Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, was nicknamed the “Pink City” when many of its buildings were painted pink to welcome Prince Albert. Today it’s really more of a terracotta, but the hopsitality the color represents can still be found throughout the city. We experienced this on our first night - Laura’s birthday - when our hostel surprised us with a large delicious chocolate cake. We made a lot of friends up on the rooftop terrace that night!
Our first day we explored the city by foot. We took a few pictures of the beautiful Hawa Mahal, a palace with high viewing screens where the royal ladies could watch the street below without being seen themselves. We wandered past the City Palace and eventually to our favorite sight: the Jantar Mantar. Horoscopes and astrology are an important part of Hinduism, helping to make all sorts of decisions from matchmaking to investments. The Jantar Mantar is a park filled with a bunch of 18th century astronomical instruments that were the largest of the day, built in order to more accurately observe celestial bodies and thus make better predictions. There weren’t many signs in English so we couldn’t figure out how all of the instruments worked, but they were still cool to look at and make up our own explanations.
To explore the parts of the city we couldn’t see on foot, we joined our hostel’s sunrise tour. Yup, you read that right: we managed to drag ourselves out of bed at 5 AM! We were given delicious steaming chai while we watched the sun rise over the city from Nahargarh Fort. After sunrise, we visited a few temples, watched some yoga at a step well, hiked to the top of an ancient walled fort, and visited the Amber Palace.
The real highlight of Jaipur was celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. It is one of the biggest Hindu festivals of the year, and the city was completely covered in decorations. On the eve of Diwali, we rode around in open-air jeeps to see some of the best and most decorated spots in the city. The next night we joined in the celebrations with our hostel owners and the other guests by helping to prepare the traditional dinner, lighting small clay lamps, and setting off a ton of fireworks (along with the rest of the city). In retrospect, it was a miracle that no one set the roof on fire or damaged their hearing. We had a great time celebrating!
We were warned by everyone to avoid pani puri, a common street food in India, as it’s often made with fresh water - aka not potable for our Western stomachs. On our night tour of the Diwali lights, however, we ended up having some on the streets… but lo and behold, our stomachs held out! It was delicious but we didn’t risk trying it again, instead opting for a “safer” bet at McDonald’s. We had heard it was fun to go and see how different the menu is, especially without any beef options. Well, one Spicy McPaneer and Masala Grilled Veg later and we had the most upset tummies of our time in India. So much for playing it safe!