Friday, September 12, 2008

Tea, Toy train and Tourism in Darjeeling

It is the garden that serves you your daily cuppa in the morning. Nestled in the Himalayas, Darjeeling is situated at an altitude of 2134 meters and has close to 70 tea gardens that produce the finest tea in the world.

For rail enthusiasts, however, Darjeeling is better known for its "Toy Train". This famous narrow gauge steam railway plies its way from Siliguri in the plains below up to Ghoom and Darjeeling in the hills and the ride transports one back to childhood days.

Getting there
If you want to get to Darjeeling by air, the closest airport is Bagdogra that is directly connected to Calcutta, Delhi and Guwahati. The nearest railhead is at New Jalpaiguri and Siliguri and both are connected to all the major places in India.

What to See

Batasia Loop
A marvelous feat of engineering, this Railway Loop provides a delightful view of the 'toy' train as it winds its way round the loop.

Darjeeling- Rangeet Valley Passenger Ropeway
This ropeway is situated at North Point which is 3 km from the town. The first passenger Ropeway to be constructed in India, this 5 km stretch connects Darjeeling and Singla Bazar, a beautiful picnic spot.

Dhirdham Temple

Situated next to the railway station, the temple architecture has been inspired by the famous Pashupatinath Temple at Kathmandu in Nepal.

Ghoom Buddhist Monastery
A typical Tibetan monastery which enshrines an image of the coming Buddha.

Tiger Hill
Tiger Hill has earned international fame for the fabulous view of the Sunrise over the great “Kanchenjunga” and the great Eastern Himalayan peaks that can be seen from here. If you are lucky and the day is clear even Mt. Everest is visible. The sunrise is simply beautiful as the golden glow of the rising Sun changes the colour of the snow capped peaks to crimson, pink and then auburn. A definite must do. Besides these attractions, don’t miss a trip to the lovely tea plantations and discover how your tea is brewed right from the planting of the tea leaf to its final destination.

In and Around
It would be a crime if you visit Darjeeling and don’t go to nearby places such as Siliguri, Kalimpong and Gangtok.
Siliguri is surrounded by hills all around and is well connected to Calcutta, Delhi, Guwahati by train. Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, lies on a ridge overlooking the Ranipool River. Its name means 'High Hill'. The setting is spectacular with fine views of the Kanchanjunga range and distinctive flora and fauna. All these places are motorable from Darjeeling and would be well worth a visit.

The best time to visit this region is from mid-September to mid-December, although it gets pretty cold by December. However, this is the best time to get a glimpse of the mountains. March to June is also a good period if you want to escape the heat of the plains. The hills of Darjeeling are richly covered with Orchids, Chrysanthemums and other diverse flora and fauna that imbues the place with greenery and beauty. So if you want to smell the aroma of freshly minted tea, view the majestic Himalayas or spend the day sightseeing and taking in the luxuriant vegetation, then Darjeeling is the place to be in.

Gangtok: Gateway to Heaven

Some places defy description. The capital of Sikkim is one such place. Nestled in the lap of the mighty Kanchenjunga with the meandering Teesta flowing below, a breathtakingly beautiful landscape dotted with exotic flowers and orchids and colourful monasteries with little lamas in their red robes running around, Gangtok is perfect for a quiet idyllic vacation or great for mountaineering and trekking opportunities.

Imbued with a strong Buddhist culture, Gangtok blends the old with the new and it is commonplace to see urban settlements rubbing shoulder against old monasteries.

Getting there
Gangtok is well connected by air, Bagdogra being the nearest airport approximately 124 km from Gangtok. If you are traveling by train, the closest railheads are Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri, from where buses and taxis are available to Gangtok. Gangtok is connected by road with Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Siliguri.

What to See
Besides offering myriad opportunities for trekking, mountaineering, white water rafting and jeep safari, Gangtok has a number of attractions for tourists.

Do-Drul Chorten or Stupa
The Do-Drul Chorten or Stupa was built in 1945 and houses relics and other religious exhibits. There are 108 prayer wheels around the Stupa. Chorten Lakhang and Guru Lakhang are around the Stupa. There are also two huge statues of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). Situated near the orchid sanctuary, one can see the young lamas here working, learning and worshipping.

Deer Park
Near the Secretariat, the Deer Park provides a panoramic view of the expansive valleys surrounding the city of Gangtok. If you are lucky, you may spot the Himalayan spotted and musk deer.

Enchey Monastery
Believe it or not this 200-year-old monastery, is built on the site blessed by the famous flying tantrik master Lama Druptop Karpo. Just about 3 km from downtown Gangtok, this is an important seat of the Nyingma order. Every year in January, 'Chaam' or the masked dance is performed with great fanfare for two days. Its location atop a hill affords one of the best views of the Kanchenjunga mountain range.

Government Cottage Industries Institute
Situated near the Tourist Office, the institute specializes in weaving, woodcarving and paintings of typical Sikkimese designs. The most popular items are hand woven carpets, blankets, shawls and exquisite tables.

Rumtek Monastery
This houses some of the world's most unique religious scriptures and religious art objects since the late 1960s after the arrival of His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. A replica of the original Kagyu Order headquarters in Tibet, Rumtek is situated about 24 km from Gangtok and well worth a visit.
Besides these, there are many other monasteries that offer a rare collection of statues and thankas, and some beautiful gardens that are home to Sikkim's exotic and rare flora and fauna and exquisite orchids.

When to go
The best time to visit this Buddhist town is between March to late May or October to mid December. In fact, May is festival time in Gangtok when Saga Dawa is celebrated to commemorate the full moon. So if you are looking for a fun-filled, pump-up-the-adrenaline vacation or a heavenly holiday where you can let your creative juices flow watching the sunrise against the mountains, head for Gangtok.

Ajmer: A Flower in the Desert

It's known for the Dargah of Moinuddin Chisti and the Mayo College. One, a place of worship and the other a place of learning but both occupying equal importance in Ajmer's scheme of things. Located in the state of Rajasthan, Ajmer lies 130 km southwest of Jaipur. It is flanked by the Ana Sagar Lake on one side and barren hills of the Aravali range on the other side.

Situated in the heart of Rajasthan desert, Ajmer is a mix of Sufi culture and Hindu religion. A coveted and strategic place for the Rajputs, the Mughals and the Marathas, Ajmer was the seat of administration for the Chauhans till Prithviraj was defeated in 1193 A.D by Mohammad Ghori. It then became a part of the Delhi Sultanate. However, Rana Kumbha of Mewar and Raja Maldeo again established Rajput rule over Ajmer.

Ajmer is often referred to as the City of the Khwaja since it is home to the popular 13th century Sufi saint Hazrat Moinuddin Hasan Chisti. Millions of devotees throng the city to attend his death anniversary every year or what is also known as the annual Urs.

Getting there
Ajmer is well connected by rail and road. State transport buses are available from all over Rajasthan and also Delhi. The nearest airport is Jaipur. However, it is advisable to plan your trip well in advance especially during the Urs.

What to See

The tomb of the great Sufi saint is revered by both Hindus and Muslims and a must see. Built at the foot of a hill through the old town, it attracts most pilgrims during the month of Ramzan (Ramadan). The main entrance to the dargah is through Dargah Bazaar which is a lane crowded with tiny shops selling religious trinkets.

Ana Sagar

This man-made lake lies at the centre of the city and was created by making a dam over River Luni. However, the lake shrinks in size every summer as Ajmer faces an acute shortage of water. Along its bank is the lovely Daulat Bagh built by Emperor Shah Jahan.

Near the outskirts of the city, stands the Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra Mosque built in 1153 by Mohammed Ghori. Its name literally translates as the Mosque of Two-and-a-half Days. There are many stories about how the mosque got its name. According to one, it was built in 2 Ѕ days flat, while another suggests that it was named after a festival that lasted for 2 Ѕ days.

Just 11 km away from Ajmer, Pushkar is considered by Hindus to be one of the most sacred places in India and has, perhaps, the only existing temple in Asia, dedicated to Lord Brahma. Life in the city is very much related to the Pushkar Lake. Mythology says that this ancient lake was formed when a lotus flower fell in the valley, from the hands Brahma. 52 bathing ghats surround the lake. These ghats have special powers e.g. Naga Kund for fertility, Roop Tirth for beauty and Kapil Vyapi kund for curing Leprosy.

The famous Pushkar fair or camel fair is held every year on Kartik purnima. Folk dancers and musicians add traditional colour to the city giving it a new lease of life.

If you are planning to visit this holy place, be warned that temperatures can soar in summers and dip in winters. Thus the best time to visit this pilgrim place is between October and March when the weather is pleasant and this flower in the desert is in full bloom.

On Top of the World in Leh

The land of Lamas and monasteries, festivals and dances, Leh is situated on the banks of the river Indus at a height of 11,000 feet. The defiant beauty of its barren landscape and rugged terrain, its unique flora and fauna, its culture and people offer the tourists a memorable holiday and an experience of a lifetime.

But remember that traveling to Leh is not for the faint-hearted or the feather-brained. You need to be fighting fit and have all your wits about you to savour the mind-blowing experience. Surrounded by the imposing Karakoram in the north and the majestic Himalayas in the south, the cold rocky desert-like area is awe-inspiring to say the least.

With a population of 10,000 people, mainly Buddhist, some Muslim and a small Christian community, Leh bears the distinct stamp of being the administrative, commercial and cultural capital of Ladakh.

Getting There

The best way to get to Leh is by air. Indian Airlines operates regular scheduled flights to Leh from Delhi, Chandigarh, Jammu and Srinagar. The nearest airport is at Leh, 4 km from the town on Fort Road. Alternatively, you can approach Leh by road also. There are two routes to get to Leh, one via Himachal Pradesh and the other via Srinagar. Ladakh is approachable from Srinagar and Manali by road.

What to See

Leh Palace

This 16th century nine-storey palace was built in the medieval Tibetan architecture style. Within the palace there is a thousand-armed deity of the Tara goddess.

Namgyal Tsemo Gompa

This Gompa was built in 1430. It has some ancient manuscripts, splendid paintings and a two storey high statue of Buddha. Above this is another gompa, which is in ruins. The trek up to this Namgyal Tsemo Gompa is laborious, but once you get there the view is spectacular.

Sankar Gompa

A 17th century gompa, this is the residence of Kushok Bakul who is the head of the Gelukpa (yellow hat) order. There are some very interesting paintings in the Du-khang, which is the main prayer hall located here. Shanti Stupa Built by the Japanese Buddhists, this gompa was inaugurated in 1985 by the Dalai Lama. It is a tough climb to the top of the stupa, which is decorated with panels depicting scenes from the life of Buddha.

Ladakh Ecological Development Group

This place promotes cottage industries, does work on ecological issues like preserving solar energy and promotes organic farming. It has a popular library and a good shop where you can buy local handicrafts. It is located close to the main market.


Ladakhis have a penchant for fairs and festivals. The Festival of Ladakh takes place in August/ September and a variety of contests like a dance contest and an archery contest take place. Then there is the Hemis Gompa, which is one of the biggest events of the year and takes place in June. Besides these, there is the Lamayuru Festival takes place in April/ May each year and the annual Sindhu Darshan Festival held on the banks of the river Sindhu in the month of June.

Natural beauty, festivals, a rich culture Leh has all this and much more. There are myriad opportunities for mountaineering and trekking too so if you have a passion for the wild and the unexplored, climb towards Leh. You will feel on top of the world!

Jaisalmer: A Dream in the Desert

Tomes have been written on Rajasthan with travel writers having written ad nauseam on the desert capital and its magnificent cities but nothing can surpass the first hand experience of Jaisalmer. The crowning glory of Rajasthan rises like a dream in the desert as it unfolds its magical desert charm on the tourist. A town of many paradoxes, Jaisalmer juxtaposes the barrenness of the desert with the hustle and bustle of a popular tourist destination, while local colour and warmth blend with the seemingly formidable grey terrain.

Founded in 1156 by Rawal Jaisal, a descendant of the Yadav clan, Jaisalmer lies close to the Rajasthan border with Pakistan. The best way to see this desert city is on foot. A walk through the lanes and bylanes, streets and alleys of Jaisalmer is a uniquely rewarding experience as one can savour the city's rich cultural heritage as well its glorious historical past.

Winter is the best time to pay a visit to Jaisalmer, especially the months of January/ February when the Desert Festival takes place. At the time of this annual ritual, the desert seems to bloom in a thousand colours. The air reverberates with music and dance, camel races, contests, games and the local craft bazaar that displays the talent and creativity of the artisan further enhances the city's vibrant and lively culture. And no visit is complete without witnessing the spectacular light and sound show on the Sam sand dunes.

How to get there

Jaisalmer is well-connected by train and is about 570 kms from Jaipur. A good network of roads joins Jaisalmer with Jodhpur (308 kms) and many other destinations in and around Rajasthan.

What to See

Modern day Jaisalmer and its surroundings are truly fascinating and worth all the desert grit and grime and a camel safari is the best way to explore Jaisalmer.

Jaisalmer Fort: Rising like the phoenix, the Jaisalmer Fort seems to rise out of the desert and awes the first timer with its sheer brilliance. Also known as Sonar Kila or the golden fort because of its yellow sandstone walls that reflect the rays of the sun. Outside the fort is the main market called Manek Chowk.

The Havelis of Jaisalmer: Jasialmer possesses some beautiful and exotic mansions or havelis that are covered with intricate lattice work and have beautiful and elaborate facades. Salim Singh ki Haveli, is one such popular haveli.

Jain temples: An absolute must-see because of exquisitely carved interiors and superb architecture.

Lodurva: Once the capital of Rawal Jaisal, Lodurva has ruins of the ancient township and is an important center for the Jain community.

Sam Sand dunes: About 42 km from Jaisalmer, this is the closest point to witness the sandy desert. Sam (pronounced 'sum') has a truly magnificent stretch of sweeping dunes, with little or no vegetation.


Jaisalmer has a number of hotels to suit every pocket and budget.

No wonder then that Jaisalmer is sheer poetry etched in history and a favourite hot spot with both Indian and foreign tourists. Its marvelous forts and palaces, endless expanse of sand dunes and rustic flavour make this oasis-in-the-desert a truly memorable experience.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Grooving In Goa

Think of Goa and what is the picture that comes to mind? Sun-drenched beaches with lazy tourists sunbathing, a dazzling coastline lined with coconut and palm trees and imposing churches and cathedrals that speak volumes about the history of this beach town. Add to this some fun and lots of feni, and you have the perfect holiday.

Located on the west coast of India, this former Portuguese colony has always been a hot favourite with tourists - Indians, foreigners and honeymooners - since the 1960s because of its hippie culture and bohemian lifestyle. However, today this carnival city is known more for its natural beauty, exotic beaches, lively festivals and delicious sea food that includes lobsters and Prawn Balchao, a Goanese speciality.

Getting there
Goa is well connected by air, rail and road to all the major cities. Indian Airlines, Air India, Jet and Sahara have flights to and fro Goa, Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Cochin and Pune. The Daboli airport is located 29 km south of Panaji. Similarly, Goa is accessible by train while good motorable roads connect it with all major towns.

You can also go to Goa by catamaran, run by Damania Shipping. The journey by boat takes about 7-8 hours.

What to See
goa calangute beach
Goa is a blend of the old and the new. While the new Goa is modern and bustling with life and activity, predictably the older part of the city retains an old world charm replete with churches and cathedrals and a laid back lifestyle.

New Goa: Most of the beaches and resorts fall in the newer part of Goa. In fact, for most people the beach forms the strongest association with Goa and why not. After all the sea stretches both towards the north and the south. The Calangute beach is the start of the south stretch and for about 3-4 km you can see nothing but the endless expanse of water, with hordes of people swimming or camping at the local hotels. Going southwards you would reach Benaulim, which is ideal for cycling or sunbathing. When you've had enough of the sun, you can have a glass of low-priced beer or feni, the local brew at the small shacks that are run by locals and are all over the beaches.

The north stretch includes a cluster of beaches that include Anjuna, Baga, Miramar etc. These beaches are more lively and vibrant with lots of music, small shacks and restaurants that serve exotic Goanese fare. You could dig into a spicy Prawn curry or savour the fresh catch of the day. For those who want to dance the night away, there are a number of discotheques too.

Interestingly, there is a marketplace near Anjuna beach where you can buy anything under the sun from traditional Indian stuff to swimming gear and lots of knick-knacks that are actually sold by hippies in order to extend their stay by a few extra months. Goa is perfect for those interested in water sports and windsurfing and other aquatic sports are quite a hit with tourists.

Old Goa: If you are sick of the sea, head towards Old Goa and enjoy some architectural magnificence. The erstwhile Portuguese capital with its architecture was once said to rival Lisbon in magnificence. Its most famous building is the Basilica of Bom Jesus, which contains the remains of the great St Francis Xavier. Also of interest is the Convent & Church of St. Francis of Assisi. Besides this, there are a number of other churches that boast of an impressive architecture.

Getting Around
The best way to see Goa is to stay at the Baga beach and take a scooty ride to the other beaches. The trip across the cool waters is so exhilarating as you ride over the rivers and under railway bridges enjoying nature at its best.

If you are one for walking, Goa is a good place to get started. Step into your boots and you can walk for miles along the blue beach and the swaying palms. Or better still, rent a bicycle and discover the magic of the city. When tired, you can stop at the roadside joints and sip some beer.

The best time to sunbathe in Goa is during the months of October to February when it is neither too hot nor raining. Also, it is party time in Goa during this period. The streets are suffused with the festive spirit and there is plenty of music, dance and singing as people celebrate and enjoy themselves. It is this vibrancy and peppy spirit combined with a rich cultural milieu that acts like a magnet and keeps attracting people from all over the world.

Goa caters to both the high budget traveler with its many five star hotels and resorts which have all the modern facilities such as Fort Aguada and the Taj Holiday Village, while also having a number of medium to small budget places. However, make your bookings well in advance especially during the carnival time.

So whether you want to see the sights, roam the beaches or sip some lovely Goanese wine or eat some Balchao, Goa is the place to be in. Just remember to carry loads of sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and your swimming gear!

Timeless Sculptures at Khajuraho

If sculptures could speak, Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh would reverberate with the sound of love and music. The land of temples is home to some of the most exotic stone sculptures that date back at least a 1,000 years. Today only 22 of the 85 original temples, built during the reign of the Chandela dynasty have survived the test of time.

The architectural style of the Khajuraho temples stands out as compared to the other temples of that period. Each structure is pointed vertically upwards and stands on a high platform, like the peaks of a mountain range giving an effect of grace and lightness. The temples revolve around the theme of love and its many moods and attract tourists from all over the world. Added to this is the Khajuraho Festival of Dances which draws some of the country's best classical dancers who perform against the spectacular backdrop of the floodlit temples every year in February/March.

Getting there
Khajuraho is accessible by air, rail and road. A daily Boeing 737 service links Khajuraho with Delhi, Agra, Varanasi and Kathmandu. The nearest railheads are Mahoba (64 km) and Harpalpur (94 km). Jhansi (175 km) and Satna (117 km) are convenient railheads for visitors from Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Agra & Varanasi. A regular bus service makes it travelers to commute by bus from Mahoba, Harpalpur, Satna, Jhansi, Gwalior, Agra, Jabalpur & Bhopal.

What to see
The temples of Khajuraho
Temples: The temples of Khajuraho are spread over three geographical groups: Western, Eastern and Southern. The largest temple, the Kandariya Mahadev, belongs to the Western group which is why it is also the best known. Exquisite carvings of celestial beings and lovers in different poses stand as if frozen in eternity yet have managed to retain a lifelike quality about them. Also in the western group is the only granite temple in the Khajuraho stable - the Chaunsat Yogini. Then there is the Chitragupta temple, dedicated to Surya, the sun-god. The Lakshmana and Matangeswara temple complete the western circuit.

The temples of Khajuraho
The temples on the eastern side are mostly Hindu and Jain temples and include the Parswanath, Brahma, Vamana and Javari temples. These again provide stunning visual imagery and depict the richness of human life. The Chaturbhuj and Duladeo temples are towards the southern part of Khajuraho.

Shilpgram: Located in the heart of Khajuraho, in this 10-acre complex you will find artisans from various parts of India weaving a magic spell. These ethnic handicrafts are a big hit with tourists.

Museums and Art Galleries: The archaeological museum houses a beautiful collection of statues and remains of the ancient temples. There is also a huge statue of Buddha.

Khajuraho has both MP-tourism run hotels, lodges and guest houses as well as privately run hotels. However, you would be advised to make your bookings in advance especially during the dance festival.

Getting Around
If you've had your fill of temples, then take a break and see some other fascinating sights in and around Khajuraho. These include:

The Raneh Falls: An ideal picnic spot, located 9 km from Khajuraho on the Ken river are a series of seasonal waterfalls surrounded by thick forests.

Ken Gharial Sanctuary: About 20 km from the temples, this sanctuary is the natural habitat of the crocodile.

Benisagar Lake and Ranguan Lake: Both are ideal picnic spot suitable for boating and angling.

Best time to go :This temple city is best visited between September to March, the latter being more popular because of the rare cultural extravaganza that Khajuraho is home to. The Dancing festival kicks off in this temple town in March and attracts lovers of dance and music from all over the world. Renowned Indian artists such as Chitra Vishweshwaran, Guru Jairam Rao, Pratima Jena and Vijaylakshmi (Mohiniattam) will display their talents in the backdrop of the floodlit temples. If you are interested, contact the MP Tourism Development Corporation offices in Delhi and Khajuraho or the Kala Parishad at Bhopal.

So pack your bags if you want to be a part of this spectacular annual dance festival set against Khajuraho's timeless sculptures.

Jaipur: Romancing The Stone

Entering Jaipur is a little bit of a disappointment because you expect the Pink City to live up to its name. Instead of a rosy pink faзade, the buildings are old and painted a dirty pink that seems to have faded with the years. However, as you wander into the old city you realize that the capital of Rajasthan is rightly called so. Surrounded by forts and palaces, hills and deserts, Jaipur transports one to bygone days.

The bustling metropolis is filled with foreigners and locals and is a riot of colour. The local tribal women wearing bright gherwala lehngas with their long cholis, their arms filled with ivory amulets and feet tinkling with silver anklets are a common sight as are the men in their dhotis and short kurtas with bright pagris and hukkas.

Founded by Maharaja Jai Singh II (1693-1743), the land of the brave Rajputs, Jaipur is systematically planned and constructed in nine rectangular sectors. The warmth and hospitality of the Rajasthanis, there undying love of art and culture and the exotic local cuisine makes Jaipur a tourist's delight. You can explore the historic fabric of the city, visit the markets and go on a shopping spree or just partake of the local singing and dancing.

Jaipur Amer Palace
What to see
Begin your sightseeing tour by going to the famous Amer Palace and that too on elephant back. You can see the magnificent architecture that includes the stately gateways, courtyards and pavilions.

Next, stop at the famous Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds, Jaipur's most famous landmark, built in 1799. It was from the 900-odd ornate windows of this imposing five-storey structure that the women folk used to peep at the ongoing festivities without making a public appearance.Other tourist attractions include the Jal Mahal, Jaipur's lake palace surrounded by water, the City Hall and the Albert Hall Museum.

No trip to Jaipur is complete without seeing the famous Jantar Mantar or observatory built by Jai Singh and the famous astronomical instruments. Also worth a dekko is the famous Rajmandir, considered to be one of Asia's most opulent theatre.

Rajasthani Food
All this sightseeing is bound to whet your appetite and what better way to satisfy it than sample the local cuisine. Rajasthanis are food lovers and their food though simple is liberally endowed with ghee. Try the famous dal-bati-churma or the pyaz ki kachori and for a sweet tooth head straight to Laxmi Misthan Bhandar and dig into the ghevar or the malpuas The best way to digest this rich fare is by washing it down with the famous anardana chooran or the different kinds of chatnis, that are available in every nook and corner of the city.

If you want to eat in ethnic surroundings, then visit Chokhi Dhani or Apno Gaon that offer traditional cuisine in rural setting. However, more than the food it is the people there who serve you with so much of love and enthusiasm that somehow you end up eating twice your appetite.

Jaipur's local flavour is best witnessed during the many festivals the city is home to. These include the Teej festival, the Gangaur festival and the famous Elephant festival, held during Holi in March. The Elephant Festival starts with an impressive procession of the painted pachyderms, tastefully attired and wearing glittering ornaments. There is also a "Best Elephant Shield" for the best-decorated elephant besides a tug of war and a newly introduced game of elephant polo.

Jaipur is one place where you can shop till you drop. The city is famous for precious and semi-precious stones, marble statues, handicrafts, lacquered jewellery, jaipuri jootis and tye and dye and sanganeri prints. The market opposite Hawa Mahal is filled with typical Rajasthani stuff and usually thronged by foreigners. Remember to hone your bargaining skills, or else you might end up paying an exorbitant amount.

Getting there
The good thing about the Pink City is that it is easily accessible and well connected by rail, road and air. Jaipur is only 6 hours from Delhi and the road is highly motorable. You can either drive down or go by bus. Rajasthan Roadways runs regular hourly services. The city is also well connected by train directly with Delhi, Agra, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Mumbai, Ahmedabad etc.

Visit the pink city during the months of September-March and you'll come back with priceless memories, a bagful of souvenirs and an address book full of friends.