This Rajasthani city has the history, places of interest, cultural significance, and the friendly people to make it a lovely tourist destination. [Photo: Hawa Mahal, by AJ Paris].
When travelers visit far away lands they can end up missing the local realities altogether. This can be the case when you show up at the wrong time of the year, or when you arrive with preconceived ideas of what the place should be like. Finally, if you’re not willing to live outside the box you may find yourself misjudging an otherwise interesting place.
Recently, I came across an article written by a fellow traveler and writer on Jaipur, the Pink City. As one of my favorite destinations in India, a country I had gone back to many times over the years, I was really surprised to see how negatively the city was described by another traveler, another non-Indian traveler, even a “cool” Western one.
“I beg you, show me a sane person who enjoyed Jaipur,” wrote Victoria Fraser in her interesting blog. “There was nothing, literally, nothing going for it. Not the 45 degree heat, not the disease ridden train station, not the unimpressive Pink City or the even less impressive Lake Palace. We hated almost everything about the place.”
Shock. Shock. Shock.
Jaipur, despite the frenzy that it sees through its national and international visitors, is a local town with local roots. I spent several months in Jaipur and really enjoyed it. I enjoyed its places of interest, I enjoyed its culture, and I enjoyed its people. I met people in Jaipur, wonderful people, who will be in my life forever.
What are some of the places I enjoyed?
Amer Fort, Nahargart Fort, Jaigarh Fort, Hawa Mahal, City Palace, Rambagh Palace, Govind Dev Ji temple, Birla Mandir temple, Gurudwara Sahib temple, Noor Haq mosque, Vidhan Sabha building, Jawahar Kala Kendra, World Trade Park, etc.
These are all important places to see, aside from the many I did not mention. If you never heard of any of them, Google them!
The culture of Jaipur is also very interesting. Fraser is a writer, and she even has a degree in journalism, and as such could have benefited from the Jaipur Literature Festival, which is the world’s largest free literature festival and draws tons of participants from the worldwide community of writers. As a woman I would invite Fraser to also check out Gangaur, closely related to Gauri, the Hindu Goddess of Purity, a festival in which women dress up and paint their hands, and celebrate for nearly three weeks, in celebration of feminine qualities. Or, perhaps, she could have taken a class of Ghoomar, a local dance that has become a sensation worldwide.
What about the food? Did Fraser have a chance to try the delicious combinations of the Rajasthani Thali? Maybe there was a local eatery near to her hotel that served Dal Baati Churma, that deliciously local dish? Or, perhaps the sweet Ghevar?
Finally, like any city of interest to tourists, there are locals in Jaipur who are local and locals who are there for business. Some have been there for business for a few days, fresh off the train, and others have been there for centuries. But, you have to understand that tourism, including its local proponents in business and government sectors, is just one aspect of the local community. There are many Jaipuris who have nothing to do with the tourism world. They, like their ancestors, live in the area, enjoying the area, and have no intention of forcing you to “enjoy” their area.
Yet, the Jaipuris, like most Indians, are very welcoming people. They will share with you their places of interest, their culture, and will even welcome you into their circle. All you have to do is be cool.
Obviously, Fraser went there the wrong time of the year. I would only recommend Jaipur between November and March. If you go during that time, you certainly won’t be stuck in a hotel room in a 45 degree Celsius heat or miss most of what I had mentioned above.
My advice to Fraser? Consider going back at the right time!
AJ Paris is a New York based photographer and the author of the coffee table book Men Around the World.
To create your amazing Indian trip, visit Incredible India, the official website of India’s Ministry of Tourism, which includes basic travel information, visa details and offices, links to more detailed information.