Everyone is hustling. As you meander the streets of the beautiful Pink City (painted pink for the Prince of Wales), you can find anything you need from used doorknobs, beautiful copper pots and pans, old cell phone chargers, colorful saris and fresh produce. It’s the India you’ve seen in the movies. In the extreme April heat, just about an hour in the sun will tire you out. The sounds of rickshaws buzzing by and the smell of street food vendors selling Pav Bhaji (buttery bread with a spicy veggie chili on top) reminded Sari of the India she knew as a kid, and reminded me of my mom’s kitchen when she used to cook the same thing back in the states.
We made sure to stop at LMB, a local favorite for sweet treats and cakes. The Ras Malai was to die for. Also, don't miss the freshly fried kachoris or samosas on the side of the street which were some of our favorite in all of India. The Amer Fort, which is located some 45 minutes outside the city is also a must visit, but its best to do so at dusk or dawn because of the sun and the heat. The fort itself is a grand sprawling maze, make sure to watch out for the monkeys!
Around 500 KM from Jaipur, life slows to a camel’s pace in Jaisalmer. It is far and away my favorite city in India because you can really get a feel for what life was like centuries ago. It is one of the few “living” fort cities in the world, meaning that about 4,000 residents still live inside the walls of the fort. As you walk through the tiny alleyways, into temples and through markets you feel like you are flying on Aladdin’s magic carpet. The sheer size and grandeur of the fort is magnificent. There are 56 bastions surrounding the fort which is perched on a hill and is visible for miles. Our hot tip is to make sure you don't stay inside the fort. While it is romantic, the ancient drainage system is at capacity and new accommodations are stretching the system to its breaking point. There are plenty of great accommodations just outside the fort, we absolutely loved the Marriott (Full Review Here).
The town is really popular amongst the hippie and bohemian community somewhat thanks to the popular “Bhang” lassi’s. Bhang is essentially edible marijuana legal in all of Rajasthan that is mixed into a delicious yogurt drink which we may or may not have indulged in. Mr. Bhang’s Lassi shop, who’s business boomed after Bourdain visited a while ago, will make it in any flavor or strength you’d like.
We only had one night in Jodphur, the "blue city", and it was my birthday so it was a splurge night. We decided to stay at Umaid Bhavan, which was rated the best hotel in the world in 2016 according to Tripadvisor, and is still home to the Raj of Jodhpur. The structure is absolutely magnificent and was commissioned to be built to help employ the blue collar workers of the city who were struggling economically during a famine. The royal family used to live in Merangarh Fort before they moved to Umaid Bhawan, the fort is still amazingly well preserved and stands tall above the rest of the city.
The entire experience at Umaid Bhavan is perfection from start to finish. As you pull up to the structure you are awe-struck by the sheer size of the palace. The sound of Dhols (Indian drums) starts booming and flower petals are thrown on you as you walk into the building, they want everyone to feel like royalty when they enter the palace. Upon checkin, guests are presented with glasses of chilled champagne while dancers perform in a traditional Rajasthani manner, as the staff completes all the administrative work. The bathtub is filled with rose petals and carafes of Vodka and Whiskey are set at the minibar during turn down service. It was an experience of a lifetime, and we’d highly recommend it at least for one night if your budget can stretch.