I really like cycling. So when I’m traveling, I often join a cycling tour. That’s exactly what I did during my stay in Jaipur, also known as the ‘Pink City of Rajasthan’. Almost every building in Jaipur’s old center has a lovely terracotta pink color. Pink is the color of hospitality. The city was painted in this color when the Prince of Wales visited Jaipur in 1876. To get to know Jaipur in a local and authentic way, I joined the Pink Sensation Tour of Cyclin’ Jaipur. Together with two young guides, we explored the streets and alleys of Jaipur in the early morning. We visited a flower market, zigzagged between cows, gazed at the Wind Palace, and filled our tummies with delicious street food. In this blog post, I will show you what cycling in Jaipur looks like.
A fixed morning ritual: feeding the animals
Our Jaipur cycling tour started with a stop to witness a typical morning ritual in India: feeding the animals. The idea behind this is that feeding the animals (mainly stray animals) is good for karma. Street dogs, cows, and pigeons; they are all fed in the early mornings. A couple of vendors noticed this ritual and started to sell pigeon feed at the old city gates. They set up their little stalls at 7 am in the morning.
The next stop was the Albert Hall Museum. Just like the city gate, this place also attracts a lot of pigeons that gather on the big square in front of the museum. The Albert Hall Museum is a beautiful sight in Jaipur, but also the museum itself is pretty interesting. It has an extraordinary collection. For example, you can see a 2.000-year-old Egyptian mummy.
The eyecatcher of Jaipur: Hawa Mahal
Jaipur is known for one special building: the Hawa Mahal (translation: Wind Palace). This building is not really a palace, but more of a front with a lot of windows. The wind blows right through it, hence the name ‘Wind Palace’. Back in the day, this palace functioned as a colossal curtain for the harem women of the maharaja (meaning: great king) of Jaipur. The women would sit behind one of the 953 windows so that they could see the parades without being seen by the common people.
- Tip: to get a good view of the Hawa Mahal, visit one of the rooftop cafes on the other side of the street. From here you can really see how impressive the Wind Palace is.
Go local: the colorful flower market
The next stop on our Jaipur cycling tour was the local flower market. Even though it was still very early in the day, this market was already up and running. The ground was filled with vegetables, fresh herbs, and orange flower garlands. Locals buy these brightly colored flower garlands for a temple visit or just to decorate their houses or shops. The majority of the vendors at the market were farmers from nearby villages. So two blond foreigners certainly got their attention. We were stared at big time! Our guides told us about a group of women who transport large bags on their heads around the market. They can be a bit pushy. They get paid for every bag they load onto the car and that’s why they want to move fast. More importantly, these bags are super heavy to carry!
Crafts of Jaipur: the marble district
Jaipur is a planned city. The streets in the city center have a grid system of seven blocks. In these blocks, you will find the mohallas, which are craft districts. One of these mohallas is Silawaton ka Mohalla, the district of the marble carvers. The marble comes from the mines of Makrana, the same mine where the marble of the Taj Mahal is made. We parked our bicycles and visited one of the marble studios where the owner invited us to take a look at his works. Hindu gods, animal figures, and human faces: these crafty carvers can make anything out of marble. Local families often order a marble statue in memory of a loved one who passed away.
Breakfast on the streets: North Indian street food
Cycling can be hard work, so our bellies were demanding some food. Fortunately, there were a couple of snack stops included in the cycling tour to give us the energy we needed. In addition, this was also a chance for us to taste some new North Indian snacks. So what did we had? Our (first) breakfast consisted of a cup of masala chai with a fan (long crispy bread to dip in the tea). A little later in the tour, we had a stuffed kachori and sweet jalebi and for drinks, we tasted the delicious lassi. For this, we visited café Lassiwala. There are actually many Lassiwallas in Jaipur nowadays. So it can be difficult to see which is the real one and which are fake. Tip: you can recognize the real Lassiwala with the text ‘Shop 132’ and ‘Since 1944’. And their lassi is truly delicious!
The verdict: a versatile cycling tour in the pink city
After 3,5 hours of cycling around Jaipur, our morning cycling tour ended. To conclude the tour, we were offered a typical Rajasthani breakfast at a heritage haveli. Meanwhile, Jaipur had awakened and the roads were filling up with honking cars, taxis, and rickshaws. The early start of the cycling tour was not for nothing, because it’s the only time it is still quiet in the streets. It will definitely show a different side of the city that you won’t see during the day. Personally, I thought the cycling tour was a perfect combination of sights, local markets, and street food. I highly recommend it!
Short movie: cycling in Jaipur
During the cycling tour, I also filmed with my GoPro. This turned into a short movie that shows the two sides of Jaipur: the busy part and the quiet part. And let’s not forget about the cows: in the alleys, we literally had to zigzag around the cows. It was a unique experience. Click play and enjoy it!
This article is written in cooperation with Cyclin’ Jaipur. I chose the Pink Sensation Tour. Other options are the Pink Inside Tour and the Pink Royal Tour. For more information go to the website.