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Jaipur Cycle Tour: testing my mettle in the frantic Pink City

The iconic Hawa Mahal in Jaipur

The Jaipur Cycle Tour is not for the fainthearted – but is it worth the panic? Kia finds out

The legend of Jaipur is that it’s India’s first planned city. Historians will tell you that its founder – scholarly prince Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II – was passionate about astronomy, mathematics and science, that he studied European cities and collected maps from all over the world.

They will tell you that he and esteemed architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharya planned every detail of the city, from the orientation of the gates to the script above each building – all based on Vastu Shastra, an ancient Hindu architectural system that incorporates nature, sunlight and symmetry.

Atlas & Boots
Hawa Mahal upholds the legend of Jaipur

That is the legend of Jaipur. And then there’s the reality. The reality is that you can plan a city to perfection, you can build a grid of streets to exact 110ft measurements, and ring that grid with 20ft-high walls – but you can’t control what fills these streets once you have finished. 

What fills the streets of Jaipur is teeming traffic, dense crowds, overzealous traders, barking dogs and wayward cows. The famed pink of the Pink City is actually a murky terracotta thanks to an 1876 visit from the Prince of Wales when the city was repainted as a sign of hospitality and to absorb the glaring sunlight.

The murky terracotta of the famed Pink CityThe murky terracotta of the famed Pink City
Atlas & Boots The murky terracotta of the famed Pink City

So, at the risk of sounding like an ingrate tourist, there is quite a chasm between the legend and the reality of the famed Pink City. You’ll understand my trepidation, then, when I was faced with the prospect of a three-hour Jaipur Cycle Tour. 

My lack of cycling skills has been well documented here at Atlas & Boots. In short, I only learnt to ride at the age of 28 and have fallen off my bike in some of the most beautiful places in the world – among them, Bora Bora, the Galápagos and Cambodia, the last of which has left me with literal scars. 

As such, I was understandably apprehensive about the Jaipur Cycle Tour. Offered as an optional activity on our G Adventures Essential India tour, it was easily avoidable. It was only when our guide told me that previous guests had raved about the tour that I agreed to go. 

Our group gathered outside our hotel in the predawn darkness to meet our cycling guide. The 6am start was strategic; it allowed us…

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