Travel JaipurJaipur – High to Low
From food to fashion to celebrity, we love a little high/low. There is joy to be had in a foie gras grilled cheese and Balmain shredded denim. Naturally, the same is true for travel – ask anyone who’s taken a Bangkok tuk-tuk to the Peninsula. But in few places is this more apparent than Jaipur.
Good For: Couples, groups of friends, and singles looking to experience the glorious chaos of India. Only well-traveled families with savvy kids need apply. There may be no rules in the old Pink City, but this is the essence Jaipur, one of the most engaging and entertaining cities of India.
- Arranging for a private elephant ride outside the city, before touring the Amber Fort and City Palace with a VIP guide.
- Shopping for the famed Kundankari jewelry, at insider shops that are not named Gem Palace, which are the best vendors in India.
- Being intoxicated by the smells and sights of Badi Chaupar, where you realize you’re in India, baby.
- Having drinks at the Rambagh Palace, among the glamorous locals and in-the-know travelers.
- Posting up at the Oberoi Rajvilas, the most lavish hotel in town and one that should be on your bucket list.
What to Know: India is chaotic, and without the right frame of mind, can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned traveler. Jaipur epitomizes that chaos, but for the advanced traveler, it’s one of the most fascinating cities in India. If there’s a place to shop for everything from pashminas to jewelry to leather goods, this is it.
While most of us would arrange a tour with the same enthusiasm as taking a sharp stick in the eye, India is where you want the experts to manage your logistics. Yes, knowledgeable traveler: You’ll have lots of say in where you go, but if you’re driving between cities, you don’t want to be your own chauffeur. At any given point in time, it’s perfectly normal for an ox, horse, and monkey to be sharing the road with you. And driving on the wrong side of the road? Well, that’s all par for the course.
One of the best travel groups in the “don’t have to take a second mortgage out” price range is Creative Travel. Their drivers and tour guides are pros. While you’ll set your itineraries with Creative’s travel office prior to the trip, the team is flexible for on-the-ground requests. Creative fully staffs up for your trips, from delegates at the hotel to ensure that your check-in and check-out go smoothly to drivers and English-speaking tour guides. It may not be a love connection with every single guide, but some have fascinating personal stories. Request Govind as your driver for your Northern India trip, and Jai as your guide for Jaipur. Jai will hook you up with the best shopping, but also be prepared with your own recommendations as some of his suggestions are on the firm tourist route.
If you’re going high-end with a tour company, Jaipur is where you should splurge and use Greaves. These guys will set you up with a society lady to shop ‘til you drop, a university professor to tour the city, and a private plane to avoid the long drives or dreaded Air India flight. The secret to Greaves? They can tailor your itinerary to your budget. If you want the most luxe of recommendations, this is the way to go.
Suggested Stay: 3 Days
The Majaraja’s Jewels
Jaipur is the crown jewel of India, literally. Perhaps you’re in the market for meenakari chandelier earrings with rose cut diamonds or a 22k gold necklace ringed with uncut rubies. You want it, Jaipur’s got it. Rookies head to Gem Palace, but the real insiders know that the Maharaja’s jewels are at Jaisalmer Arts & Crafts. Ask for Vinesh and shop to your high-end heart’s content. The enameled jewelry and diamonds are Oscar-worthy, and the closest most of us will come to acquiring a 20k diamond necklace within a “reasonable” price point.
The Bucket List
There’s no better place to lock your stash than the opulent Oberoi Rajvilas. The definition of “bucket list” may actually include a photo of this place. The tents, each with their own private garden, take glamping to a new level. Suites are lavish enough for the Majaraja and his entourage. The hotel itself is a destination, with yoga and a gorgeous swimming pool and spa to take all the turmoil of Jaipur away. The Indian restaurant, Surya Mahal, is one of the best in the city. Set up a cooking class or sit at the bar next to the tandoori ovens. Those brave enough will be invited to make their own naan bread, by sticking the fresh dough seasoned with garlic and parsley into the over-600-degree oven with their hand. It brings new meaning to taking the heat in the kitchen.
The Rajvilas is an enclave of complete calm in the chaos of Bapu Bazar, which is totally appealing in its own right. For the full cultural experience, wander among the smoky food vendors in search of the perfect onion kachori. (To avoid disaster, be sure to use our guide to street food.) Then, stock up on exquisite handcrafted camel-skin shoes – everyone back home will want a pair. And when you’ve hit your capacity for stimulation, head back to the Oberoi to revel in your jewels. You may even discover that they go nicely with jeans.