3rd May, 2018
So the tour had officially begun. We had a big 7 seater people mover, a lovely driver named Toteram, NO idea what was in store for us – but were ready to hit the frog and toad and take on Incredible India…!
The “Golden Triangle” is a popular route in India for tourists and is an ideal for those on a tight timeframe. It covers Delhi, Agra and Jaipur and can be done in 3-4 days.
Seeing as we had a bit more time on our hands, and we like to travel a little slower with the kids, we decided to take on Rajasthan. Head a little further out, and see as much as we could. Rajasthan is a region in Northern India and borders Pakistan.
Our itinerary looked a little something like this-
PUSHKAR: 2 nights at Countryside Hotel in a family room with Indian breakfast
JAIPUR: 2 nights at Crimson Heritage Hotel (FAVE!!) in family suite with Indian breakfast
UDAIPUR: 3 nights at Hotel Gaj Vilas in a family room with Indian breakfast. BRILLIANT view from the roof top restaurant!
JODHPUR: 2 nights at Heritage Kuchaman Haveli Hotel in a family room with Indian breakfast
JAISALMER: 2 nights at The Royale Jaisalmer and 1 night Camel Safari in the desert including dinner and breakfast
BIKANER: 1 night Hotel Sagar (SECOND FAVE!) en route back to Delhi. Family room with breakfast
Note: Usually the Rajasthan tour would have stopped in Jaipur first and then Pushkar, but the Heritage Hotel we really wanted to stay at wasn’t available, so we had to do them in reverse which meant two very long days in the car (8+ hours)…but it was worth it as the hotel was wonderful, and the long drives gave the kids plenty of time to read and do school work..(silver lining…)
A holy city set on Pushkar Lake. To be honest, it took us a little while to warm up to Pushkar. This was due to us being taken for a ride on our first morning at the lake, where we ended up partaking in a “blessing ceremony” with a “Priest” – we later realised it was all just a money-maker, and he was in fact, NOT a Priest. Rookie error. This put a pretty sour taste in our mouths…but we got past it and began to really enjoy the culture and chilled out atmosphere that Pushkar offers.
There were quite a few young, hippy folk in Pushkar. Each night locals and tourists would gather around the lake to watch the beautiful sunset.
Buskers would play music, and juggle flaming batons. There were wild cows, goats, monkeys and dogs wandering around freely.
The markets in Pushkar were some of the best we saw in India. Scarves, clothing, shoes, crystals, jewellery, fabric and much more. Haggling is of course customary, and the stall holders love to have some fun with tourists.
JAIPUR – THE PINK CITY:
From the moment we pulled into Jaipur, I knew we were going to enjoy our time here. We were now into our 2nd week in India and were used to the sights and smells. Nothing could shock us!
Jaipur is known as the Pink City. In the centre of town, all buildings are the same pink-ish colour. It is actually more a terracotta than a pink, but still very pretty.
Points of Interest:
We explored the city visiting the Hawa Mahal “Palace of the Winds”. Absolutely gorgeous!
We also visited the Jantar Mantar monument which is a ginormous sundial and really very interesting to see.
Jal Mahal “Water Palace” was also lovely to visit early evening. Jal Mahal is a palace in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake.
We didn’t bother with the City Palace in Jaipur as they were charging $160AUD for our family of 4. (Even more than the Taj!!!)
Panna Meena ka Kund was a lucky drive-by find for us one morning. A huge step wall and rainwater catchment. You can swim too, if you dare. We didn’t!
UDAIPUR – CITY OF LAKES:
Udaipur was probably my very favourite of all the towns and cities we covered in Rajasthan. I had no expectations, and arriving into the city fondly known as the “Kashmir of Rajasthan”, I was in awe of just how beautiful it was.
Set around a series of man-made lakes and over looking palaces and gardens. The architecture was stunning and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Venice!
We enjoyed wandering the bridges over the water and the quaint little streets by the lake. There is so much to see.
Points of Interest:
I was most looking forward to visiting the Udaipur City Palace, and it did not disappoint! So incredibly beautiful and a must see, in my opinion!
We also visited the Monsoon Palace at the top of the hill with the best views of Udaipur. The Palace itself was very rundown, but the view was worth the trip.
JODHPUR – THE BLUE CITY:
As we were approaching Jodhpur, Andrew was beginning to feel unwell, so we spent some time in the hotel, room service and resting. We did manage to venture out late one afternoon and do some exploring.
Points of Interest:
Jaswant Thada Palace was one of the most beautiful Palaces we visited in all of Rajasthan. The gardens were immaculate and the Palace itself was absolutely stunning.
Mehrangarh Fort was incredible and HUGE. The audio tour guides provided were very helpful. There was a Bollywood movie being filmed there at the time of our visit, so we were also able to see props and cameras all set up in preparation for the evening filming. You could spend all day wandering around the Mehrangarh Fort. The views of the old town painted blue from the top were just magic!
JAISALMER – THE GOLDEN CITY:
We had all been really looking forward to this leg of the tour. Jaisalmer is a desert city. It felt like we had been teleported back in time. Unfortunately, Andrew got worse once we’d arrived and we had to call for the Doctor. The staff at the hotel were amazing and took such great care of him, and thankfully he was better in about 36hrs after some antibiotics and Indian remedies.
We didn’t get to do much sight seeing here, but we did enjoy a fabulous rooftop party at our hotel one evening. The hotel owner was hosting a family reunion and invited us all along. The Indians sure do know how to party!
The next day, we drove for an hour out of Jaisalmer city where we spent the night under the stars in the desert bordering Pakistan.
We rode our new camel friends for about 45 minutes to our campsite where we set up our stretcher beds, whilst the hosts setup a campfire made from dried camel dung…(YEP!)…and they also cooked our dinner over that same fire!
After dinner, we all snuggled up in bed watching the stars shooting overhead whilst listening to the hosts singing by the campfire. It really was a magical moment for us all and such a great and unique experience. We loved it!!
By the time we had reached Bikaner, the last night of the tour, we were all pretty exhausted. We were only here for a stop over to break up the huge drive back to Delhi from Jaisalmer. We invited our driver to have dinner with us at the hotel where we had the best food of the whole tour – accompanied by a few King Fisher beers. Yep, I now drink beer…who am I?!
The next day – we drove over 10 hours back to Delhi.
India is not for the faint hearted. We witnessed things in India that we will never ever forget, both good and bad.
The constant waft of animal dung and human urine in the streets can be unbearable at times. The lack of hygiene and the constant worry about what you’re eating, can all become too tiring, but this country – sweet, sweet India, gave us all so many memories and stories to share with family and friends in years to come. I am extremely grateful to have been able to visit with our children.
Our two are 10 and 11, and I probably wouldn’t recommend visiting India with children under the age of 8. This is just my opinion, and I am sure there are other travellers who have done it (and probably loved it), but I wouldn’t recommend bringing little ones here, especially those requiring prams and car seats. It’s all just too much.
We chose to go vegetarian for our time in India and it proved to be a very wise choice for us all. Hygiene is very poor, so one must always have their wits about them when dining. We stuck to rice dishes, paratha (flat bread with mixed fillings), vegetarian curries and daahl (lentil curry) and we had so many delicious meals. We didn’t eat from any street vendors, only from restaurants and hotels. Thankfully our driver always knew the best places for the tourists.
Food is cheap – and around $25-$30AUD for dinner for our family of 4.
The most expensive meal we paid for on tour was $80AUD for our last night in Bikaner, and that included our family of 4, plus our driver. Main meal, desert and drinks.
Only drink bottled water, and even then, you must be careful. I would recommend only drinking water manufactured by Coca-Cola, Pepsi and King Fisher.
Many bathrooms in India have a shower, but also a tap at knee level if you so chose to have a “Bucket Bath”. We actually had to do this a few times as the hot water runs out verrrry quickly! What is a bucket bath you ask? Simply lather yourself up, fill the bucket and rinse off. Definitely not for everyone, but we were fine and learnt to appreciate the small things that most of us all take for granted – like endless hot water.
Unlike other parts of South East Asia – there aren’t laundries on every corner, so washing can be a little tricky. I carry little sachets of washing powder with me, so I was able to wash our small goods a few times, but the bigger items just had to wait.
Wifi and reception are very poor in the Rajasthan region. We bought sim cards at the airport for around $20AUD each, which gave Andrew and I 1GB each day to use. This was usually ample, apart from those days when we were driving for 8 or more hours when I used all my allowance by midday!!!
India is densely populated with over 1.8 million people living on the streets.
There are over 150,000 homeless children in Delhi alone. It is very sad to see young mothers and naked babies curled up sleeping on the side of the road. Young children banging on car doors begging for money and food. It is far worse than any other country we have visited.
I read this article, which got me thinking.
We chose to not give money to the begging children, but instead, we gave food. Nothing packaged that they could then resell, but cookies and crackers and I watched them eat it as quickly as they snatched it from my hand.
Booking a Private Tour:
In my opinion – travelling India without a driver would be quite hard. Catching trains wasn’t on the cards for us with kids, nor were the busses, so a private tour with a knowledge driver was a brilliant option.
We paid extra to have a larger 7 seat car for all our luggage and this also allowed us to all spread out a little on those long stretches. A tour can be built around your timeframe, budget etc.
For a tour similar to ours for approximately 2 weeks including all accommodation, Camel camp safari and private driver you’re looking to pay between $2,500AUD and $4,500 depending on accommodation type.
Tour Company Information:
Travel India One Day
Contact Person: Abdul
WhatsApp: +91 98111 71786
(Tell him I sent you, he will look after you..)
We ended our time in India with a few nights at the Shangri-La Eros Hotel and the first thing we all did was each have a long soak in the bath tub!
As soon as we hit up the buffet breakfast, we were no longer on the vegetarian train. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the kids run towards the bacon station so fast in their lives!
It was the perfect way to round off a big few weeks.
India is full of surprises.
It is a beautiful country of chaos, colour, history, tradition, poverty, wealth, sadness and joy all rolled into one.
If you are lucky enough to get there one day, enjoy!!
Next stop, Bali.
Team Barnes xx