jaipur playground for the rich
Last Updated : GMT 05:21:58
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Last Updated : GMT 05:21:58
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India's 'pink city' delights

Jaipur: Playground for the rich

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Arab Today, arab today Jaipur: Playground for the rich

The Amber Palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan
New Delhi - Arabstoday

The Amber Palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan Jaipur, India's "pink city", is the definition of living history. Established by the Kachhawaha kings in the 12th century, the city's nickname comes from the colour of the sandstone used in most of the old buildings . Jaipur is today the capital of the desert state of Rajasthan (meaning the land of royals) and part of the justly famous travel circuit called the "golden triangle", along with New Delhi and Agra.
Jaipur is among the fastest-growing cities in India and can sometimes display all the signs of urban chaos but amid all that lie some of the most remarkable architectural achievements of the period. Two of the best are the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds), Jantar Mantar, an ancient astronomical observatory built in the 1700s by Sawai Man Singh and, just over 15km away, is my personal favourite, the Amber Fort (pronounced Ah-mer), with its scintillating Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors), lush gardens and ornate pavilions.
For such a venerable old city, Jaipur has a youthful vibe, exemplified by its modern cafes and shopping malls. Middle-aged women in colourful saris, heads covered demurely, walk next to teenage girls in jeans and crop tops.
In Jaipur, the place to stay is one of the hotels housed in what used to be palaces or havelis (mansions), providing a glimpse into what life must have been like for the rich. The Diggi Palace (www.hoteldiggipalace.com; 00 91 141 237 3091) is a lovely mid-19th-century mansion and is surprisingly affordable, with double rooms from 5,000 rupees (Dh366) per night.
To really indulge, book a room at the Raj Vilas (www.oberoihotels.com/oberoi_rajvilas/index.asp; 00 91 11 2389 0606; double rooms from 38,000 rupees [Dh2,787] per night), an Oberoi property with impeccable standards of hospitality. Equally special is the Taj Rambagh Palace (www.tajhotels.com; 00 91 141 221 1919), once the residence of the maharaja of Jaipur. A richly appointed "palace" room can be had for 31,500 rupees (Dh2,310) per night.
Head to Hawa Mahal in the evening; that is where all of Jaipur congregates. The main markets are also located around this most familiar landmark. If you are brave enough, find a hand rickshaw to take you on a tour through the narrow streets or wander around on your own.
Better still, join a walking tour; there are several in the city catering to specific interests. I tried an extremely satisfying street-food tour on my own around the old city (warning: only for the iron-stomached). The "Bazaars, Cuisine and Craft" tour by the Virasat Foundation (www.virasatjourneys.com) is also a great introduction to the traditional arts and craft that live on in this city.
Because there is no public transport to speak of, your best bet is to find a friendly cab or rickshaw guy to take you around the main sights. Ideally, ask your hotel to fix it up for you but make it absolutely clear the driver is not to take you to workshops or showrooms, where they'll get kickbacks for bringing a potential buyer of overpriced crafts.
All the buzz in Jaipur is centred around the local markets that branch out from the Nayi Chaupar (New Square), especially Johri Bazaar and Amber road in front of the Hawal Mahal. Any time of day, there are residents and tourists thronging the shops, bargaining and bantering over everything from shoes to spices. Rajasthanis are very friendly and love to stop and chat, even if they initially come across as slightly gruff.
You cannot leave the city without a meal or, at the very least, a snack at the popular Lakshmi Mishthan Bhandhar (locally known as LMB) in Johri Bazaar. For those with a sweet tooth, LMB is heaven and the ghevar (deep-fried cakes) is its manna. If you are tired of spicy Indian food and crave comforting soups and sandwiches, make your way to Anokhi Cafe (www.anokhicafe.com), attached to the Anokhi Store in the neighbourhood known as C-Scheme.
For a special evening out, try 1135AD, Jaipur's most opulent (and, some say, most romantic) restaurant within the Amber Fort (www.1135ad.com/1135web/index.php). Enjoy a sumptuous Indian meal served by waiters in traditional attire while local musicians serenade you discreetly. The Thaal-e-amber Jeypoore, a platter of curries, kebabs and desserts, comes highly recommended. A meal for two costs around 3,000 rupees (Dh218).

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