The Pink City of Jaipur, India

Jaipur’s Pink City viewed from the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds)

I was excited that Jaipur was our first stop in India after Myanmar. After last year’s visit to the west coast of India, it was time to do the famous Golden Triagle: Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. Flying from Yangon to Jaipur (via Bangkok) meant we could travel just two legs of the triangle since we planned to fly out of Delhi to Kathmandu.

I’d read about Jaipur for decades, dreaming over photos of the fabled Pink City, walled forts and luxurious hotels. Since Jaipur was just one stop on a 3-month odyssey, I skipped the expensive iconic hotels and found a wonderful bit of luxury at a very affordable price at the Pearl Palace Heritage Hotel. The Pink City and all the other wonders of Jaipur still awaited, though.

Our flight arrived at Jaipur in the wee hours, so we slept in before heading to my first must-see, the Pink City. Expectations exceeded reality a bit when our tuk tuk dropped us off just inside one of the main gates of this old section of town.

Pink City gate

Yes, there are lovely old buildings, but there’s also a lot that’s run down and strewn with trash. We wandered the sidewalks in front of the clothing section, admiring the brightly colored items on display, but quickly being reminded of a major downside of India: It’s impossible to stop without being swarmed by vendors and various “helpful” sorts. It can be exhausting. It’s frustrating, especially when we might consider shopping if only we could be left alone. I know it’s cultural and we find it many places, but India raises it to a new level. I laugh that I need to gird my loins and brace myself before heading out in India. The noise, the crowds, the squalor, the colors, the smells…and the beauty. It’s easy to reach sensory overload fast.

I had to snap this photo quickly before the next vendor descended.

We walked towards the famous Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds), opting to get lunch at the rooftop Wind View Café across the street before heading to the palace itself. The simple meal with an awesome view of the palace and bustling main street below was tasty and cheap.

The palace was built in 1799 and designed to look like Lord Krishna’s crown. With its shallow rooms, the building seems little more than a facade behind the many-windowed front where royal ladies would come catch glimpses of the market streets. (See top photo.) There’s little furniture, only a few displays, and not much in the way of historical explanation, but we had fun exploring and the courtyards and terraces are extensive, offering views over the city and the mountains and fortifications beyond. The graceful architecture and elaborate carved and painted designs on doors and ceilings provide the artwork on display.

View from Hawa Mahal. The sloped structure in the distance is the observatory, Jantar Mantar.

Hawa Mahal is connected by a passage to the City Palace, but the entrances are separate. We ran out of time to do the second palace, so saved that for our next day’s explorations. We wandered more of the fascinating and overwhelming streets of the Pink City before heading home to Pearl Palace Heritage Hotel.

Pink City street scene. The man in the foreground is making pots.

Practical info:

Entrance to Hawa Mahal is 200INR for foreign tourists and 25INR for foreign students. For Indians, the fee is 50/5INF. The palace is open 9:00am-4:30pm daily. The Hawa Mahal web site lists the prices as substantially less, but I’m giving the prices actually posted and charged at the palace. There is also a composite ticket for seven sites available, but it didn’t include the City Palace so we passed on that. To enter Hawa Mahal, go around the left side of the building (as you face the front), then turn right at the first pedestrian street to find the entrance.

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