After loving my unique tour of Delhi I took with Magic Tours of India, I thought it would be interesting to see what walking tours of Jaipur they had on offer. From our previous correspondence they knew I liked to do more offbeat experiences so they suggested I take their Bazar Walk if I wanted to get a feel for the real Jaipur. Sounded perfect! Get ready to wind through the colorful markets of the “Pink City” with us below!
From Palaces to Markets
Jaipur is famous for its palaces, however, for three centuries the “Pink City” has also been renowned for its vibrant markets. Apparently way back in 1729, the Maharaja sent letters to famous merchant houses from around the country, encouraging them to settle in Jaipur. In return, they were offered prime locations, free land grants, and reduced taxes. As such, the city’s trade network flourished with this influx of artisans, craftsmen and merchants. Today this tradition continues especially in jewellery, textiles and handicrafts.
I was to meet my guide next to one of the city’s most famous landmarks, the Hawa Mahal, better know to foreigners as the Palace of Winds, a fitting start to the tour considering the roots of the city’s bazaars. Neck craned up at the whimsical building, my gaze descended down to the friendly face of Shyam, a local Jaipur guide who’s been sharing his passion for his city with visitors for a number of years.
“Would you like a better view of the palace?” he started off by asking. Answered by enthusiastic nodding, he escorted me across the street, up a narrow stairwell and to the rooftop of a tattoo parlour/café which has a stunning view of the Hawa Mahal and perspective over the whole city. It was from this excellent vantage point, that I would have never found on my own, that Shyam gave me an overview of the city’s bazaars. This wasn’t the last insider place we would discover over the next two hours together.
Back down on the street level Shyam next took us to another interesting vantage point, the terrace of a temple where we also saw some men at work making hats. A cool and quiet place to work, this also illustrated how craftsmanship is still quite active in Jaipur.
Saris, Silver and Prickly Zucchinis
We moved along a wide avenue, populated by beeping cars, zooming Tuk Tuks… and the occasional elephant, like in the first series of photos above. Still used as a means of transportation in Jaipur, elephants are thus, in their own way, linked to trade. The first market we would encounter was the highly coveted jewelry market. Drifting past a whole strip of glittering window displays, the boutiques attempted to lure in passers-by with their sparking wares. We did amble into a specific shop, one of the oldest and most trustworthy in town, though I left with all the rupees in my pocket I’d come in with.
Off the main street we worked our way through some laneways lined with busy shops showcasing bright fabrics, handmade saris and other textiles, something Jaipur is known for. More color overflowed at our next stop, one of the city’s outdoor food markets, a place I try to visit in every destination I travel to. As we approached, we noticed that many of the vendors were female. Shyam said that this was because men felt less able to negotiate with women so the farming family would earn more money by having the wife or daughter as their representative. Whether that was the main reason or not, there certainly were more women totting baskets of ripe mangos, tart limes and peculiar prickly zucchinis.
Bulk Buying and Tasty Snacks
Veering into a nearby lane we found ourselves in the dried food section of the food bazaar. I’d often wondered where the supermarkets were in India, but in fact, a lot of people still supply their cupboards with goods from the market and in bulk. This is not only a good means of reducing waste and excess packaging, it’s also a good way to get exactly what you want. Case in point with a snack shop we stopped off. It had over a dozen different items you could choose from to make your own namkeen snack mix, no need to buy a packed Chex mix here! Of course there are lots of other great Indian street food snacks, my favorite being samosas, readily available on the roadside and costing around 25 cents… I had a few of those while in Jaipur. Okay, and maybe a battered and fried spicy sandwich. I’d walk off the calories on my tour with Shyam!
Quiet Side Streets and Daily Life
Custom snack mix in hand, we delved further into the tranquil back streets. This was a great opportunity for Shyam to tell me more about the historic home design in the city center, peer into some building courtyards and catch little snippets of the daily life of Jaipurians. This is harder to do on your own and a definite benefit of taking a guided tour.
Quenching Your Thirst
It’s hot in Rajasthan and Jaipur is no exception, so along our route we stopped for a glass of sugarcane juice, my first ever. Refreshing! Later on Shyam finished off our tour at over a chat at one of the city’s oldest chai shop. It was definitely one of the best chais I had during my time in India and a great way to cap off this excellent and insightful tour.
I had a fabulous time with my fantastic guide Shyam, who is also the founder of Apni Jagah, a local NGO that promote literacy through free classes and book lending… so I thought that he may like a copy of my latest book! He might like to read it before passing it to young readers though 😉 If you’re interested in stopping in to visit them with some books or to do some volunteering yourself, you can learn more on its Facebook page here.
The base cost of the Bazar Walk is Rs 2250 for a solo traveller, and a decreasing rate per person depending on how many people are in your group. You can learn more about this tour and book it online at this link. If you’re also traveling to Delhi, I highly recommend their intro tour of Delhi which I took.
If you’re searching for a nice hotel in Jaipur, have a look at my review of the Alsisar Haveli and if you want a fun, knowledgeable and English speaking Tuk Tuk driver to show you around some other sites in Jaipur, you can contact Vinod Bhatt at Around About Jaipur via his Facebook page or by phone:+91 99286 63948.
I was a guest of Jaipur Magic, however, all of the opinions expressed above are entirely my own.