I may not necessarily agree with it, but I've learned that hiring a driver for the day - be it autorickshaw or air-conditioned sedan - makes for a much more hassle-free sightseeing experience. Freelance drivers lurk outside all of the main tourist haunts, and because we all know how terrible I am at saying no, it's a relief to be able to make a beeline from the exit to the waiting tuk tuk. Yeah, he'll probably still suggest that you check out some shops that he knows (at least the one I've been using for the last two days was honest and told me upfront that if I bought anything from the textile factory he would receive a gift for his mother), but it's worth it to know that you'll get to the right destination in a relatively timely fashion.
Jaipur is located at the base of the rolling green Aravalli Hills, where the three forts from the imperial age overlook the city. Parts of it bask in luscious, sumptuous glory, like the old city palace that inspired the moniker "Pink City," but squint and you'll see evidence of underdevelopment that tarnish otherwise postcard-perfect pictures. My driver took me through a lot of backstreets to avoid the perpetually congested main roads and, again, it was both eye-opening and nose-burning. The piles of trash "recycled" on the spot by roaming pigs and cows; the squalid living conditions. As an American, with our 99% vs. 1% issues, I shouldn't be harping on socioeconomic disparity, but the income gap I've seen in India is beyond astronomical. Urban poverty is something I've thought about a lot on this trip, since in so many places I've been to it's very much in your face. More to come on that later.
For now, enjoy some of the sites Jaipur has to offer.
A walled complex with some beautiful old buildings, a couple of which have been converted into museums - one for textiles and another for weapons.
The Wind Palace. My driver requested that I not linger too long here because there isn't a parking lot and a traffic cop monitors vehicles that try to linger, but I was marooned during a sudden onslaught of rain.
Easily one of my favorite places. It's basically like a sculpture garden where each "installation" is an ancient astronomical device measuring everything from time to angles between objects in the sky. More information here.
A beautiful old fortress sitting midway up a hill above Maota Lake. I went on India's Independence Day so it was super crowded.
The so-called monkey temple because on top of the hill reside some thousands of monkeys. A kid followed me up the path, saying he would "protect" me from the animals (not necessary because they are accustomed to human presence). I made the mistake of wearing sandals; the road is covered in all kinds of fecal matter plus it had just rained.
This fort sits atop the hill and has panoramic views of Jaipur. To get there you have to go up, up, up a windy one-lane road that the drivers manage, with lots of honking, to make function in both directions. Though there are ramparts, its function was more of a residence - the various apartments still have wonderfully preserved wall paintings.
Not far from Nahargarh Fort, Jagarh Fort is more an actual fortress where you might come across old cannons. You can pretty much walk all the way around atop the ramparts with lovely views on all sides.
Gatore ki Chhatriyan
A spontaneous visit, thanks to my driver who noticed that I love to take photos. I don't think many people know about the temple because it was almost empty.
Udaipur (my next stop) is the city known for lake palaces, but this one in Jaipur is still nice to admire.
Beautiful white marble Hindu temple. Upon going inside, I learned that Hidus have something very similar to that wafer Catholics eat (sorry, I'm not religious so that's the best explanation I can do).
Albert Hall Museum
There are nice exhibits inside, but for me the building itself was the main attraction.
Lots more of Jaipur on Flickr!