Two months ago, on a business trip to Jaipur, I was put up at a fancy hotel that was cut off from the main city. Though done in line with international sense and sensibilities, it imposed a formal environment and lacked the Rajasthani touch and warmth that I craved.
This time around I yearned for a different experience, one where I could soak in the essence of Rajasthan from a glocal, central and millennial friendly property but on a budget. Read on to find out how I maxed it out!
Amber Fort and Nahargarh
If the regal citadel of the pink city steals the show, then Amber is definitely the showstopper!
The formidable Amber Fort (pronounced as Amer) is a brilliant piece of architectural grandeur that housed the Kachwaha Rajputs of Rajasthan. Complete with palace complexes, a diwan-e-aam, diwan-e-khas, secret passageways and lush green courtyards, the fort takes a good 3-4 hours to explore.
Can’t get enough? You can also buy tickets to the light and sound show that takes you through the history of Amber in one thrilling show.
However, for the best views of the city, visit Amber’s lesser talked about cousin - Nahargarh. Cradled on top of the Aravallis, Nahargarh is a sturdy fort that formed the defence ring along with Jaigarh fort to the then Rajputana capital. Today it houses a wax museum and the Sheesh Mahal.
After some deliberation, my two friends and I chose the recently revamped Ibis at Civil Lines for a couple of reasons. For one, it was the only budget hotel that offered a functional room for three overlooking the metro line. Being a brand, safety was guaranteed which wasn’t something an Airbnb offered.
The hotel incorporates elements of quirk, Rajasthani aesthetics and hospitality geared towards millennials and with a little bit of asking around, we learnt that there were complimentary cycles to drive around and enjoy the city. For a small fee, we availed the battery-operated green bikes that zoom ahead and we had a whale of a time exploring the nearby areas.
Just the way a McDonald’s offers gelatos in Italy and Mcaloo tikki burgers in India, Ibis is quintessentially the same everywhere, but the menu and design changes to accommodate local flavours.
As much as we wanted to travel and explore the city, we also valued quality sleep, sumptuous food and rest and since Ibis Jaipur has the longest running buffet till noon this allowed us enough time to oversleep and set our pace for the day.
Twice we ordered food at local restaurants but turns out that Rajasthani culture is to eat and serve at a leisurely pace which can make luncheons a long drawn affair. To save time, (the cost was relatively the same) we ordered at Ibis itself before quickly making our way to the iconic forts and palaces.
Originally built as a retreat for the royal family, this 300-year-old Water Palace is partly submerged in water. Unfortunately, you can’t enter the beautiful mahal any more as there is a legal dispute going on regarding its lease and the Supreme Court has put a stay order.
Having no option but to marvel at its stunning architecture from a distance, I felt a pang of jealousy as migratory birds and ducks flapped around languidly on the pristine sun kissed waters of Man Sagar Lake. They weren’t bound by man-made laws and were the only ones to have access to this floating paradise.
Looking for that instaworthy photo of the Hawa Mahal? I’ll share a secret: Go across the road to Café Wind View on the top floor, order a coffee with some kachoris and politely ask for rooftop access.
Want a more specific depth of field in your ‘candid’ photos? Then visit the neighbouring rooftop (he charges Rs.250 for 20 minutes as his is the location) where multiple social media ‘influencers’ from Japan and Europe clamour around for their turn. You’re welcome.
There’s a lot of hard work that goes BTS of that effortless shot. While my friends were clicking selfies with the pink monument, I was intrigued by the influencers’ antics and shamelessly watched them twirl, jump and pose in their recently purchased bikini saris and pagdis purchased from the shops below.