Nobody that has visited the Pink City can deny that Jaipur is a beautiful place, with the blush of the sandstone buildings captivating you at every turn. The obvious tourist places; Pink Palace, Amer Fort, Hawa Mahal (image above) etc are so crowded with people, cameras raised for selfies I couldn’t really get a feel for Jaipur and it’s people.
So I asked Ishak, my amazing tuk-tuk driver to drop me off at the hopefully tourist free market area. I found myself in the middle of what could only be described as a crazy hectic shopping scene from Black Friday. Ishak wagged his head, gave me his cheeky smile said ‘you crazy lady, you ok on own?’
Ishak needn’t have worried, or attempted to secretly follow me to make sure I was safe (he was crap at hiding!) as people could not have been more friendly. Convincing Ishak that I was safe, I was left to wander through the markets.
Immediately your senses are on fire; carts piled high with fragrant herbs, spices & dried chilies for sale, men cooking up the popular and delicious street food Pani Puri (crispy fried dough balls stuffed with potato, sprouts, spicy flavoured water and sweet chutney). The sparkle from the shops selling the over-the-top bling bangles the women love to wear, the aroma of burning incense coming from all directions to the vibrant colours of the sari shops, I found myself totally immersed, and then totally lost!
The next few hours I wandered through the tourist free streets, criss-crossing the markets, alive with the hustle and bustle and incessant horn blowing. I was surrounded by people just going about their daily life. Stopping to take a picture of a group of gentlemen drinking tea, I was soon instructed with huge smiles to sit and enjoy the sweet masala chai with them. We were soon surrounded by many locals who seemed to be loving the fact that a western woman was sitting drinking chai with them in the backstreets of Jaipur. We spent a fun half hour looking through my photo’s of India and discussing life in broken English.
Jaipur street treats …
Making my way back to Ishak, sellers were stopping me, surprisingly not seeking a hard sell but just keen for me to sample local foods. In the space of 1 hour I enjoyed tasting the incredibly fiery stuffed fried chilies (mirchi vada – or ‘you’re going to regret this later’ chilies) and freshly cooked spicy vegetable samosa. I was then given the sweet and sickly, rot your teeth jaggery chunks (raw unrefined molasses and sugar cane), followed by the delicious refreshing fennel seed usually given after meals to aid digestion (saunf).
I left the market streets with a bag of juicy baby coconut to see me through the rest of the day and a paper cone filled with fennel, as worryingly my stomach was now doing some form of daring acrobatic movement after the mixture of spices!
So Jaipur, you are a beautiful city of many photo worthy pink tones, but it’s the people and the market that made this place special for me ….. and the Bhang Lassi that Ishak bought for me, which funnily enough settled my stomach and every other ache and pain I had!