When I first got to Jaipur, the fascinating Pink City of India, I knew that this trip would touch me in a different way. Compared to the countries that we have been to before, Jaipur was different, architecturally and culturally. It was intriguing and thought-provoking at the same time, seeing the locals live the way they do - from lavish buildings to poverty and hardship, it was a land of extremes.
We were initially a little hesitant about bringing the girls along as we were concerned about safety and hygiene issues. However, we soon learnt that as long as we were selective in the places that we went, we had absolutely nothing to worry about. In fact, the places that we visited were stunning and the history behind them was even more compelling. The locals were warm and hospitable, occasionally politely asking for some snapshots with the girls. Definitely looking forward to visit the other cities of India!
Some information on our 4-day itinerary:
Flight – Scoot flies 4 times weekly directly from Singapore to Jaipur (6-hour flight)* and Jet Airways has multiple non-direct flights daily to Jaipur.
Accommodations – ITC Rajputana Jaipur and Holiday Inn Jaipur City Centre, booked through ExpediaSG
Currency - INR Indian Rupee (~S$1 = INR47)
Car Rental - Private driver (~S$80 full day in a 6-seater SUV)
Best time to visit - November to February with temperatures around 22-28 degreescelsius. Its summer months are from March to July where the average temperature crosses 45 degrees celcius.
With the exception of Chand Baori (2.5hr drive, 95km from Jaipur), the rest of the attractions we visited in Jaipur are all within a 20-mins drive from the city. As always, the best way to get around the city with kids is to pre-arrange a private car and driver with the hotel.
Our first stop in the pink city was City Palace, which interestingly still remains as the official residence for the Maharajah (Royal Family) of Jaipur. This palace is centrally located within the city centre, a 15min drive from ITC Rajputana hotel. We booked the private tour (~S$50) that included access to all 7 levels of the private tower also known as the Chandra Mahal (where it is still being used by the royals till this day). The tour also includes a chai-tea/coffee break which was much needed as it took a full 3 hours to explore. We highly recommend it over the standard tour (~S$10).
Highlights of the City Palace:
Entering the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience) in the middle of City Palace.
Each doorway tells a story. The Leheriya Gate, embellished in a gorgeous emerald colour, is a tribute to spring and dedicated to Ganesha, the much beloved Elephant God of India.
The Lotus Gate in the southwest represents summer and is adorned with dramatic lotus petals and flower patterns.
The winter season is represented by the Rose Gate.
The Peacock Gate, located on the North-East side of the courtyard, represents autumn and is the last in the series of the four gates of Ridhi Sidhi Pol.
The following are highlights that you can get from the private tour of Chandra Mahal.
The seventh or the top floor of the Chandra Mahal, also known as Mukut Mandir, gave a stunning view of the City Palace and Jaipur City.
Bird's eye view of the Diwan-i-Khas (left) and the inner courtyard (right)
One of our favourites was the Sukh Niwas Blue Room, also known as the Room of Rest. Definitely an Insta-worthy moment!
Made of marble interiors and gold columns, this golden room of Shobha Niwas is still used by the Royal family to perform prayers during the Diwali festival every year. Absolutely stunning!
The Room of Mirrors. Tiny mirrors plastered over the ceiling to reflect the flickering candlelight like hundreds of stars in the sky.
Next up, Nahargarh Fort. Standing on the edge of the Aravalli hills, Nahargarh Fort was built in 1734 as defence for the capital. We chose to visit this place in early evening, hoping to catch the beautiful sunset over the whole city of Jaipur. As it was a no-private-car zone, we had to walk a kilometre uphill to the viewing point. Rewarded nonetheless, the 360degree view was simply stunning. There is a little cafe perched on top of the fort, where we drank tea and waited for the sun to drop below the horizon.
Beautiful view over the pink city
Right after sun down, we took our driver's recommendation and headed out to Indiana restaurant for some Northern Indian cuisine. And we learnt, Rajasthani dining is always complemented with a traditional song and dance performance. An interesting way to end the day!
Also known as the Palace of the Winds, Hawa Mahal represents the delicate and mesmerizing glory of Rajput architecture. A bee-hive shaped five-storey palace built around an intricate latticework, it has 953 windows designed to allow cool breeze to pass into the building (thus its name). We discovered that the views are best enjoyed from the 3rd storey cafe’s balcony across the road!
A short stroll away from Hawa Mahal lies Jantar Mahal - an astronomical observation site where 14 colossal instruments that were built in the 18th century can be found, one of which is the world’s largest stone sundial. It is also listed as an UNESCO World Heritage site.
After exploring Hawa Mahal and Jantar Mahal in the morning, we stopped by a local textile shop for some souvenir and outfit shopping! India is known for its cotton produce after all! With so many options available, Leia and Lauren sure had a great time picking out their colorful hats!
For dinner, we treated ourselves to a taste of royal Rajasthani dining at Virasat Heritage Restaurant (~$60pp), which included an experience of turban tying, live music and traditional folk dance. As we were there early, we had the place to ourselves and both the adults and kids thoroughly enjoyed the experience!
Located 11km (about 30-min drive) away from central Jaipur on a quaint hill behind the Maotha Lake, Amer Fort is an extensive palace complex made completely of pale yellow sandstone. The massive fort glows beautifully in the soft morning light and looked really majestic as we approached it from afar.
Our driver dropped us at the base of the Fort, where we were told that we had two options of getting up - take a 30-min uphill walk up or take a 10-min elephant ride which is a highlight of the Amer Fort experience and only available from 9am to 11am (~S$25 per ride up to 2 pax). We learnt later there is also a 4x4 jeep ride option.
The driver also recommended a local guide (~S$5) who not only helped provide the historical insights but also navigated us through the massive palace! It is easy to get lost in the maze of tunnels and rooms so a local guide is your best bet to get around.
Sukh Mandir is a hall made of sandalwood and ivory
Pavilion at the Palace of Man Singh, where queens used to meet
Visit the Museum Gallery for modern and contemporary art in India
Amer Fort Exit
Standing right in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake, this is perhaps the most intriguing of all places. The Jal Mahal, also known as the Water Palace, is a 5-storey palace of which 3 storeys are submerged in the lake! It would be a marvelous attraction to explore the insides of the palace but unfortunately the palace is no longer open to the public.
Other than stopping here for a photo-op of Jal Mahal, there are market stalls around for souvenirs and local snacks. Happy to get a taste of fresh coconuts to quench our thirst from all the walking at Amer Fort!
After a short rest back at the hotel, we headed to Spice Court for dinner and it reminded us that India is indeed, a spice-rich country. We enjoyed the food here so much that we came back for dinner 2 nights in a row. They serve the best curries and tandoori at reasonable prices.
Before the long drive to Chand Baori, we made a quick stop at Albert Hall Museum for some photo-op with the beautiful facade. It is the oldest museum with thousands of historic artifacts and still functions as the State museum of Rajasthan.
3,500 steps over 13 stories, the visually spectacular Chand Baori Stepwall is one of the largest ever built in India. Well worth the 2.5-hr drive (95km one-way) just to see this. The architecture is amazing. We later found out that it made an appearance in Christopher Nolan's film 'The Dark Knight Rises' as the prison cell for Batman, it's no wonder!
Our flight back to Singapore was scheduled in the late night, which was perfect as we had some time after dinner to try out thelocal lassi (yogurt drink).
We have been told that Lassi Wala serves up the best lassi in town, but came across 10 stalls with the same name! In the end we chose one that was near to our hotel and the mango lassi was indeed very refreshing and flavourful. It was freshly prepared and served in a cute little disposable clay mug.
ITC Rajputana, Jaipur
Just half a kilometre from the pink city centre and 15km from the airport, this luxury hotel is built with a royal Mughal architecture and has most facilities from restaurants, bars, spa to a grandeur lounge and giant pool with charming day-beds that adds to the experience of Rajasthan and its royalty.
Holiday Inn Jaipur City Centre
Located centrally in town and right beside a shopping mall, this hotel is modern and clean like you would expect from a business hotel. While it doesn't have the touches of Rajasthani charm, it is still a pleasant stay and the girls enjoyed their morning dips in the rooftop pool.
Scoot’s flight out of Singapore to Jaipur* is in the evening and coincided with girls’ bedtime, and they literally slept through the flight. We booked the first row seats that had more legroom and more importantly we were the first to disembark. This is a major convenience with kids as there is less waiting time at passport controls. With the kids well tucked into 'bed', we got to enjoy some deliciously hot in-flight meals that we pre-ordered online
Save S$4 by pre-ordering your hot meals online
Though it was a relatively short trip, the cultural experience at Jaipur was incredible. We would love to visit again when the girls are older. Meanwhile, we are already looking to explore the other parts of India, where do you think we should visit next?
Visit Changi Airport's My Great Escape page and stand a chance to win a pair of tickets to Jaipur!
Also, from now till 10-July-2018, book your stay in Jaipur on Expedia to enjoy additional discounts. Simply enter <JAIPUR10> voucher code during checkout for more savings on your Jaipur accommodations!
*Scoot will no longer fly direct to Jaipur with effect from 10 March 2018.