Travel is more than having a destination in mind, it is discovering a place in your heart you have never been before.
For a long time Rajasthan was one such place I have been wanting to visit, colourful cities, different culture and a contrasting landscape. It was definitely not similar to the places i have visited in the past. I am not sure if it was the place or people i went with but after i am home, it makes me miss the experience, it was for sure a wonderful holiday. We 7 of us wanted to have a laid back exploration of the state, so after much research and analysis we picked only two cities, Jaipur the pink city and Jaisalmer the golden city, and our itinerary was for 7 days.
On Feb 8th, My friends started from Coimbatore to Jaipur via Hyderabad, whereas i flew out from Bangalore directly to join them in Jaipur. We reached our airbnb stay around noon, our stay was located close to almost all the major attractions and as an added bonus very cutely decorated. At that time I did not know Jaipur was famous for home decor and this place was just a minor reminder of it. After having a sumptuous authentic Rajasthani lunch it was already around 5pm and we just went to the bazaar to spend the rest of the day, gobbling street foods all around the bazaar sufficed as our dinner. To all those folks who told it would be damn hot now and why did you pick this time of the year to visit Rajasthan, the joke is on you, Rajasthan was freaking cold and it was just freezing during night and early in the morning.
We made it early to Amer fort next day, It is situated in the outskirts of the city and the roads are in good condition. Jal Mahal and Nahargarh fort are on the way to Amer and so if need be, you could cover all 3 in a day. Amer fort was standing tall in the Aravalli hills, even though it looks old it has lot of beautiful spots, some of the architecture is truly beautiful, needless to say its one of the photogenic places in the state. It took a couple of hours to complete our partial tour and on our way back we did not want to visit another fort again and so we directly headed to Jal Mahal or the Water palace.
Jal Mahal is built on the middle of Lake Man Sagar, even though only one floor is visible above the water and the remaining 4 floors are submerged, it is truly a sight with hills as its backdrop. Off late they forbid boating and entry inside the palace, so we just spent loitering around the lake capturing different views of the palace.
Third day in Jaipur, we set out to visit few spots in the middle of the city, we started with City palace Jaipur, a bit expensive if you want to have a complete tour, so we chose the minimal ticket which allows you to just visit the exterior area, museums and courtyards of the palace, even to cover that it took a couple of hours. Such intricate detailing and grandeur in architecture gave me a feel of awe.
My favourite spot was definitely the interior courtyard with four beautiful unique gates representing each season.
The gardens and long courtyards would inspire you to twirl and run and a part of the palace is still occupied by the royal family, honestly I liked the city palace more than the Amber palace.
The most famous iconic landmark of Jaipur “The Hawa Mahal” representing the pink city is close to City palace and can be reached by foot. Hawa Mahal is situated amidst a bazaar like street and the surrounding 2 kms will give you the Pink City feel as its filled by numerous havellies with royal look alike architecture and all in terracotta pink colour. Looks like there is a reason behind this colour and this colour showcases hospitality. I should agree the Pink city really gave me warm welcoming feel and made me feel safe. Hawa Mahal has around 110 windows and you are allowed to visit inside the Hawa Mahal, however if you want to view the complete structure then cross the road and head to Wind View Cafe, sipping hot chai you can devour the magnificent view as much as you want.
Our last stop of the day was Albert Hall Museum and we were lucky to see both the day view and night view with the whole structure lit up in amazing colourful lights. With an entry fee we were allowed to check out the museum, it houses metal art, armour, pottery, sculptures, paintings, coins, and an Egyptian mummy.
After an hour we left to Masala chowk- 100 metres from Albert Hall, it is an open air food court that houses the magical taste of Rajasthani cuisine. You pay 10rs to enter the food court and you find an array of different foods from dal bati churma, tandoori chai, and many other foods.
Fourth day we left to Jaisalmer via flight and we reached around noon, it is a typical village with a different landscape. we had planned to stay in one of the desert camps in Sam sand dunes, so after lunch we directly went to the desert. It is an hour drive from the main city and we reached the camp around 4pm, after refreshing ourselves, we had to leave for our desert safari in Thar desert, a 20min jeep drive in the desert was amazing and unique experience. I somehow remembered the chase scene from Mad Max – Fury road movie at the end of the drive 😛 This was the best part of our complete trip and am taking this memory with me. After a wonderful drive inside the desert we went for camel safari and settled in the fine sand to witness the Sunset. I have witnessed sunset from beaches and hill tops but in the desert it was a surreal experience. Amidst the golden sand, spreading a palette of colours over the horizon, the sun slowly slipped inside, guess it picked its pace from the loitering camels. The fine sand and the unique landscape made us all become kids and we ended up playing some childhood games till the darkness creeped in.
Around 8pm the camp site had arranged for authentic rajasthani music and dance with snacks and dinner buffet around campfire, inspite of the freezing cold it proved to be a special experience. Even though the camp site is situated out of no where, the tents and facilities are beyond expectations and it was a wonderful stay.
Next day after breakfast we checked out and left to visit the Jaisalmer Fort. It is not a fort actually its like a standalone city and chunk of the city’s population still stays there.
It was difficult to find our way as its filled with shops, houses and mandir and the place itself is huge, if you don’t have time it is best to hire a guide.
Since we did not have much time we only visited Gadisar Lake, the photogenic iconic landmark of Jaisalmer. It was so picturesque that I was glad we did not miss coming here. Around 4pm we had our train back to Jaipur, after many years this train journey was nostalgic and more fun with friends, also a special mention the compartment was clean and railways food was surprisingly good.
Around 4am we reached Jaipur, and for our last stay for the trip we had a booked a mixed dorm in the hostel – Blue Beds, It may be just a hostel but it was a wonderful stay with all the needed amenities. Already with a bag of Rajasthani memories and so many different experiences we were a bit exhausted and did not want to do much on our last day in Jaipur. So after a while we left to the bazaar to do our part of shopping, never trust the advices of tuk tuk drivers they take you to random shops and claim those are the best. Just hit the streets, Jaipur has lot to offer, ranging from home decor, jewelleries, clothes, bedsheets, carpets and bags, It is truly a shopper’s paradise with steal deals.
The last day we treated ourselves gastronomically, we had lunch in Cafe Bae and dinner in Peacock restaurant both proved to be the best and the latter satiated our taste buds with Rajasthani flavours.
Rajasthan is unique, it gives you a glimpse of royal life may be due to its architecture or the exquisite cuisine or simply because they even decorate the smallest of things with splendour. Starting from their food, clothes to their home decor everything throws a shade of grandeur. At the end , it was one hell of a trip, the memories linger, and the experiences we had are for life. A good travel should make you carry the place back home, and this one did it for sure. I now have it in me and even after coming back to my humble abode am left in holiday hangover – Rajasthan I miss you and my folks who came along..!! 🙂