We stayed at The Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur during our last day in India. We didn’t enjoy a long lie-in as we were going to explore Jaipur by bicycle. We had organised a cycling tour in advance on Le Tour de India. In the previous days we had braved the traffic with a private chauffeur and we had regularly wondered if going cycling in India was such a good idea. The traffic is insane. Cycling looked like a suicide mission. But as the cycling was organised for 6 o’clock in the morning, we decided to go for it anyway.
Our driver dropped us to the city centre where Khushal Rathore was waiting for us. After praying for the best, we were ready to go.
The tour starts at Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh Circle (also called Statue Circle). After 10 minutes we made our first stop at Lassiwala. This shop has been selling the traditional yoghurt drink Lassi since 1944. They sell this drink on every corner, but as hygiene leaves something to be desired in India, it is advisable to find out where you can drink it safely. We did not get sick, so Lassiwala is a trusted address.
Lassi is made with crushed ice, ice-cold water, yoghurt and sugar or honey. It is a refreshing drink and it is perfect to quench the fire in your mouth after eating a spicy dish.
Historical center of Jaipur
We continued our cycling tour and entered the historic centre through the Ajmeri Gate . Jaipur is nicknamed “Pink City” because so many houses are painted this colour. We cycle through narrow alleys and are warmly greeted by the people everywhere.
The town was painted pink in 1876 in honour of the visit of the Prince of Wales. They chose pink as this is the colour of hospitality.
Temples in Jaipur
The next stop is a special one. We visit the Govind Dev Ji temple during prayers. Hundreds of people are waiting in front of a type of stage. Apparently, the curtain will be opened in a few minutes so that they can see the statue of Lord Krishna. People keep coming in and at a certain moment, people start singing. It is a very hypnotic song, and the crowd seems to go into a trance. Suddenly the curtain opens and all arms fly up into the air. They resume their singing and a few minutes later the service is over. Very special.
Everyone also walks round the temple and a lot of people stop to pray against the wall of temple, with the hands in the air.
Beside the temple is some sort of covered market, but it is being restored at the moment. The ceiling is a true masterpiece. The span is massive and even made it to the Guiness Book of World Records.
Local markets in Jaipur
Na de temAfter the temple we cycle on to a local market where they sell flowers, fruits and vegetables. It all looks delicious and it is great to be part of this colourful scene. Although Jaipur is rather touristy, it seems like we are the only tourists over here.
Tea tasting in Jaipur
Then we stop at a popular tea house. We take our tea to the roof of the building where we enjoy the beautiful view over the city. It is also great to see what goes on behind the front of buildings, as the whole city seems to be full of neglected vintage cars.
We also go through Namkeen Wali Gali, the street known for the so-called Bombay Mix (spicy snacks that they love in India). We stopped at one of the stalls and tried the original Shankar Namkeen wala and a few other spicy snacks (they look a bit like rice).
Albert Hall Museum
Our three-hour tour ended at the Albert Hall Museum. This architectural masterpiece is one of the most popular tourism hotspots in Jaipur. It was built in 1876 as a concert hall but is a museum nowadays. Lots of pigeons swarm around the building. The San Marco Square in Venice pales in comparison.
Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds
.Around the corner from the Albert Hall is the Hawa Mahal, probably one of the most famous buildings in Jaipur. Of course, we stopped here briefly as well. Hawa Mahal is not so much a building however, as only a façade.
Behind the front of the building, made from pink sandstone with 953 windows, balconies and niches, only lie hallways and not rooms. From here, the women in the harem of the Maharaja of Rajasthan were able to view the annual parades and daily life without being seen themselves. Because of the special design, a perpetual breeze can be felt and so it is also called the “Palace of Winds” or “Palace of the Breeze”.
I would never drive a car in India, let alone cycle. But with a good guide, it is a fantastic way to explore the city. You go through small alleys and you see how the locals start their day. You enjoy the impressive architecture and taste safe street-food. I will carry the scents and colours of this city with me forever.
The day was far too short however to discover all that Jaipur has to offer. We have a good reason to return.
Do you want to find out more about Jaipur? Read my next blog post.
Do you want to read more about our trip through Rajasthan? I wrote the perfect 1 week itinerary.
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