Sunday, February 19, 2017

Travelogue : A Drive to the Pink City - The Jaipur Journal

It was quite some time since I had not done a long drive. With winters engulfing North India, I thought Jaipur is the best place to visit in winter months. So I quickly planned out a 3 day trip along with my friend for a drive to the pink city to explore the bygone era & opulence of one of the most culturally vibrant destinations in the world.

We shortlisted following places to visit during our trip

-> Rajmandir Cinema
-> City Palace
-> Jantar Mantar
-> Pink City
-> Hawa Mahal
-> Albert Hall Museum
-> Birla Mandir
-> Chowki Dhani
-> Amer Fort
-> Nahargarh
-> Jal Mahal
-> A Stroll/Drive around the City

So we started from Delhi around 7 AM in the morning and reached Jaipur with a couple of breaks en route around 1 PM. The early morning traffic on NH8 was bearable. There is road construction going on few stretches of the highway. NH8 from Delhi to Jaipur is not really an amazing road to drive as compared to the butter smooth Delhi-Chandigarh NH1!

As soon as you cross the second toll of Gurgaon, you will start seeing lots of banners of Highway King Dhaba that is one of the popular food joints of the NH8 like we have SukhDev in Murthal.

We reached Jaipur and first headed to our hotel - Portico Sarovar. The hotel is located at a good location with less traffic and pollution. There are few restaurants around the hotel as well if you don't want to have food at Hotel.

The Hotel - Portico Sarovar itself has two restaurants including a rooftop restaurant with respectable food. We decided to relax on the first day at Hotel and enjoyed the lunch and dinner at Portico Sarovar only. In the evening we went to probably India's most popular Cinema hall - The Rajmandir Cinema hall. There were so many international tourists enjoying the beautifully crafted cinema hall. We watched Dear Zindagi and enjoyed cinema hall more than the movie. Anyways It was a happening experience.

So for the first day, we started our sightseeing plan and headed to City palace. The City Palace was built by Raja Sawai Jai Singh II. The maharaja of Jaipur used to sit at this location. City palace is still a royal residence with part of its area open for the general public while other parts are privately occupied and no entry is allowed there. In the City palace, you will find various other structures that are worth visiting including a museum displaying the belongings of Maharajas of Jaipur in the past.

There are three entrance gates for the City palace which are beautifully built.
Mubarak Mahal in the city palace is the museum that I talked in the first part of the post displaying textiles and other belongings of the royal family in the past.

Chandra Niwas is probably the biggest structure present in the city palace. The ground floor of Chandra Niwas is allowed for visitors where a museum is located that displays carpets, manuscripts and other items that belonged to the royal family. Rest of the part is privately occupied.
There is a place Pritam Niwas Chowk in city palace which is dedicated to Hindu gods.

Diwan-i-Aam is another important part of City palace. It is mainly a hall for large number of people. Diwan-E-Khas is a chamber is richly decorated, with the ceiling painted in rich red and gold colors. It is a attraction in the Mubarak Mahal courtyard. It is also an art gallery exhibiting paintings, ancient texts, embroidered rugs, Kashmir shawls and carpets. City Palace campus also constitutes Maharani Palace which was the residence of royal queens, Bhaggi Khanaa - another small museuem and Govind Dev Ji temple.

Our next place of visit was Jantar Mantar. It is at walking distance from City Palace. Jantar Mantar is a 19th Century monument which has various structures holding astronomical significance. It was built by Raja Sawai Jai Singh. Various instruments are present in Jantar Mantar which are relevant to astronomy. Some important instruments include Chakra Yantra which shows the position of the sun and time, Dakshin Bhitti Yantra which for calculating sizes of celestial bodies, Rashi yantra for astrological signs etc. I could not understand each instrument there.

Clicked few pics and then started for Hawa Mahal which is also known as Palace of Winds. It's historical significance states that it was built for Royal women who can watch the celebrations of various festivals in the City without being visible to common people. It has five floors. The cool breeze passes through the small windows and it is a nice experience if the weather is pleasant especially in winters.

Next, we headed towards Albert Hall Museum. This museum is outside the Pink City. It is the largest museum of Jaipur having a rich collection of antique valuables like paintings, carpets, ivory, stone, metal sculptures, currencies and works in crystal/glasses etc. If you have an interest in all these things then you can spend your entire day at Albert hall Museum. It was named after a British king Albert Edward.

After covering Albert Hall Museum, we went to Birla Mandir. It is beautifully built on Moti Dungari hill. The temple is also known as Laxmi Narayan Temple.
A lot of international tourists were also present at Birla Temple. Spending some time inside the temple and experiencing its beautiful sculptures on the exteriors was an amazing experience.

After darshan at Birla Mandir, we drove around the pink city, had some lunch, went to various markets of old Jaipur for some shopping and went back to hotel for rest.

Some of the famous markets of Jaipur are -

1. Johari Bazaar - Is most popular for wedding related shopping

2. Bapu Bazaar - Variety of Rajasthani clothes - suites & sarees.

3. Nehru Bazaar, Tripolia & Kishanpol bazaar - For handlooms, textiles, perfumes, handicrafts, bangles, carpets, blankets etc.

For the Dinner - Chowki Dhani was the choice. Anyone visiting Jaipur must try this place at night for the dinner and an amazing experience to remember.

It captures typical Rajasthani tradition and culture throughout the village. The food is good, various Rajasthani performances take place in the night and the overall excitement of having Rajasthani food in their own style is amazing. Our return drive from Chowki Dhani to the hotel was amazing too with empty Jaipur roads. First time got the chance to tap the accelerator enough to put the tacho in redline!

Following are the things you will be able to do at Chowki Dhani Village -

1.) Camel/Elephant/Bullock Cart/Horse and Boat Ride
2.) Some temples and structures of historical significance
3.) Puppet Show/Rajasthani Cultural Dance and Music Performances
4.) Fire Act performance, Astrologers, Parrot tarot reader, etc
5.) A museum displaying culture and tradition of various states in India.
6.) Kalagram - A place to buy handicrafts, clothes, textiles etc

And of course the delicious dining at Sangri Dining hall which serves you food in typical Rajasthani style. It has long waiting periods at weekends. Gorbandh open dining hall is also another better place to have Rajasthani food. It has buffet system. Eat as much as you want. I really liked the Rajasthani food.

Our next day started with first visiting the Amer Fort. Now this place quite large built along the Aravali Hills and one hardly can cover it in detail in short time. We had to cover it as much as possible. One can view serpentine staircases on both sides of the fort from the road. Amer Fort is practically not in Jaipur but a small satellite town before Jaipur known as Amer.

If I know correctly, this was the palace of Raja Man Singh. Like City Palace, Amer Fort has also various structures known as Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khas, a place called Sheesh Mahal, A Temple etc.

Its main entrance gate is known Ganesh Dwar. Amer fort is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Jaipur drawing millions of people every month to this place.

After winding up our stroll at Amer Fort, we reached Nahargarh Fort which is on the edge of Aravalli Hills. You can see the beautiful aerial view of Jaipur City from Nahargarh Fort. Jaigarh Fort is also nearby but due to lack of time, we skipped it. Some of the Bollywood movies have its shots filmed at this location as well. It now constitutes a wax museum as well with 25 statues of various personalities.

We went to Jal Mahal on our way to return to the hotel. It is built in Man Sagar lake of Jaipur City. The roads around Jal mahal are fantastic. There are camel rides available nearby along with street food and ice cream vendors around the Jal Mahal lane. Some renovation was going on and the boat ride was not available at the time we went there. Jal mahal is also famous for the migratory birds visiting at some time of the year. Entry to Jal Mahal anyways is not allowed for visitors.

So after Jal Mahal, we drove a little around the time, visited Pink Square mall for some snacks and reached our hotel. We had our dinner at Hotel's rooftop restaurant. With amazing weather, fresh air, good food, and a company of friends, the experience will be memorable for a lifetime.

It was amazing exploring the luxury and heritage of Jaipur. An experience that tempts me to head back to Jaipur, again!

We drove back to Delhi next morning and started with daily chores of life once again. Hope to have another awesome holiday soon.

Thanks, guys!