Where: Delhi, Rajasthan and Agra
When: September & October 2017
What: Forts, forts, and more forts, palaces, searching for Shere Khan, and celebrating our Birthday at one of the wonders of the world
The flight from Amsterdam to Delhi was brilliant, not because Jet Airways did anything particularly special, but because the boys were amazing! Arto had a nap as soon as we were in the air, so was in a great mood for the rest of the flight, and Dylan was in heaven with his own TV screen and remote, and 8 hours of non stop kids films and programmes. Jess and I even managed to take full advantage of the free wine and watched two films each, almost uninterrupted!
We arrived in Delhi at around midnight, and waited for ages to have our visas checked, as expected. The boys were both asleep in the taxi by the time we arrived in our hotel and slept until morning.
We’d written off the next day as a hotel day to acclimatise etc, but we all got ants in our pants, so went off exploring. We got a taxi for the day, first stop was Lodi Gardens, a lovely big green park, perfect for a the kids to have a run around. The gardens contain tombs of various rulers of India, which we unwittingly let the boys climb all over, until the security guard told us what they were! 😬 we’ll blame that on the jet lag! After a lovely lunch at a local restaurant recommended by our driver, we went to Swaminarayan Akshardham, a stunning Hindu house of worship, with beautiful grounds and buildings. After sunset the stepwell in the centre shows the Sahaj Anand light, sound and water show, which tells the story of the gods of the elements celebrating a victory over the demons, it was all in Hindi, but we got the gist, and it was such a spectacle, all four of us loved it. And apparently way better than the sound and light show at the Red Fort, which most tourists go to. Sadly we have no photos as cameras are banned.
The next morning we made an early visit to the Red Fort, we got there by 9am, it was pretty quiet, but already so hot! We manage a quick walk around the grounds while drinking lots of water. Arto is quite enjoying his new celebrity status, everyone wants to shake his hand, give him a cheek tug, take a selfie, Dylan is not up for it at all.
We head back to the hotel to enjoy the air con, and chill there until we have to leave for our overnight train to Udaipur. We booked the train before we arrived in India, knowing that you have to be quick in India, as the trains get booked up fast. We booked first class beds, probably the only time we can afford to pay for first class! Having been on an overnight train in second class in India pre kids, we decided we should ease the boys into it gently, by travelling relatively luxuriously. The train was on time, and so well organised, luckily we got a two bed cabin, so didn’t have to share with anyone else, we each shared a bed with the boys and everyone got a decent night’s sleep.
We arrived in Udaipur at 7am, and got a taxi to Nukkad Guest House. We were very pleased with it, our room was beautiful and bright, the guest house was in a great location, and the family who ran and lived in the guest house were so friendly.
Delhi was really interesting, and a great experience, but we were so pleased to be away from the chaos, and have arrived in such a chilled out place as Udaipur. The whole time we were here was a constant celebration, from Navaratri festival, to Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday, to a Muslim festival, which was definitely the wildest of all!
The next day we visited Saheliyon-ki-Bari gardens with fountains which the boys love splashing around in to keep cool.
In the afternoon we took a boat ride on Lake Pichola to see the floating palace and the beautiful scenery of Udaipur. In the evening we catch some fireworks 💥 to mark the end of Navaratri festival, and find an amazing rooftop restaurant called Chirag’s, the food is delicious, the music is great, and the vibe is very chilled.
The following day we go up on the Udaipur cable car to watch the beautiful sunset over the lake. On the way back to our guest house we discover that everything is closed due to the Muslim festival, and all the power is off, so that the 30 foot statues they are carrying through the streets don’t get caught in live electricity lines. Jess finds a local shop that is making samosas by candlelight, and the boys have corn flakes for dinner!
On our last day in Udaipur we visit the beautiful City Palace, it’s a big open space, so the boys get some exercise, inside it is heaving with tourists so we don’t stay long.
We find a really nice rooftop restaurant for lunch, we’re the only customers, but the food is great. The owner brings his 2 year old son along to play with the boys, and he brings all his toys, so Dylan and Arto are delighted!
For the rest of the afternoon we cool off in a fancy hotel swimming pool while waiting for our late night train to Jaipur. We pay 300 Rs per adult and the kids are free, it’s nice to have access to a decent pool if your accommodation budget doesn’t quite stretch to a hotel fancy enough to have one.
We hadn’t realised when we booked the train that we didn’t have a confirmed seat, but were on a waitlist, when this happens you have to check 4 hours before the train departs to see if you have a confirmed seat, and if not you have until 30 minutes before the train departs to apply for your refund. Luckily our tickets got confirmed. So we had a few hours to have dinner and catch a puppet and dance show before leaving for our train to Jaipur. We opted for first class again, this time we had to share with an elderly couple, who were no trouble at all! We had the top bunks and they had the bottom.
When we arrived in Jaipur we noticed a real difference to Udaipur, as we’d read it was much more crowded and congested, but still nothing on Delhi, so we could handle it, and we were only staying here for two nights, so we got on with what we came to see.
The next morning we found a lovely cafe, Cafe Bae, with air con, an almost entirely western menu, so it was cheating a bit, but it was so nice! The boys had waffles with chocolate and fruit, and there was a soft play area for them. After a very relaxed breakfast we booked an Uber to take us to Galta Ji Monkey Temple, an ancient Hindu pilgrimage site. The boys were very excited, there were thousands of monkeys 🐒 running and jumping all over the place. It was very quiet here and not touristy. We met the famous Monkey Man, who was very happy to show us around and introduce us to his monkeys, though Arto wasn’t very impressed when he got bashed over the head by one!
That evening we went to the Pink City, to see Hawa Mahal and the City Palace, we were a bit late, and both were closed, plus the boys were pretty tired, so we have a quick dinner before going back to the hotel.
The following day we got a driver to take us to Chand Baori stepwell. On the way we needed to stop for snacks and water, the driver got out of the car and got knocked down by a cow that was racing to get out of the way of the traffic, he got hit pretty hard and was understandably a bit pissed off about it, but assured us he was fine. We arrived at the stepwell by 9am and got a local guide to show us around and tell us about the history, but it’s so difficult to listen when you have two wild boys running around, and some pretty large holes in the fence! So we didn’t retain too much of the inforamation he told us. We do know that it has 3,500 steps and was built by King Chandha in AD800/900, and was used as a community gathering place when it was really hot, err so all the time then! It is a very impressive sight.
We headed back to Jaipur and visited the Red Fort, it was amazing, but we arrived in the mid afternoon, and it just wasn’t that enjoyable in heat with crowds of people, so we didn’t stay long. The boys were super excited to see their first elephants, but they weren’t very happy looking ones as they were hauling tourists up the hill. On the way back we stopped for a photo of the fort and we saw a snake charmer, so Jess had to have a closer look.
That evening we got a car out to Chokhi Dhani, which we’d read about in the Lonely Planet, it’s a mock Rajasthani village south of Jaipur and sounded like it would be good for the kids. It was absolutely brilliant! We managed to get the kids in for free, we all got a thali meal included in the price, which was so delicious, and so filling, they just kept piling food on our plates, even the boys enjoyed the food. There was a lot of different entertainment all around the village; magicians, acrobats, wrestlers, a puppet show, horse and camel rides, and a great kids playground. If you ever find yourself in Jaipur, with our without kids, you must come here!
Ranthambore National Park
The next day we catch the train from Jaipur to Sawai Madhophur, to go on safari in Ranthambore National Park, hoping to spot a tiger. It’s quite rare to spot a tiger, so we don’t get the boys too hyped up about it, and instead get them excited about seeing monkeys, deer, and maybe a crocodile. Our hotel is amazing, Tiger Safari Resort, we spend a little more than usual (about £25 per night). There is a pool right outside our lovely room, the staff are incredibly attentive, maybe because we are the only guests here!
The next day we get ready for our afternoon safari, we booked a gypsy, rather than a more expensive jeep, the guide lets us sit up front with the driver so the kids have a better view. We see loads of animals when we enter the park; monkeys, deer, peacocks/hens, wild boar. And about an hour in to the safari Jess spots a tiger! We sit and watch it splash around in the water for about 15 minutes, before it meanders off into the jungle. It turns out we are the only vehicle in our zone to spot a tiger so we count ourselves very lucky.
The next morning we have another early safari booked, we thought we’d book two to increase our chances of spotting a tiger, though the pressure was now off! We were lucky enough to spot another tiger having a lie down in the shade, though not as close up as the day before.
That afternoon we celebrate Dylan’s Birthday (and mine!) a few days early with a pool party, complete with pass the parcel, musical statues, party food, and a massive chocolate cake that the friendly hotel owners helped us to find.
Jess goes out to buy beer and the shop owner doesn’t have any cold ones, so leaves Jess in charge of his shop while he goes to get some. Jess has lots of customers while he’s gone, none of whom speak English, so they help themselves to what they need and put the money in the pot!
The next morning we are waitlisted for a train from Jaipur to Agra, we find out the night before that our seats are confirmed, but also that the train is a few hours late, luckily we can stay in our room until the train is due, as it turns out to be about 4 hours late, so we are very glad not to be sitting at the station for all that time.
We arrive in Agra that evening. We get up early the next morning to see the Taj at sunrise. When the security guard checks my bag she finds Arto’s tiny toy plastic frog inside, toys are apparently banned inside the grounds, no matter how harmless they appear! But after many many tears the security guard takes pity on Arto and let’s us take it in as long as we promise to keep it in the bag. We all move on and walk in to see the fabulous Taj Mahal in all its glory.
It’s such an amazing site, and a pretty awesome place to spend our Birthday, possibly slightly lost on Dylan, but I’m sure he’ll look back when he’s older and appreciate what a cool place it is to turn 4. For now he’s much more excited by the promise of ice cream for lunch. Later that afternoon we visit the Red Fort, the boys love it, it’s nearly sunset, it’s not too hot, and they can run around to their hearts content. That evening we get a takeaway in our room and watch cartoons, and Jess treats me to a couple of cans of extra strong 9% Tuborg for my Birthday, because that’s all we can find!
We spent a lot of time debating about where to go next; we really wanted to go and chill out at the beach, but the weather forecast for Goa was for heavy rain and thunderstorms, but we decide to take a chance on it being wrong, and the next day we get a car to Delhi airport and a flight to Goa.
Delhi, Rajasthan and Agra were absolutely amazing, we saw so much, and had a great experience. But we did it all pretty fast, and moved around a lot, and now we really feel like we need to slow down and chill out.
- Sahaj Anand light, water and sound show at Swaminarayan Akshardham
- Early morning sightseeing, after 10am, we were all too hot to be walking around a Fort.
- Nukkad Guest House, Udaipur, lovely family run Guest House with beautiful rooms
- Chirag’s rooftop restaurant, Udaipur, chilled out place with great food
- Chokhi Dhani, near Jaipur, just go, it’s brilliant!
- Tiger Safari resort, Ranthambore, lovely hotel with pool