Jaipur is one of the great magical cities of the Golden Triangle in Rajasthan. Much has been written about it, and there is no shortage of materials on how to create your own itinerary in the Pink City, most often mentioning Amber Fort, Hawa Mahal, and the City Palace.
Besides these majestic historical monuments, here are a few of the things we think you’ll love seeing and doing, the MATTER way. Jaipur is one of our key visits on every production trip to India. Flanked by Sanganer and Bagru, UNESCO sites of intangible cultural heritage for their blockprinting crafts, there is an immense amount to do.
01. Meet our artisan partners: AK textiles
Visit our artisan partners Khushiram and Ashish, fifth generation blockprinters who have their own small retail front near the Sanganer flyover. Apparel, bedding and accessories in a multicolor array, and even a tour of their newly setup blockprinting facility.
02. Day trip out: Amber Fort
Of all the places to visit, Amber Fort is the one that captures our imagination. With elephants trundling up and down the castle walls fronted by a placid lake, it’s a place to recall the India of old. We don’t recommend taking the elephant ride up though – its much more scenic to ascend on your own two feet. You’ll find pedlars, buskers and even people selling the service of taking your weight on the way up. Stop every once in a while and engage in conversation – it’s well worth the surprising connections you might find.
03. Bargain and browse: Johari Bazaar
What’s a trip to Jaipur without jostling in Johari Bazaar? Old wooden blocks, spices, jewels (beware the fakes!) textiles and rugs abound with the odd camel ambling across the road. This is a place to wander through and bargain for the sake and fun of bargaining.
Insider Tip: Take an auto to Amber Fort, it may not be so comfortable but its worth the extra scenery along the way. Team it up with nearby Anokhi Museum for a day trip. Bargain at least 50% of the said price at Johari and for autos – and settle on 75%. Never get angry while bargaining, most of the time locals expect some well meaning, good humoured bargaining, but not when you’re trying to squeeze a dollar out of them.
04. A must for textile lovers: Anokhi Museum of Handprinting
An architectural jewel in its own right, the Anokhi Museum of Handprinting is a wonderful maze and archive of blocks and the history of printing in Jaipur. Give yourself time to peruse the exhibitions, and make sure you climb to the upper levels to see block carving in action by the resident carver. Ask to see the archives of blocks and prints in their reference section, and give yourself time to stay in the cool shade of its marbled interior to see the afternoon light moving across the walls. It’s a beautiful place to just, be.
05. Get your hands dirty: Blockprinting workshop: Bagru
Bagru, along with Sanganer, is the seat and heart of blockprinting traditions. A village atmosphere that is more intimate than Jaipur, much of the interesting sights are a wander through the common areas in the centre of the village like the large field where artisans dry their fabrics and the river where they wash the fabric against large flat rocks. The boars running around actually fulfill a purpose – they are the village cleaners and each are shaved in a particular way as a visual signifier of who they belong to.
06. Write it down: Paper making: Sanganer
Besides blockprinting, Sanganer is home to the art of handmade paper. There are many places to see how pulp is broken down and laid out, sometimes with dried flowers and leaves, to make notebooks, paper, and other souvenir worthy items to write home about.
Insider Tip: The area around Anokhi is a wonderful place to explore, with abandoned historical buildings and temples galore. A local family stay if you have the time is the way to experience Bagru, coupled with a blockprinting workshop.
07. The only organic place in town: Anokhi Café
There may be other organic, healthy places around Jaipur, but Anokhi is our go to place for healthy salads, falafels, pastries and juices. Their little balcony overlooking the city is a wonderful place to spend the afternoon, and next door their retail outlet is an inspiration for aficionados of fine blockprinted fabric and apparel.
08. 66 years can’t be wrong: Niros: 1949
One of the oldest restaurants in Jaipur, this is the place to settle in after a long day with a beer and one of their famous thalis, which is a selection of many small items. We recommend the Rajasthani thali. Going with a group is best to ensure you can try out a variety of items. The palak paneer is one of the best in the city.
09. The cure for Indian runs: Lassiwalla
When in India we usually stay vegetarian, which means we almost never get the famous Indian runs. Another regular practice is to take a lassi a day, usually plain with honey or if in season, the fresh mango lassi is the best you’ll ever have. Your gut will thank you for the healthy bacteria in the yoghurt of the lassi. But don’t take ice in it!
Insider Tip: If you’re keen to eat on the street, look for places that have fast moving queues which means the food is usually piping hot and freshly made. Places next to busy areas like bus stations and the like work. If you’re not used to it, only drink bottled water and never take cut fruit or ice.
10. A place that feels like home: Arya Niwas
There are many places ranging from budget to luxurious in this historical city, but one place we keep going back to is Arya Niwas. It feels like home, with its home cooked meals, garden terrace and quiet, modest and clean rooms. The staff are friendly and unassuming, and you can even arrange yoga in the garden if you wish.
Insider Tip: Wake up early for breakfast in the garden and experience the cool morning air. Having your morning coffee or chai barefoot on the grass, with a book in hand, is one of the greatest simplest pleasures in life.
A Last Word: Bring
One thing we never travel to India without is hand sanitizer. Keep a small bottle handy in your bag and use it religiously especially before and after meals. A shawl is always useful as the temperature can dip and if you’re riding rickshaws it’ll protect you from the wind. The sun can be fairly strong so sunblock and a cap is recommended. A sling bag that zips to keep out prying eyes and hands, and clothing that covers the shoulders and knees even if you see other tourists going without – it pays to be respectful of local custom. Of course, we recommend one of ours, with a print designed in collaboration with Khushiram from AK Textiles. The Classic Wideleg + Leharia Watermelon Pink, in the perfect shade to complement the old walls of this Pink City.