We went to Jaipur for one reason: Holi.
We had heard more than once that it was better to celebrate Holi in North India than South, so after consulting with some new hostel friends in Delhi, as well as a map, we landed on Jaipur as being our best option. To give ourselves enough time to celebrate properly, we arrived the day before Holi and left the evening the day after Holi, leaving a day on either end to explore Jaipur before and after the madness.
Or so we thought. We soon learned that the madness is constant in Jaipur. The city is a crazy, loud, congested, overwhelming place. Our tuktuk ride to the East Gate joined a constant stream of plenty of other tuktuks as well as motorbikes, cars, helicopters (their name for bikes pulling a 2-person cart), livestock, and camels. I repeat: camels. I really am in India.
Once inside the gate we slowly made our way through a bazaar, with one side of the street selling spices and the other cheap clothes. Vibrantly colored Holi powder was for sale everywhere. Walking down the sidewalk felt like a sport, like dodgeball but with people. We escaped to a rooftop for lunch; it was a quiet retreat with deliciously spicy food and cold beers, and it was hard to leave. Not realizing how long we’d been there, we didn’t make it to the City Palace in time to go inside, but even walking up to and around the area felt like we saw the Pink City, which is really more of an orange hue, but it was still cool to see an entire city zone painted one color with off-white accents. At least it was in the moments that I could look around me instead of focusing on the chaos I was attempting to move through.
The next day was the main event. Holi was an experience we could have never predicted, and for that it gets its own post. I’ll fast forward now to the day after Holi.
Kwaz got sick. Everyone says you will get sick in India, but for some reason you never believe them, so when it really does happen it sucks. I felt bad I couldn’t make it go away and she felt bad period. But we had one more day in Jaipur before our night train to Agra and she didn’t want to wallow in the sickness, I wouldn’t have either, so we chose to do a calmer tourist activity instead of braving the Pink City streets a second time. I guess we may never see what’s inside the City Palace, but we’re both okay with that.
We chose to get out of Jaipur center to the Amber Fort. Half an hour north of the city, the tuktuk ride to get up there was sightseeing in itself. We drove through a part of town that is home to the lowest caste in India. It looked like a farm emptied out onto the city streets; there were cows and pigs everywhere snacking on the garbage that lined both sides. The smell was strong and unpleasant, and the roads winding and bumpy.
The fort is huge. It sits impressively on top of a hill with Jaipur’s version of the Great Wall snaking out on the hilltops around it. From what we’d heard it would take three or four hours to explore the whole complex; we were done in one. Not to say that Amber Fort isn’t a pretty building that’s worth visiting, it totally is, it just didn’t take long to meander through the various courtyards and buildings. Also the temple was unfortunately closed from 12-4 so we missed out on that. But without a guide it was just up to us to explore at our own will, climbing up down and around to see the turkish baths, mirrored hall, green geometric garden (which was a jarring contrast to its dry tan surroundings), and elevated vistas on top of the walls. The Amber Fort was another historic building that was our playground for the afternoon.
It was the perfect amount of activity and leisurely pace for the day after Holi and the advent of Kwaz’s Delhi belly. On the tuktuk ride back we saw the Water Palace – a building in the middle of the lake, we still have no idea why it’s there and should probably look it up – and we thought we were going to a market, but instead our driver just took us to a textile shop where they told us “looking was free” but clearly just wanted to sell us things. We had no tolerance for this. Take us home now. It was an unfortunate ending to the day that made us happy to get out of Jaipur that evening.
Jaipur was exhausting. It was an entirely different experience than Rishikesh had been and showed us the side of India that people had warned us about. It’s hectic and sensory overload but I can’t fault it for that, I asked for it when I came here, so in some way I’m happy to have made it to Jaipur just to experience that India. And now I’m happy to move on and see other parts of it.