A 9 hour trip of the Pink City of India – JAIPUR

Today I am writing about my 9 hour trip of the Pink City of India – JAIPUR. Sounds like a pretty small duration, but trust me, I have made the most of it. First-up, I would like to mention that renting a bike from Rajasthan Bikes saved me a lot of time (which I would have wasted waiting for public transport) and money (which I would have paid as gross auto fares). I am thankful to Mr. Abhijeet Santwani and his team at Rajasthan bikes for their cooperation and guidance.

A lot of people assume Rajasthan to just merely be a desert state and the things which come to mind are sand and camels. Let’s remove this misconception from your mind forever. I had planned to explore Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan on 29 September 2017, i.e., a day before Dussehra. It was a festive occasion and I was pretty relaxed. I was travelling solo and thus decided to stay at Zostel – a budget-friendly backpacker hostel in the heart of the pink city. I reached Jaipur on the 28th afternoon and while I was on my way to Zostel, I saw Hawa Mahal. It is worth seeing from outside but personally, I didn’t find it that interesting when I went in. You can have a good look at exteriors and feel contented. Now here is something that everyone travelling to Jaipur should remember – all tourist spots get closed by 5PM in Jaipur. To my surprise, Zostel was hardly 200 metres from Hawa Mahal. Zostel turned out to be way cooler place than I had expected. Take a look at the photos and you will know. In my opinion, it is the safest and most affordable place to spend a night for solo travellers and backpackers.

I was very excited as I was about to ride the Kawasaki Z250 for the first time. But first I needed to eat something. I had been told to try the Mirchi Pakoda at Jaipur which is a popular item here and it was worth all praise and fame. A plate of Mirchi Pakoda and tea was my breakfast for the day. I reached the Rajasthan Bikes office at 9:30 AM to pick up my ride for the day – a gleaming green Kawasaki Z250. Click here to read the bike’s full review.

A few checks on the bike, like idle RPM, fuel level, tyre pressure, brakes, clutch and accelerator, were done, the helmet was strapped on, gloves were put on and I was good to go. My trip started at 10:30 AM. I chose to ride along the Jawaharlal Nehru Road (also known as JLN Marg) as the places I had decided to see are all along this road. Also, the road is pretty wide and there are less chances of traffic jam around this time. The first place I visited was Albert Hall Museum – a classic Indo-Saracenic architecture design by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob. It is the state’s oldest museum that was first opened in 1887 and is situated near the Ram Niwas Garden, just opposite to the New Gate. I am not much of a history lover so I hurried through the museum but people who like historical stuff and are specially interested in the Rajasthani culture can easily spend 2 hours here. The ticket is just Rs 20/- for students and Rs 40/- for all other Indian citizens.

The historical Albert Hall Museum

It was 11:30 AM when I stepped out of the museum and there was scorching heat outside. I went to the CCD outside the museum and sipped CafĂ© Frappe. It was much needed. The next tourist spot on JLN Marg is a marvellous architecture of modern style – Birla Mandir. It is about 2.2 kilometres from Albert Hall Museum. The Birla Mandir is also known as Laxmi Narayan Mandir. It is situated at the foothills of Moti Dongri Fort. Constructed with pure white marble, the design of temple is absolutely mesmerizing. The idols of Lord Narayan and Goddess Lakshmi are beautiful. This magnificent temple is blissful and its ambience relieves us from the heat and stress. There are idols and photos of few Hindu Gods, saints, philosophers, quotes and ornaments on the walls of the temple. There is a small Birla Museum too where you can see some historic photos and belongings of previous generations of the Birla family. The modern design of this temple makes it a distinguishing and stunning landmark of Jaipur.

I also visited the Moti Diongri Ganesh Mandir which is hardly few metres northwards from Birla Temple. The temple is known for its divine power and being a student, I sought blessings from Lord Ganesha – God of Intellect & Wisdom. There is also a Moti Dongri fort located at a hill top above this temple. This fort has a Shiv Lingam that is the centre of attraction. However, I wasn’t able to visit the fort as it is open to visitors only on Mahashivratri. You can relate the layout and structure of Moti Dongri to a Scottish castle (like most of us would have seen in films) of the Nagara style.

A combination of Nagara style and Scottish Castle : Moti Dongri Fort

By the time I was done praying to the Gods, it was 12:15 PM. I rode about 4.8 kilometres straight along the JLN Marg and reached World Trade Park. It happens to be one prime attraction and is an answer to all those who think Rajasthan me kaha mall hota hoga (translation: no chances of a mall in Rajasthan)! I was awestruck when I saw such a huge and an into-the-future type construction of the mall. The look and appearance of the mall can make us re-think if we are in 2017 or 2027! It can put all the malls of Metropolitan cities to shame and has it all – games, big brands stores, Shoppers Stop, a huge food court, a section for handicrafts, etc. I have posted a few pics below. Being a student of BITS Pilani, which is located in a rather remote area, it had been almost a month that I had not been to KFC or McDonalds or Dominos, cafes etc. I am a foodie and you can guess what happened next. I decided to fulfil all suppressed desires here, trying out all my favourite snacks to my fullest eating capacity for almost an hour. Post my pet pooja, I continued my trip.

 

The gigantic World Trade Park

My next spot was the famous Jawahar Circle Garden. It is about 1.4 kilometres from the World Trade Park if you drive straight on the JLN Marg. The interesting fact about Jawahar Circle is that it is honoured as the largest circular garden of Asia. I drove around the circumference of the circle trying my skills of leaning the naked street fighter under me. Some of the attractions of Jawahar circle are lush green landscape, jogging tracks, walkways, children’s park, Ram Darbar Temple and most importantly the prepossessing musical fountain. It is said that it creates different effects of more than 300 colours of light and the height of water sprays of the fountains goes upto 25 feet at times. The music show starts at 7 pm. It pains me that I could not see it due to time constraints. No worries, there is always a next time!

Patrika Gate, Jawahar Circle

As per my plan, I had to reach Sisodiya Rani ka Bagh. I had two options either follow NH 248 or return to Birla Mandir via JLN Marg and then take a right. I chose the latter route since NH 248 could have been crowded with travellers in this festive season. This route however joins NH 248 at some point but saves you from the traffic. It is a 12.5 kilometres drive on this route. Sisodiya Rani ka Bagh is undergoing renovation currently. It is supposed to be completed by December 2017. However, it is still open for visitors. I reached here by 3:30 PM and I wasn’t really comfortable. I suggest the ideal time to come here is before 10 AM and after 4:30 PM when the temperatures are a bit lower. It was built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1710 for his second queen Sisodiya Rani (Princess of Udaipur) as a symbol of love. The palace is built at the top of a garden. The multi-level garden features fountains, watercourses and painted pavilions. It is a perfect blend of Mughal design and Indian Art. Since the Rulers of Jaipur city were fond of nature, special emphasis had been given to the construction and maintenance of gardens in the city. I felt relaxed in the peaceful and romantic ambience of this royal garden. 30-45 minutes are more than enough to get the feel of this place.

Not-to-be-missed: The Romantic Sisodiya Rani ka Bagh

My next destination was Jal Mahal. Again I had two routes to choose from – Use the same route to reach NH248 (11 km) or use the Jaisighpura Khor road (14.4 km). I had already explored NH248 so I thought I would drive slightly uphill and use the Jaisighpura Khor road. The road is narrow yet good enough for a smooth ride. The slope of the road is enough to give you an uphill feel and riding is not difficult at all. On a bike like the Kawasaki Z250, the twists and turns were a piece of cake! The road took me through Balloopura and Dhanka Basti. The villages beside the road taught me how people are living in simplicity, away from the hedonistic lifestyle of our cities and yet so happy in themselves. All of a sudden I was delighted to see the temple of most loved God in India – Hanuman. And I had to stop to pray and thank Sankat Mochan Hanuman for a trouble free trip. These small simple things give us purely joyful moments.

Sankat Mochan Hanuman Mandir

After driving few more kilometres I reached Jal Mahal. As the name suggests, Jal Mahal is right in the centre of the Man Sagar lake which was created in 16th century by building a dam across the Darbhawati River, between Khilagarh hills and the hilly areas of Nahargarh. Maharaja Jai Singh II of Amber renovated the lake and the palace. You can spend some time near the lake however, for now, there are no ferries to take you across the lake. The view is really great in the evenings when its lit up. Not to forget, the reflection of Jal Mahal in the water simply multiplies its beauty. Unfortunately, tourists are not permitted to go inside the palace. There are roadside vendors who sell small decorative items, traditional jewellery, necklaces, rings etc.

The Historic Jal Mahal

It was almost 4:00 PM and I realized that if I don’t pace up I would miss Jaigarh, the city’s popular mega-Fort. I wrung the throttle and rode as fast as I could (responsibly!) so that I could at least reach Jaigarh which was about 5.6 kilometres from Man Sagar Lake. The route to Jaigarh is the same as to Nahargarh. The only difference is that Jaigarh comes on the way. Now, here comes the thrill of riding. The Jaigarh road is like a ghat with narrow roads for 2-way traffic and no curbs to protect from falling off the edges. Now this was the perfect spot to test the control and handling of the bike. The twin-cylinder bike was no short of power and went uphill effortlessly. Every rider who enjoys riding on ghats will enjoy this part a lot. Here’s a pic of how Jal Mahal looks from far off.

A view of Man Sagar Lake and Jal Mahal as seen from somewhere in midst of Jaigarh Road

The symbol of Rajput Culture and Heritage: Jaigarh Fort

I could only get a feel of uphill terrain and click the pics of the fort from far off. By the time I reached Jaigarh it was 4:30 PM already. Somehow I managed to get entry into the fort as 5 PM is the deadline! The route to Amber fort is through the Jaigarh Fort. Jaigarh Fort was built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1726. It is located on the Hill of Eagle, also known as Cheel ka teela in Hindi. The fort is built with thick walls of red sandstone and is spread over a vast area of 3 km2. The architecture is a result of Indo-Persian mix with cyclopean walls built with dressed stone and plastered with lime water. “The Awani Darwaza” was overhauled recently to get a beautiful view of the Man Sagar lake. In the ancient days, the water from Man Sagar lake was transported to the fort via pouches loaded on elephant backs or pots carried by people.

The palace complex consists of Vilas Mandir, Aram Mandir, Laxmi Vilas, Lalit Mandir, an armoury and a museum. The armoury does not have much variety of weapons, though it will give you a picture of how weapons could have been in those days. One interesting fact is that you can visit the Amber Fort from Jaigarh itself, via subterranean/underground passages. Both of these forts are considered as one complex. Also, there are Ram Harihar temple and Kal Bhairav temple. However, Jaigarh fort’s showstopper is a massive a cannon named “Jaivana”, which happens to be the world’s largest cannon on wheels. It was cast in 1720 by king Jai Singh II. This cannon was apparently swivelled around its axis with the help of four full-grown elephants.

There is a popular myth that when the Government declared emergency during the reign of Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister, 7 trucks worth of gold ornaments were recovered from the Jaigarh Fort. Locals, however, claim it was more than 40 trucks. Later, it was known that the treasure was actually used by the king to improve the city of Jaipur. Imagine what that gold could have done to the development of the city if it was really utilised properly.
For all those who love to buy traditional items, there is a shopping complex near the fort where the locals themselves take you through everything they have to show and sell. Some of the special items sold here are the 20g foldable shoes, paintings drawn with a single strand of hair, small marble artefacts, wall hangings, etc. The fort closes completely by 6 pm.

Glimpses of Jaigarh Fort

Amber Fort as viewed from Jaigarh Fort
Jaivana Cannon

Since I had nowhere else to go now and had to return the Japanese Green Beast Z250, I drove through the famous Sireh Deori bazaar. It is right opposite the Hawa Mahal. This happened to be my last visiting point. Sireh Deori bazaar is well known for street shopping and exploring traditional items like camel leather products, shoes, puppets, wall-hangings featuring Rajasthani art, etc. The beautiful products made by the skilled craftsmen make Sireh Deori Bazaar a unique place to shop. This is the one-stop-shop for buying souvenirs and gifts for your family. It was time I concluded my trip with a promise to return and explore more. The trip has been awesome right from the moment I started the bike till I returned. “Rajasthan aa k dal-baati churma nahi khaya toh kya khaya!” I was too tired to even see the name of the restaurant near Sindhi Camp bus stand and I ordered Dal-baati Rajasthani thali. Not just that, I came to know about a special Kulfi store named Pandit ki Kulfi. How could I not eat after knowing about it? I would recommend people to try it. The store is very close to Hawa Mahal.

In this travelogue, I have tried to cover most parts of Jaipur in less time. Ideally, you would need atleast 2 days considering that you have 7 hours to see the tourist spots and important monuments. I am in love with the Pink City and I will be continuing this travelogue with my experience at Nahargarh, Amber Fort and Jantar Mantar very soon. So stay hooked to read the full travelogue. The total expense for the trip was Rs 1800 including bike rent, food and fuel. Exploring the remaining places may cost me Rs 500 more. Its pretty affordable. This small trip has changed my complete perception about Rajasthan, especially Jaipur. Jaipur is a combination of urbanization and preserved historic heritage. I got to admit that I have travelled to many cities but Jaipur happens to be the only one after Mumbai that I liked so much.

That’s me taking the last selfie before ending the trip, near Jaigarh Fort
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SATYAjit Desai

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