Jaipur’s Top 5

Charis B lists the top 5 things one must do in Jaipur. No, this isn’t another list of palaces and forts to see. We all know that Jaipur is the “Pink city”. But have you ever wondered why? When Prince Albert made a visit in 1876, the whole city was coloured terracotta pink to welcome him and his queen. Another interesting piece of trivia is that the entire city is built based on the principles of Indian Vastu Shastra and, all the streets and markets are set in the East to West and North to South directions. These are just two examples of the kind of facts and stories one can find in Jaipur and one trip is never enough. But if one trip is all you have, then here’s our list of five things you must do: 1.  See the architectural masterpiece that is the Hawa Mahal. Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds is a five-floored monument that was originally made for the ladies of the royal household. The exterior has a honeycomb design which includes more than 900 small windows, made with very delicate latticework. Legend has it that royal women would often sit inside and view the outside world without being seen themselves. The small openings would provide them the much-needed breeze in the blazing hot summers. Open from 9am to 4pm everyday; make sure you climb right to the top of the palace for an unforgettable view of the city. 2. Stay at Chokhi Dhani What could be better than the experience of real royal luxury when in the city of Kings? In the five-star Chokhi Dhani resort, you could choose to stay in one of the 33 Royal cottages or if you’re feeling particularly fancy, go for one of the 8 luxury Haveli suites.  All the rooms are inspired by Rajasthan’s royal legacy with modern amenities. After all, living like kings is one thing, but living without that flat-screen tv or wi-fi? Have a drink at the Chandi Mahal Bar where the ceiling is covered in a thousand mirrors; the floor is a stunning green and the entire space is covered in golden furniture. Then take a quick dip in their sunken pool and finally book yourself an Ayurvedic spa session. Whoever said being king was easy? 3. Get immersed in the colour and frenzy of the Elephant festival Celebrated every year on the eve of Holi, this unique festival is held at the Chaugan Stadium. Starting at 4pm, the entry is free but a good tip is to arrive early so you get a good seat. It also gets very hot, so it’s best to wear a cap and your sunglasses. The beautifully adorned elephants, covered in multicolored outfits made especially for them, parade up and down for the crowd. What starts off as an elephant parade slowly evolves into a fun-filled night of cultural events like folk dances, singing and even playing Holi. What is known as the Old City in Jaipur is lit up during this festival and we suggest you walk around to really become a part of the festivities. Oh! Don’t forget to carry your camera. 4. Shop for local handicrafts Jaipur has long been known for excellent Bandhani work. Also known as Bandhej, this tie and dye style is available in almost any colour you can imagine. If you’re there for a few days, you could even ask for your own custom-mix of colours; the makers will only be happy to oblige! Garment shops are spread all over the city and are easily available in most markets. If you don’t particularly like Bandhej, you could also look at Lehariya – stripe or vertical line design. Buy anything from saris and suit materials to wall hangings and tablecloths. Next, head over to Johari Bazaar to buy beautiful lac jewelry – a unique style made only in Rajasthan. If you don’t like the earrings, pick up pencil holders, small boxes or mirrors. They make for lovely gifts. Surajpol Bazaar also has some great silver jewelry. Remember to bargain! 5. Eat some real local food You can’t visit Jaipur, and not taste Dal Bati Churma.  Baati is an unleavened bread ball that can be made plain or filled with peas, potatoes or onion. Churma is traditionally made with mashed up Baati cooked with ghee and sugar. The dal is simply lentils and it is cooked in many different ways. For the non-vegetarians, the KhudKkhargosh is supposed to be a heavenly dish made of rabbit or hare meat stuffed with spices and herbs, wrapped in dough and layers of mud-soaked cloth, and cooked in a pit. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Also try the Dai Shorba – a yoghurt-based soup and the famous Besan Bharwan Mirch, which is stuffed green chillies that are deep-fried and cooked in a gravy. Leave with a few bottles of local pickles to spice up regular meals and to avoid any withdrawal symptoms once your are back home.