Historical affluence punctuates Jaipur, where almost every turn of the road boasts of a monument, if not two. Every such city has it’s own stories and secrets, and if legends excite you, Jaipur can be that place you’ve longed for. August winds welcomed me and my mates, and recent showers had coloured the landscape green. As with most Tier-II cities, the tranquil atmosphere proved to be an escape from the din and noise of our daily metropolitan setting.
The Oberoi RajVilas was our home at Jaipur, a luxurious property that promised indulgence. Received early by chauffeurs dressed in Rajasthani turbans at the small airport, we took a detour to the place in Audi Q5s through the old city. We drove through the roads that flanked the famous Hawa Mahal, Jal Mahal and a few other structures soaking in tales of the Rajputana. Much like most other places, we realized that the city was more brownish red than pink – ‘terracotta colour Sir’, as Tanveer, our chauffeur put it. A few recent constructions did play spoilsport, but by and large, the consistency had confirmed what we already knew – this was Jaipur.
An elaborate breakfast later, we raced away to the Aamer Fort. A guided tour of the fort is a must, and we loved the snippets around Diwan-e-Aam and Diwan-e-Khaas. Replete with secret tunnels, large open spaces for performances and warfare training, and tactically built passages between the king’s room and the umpteen queen bedrooms, the fort was more of a palace. The glorious Sheesh Mahal where flickers reflect like stars over the multitude of mirrors, narrowed into musty enclosures, as bats in slumber hung from the ceilings. Through our way, the guide reminded us of Jodhaa Akbar, Khoobsurat and many more Hindi films that have been shot at Aamer. 8 to 10 AM is the best time to visit the fort - elephant rides within the fort and musical performances will enthrall you in this time of the morning. The fort is also at its resplendent best in this window, with the Hindu, Muslim and Persian architectural styles basking golden in sunlight. On our way out, we took a peek at the various shops showcasing Rajasthani traditional marble works and vegetable coloured Bandhani sarees. The Jaigarh Fort with the biggest cannon, the Museum that turns into a wedding destination, and couple of other forts later, we hit the much touted Hawa Mahal. It didn’t take our breath away, but while in Jaipur, it’d have been a crime for us to have missed it.
The Raj Vilas epitomizes luxury and royalty. We were showered with roses at our entrance, and treated to a unique Sandalwood drink at our welcome. The rooms were gorgeous and long bubble baths relaxed us. Lush greenery, peacocks and squirrels, nature was at it's charming best. But if one thing beat the hospitality, it was the food spread over seven course meals – it occupied more space in our hearts, minds and conversations than our stuffed bellies. Where Dal Baati Choorma and Rajasthani Laal Maas floored us, the Ghilafi Seekh, Dahi Bhalla, Jhinga Afghani, Hariyali machhi ke parche left us drooling. In the evenings, Zafrani Tikkas, Gilowti Kebabs, Thai Shrimp Rolls and many others gaveus goosebumps. The desserts however were the ones that we’d crave long after – Jalebi with Rabdi, Paan Ice Cream, Badam Halwa and more. The most watchful of us turned to shameless gluttons. In the evenings, cultural extravaganzas organized at RajMahal left us speechless – we were first treated to some folk music, and then dances where women balanced as many as five pitchers on their heads on nails for floors. The massive swimming pool, kite flying and brief golf sessions kept us busy during the day.
The trip was sheer delight, and one to cherish. All of us had a gala time, and we go back with warm memories when we were made to feel like kings and queens.