Jaipur, the Pink City

I left Jaipur, the Pink City, on Saturday. The relative size of Rajasthan’s capital was somewhat overwhelming after the intimacy of Jaisalmer. However, there were some magnificent and beautiful buildings.

The Hawa Mahal (see first photo) is breathtaking. A five story building that rises dramatically from the ground. It was used to allow women in the royal household to watch the processions and life in the city.

The Old City, like Manhattan, is designed as a grid. It’s easy to navigate. There are bazaars everywhere, specialising in saris and fabrics, jewellery, leather goods, shoes, perfumes, block prints, blue pottery, carpets and antiques. The rickshaw drivers, and even my Jaipur government tour guide, steered us towards some of the huge emporiums to get their cut from the shops!

The Central Museum was British designed but combines English and Indian architecture. It has strategically placed nets to stop the pigeons getting in! Inside, there is a mixed collection of carpets, paintings, vases, furniture, musical instruments and, inexplicably, an Egyptian section with a mummy!

One of my favourite places was the calm Central Park. It had an outer 4km running loop, with markers, and an inner 3km walking loop. I saw many joggers. Some of the more elderly were in normal clothes, almost as if they’d spontaneously decided to go for a jog on their way home from work! One runner had on a shirt, burgundy corduroys and running shoes! There were also two outdoor gyms. This was India at its most active!

There are plenty of public, and free, toilets in Jaipur. I saw men on high streets facing a walk and thought it was the usual public nuisance. However there were urinals on the street walls! Perhaps their installation was a moment of eagerness or just a recognition of the reality that some Indian men pee anywhere and you might as well put urinals in places that require minimal effort to reach, like next to or opposite their shops!

On a related note, Jaipur was also one of the cleanest cities I’ve seen. Generally, if you see people sweeping the streets, they’re moving rubbish from one place to another; it doesn’t get picked up! This may explain why many places are so dusty: the dust just blows back again and you’ll see the same person doubled over dusting again the following day!

My favourite place to eat was the vegetarian and vegan organic Anokhi Café. I had a long chat with the manager, a Kiwi who settled in India 15 years ago. There are many similar restaurants in the UK but in Jaipur it was a new concept when she proposed it 12 years ago to the owners of Anokhi, a clothes store. To help customers, there is a display of each dish, freshly cooked every day, for prospective dinners to see what they would get.

She told me how difficult it was to source a variety of vegetables. Unlike the UK, fresh food isn’t shipped around the country. So they ended up starting their own organic farm.

I enjoyed having an unspiced stir fry with crunchy vegetables and a generous portion of falafels in pita bread. The desserts, especially the chocolate banana cheesecake, were yummy 😊

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