They say it’s the Paris of India, and call it the “pink city” for the red clay buildings inside its city gates. I happened to pick it for Christmas this year because I didn’t want to skip one of my only chances to spend NYE in Goa, living on this side of the world for the time being. How did I choose Jaipur in Rajasthan to kick off the last trip of 2012? Well I played a little game I like to call ‘google images roulette’, something I often do when feeling adventurous, and in the mood for far- away destinations. Whenever I feel spatially restless, and because I am very visually swayed, I like to type in the name of a city, resort, museum, club, restaurant, or anything, into Google images to see what pops up and go through the endless pictures. Deciding between Calcutta, Mumbai, Bangalore, and other Indian cities, Jaipur seemed like a beautiful city to explore at the most joyful time of the year!
It started off pretty badly, with Air India making a complete joke out of an already terrible traveling itinerary, but once in the pink city, everything turned around. Not only is it downright inexpensive, but it also has some of the most aesthetically inclined sites in India imaginable because it once constituted the center of India’s Mughal empire and Sultanate history. The first planned city in the North of India, it was commissioned to impress with its architecture and grandeur by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh in 1727. Visiting every single top site in about 4 days, it also provided a manageable excursion before the madness of Goa trance parties for bringing in the New Year. Although local rickshaw drivers claim the most beautiful site to be Amber Fort, my personal favorites included Jaigarh Fort and the monkey temple. Jaigarh Fort has some of the most breathtaking views of the city from a distance, and they most certainly took my breath away. As did the monkey temple, but for different reasons. When you arrive at the base of the temple you have to climb up an old stone path, and the first things you see are lots of loose pigs oinking around and families of primates joining in on the chaos. Buffoonery at large! As you gradually climb up above the city and toward the place of worship, more and more monkeys take over the cityscape and sometimes even overpower the whole scene. This can be a little scary, since these agile animals tend to be unpredictable, and the really big ones, heavy and fierce enough to cause some serious damage if provoked. Nonetheless, the site of so many monkeys around the temple lets you capture super sweet photos, and it’s really a sight to see since you don’t have the opportunity to see monkeys hanging about in your everyday existence.
Also known for its textiles and handcraftsmanship, I bought really groovy ali-baba pants and a colorful patchwork skirt to get ready for my hippie-inspired Goa trip on the beach a few days after. Jaipur turned out to be a good alternative to my mom’s incredible home cooking and Christmas lights galore State-side for all its marvelous wonders and cheap traveling options. One thing to keep in mind, however, is never take a starting offer on the prices suggested by solicitors. Be ready to haggle for everything from your rickshaw rides to your funky artsy jewelry, as most locals inflate the price of everything for tourists. If you have a hell of a poker face, and manage not to get too attached to any one thing, you’ll fare just fine and even be able to score some cool souvenirs for family and friends back home. As in the USA at car dealerships, the thing they fear most is you walking away. Most often as you head to the door, a tap on the back is a cue from the shopkeeper ready to meet your price. Go too low, and they might just let you walk. Not to fear, though, as you can usually find the exact same item on the other side of the street just across the way. I had a very Joyous Jaipur Christmas in Rajasthan this year, which almost prepared me for the oontz, oontz, oontz of Goa’s (in)famous NYE fiasco.