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Jaipur – shopping

February 12, 2014

I’m clutching at the back of my friend’s jumper like a small child. This is one of the most terrifying things I have done in a long time. I’m crossing the street in India. We have gazed at the painted doorways of the City Palace, marvelled at the wonders of centuries-old instruments that measure the stars and planets, and looked down on the bustling pink city of Jaipur through a purdah screen on high. It’s time to attack the shops and we cross the road by the entrance to the Hawa Mahal. There’s the English way of crossing the road: look right, look left, look right again and if all clear, cross the road looking and listening. But this is the Indian way of crossing the road: step out into the constant stream of traffic, chatting to your friend and looking straight ahead, the traffic will brake and allow you to cross, resuming millimetres away from you when you’ve passed that individual vehicle’s section of road. I’ve now booked the hairdresser to cover the traces of my extra grey hairs.

Jaipur was built for shopping; Maharaja Jai Singh II planned the city with nine blocks or chowkris and the bazaar areas are neatly contained within this grid system (well as neat as anything in Jaipur can be). We dive down a narrow side alley and are surrounded by gleaming things; this area is dedicated to parties so contains decorative hats, streamers, party bags and even fireworks. We won’t be taking any of those back on the plane.

Easing our way through the crowds of haggling shoppers party glitter turns into wedding splendour, with crimson turbans and jewelled material for saris.  Emerging out on the edge of the market, by rows and rows of motorbikes parked so close you can’t see the pavement, we find a shop with raw silk stoles. We take our places seated on the floor with the shopkeeper who, although very grumpy, gets the whole shop out for us to inspect. He will not budge from his fixed price although we try every trick in the book developed over years of living in the Middle East, but we leave happy, clutching lengths of colour.

We return several times to the bazaars, meandering down along the shop fronts. I peer into little nooks set in the wall between the shops which contain tiny shrines or utensils for chai-making.  A seller presents a highly scented rose to me in the flower market; salesmen sit cross-legged on the floor behind rows of orange garlands and other pink and white blooms. We find the source of the kites that appear as soon as the sun starts to fade and children head for the rooftops with paper, bamboo and string that bob over our heads. We’ve asked Kadir about Bapu bazaar several times and he is uncharacteristically evasive. Walking towards it, the bright street starts to become gloomier. There is a soup kitchen and with disheveled men hunched over bowls of food. The eyes upon us are more intense. Flocks of birds of prey swoop and soar overhead. Reaching the corner we are lured into one of the first shops. The salesmen are very intense and pushy. They argue and argue asking inflated prices and packing things away for us when we haven’t agreed to buy. Suddenly we’ve had enough and go to leave, but one bars our way. It’s very intimidating and we flee at speed.  Reaching the spice market we gaze half-heartedly at bottles of rosewater and piles of saffron but we’re relieved when Kadir finds us and his tuk tuk whisks us away.

Next time we make sure we shop during the day and in areas where there are lots of women. We adore the textile bazaars where groups of ladies all sit amid jewel coloured cloth and taking hours to choose just the right material for saris.

Of course this is not the only way to shop. Jaipur is famed for its craftsmen and in particular blue pottery, traditional camel-leather shoes, paper, wooden painted statues, block printed materials and carpets. Inevitably (as referrals are an income source) Kadir takes us to some showrooms. They pretend to make the things on site but actually bring them in from surrounding areas. This was not a bad experience as it took us into the quiet, residential back streets of Jaipur and its a less frenetic place to buy than in the bazaar. I pity the poor shopkeeper who tries to sell us pashminas (Dubai is the land of pashminas).

On our way to another showroom we stick our heads into a courtyard where they are dyeing cloth, heated over a wood fire and then visit a man dyeing thread. Our least favourite place is Handicraft Haveli – presented to us as a ‘museum’, it is chock-a-block with very expensive items for sale which other tourists are buying. There are some lovely things and fun to browse but the prices are way over the top. As we return to the hotel, for some reason R walks through the archway next to the entrance. She runs back with excitement. Right next door there are craftspeople block printing, spinning and weaving. No hassle at all, in fact everyone ignores me as a wander round with my camera.

A list of the main bazaars in Jaipur is here and the Eyewitness guide book has an excellent map, however they all merge into each other so it’s best just to wander.

We bought pashminas, raw silk shawls, cotton scarves, cushion covers, silver bangles and loose cotton baggy trousers. Sorry KP, I didn’t buy you a kite.

shopping in JaipurShopping in JaipurWhat’s your favourite thing about a bazaar? The shopping or the people watching?

Read more about the sights we visited here. More about where to stay, eat and getting about to follow soon.

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  1. February 12, 2014 9:41 am

    Wonderfully descriptive – sounds like so much fun! (if not a little overwhelming.) Love the block printing – so cool! I actually have one in my house for decoration that I bought from the little place by Park n Shop on Al Wasl. My husband always makes fun of it and the kids constantly knock it over, but I like it. 🙂

    • February 12, 2014 10:50 am

      I really regret not buying one – I think they are lovely. I’m not much of a shopper actually more of a watcher. I always return from trips and think….oh I should have bought one of those… 🙂

  2. February 12, 2014 10:45 am

    Wow what a rush of experiences Sally! Yes incredible India, the good and the bad.
    Aren’t the colors always stunning though, my favorite place to spend hours are the bangles shops. All the beautiful colors and the women often there for wedding bangles that glitter and shine and are kept in a special cupboard. Thanks for taking me back down memory lane with your post.

    • February 12, 2014 10:49 am

      The colours are amazing – it seems such a cliche to say it but until you’ve been there you don’t really appreciate the saying. Thanks for such a thoughtful comment as always Karin.

  3. February 12, 2014 10:58 am

    Wonderful! I’ve never visited a bazaar, but my favorite thing would be the spice stalls…



    • February 12, 2014 1:47 pm

      I buy organic spices from India here in Dubai – they are amazingly potent …the best I’ve ever used.

  4. February 12, 2014 11:33 am

    Wonderful read and photos Sally. Thank you!

  5. February 12, 2014 12:30 pm

    Lovely writing Sally, my mind was jostled around whist reading it. Of all of the shopping type experiences I had in Jaipur it was the art and the artists that I found drew me in. X

    • February 12, 2014 1:46 pm

      There’s a fascination in creativity isn’t there…

  6. February 12, 2014 7:57 pm

    Great set of pictures ….beautiful post

  7. February 12, 2014 8:21 pm

    OMG these pictures are absolutely stunning. Wow.

  8. February 12, 2014 8:58 pm

    Oh what a wonderful post – text and photos both so evocative.
    I fell off an elephant in Jaipur.

    • February 12, 2014 9:20 pm

      No way. I knew there was a good reason for not going on one!

  9. glamorous glutton permalink
    February 12, 2014 9:45 pm

    I love shopping in bazaars as long as I don’t get too hassled. But people watching is great fun. Fabulous that you got to see the block printing and bought such great things. I still have a vintage wedding shawl that I bought in India, covered in metallic embroidery, slightly tarnished but all the more lovely for that. GG

  10. February 13, 2014 12:44 am

    So sorry to hear about the harassment in the bazaars. We had nothing but smiles and welcomes but that’s Amber and Amy for you. I loved the bazaars in Jaipur. Bought far to much. Some wooden boxes with ceremic drawers, sarees, bangles, jewellery, more sarees, bags, shawls, more sarees. I wish I had hunted down the craftsmen as those blocks look stunning. Love walk down memory lane reading this post. Thank you for sharing!

    • February 13, 2014 4:12 pm

      Mostly a good experience – just the one bad one. Wiser for it too 🙂

  11. andreamynard permalink
    February 13, 2014 2:27 am

    Lovely evocative descriptions Sally and I too love those blocks.

    • February 13, 2014 4:12 pm

      Yes – why didn’t I bring one home?!!

  12. February 13, 2014 12:43 pm

    I feel like I was with you and your friend, Sally. Wonderfully descriptive imagery and images.That street crossing sounds terrifying – trusting people you don’t know to stop for you. I almost felt palpitations reading this! Luckily I forgot your terror as I scrolled the images. I really am taken with the block printing. Something about such ‘primitive’ art forms that really appeals, as I tap away on my lappie in the airport waiting for a delayed flight to whisk me away to warmer climes! I’m just sorry that you had a bit of a hard time in the bazaars themselves.

    • February 13, 2014 4:15 pm

      Not such a hard time – just a lesson learned. Enjoy those warmer climes Kellie – sounds like you need it.

  13. February 13, 2014 4:11 pm

    What a lovely post. It really took me back there. Jaipur is a fascinating city.

    I visited India nearly 15 years ago & am about to head back there. This really reminded me of those everyday things – like crossing the road – which become an adventure. Cant wait to leave now.

    Hope you enjoy the rest of your trip.

    • February 13, 2014 4:15 pm

      Have fabulous time – will look forward to reading all about it.

  14. February 13, 2014 5:18 pm

    Fabulous! I haven’t visiting anything quite like this. How special!
    Have a super day Sally.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  15. February 14, 2014 12:33 am

    Amazing photos Sally, thank you! Again, the colours are stunning!

  16. February 14, 2014 6:41 am

    Such colors! And I love being taken somewhere that I’ve never been.

  17. February 14, 2014 10:32 am

    Rajasthan is a land of colors, never visited Jaipur before, but after reading this colorful post I am planning to visit jaipur.

  18. February 26, 2014 12:16 am

    Amazing – an I am so glad that you enjoyed your first trip to India! And was that rose for you?

    • February 26, 2014 7:40 am

      Yes – he presented it to me in a very kind gesture. I kept it in my pocket and the fragrance from the petals was there for ages. My friends suggested that it was doused in rosewater, which might have been true, but I loved the scent.

      • February 26, 2014 9:15 am

        That’s the problem with any good gesture on Indian roads – always looked down with suspicion! I somehow agree with your friends!

  19. March 12, 2014 5:10 pm

    Truly an experience for the senses Sally. You had me there walking the streets with you. So colorful, vivid, vibrant what an awesome adventure!

    • March 13, 2014 8:57 am

      It did feel like an adventure which is sometimes difficult these days where everything is so globalised and easy.


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