I landed at Jaipur airport in wee hours of the day. The many coffees I had had at Cochin Airport and during my layover at Bangalore Airport Lounge seemed to have kicked in and my eyes were wide awake, mind just a little foggy with sleeplessness. I got my luggage, changed into a colorful printed skirt and a black tee at the airport and got ready for half a day in Jaipur before I boarded the evening train to Delhi. I desperately craved a hot shower, but managed just fine with splashing cold water on my face and putting on my favorite Forest Essentials Nargis Body Mist. I grimaced at my hair who had chosen to mess up today. But what the hell!
As I exited the airport, a slight nip in the air felt pleasant against my face, which was pretty tanned by now, thanks to the unforgiving sun of the Coastal Kerala where I had spent two weeks. The neatly dressed and chivalrous executive from MyChoize cars waited for me at the exit and in less than ten minutes, I had a decent Ford Figo Aspira car to myself for the day. The self-drive car charges in Jaipur, as I found, were pretty reasonable as compared to bigger cities, making it affordable for solo travelers.
The sun won’t be up before 6:30 and I had two hours of the dawn in which to experience the city while being safe alone. Aimless long drives used to be my thing when I lived in Delhi years ago, I remembered. And so I drove around in the city, re-acquainting myself with it. Finally, with less than an hour for the sunrise, I parked opposite Hawa Mahal and walked the old city area, while closely looking at old buildings and stopping by at many of them enjoying the venerable architecture and feel of the area. There are many attractions close by in the old city and it can be a great experience exploring them on foot, because anyway as the day goes by, this early morning stillness will be replaced by jammed roads and honking noise. But with very few people and no peddler stalls in sight early morning, I could waltz around the area and get an eyeful of the old buildings.
When the need for coffee kicked in, I found myself on top of an old building with two roof top restaurants – The Tattoo Cafe and Wind View Cafe – right opposite Hawa Mahal. They had not opened yet, but the nice girl whose family ran the tattoo cafe offered to make a cappuccino for me. The coffee and the rooftop, though a bit shoddy, didn’t disappoint. As I sipped the last of my coffee, I began to notice hoards of tourists and traffic come in on the roads, the city had woken up and shops were now opening. It was my cue to leave and explore other areas that might still be quieter.
It was sunny by the time I reached Jal Mahal after a taking two wrong turns and one detour that took me to a quiet village in Amer. With crowd beaming at the Jal Mahal now, I decided to meander away and that is when I spotted this old Haveli (now turned into a school) and spent a good deal of time inside. I sat under a huge tree reading for two hours before I got hungry for lunch.
Back in the old city, I snacked on some street food and did some window shopping at Bapu Bazar. The last two hours were spent at World Trade Park Mall that is apparently a high end mall with brands like Zara, Charles & Keith, Marks & Spenders, Aldo etc.
This was my fourth time in Jaipur, but I had never seen the city the way I saw it today – dodging the crowded places, early morning monument watching, chasing old buildings and adoring unpopular residential havelis. I guess I might be in for a longer stay the next time I visit.