A Peek at Life in India: the Hawa Mahal in Jaipur

From where we stood, halfway up the hill to the Monkey Temple, the waning light was turning ‘The Pink City’ a pearly, golden hue. The jagged skyline’s stack of buildings and telephone poles, a thousand candles, was like a fanciful birthday cake.

I scanned the horizon across Jaipur, noting the immense desert city that sat sprawled between mountains. We’d come because the city that had been painted the color of hospitality was rumored to be beautiful but gritty, busy but manageable. The Amer palace was the draw, but I had my eyes locked on the cake topper in the center of the cake – the Hawa Mahal.

Our tuk-tuk driver, Ali, warned us that the Hawa Palace was not really worth seeing. “It’s a house. A pink house. Better at Mughal market for the shopping.”

I’m sure you say that to all the ladies, Ali. Tu t’aime las filles, after all.

On our only full day in Jaipur, we did a whirlwind tour of the Fort, skipping the elephant ride as we climbed the hill on which the intricate palace sits before seeing the Janta Mantur observatory. While Ali tried to persuade us that it was better to skip the pink palace for a lassi drink and browsing the spice market, I couldn’t get over the pink lattice windows that peeked out above the city palace.

Like in many countries I’ve visited, the Hawa Mahal is essentially a fancy brothel, beautifully constructed living quarters that once included gilded doors and extravagant fountains against a facade that resembles a honeycomb. The five-story building is riddled with staircases, rooms, windows and lattice-work, allowing its inhabitants to see life on the streets below without actually being seen themselves.

Hayley and I saw a great deal of India from a tuk tuk, not quite on in a hit-the-pavement sort of way I had craved when we booked tickets. Even through the kindness of hotel owners, who helped us when we were scammed, through driving tuk tuk down deserted roads, to posing in pictures with sari-clad Indians in front of the Taj Mahal, I feel as though we barely scratched India’s expansive surface.

Like the women who once lived in the small bedrooms of the Palace of the Winds and could witness the trading and chaos, the wandering animals and the comforting hum of daily life in Jaipur, our India experience felt like theirs – someone not quite on the inside. I suddenly had the urge to skip Mumbai and stay in the Pink City, to consider India in the future. After five days, two train rides and countless interactions with strangers, I knew one trip to India would never be enough for me.

Ali was waiting for us at the Tripolia Bazaar, feet up on the narrow dashboard of his motorized tricycle. “So, very boring, yes?” he questioned as we climbed into the back and he sped off towards the spice market.

I somehow knew India had gotten under my skin in that very moment.

Have you ever wanted to learn more about a destination after you’d visited? Or do you see things and then mentally cross it off a bucket list?

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. Beautiful photos!
    Kirstie recently posted..A Love Affair with International SoccerMy Profile

  2. You were lucky the Hawa Mahal was already open when you went. When I was there, it was closed for renovations. :( Still, I loved my stay in Jaipur!
    Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com recently posted..Finding Solace in JaipurMy Profile

  3. Hawa Mahal is on the top ten list of things I want to see in India. Great photos.
    jennifer recently posted..Hong Kong, China: Chi Lin NunneryMy Profile

  4. Love these pictures. They really capture the feeling of Jaipur!
    Valen-This Way Paradise recently posted..Koh Rong Samloem-The Most Relaxing Place On EarthMy Profile

  5. Wow, that looks pretty special. That’s another one for the bucket list. Thanks for the recommendation, Cat.
    Gran Canaria Local recently posted..Hotel MadridMy Profile

    • Pick up the Jaipur pass while you’re at it – gives you access to the Amer Fort, the observatory and the palace, too!

  6. Wow, what a stunning brothel…I’m not quite ready to make the step to visit, but will be going to Sri Lanka in November….baby steps.
    noel recently posted..A night walking tour in Vienna – Travel Photo MondaysMy Profile

    • I found tourism in India to be well organized, far more than I expected. If you’re in the Golden Triangle, especially (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur). Sri Lanka sounds incredible!

  7. Cat, great choice! Spice market indeed! It looks beautiful! I always want to return every place I visit and delve in deeper.
    Penny Sadler recently posted..Luxury Adventure In Big Sky Country: The Ranch at Rock CreekMy Profile

  8. The Hawa Mahal is definitely a lovely building! I love the photos!
    Micki recently posted..Sri-Lanka: Magic and Majesty at the Esala PeraheraMy Profile

  9. I understand what you mean when you say “one trip to India isn’t enough”. I went when I was 20 yrs old and I’ve been trying to go back ever since. I’m glad you decided to spend your time at the Hawa Mahal instead of shopping. I think it is a magnificent building. Great photos!
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..LOUISIANA: Charmed at the New Orleans Historic Voodoo MuseumMy Profile

  10. Casey is always talking about how there is something about India that stays with you. I haven’t been myself, but we are hoping to get there in 2015. My only concern is that if we do go we may love it so much we may never leave. But then again that may not be a bad thing :-)
    Dan @ A Cruising Couple recently posted..Iguazu Falls Brazil | Witnessing the Power of Nature In PhotosMy Profile

  11. Great pics of a great building! We didn’t get to see inside, but loved ogling from the street.
    Lillie – @WorldLillie recently posted..See Boston By a Fun Harbor Cruise… With Brunch!My Profile

  12. Being an Indian, it’s really great to know that you enjoyed your trip. Agree with you, one trip won’t be enough since there are lot of places to visits. In fact, I myself yet to explore lot of places from India.

  13. Hi there, I am writing a blog post on windows. Love Hawa Mahal and have been looking for some interesting good quality photos. Do you mind if I include a picture from here? Will credit sunshineandsiestas.com of course. Thanks, Ayesha

  14. skipping the elephant ride

    Really is a double-edged sword, how do you protected and preserve elephants?

    Cheers Sharon…
    Sharon recently posted..PowerBreather Swimming Snorkel – Laps & snorkeling will never be the same!My Profile


  1. […] me, this slice of the city felt like the roadside markets of Jaipur, with butchers and barbers sharing sidewalk space. Vespas weaved in and out of the sidewalk […]

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