Asia, India

Weekend Trip to Jaipur, India

I was on a business trip to India and had a weekend free so I decided to visit Jaipur with my co-worker, Brian to check off another country. Why I choose Jaipur instead of Taj Mahal? Jaipur, based on what I read online, seemed more like a travel destination where there are plenty to see with beautiful palaces. Whereas, Taj Mahal is just a building for a quick picture of the outside. You can tell me that I am wrong, it was a quick decision booked the week prior so I didn’t have that much time to research and plan.

We took the Friday night flight at 8 PM from Bangalore to Jaipur, went straight from the office to the airport. Our flight was delayed so we didn’t get to Jaipur until 11 PM. Originally, I was planning to take Uber to the hotel but since it was late night and I don’t know how the availability of Uber drivers is, I booked the private transfer with the driver of the tour the next day for 800 INR. The private driver, I booked via Viator to take us to Amber Palace (I read that getting back from the fort is a challenge using Uber so need to plan ahead for the return trip) to avoid the hassle. It was pretty cheap cost around $25 for 10 hours (we didn’t need that much time) but I choose this tour because it starts as early as 7 AM, others are 8 AM as Amber Palace opens at 8 AM.

We stayed at the ITC Rajputana, a Luxury Collection Hotel (part of the Marriott chain). It was very cheap for a 5* hotel at $120 per night – it was also the low season – end of June where temperatures were triple digits in Fahrenheit! On the way from the airport to the hotel, it was mostly on the highway and then once we got off, we went under this bridge where it looked like a dump! Then as we got near the old part of the “city”, the pedestrian sidewalk was dirt and filled with trash. I would never imagine that behind the wall is this luxurious hotel! As soon as we turn around the corner and enter the gate, it looked like a different world! For every 5* hotel, there’s a security gate where the security guard checks each car entering and all of our luggage and handbag need to go through security scan.

We got to our room at almost midnight, I quickly showered and sleep, wake up at 6:30 AM, breakfast at 7 AM, and pick up at 7:30 AM. Our private driver’s name is Vinod, his English was pretty good and gave us some history of Jaipur and Amber Palace. First, he took us to Panna Meena ka Kund – a very cool looking step well that’s nearby the Amber Palace. Only a group of 5-6 people and us were there early in the morning. Step well were built to collect water and be able to access to it regardless of the water level. The stairs were symmetrical and looked like pieces of puzzle.

Too bad it’s no longer allowed to walk down those cool looking stairs ๐Ÿ™ One of the consequences of being Instagram famous. You can see the massive size of this step well compared to me!

My co-worker Brian, we took turn taking photos of each other. Behind the step well, the building sitting on top of that hill is part of the Great Wall of Amer, I read that it’s the world’s 3rd longest after the Great Wall of China.

Another angle of the step well:

After the step well, Vinod drove us to Amber Palace. We were lucky that the road up to the fort is open so he was able to drop us off at the entrance of one of the gates so we didn’t have to walk 15-20 minutes under the scorching hot sun or ride up on an elephant (not recommended) or pay one of the jeeps for the ride. There were people stopping us on the road up the fort, selling stuff or asking for payment I guess? Vinod told us to just say “no”. He couldn’t say it and need us to say “no” because they are gangsters! We weren’t sure if he was joking or for real but we kept saying “no” and made our way up to the fort. The entrance gate where the guides were gathered there and will keep asking you to hire him for 400 rupees. Vinod said it’s a waste of money to hire a guide, they are just BSer (LOL), he was quite honest about that.

Once we entered into this large courtyard, we had no clue where the ticket office is even located at, there is no sign whatsoever! The guide of course was following us and insisted that we need a guide, we kept saying “no”, but at least he pointed us to the ticket office which is just to the right side like a hole in the wall. We were skeptical at first if this is legit but since it has computers and the room inside has AC, it should be legit LOL. We paid 502 rupees each so totaling 1004 rupees, it’s so odd in the number that I don’t have change for 4 rupees, the guy just took 1000 rupees and handed us two tickets with QR code. Then, we walked out to the terrace to check out the view and a lady asked if her daughter could have a photo with me. Erm…sure! After that, we walked straight and saw a gate where the staff scanned our tickets and we were into another smaller courtyard with this beautiful building.

There was an Indian girl with a videographer taking videos of her in front of this building. Her face was red and she looked like she was melting! We walked into the shade waiting for her to be done. Nope, she has a cast of crews following her, her make-up artist jumped in to retouch her make-up and then once the videographer was done, her photographer started…urg!!! People started to arrive so we gave up waiting and I asked Brian to take pictures of me standing in front of the girl. Samsung’s object eraser worked quite well in this case with only the girl’s dress left behind me.

After a few photos, we entered the palace and there was absolutely no sign nor a map! We had no clue where to go so we followed the people in front of us, through the stairs, up to the wall of the palace. A nice view of the garden on the ground floor.

The walls of this little building was covered with paintings of flowers.

I was waiting for the cleaning staff to leave but that didn’t happen so oh well we just took the photo. As Brian was taking my photos, the sweeper (the guy in the blue shirt) pointed us to photo spots!

Painted patterns of one of the ceilings of the room:

Perhaps, we looked lost and the only foreigners there, the sweeper guy eventually walked us to different spots LOL! And we trusted and followed him!

He knows exactly which angle and which spot and took over my phone from Brian and started helping us to take our photos! This is one of the framed photos he took:

We followed him into this maze of stairs and hallways up and down that no one else was there! At one point, Brian and I were exchanging eye contacts like “where is he taking us, is it safe?” He took us to this one room with the window as the frame. He told me to sit there, look outside, and he really knows the best angle!

Through more stairs and hallways, we ended up in this very hidden corner of the fort with lights shining through the shaped openings. The sweeper guy asked me to sit down on the center and took this photo below. There was no way Brian and I could find this corner by ourselves!

We got out of the hidden rooms and into the famous “Mirror Palace”. The walls and ceilings were covered with metal/silver mosaic tiles and wall art to give its name.

The sweeper guy asked me to stand beside this column and look at there and took the photo of the mirror! Ahh I see I see!

Details of the wall art, the craftmanship was spectacular!

I love the arch to frame the photo!

A look into the inside of the Mirror Palace, it is not allowed to walk in.

That was the last spot and we gave 100 rupees to the sweeper to thank for his help, he sure has hidden photo taking talent! We were thinking was he a real sweeper or a photographer in disguise? LOL

It was getting hot so we were making our way exiting, at least there were signs of the exit! Along the way, I took more photos of the palace details:

One of a rare sign pointing that said “Tunnel” described as secret passage to hide the movement of the people from the outside. Brian said let’s check it out, he loves to check out hidden places like that!

There was no one in there, all we heard was mouse sounds! It was a dead end so we had to walk back out. It was surprisingly warm inside there, we would’ve thought it should be cool underneath.

We made our way out of the palace and back to the parking lot where Vinod was waiting for us. Amber Palace was nice to take a stroll early in the morning before it gets really hot! Next, Vinod drove us to Jal Mahal, a palace that looked like floating on the lake. However, it has been leaking water so it’s closed. Vinod said there’s a plan to turn this palace into a restaurant…that must be an expensive place for a meal! The lake is nowhere picturesque and as with everywhere, it is filled with trash. The “Instagram” view when zoomed in.

The sad truth:

After a quick stop, Vinod took us to his favorite hidden place – Gaitor Ki Chhatriyan (The Royal Tombs). The admission fee was 200 rupees per person (if I remember correctly) and Vinod said we could pay 100 rupees to the security guard to take us to photo spots and take the “best” photos for us. Hum…okay maybe the security guard has photo taking talent as well LOL.

He took the framed photo of me, he knows the angle for sure.

Then, he took us inside the complex and screamed for another security guard. Blah blah blah, we had no idea what they were saying but eventually a second security guard showed up and he ended up showing us around and took photos. This 2nd security guard is more on giving us a history of the tomb but his English wasn’t that great that we can barely understand half of what he was saying!

One of the carving art on the marble stone:

We walked up to the highest point to get a photo of the monuments.

A framed photo from the 2nd security guard:

I like this upfront more to see the pretty monuments.

Details of the monument interior:

You can see a part of the Great Wall of Amer from here too.

Conclusion: it was not worth the extra 100 rupees for the security guard, he only took 1 photo and the rest were from his colleague who wasn’t great as a photographer ๐Ÿ˜‰

After the Royal Tomb, Vinod asked if we would like to visit craft markets or whatever making market. We said no thanks and he was totally cool; didn’t pressure us to visit any stores. We said take us to one more spot and then we’ll head back to the hotel as it was getting hot. He took us to a tower, he said the best view of the city from the top, we were not interested in climbing flights of stairs at 98 degrees weather so we passed on that. We said it’s okay, he can take us back to the hotel, it was almost 11 AM. We passed by a “flower market” where stands after stands were selling flowers for worship offering. Strangely, no one buying. There were lots of stands selling various stuff we passed by but we never seen any sort of transaction. There was no shopping street that we, as tourist, can safely walk around to browse souvenir shops. The streets are always busy with cars and motorbikes. I would’ve thought Jaipur being a tourist destination should have shopping street for tourist, nope!

We got back to the hotel, I paid Vinod 800 rupees for the airport transfer and 500 rupees as tips. He was a great driver that I totally recommended.

We hang out in the room and out again for lunch at noon. We took Uber to Dragon House, a Chinese restaurant inside the Radisson Hotel. Although it looked like it’s walkable from our hotel, less than 10 minutes, but we were pretty sure that there was no way we could cross the busy street! Uber is super cheap in Jaipur, only 100 rupees. I selected the “Uber Go” and the car was the same Suzuki model as the one Vinod was driving us around.

Finally, Chinese food with white jasmine rice! I got so tired of spicy Indian food (even thought they were very flavorful and tasty) after my 3rd meal that I had to hunt for another cuisine. I was especially craving for stir-fried veggy, I feel like the Indian curry lacked vegetable! I got my fix with the stir-fried bak choy and mushroom, but I wish they give more bak choy…the precious 8 pieces of bak choy ๐Ÿ™ Even in 5* hotels, the prices for main dishes were quite reasonable, around 800 rupees ($10).

The food was okay, not amazing for a 5* hotel but I shouldn’t have high expectation for authentic and great Chinese food in India! We went back to the hotel after lunch, I picked “Uber Go” again and an old and yucky car came. OMG that car looked like it can fall into pieces anytime and the inside smelled bad and dirty. I don’t even dare to lay my back on the seat, it was that disgusting! Ever since that ride, I pay a little bit extra for the “Uber Premium”!

We hanged out at the hotel bar to chat about work stuff and looking into where to go for dinner. We picked an Italian place but after reading through the reviews, last one was months ago, that place looked like it has been closed! Urg, so we decided to dine in the hotel’s Pavilion Restaurant. The menu was diverse with plenty of choices even all-day breakfast. Brian ordered pizza LOL and I ordered Korean fried-chicken cutlet with rice. Taste was okay but it was good for a change!

The next morning, we took an Uber to the City Palace at around 8:30 AM but the drivers keep messaging or call me if I want a “package” of 4 hours or 8 hours for xxxx amount. I said no, I only need the ride to the City Palace and they said it’s not possible. I had to cancel the ride two times because of that and finally, someone accepted the request without reaching out to me. That wasted another 15 minutes or so and we got there before 9:30 AM – when it opens. Our car was stuck waiting outside this hole on the wall only can fit one car so the cars from the opposite direction were nonstop passing through. The driver gave up and found another way around to get into the palace but stopped again by this door! The driver asked if we can walk in, hum…sure.

We successfully crossed one not too busy street, wow! Brian just walked out and continued on with his pace, he said the key is to follow the flow so you are not unpredictable to the drivers LOL. We waited for a few minutes for the ticket office to open. The pricing is confusing….I read from other blogs that you need a special “Royal Grandeur” ticket to access the infamous “blue room” for 2000 rupees. There’s also a “Royal Splendor” ticket for 4000 rupees. I pointed to the guy that I want the 2000 rupees ticket to see the blue room. He said only the 4000 rupees ticket include the blue room! He even came out of the office and pointed to the poster of the blue room saying that is the 4000 rupees ticket. I asked what’s the difference between the 2000 and 4000 rupees ticket? He said a lot of Indian names that I had no idea but he was very certain that we need the 4000 rupees ticket to see the blue room. With no other choice, I paid the most expensive ticket (the cost of a fancy meal) but at least they accept credit card!

The guide and refreshment are included in the ticket, you’ll need the guide to access those rooms as they are inside the residence of the royal family. The entrance to the interior court of the palace:

The pink hall that I am sure when you search for Jaipur, one of those pictures were taken from there! Too bad have ropes in the middle but at least we were the first ones in!

The floral and white paintings complement the pink/orange background well.

Next to the pink hall building is a four level palace complex.

The pink exterior is a signature of Jaipur where it got its nickname, the Pink City.

We followed the guide to the entrance of the royal residence, a golden door engraved with drawing of flower, people, and animal (I assume those are cows since they are sacred in Hindu religion)?

Old photos of famous people who have visited the royal family in Jaipur, do you recognize any of them?

We got in a tiny elevator with AC to get up to the upper floors to start the tour of one of the three rooms. The first room was the room covered with jewels! A security guard was there of course. It was unbelievable!

Did they set the cushions and clothes for photos? hahaha! The security guard asked if he can help us to take the photos, erm sure.

Another photo via the mirror by the security guard!

The room was hot so we didn’t stay for long and ready for the next one. The guide took us via a circulator ramp up to another floor. Here comes the famous “blue room” that I paid so much for!! Wow, look at the amazing floral pattern painting covering from the ceiling to the columns, it was so beautiful! We were the only ones there too so we took our time to take the photos to make our money’s worth! The blue room was cooler and very airy so it was comfortable to stay there for a while to take our photos. The reason why it’s blue is because the color blue cools down in terms of temperature according to the guide.

Pictures taken from Brian, he kept pressing the snap button for the perfect moment that the wind blowing my dress, we got it!

He thinks photos taken in portrait orientation pops out more than landscape, what do you think? I usually like landscape more to capture more of the scenary.

The floral symmetrical painting on the ceiling of the outer section of the room.

The 3rd room with the “Winter Room” and is covered with silver pieces. It is accessible through a tiny tunnel leading into the room. There’s a colorful stained glass window there and a shining light on the ground, not sure if that’s added after to light up the room or not.

The colors were reflected by the silver pieces.

The amazing craftmanship once again covering the whole room with all those details!

I was amazed by the room!

Details of the patterns:

Those were the 3 rooms we visited and then the guide took us to a meeting room where the princess greets guest but no photography or videography allowed. The room looked like a living room of a royal palace.

Then, we headed out the royal residence building into the group floor courtyard with 4 beautiful peacock gates representing each the 4 seasons of the year!

I would think this gate represents spring with the green tones.

This one filled with roses so I guess summer?

This gate more red in color with lotus so erm Autumn?

A photo of the courtyard:

Lastly, winter? Those were my guesses; I didn’t ask the tour guide which is which.

After that, it was time for the refreshment. We walked back to the pink hall and in one of the corners is the entrance to the roof top cafe. I tried to capture the zig-zag ramp design through this little opening but couldn’t do it justice. It was well thought out and I have never seen anything like that.

Up on the roof where we can take a break and have a glass of cold mango juice, water, and cookies.

We enjoyed the wind breeze up there and with the great views.

Pink, pink, pink!

The royal residence building in the backdrop, the 3 rooms were somewhere in there!

After a few minutes of rest, we walked down to continue the tour. A lot more people at this time but not bad at all, really felt like the low-season.

Then, the tour guide took us to the building dedicated to the craftmanship like painting, block printing, weaving, and perfume making. It was like a sales presentation than anything else to try to sell us stuff! We sat from one station to another listen to how blah blah is made and then the price of blah blah, no thanks!!! It is really weird that they charged us so much for admission and still taking the chance to sell us stuff, geez!

That concluded “the tour”. We tipped the guide 400 rupees and was the admission fee worth it? Urgggg no but no other choice in order to see those 3 incredible picturesque rooms, I still don’t know what the 2000 rupees ticket would cover or we got scammed? One of those do it once and never again! 4000 rupees is a lot of money for locals even with Indian national discount, it was like 3000 rupees. That is the reason why not much people in those rooms!

Next, we decided to walk to Hawa Mahal known as the Pink Palace. It was like a 5 minutes walk if you walk via that small opening gate way instead of following Google Maps. On the way, we saw cows sharing the parking lot with cars so that was my only chance to take a photo of the cows there. Other times, they were on the street, in the middle of the row, or in between two parked cars LOL! They were everywhere!

We found our way to Hawa Mahal, the admission fee was 201 or 202 rupees per person. It is a lot smaller compared to the City Palace and a lot more Indians visiting the palace.

Still not as bad, not super crowded.

We walked up stairs and stairs to get to the top floor and we were at one side lol not the middle. After seeing that center balcony filled with people, no thanks, we don’t need to see that!

We got back down and try to navigate our way outside to the other side to get the exterior wall photo, that’s the most famous and prettiest! We walked by a temple, I tihnk?

We made it out the street and there it is, the iconic side of the Pink Palace! The best photos were taken from one of the cafes across the street. However, it is an impossible mission for us to cross that busy road so we just stayed on this side and tried our best!

There were a lot of people so we couldn’t get to the center so the photos might looked angled.

When Brian was taking this photo, an Indian lady took my photo too and then asked me if it’s okay. I said sure…..what would they do if I say no, delete the photo? Seemed strange to take the photo first and then asked. That was the 2nd time where Indians took photo of me, hum…is it because I was the only non-Indian Asian there or was it because of my beautiful dresses? Haha that remains a mystery ๐Ÿ˜› We finished at around 11:30 AM, got an Uber where we jumped into the car next to a busy rotary, and made it back to the hotel by noon. We got a late 2 PM checkout due to availability and being a Marriott gold member, that was huge to us so we can shower after getting sweaty from sightseeing and then a late lunch to hang out at the restaurant until 4:30 PM as our flight was at 7 PM. It all worked out well and I checked off the box that I have visited India ๐Ÿ˜€

My overall experience of Jaipur: the Amber and City Palaces were nice but the city overall as a travel destination is not. I felt like it lacked the infrastructure to be able to walk around. I have been to Siem Reap in Cambodia, Ubud in Indonesia, Koh Samui in Thailand, they each have a street or area where tourists can safely walk around to browse shops and chill out at cafes. Jaipur has nothing of that! Luxury 5* hotels scattered here and there but as soon as you step out of the hotel, the whole surrounding area looked like a dump, literally with trash everywhere. There’s so much potential on the streets filled with pink buildings surrounding the City Palace to turn them into shops, cafes, restaurants and clean up the trash to make it more attractive. Perhaps, someday!

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