaar, right next to Hawa Mahal, I found rows upon dizzying rows of bangle stalls and sari shops. Bapu Bazaar is also great for tie-dye cloths and embellished textiles. As you can seen from the picture below, shopping in the bazaar is simply a way of life for the Jaipur locals.