The capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur, has a markedly different feel from the other two corners of the ‘Golden Triangle’. The traffic is no less intense, but amid the chaos of its walled Old City wander the odd painted elephant and camel cart, driven by men in vibrant turbans with handle-bar moustaches.
The architecture is spectacularly flamboyant. Set in an orderly grid plan by Maharaja Jai Singh II in 1727, the buildings here are painted a regulation salmon-pink colour, forming a mellow backdrop for markets crammed with dazzling tie-dye cloth and mirror-inlaid crazy patchwork quilts. Blending the Persian-inflected elegance of the Mughals with the Rajput love of flair, Jaipur’s palace hotels provide dreamy havens from the brouhaha of the bazaars outside.
Be sure to dine at least once in the courtyard of a haveli (walled mansion), where the evening entertainment will probably be traditional musicians from the Thar Desert accompanied by dancers dressed in swirling pleated skirts and mirror-inlaid veils. Recommended excursions include the trip to nearby Amber, a Rajput palace like something off the pages of the Arabian Nights, which you reach on elephant back.
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