Holi with kids

Week 7 Travel Update: Enjoying Rajasthan and Celebrating Holi


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The thing about long term travel is that you can really only focus on one country at a time.  While, we were in Mexico I spent my evenings planning where to stay and what to do in Mexico.  That meant we landed in India with only a very rough idea of our itinerary.

In our first trip to India in 2016 we had stayed in southern India, known to be much quieter and more relaxed than the rest of India.  On this trip, I knew we couldn’t take two trips to India without visiting the Taj Mahal.  So I knew the Taj would be on our itinerary and we figured the palaces and forts of Rajasthan would nicely round out our trip.rajasthan with kids

Luckily, we continued to be greeted with warmth and kindness as we continued our travels in India.  We didn’t experience any further scams.  Okay, there was the time the sweet shop ripped me off.  But I had just found out about my new niece being born, so even that didn’t make me too mad.

Read last week’s update here.

After Agra, we took our second train of the trip to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan.  Travelling by train in India is always an interesting affair and once again we had tickets in the cheapest class.  Jammed into our seats, the air rushing by our faces, the many vendors passing by and of course lots of stares, all create an experience that only happens in India.

After Jaipur, we continued on again by train to the “Venice of India”, Udaipur.  While we enjoyed everything we did in Udaipur, it was celebrating Holi there that will leave us with the best memories.

The Pink City of Jaipur

Jaipur with kids

Jaipur was our first introduction to the majesty of Rajasthan.  The heart of Jaipur is the walled pink city (old city) which is more orange hued than pink.  Its streets buzz with activity and we had fun looking around the bazaars.  Although never letting our eyes linger too long on any one item, lest the shop keeper think we are interested.

We have also learned in India to try not to stop moving ever.  If we stop to discuss where we are going, which direction we need to go, we will inadvertently invite a “friendly helper” or tuk tuk driver to stop by to take us somewhere.  So even when we are lost, we try to keep moving.

As you can imagine, crossing the street in India can be challenging – dodging cars, motorbikes, tuk-tuks, cows and more.  We might finally see our break in the chaos to go, then a random tuk tuk drive pulls up to offer us a ride, blocking our path, and then our break is gone.  We have become quite swift at waving them by as they slow beside us.

Jaipur’s most recognizable building is the unique Hawa Mahal with its exotic screens that ladies of the Royal household could look out from.  Ella certainly has noticed the historic role of women in India, as well as the modern-day challenges of women.  Understandably as a tween, it angers her greatly to see the lack of opportunities women have in many parts of India.

The City Palace

My friend Kyla from Where is the World visited Rajasthan last year with her family and her blog has been a treasure trove of tips for us.  On our visit to the City Palace she had recommended the children’s activity books you can purchase at the gift shop.  Our kids spent hours exploring the City Palace finding the answers to the questions and problems in their books.  Every day really is a huge field trip for these kids and I love hearing the little tidbits they retain days later.

Amber Fort

Located just outside Jaipur is the magnificent Amber Fort, an extensive palace complex.  Indian truly is one of the most inexpensive countries to travel in.  We hired a tuk tuk driver for the whole day, which cost us a measly $12 CAD.  The sandstone Fort is quite the exotic sight with elephants taking visitors to the Fort entrance.  We opted to walk instead, through the snake charmers, musicians, and the ever present vendors.Amber Fort with kids

Usually hiring a guide is outside of our budget and we get by, by using our guidebook to tour around.  In India, you will pay $4-6 CAD for an hour guided tour, which we have found to be really informative.  The guide we hired in Amber had been guiding here for 50 years and wanted to make sure we got lots of good photographs.  He would shout at people to get out of the way as he took various photos.  We were reminded how much less direct we are as Canadians!  The Hall of Victory with mirror work was my favourite, although each area was exquisite.

Our Introduction to Block Printing

Block printing on textiles is a local art here and at the Anokhi Museum in Amber we got to see demonstrations of how they make the stamps and do the printing.  The kids got to get involved and help out.  This is a great alternative to the more expensive half day block printing workshops that you can do when you are in Jaipur.

Jantar Mantar

Jantar Mantar is an observatory started by the Maharajah in 1728 and has lots of huge structures to learn about.  The kids love science and were interested to hear how the various devices worked.  Some of it was over their heads (and mine!), but it just builds on their interest in astronomy.Jantar Mantar Jaipur

Our Favourite Foods in Jaipur

The guidebook raved about a hole in the wall shop that produces the best lassis in town, called Lassiwalla.  No need to choose which flavour or sit down.  It just comes in one flavour – sweet, in two sizes to choose from, in a clay cup.lassiwalla Jaipur

One night we treated ourselves to dessert at our favourite restaurant, Peacock Restaurant at the Pearl Palace Hotel and it was so nice to try some Indian specialties like kulfi and a vermicelli pudding with spices.Indian desserts

Shopping Extravaganza

Jaipur is known for its shopping and you can visit many export shops here.  Ella was all into the shopping and the boys were surprisingly co-operative as we cruised from shop to shop.  We almost got a rug made, but glad we walked out of that at the last minute!  We weren’t even shopping for a rug!shopping in Jaipur

Mostly we got gorgeous textiles, including gorgeous cotton clothes from Anokhi.  We bought so much that we had to buy and extra bag, that we are now totting around.  I am not usually much of a shopper, but the products were so nice and so cheap.

Celebrating HoliHoli powders

While planning our trip I found out that we would coincidentally be in India for Holi and was stoked.  I didn’t know much about Holi, but had seen lots of colourful photos on Instagram and it looked like a really fun holiday to experience, especially with kids.  Of course being the researcher I am, I tried to determine the best place to be in India for Holi for visitors and thought about adjusting our itinerary.  In the end I decided to keep our itinerary as planned and we would experience Holi in Udaipur.  It ended up being a great decision because our Holi experience couldn’t have been any better.

Holi marks the beginning of spring in India and is a time to play, spend time with friends and celebrate a good spring harvest.  While “playing Holi” is what gets the most attention from foreigners, the celebrations start the evening before with Holika Dahan.  Luckily we got to experience this in a local way as our guesthouse was located on a courtyard with many local families.  On the day of Holika Dahan, they build a huge pyre and that evening there were elaborate rituals before the fire was lit to symbolize good overcoming evil.  We had fun talking with the local kids and learning about what was occurring.

The next day we put on our newly purchased white clothes, which we knew would get wrecked and waited for the colour fun to begin.  We didn’t really know how it all worked, but we purchased some colour (pigment) and headed out.  We quickly learned that most people would rub pigment on our cheeks while exclaiming “Happy Holi” and then give you a hug.  Of course, the kids got tons of attention and we posed for endless selfies.

I had worried about how intense the whole experience would be, with kids.  For many Holi is a time to get drunk or high and many women tourists had reported being grabbed in large crowds.  Luckily for us, we didn’t experience any of that.  We went out in the morning for 2 hours, didn’t linger too long in large crowds and had versed the kids on what to expect.  As you can see from all the photos, we had an awesome time, although that colour does not come off easily!

Lovely UdaipurUdaipur rooftop

Our stay in Udaipur was wonderful due to two main things: celebrating Holi AND staying in a lovely guesthouse.  It makes all the difference to have a room you like and want to hang out in when travelling and at the Panorama Guesthouse we had a large room with character, all for less than $40 CAD/night!  In addition, it gave us a lovely roof top overlooking the lake where we could watch the sunset, drink beer (rare in India!) and get some work and school done.

Our favourite things we did in Udaipur were visiting the City Palace and a wonderful cooking class with Shashi.  The City Palace is gorgeous and we had a great guide who really engaged the kids.  In our cooking class we spent 5 hours with Shashi learning how to make Indian staples like masala chai, pakoras, chutneys, masala magic sauce (curry base), chapatis, naan and paratha.  It was a bit of a splurge for us, but such a great experience and one that hopefully lives on with our newfound skills.  I also managed to do a morning yoga class in Udaipur outside of a temple, which was a really great experience.

Long term travel isn’t just about sightseeing.  We got one of our backpacks mended, Miles’ shoe repaired and Miles got quite a hair cut.  I do love how everything can be repaired in India.  They really are the originators of upcycling.  We paid $1 CAD to have our backpack repaired, $3 for Miles’ shoe to be repaired and $8 for a tablet charging port to be replaced.  At home, these items would have likely ended up in the garbage and we would have bought new ones.

Another lesson in India is that anything is possible.  Our bathroom was a mess after showering after Holi, so they send someone up to clean it.  We don’t see beer on the menu, but if you ask, it shall appear.  We can’t afford a certain tour, but they discount it to something we can afford.

Where We Stayed this Week

Hotel Kalyan, Jaipur – good budget option with a family room with 2 bedrooms, nice rooftop restaurant and a friendly owner who welcomed us with tea each evening.

Panorama Guesthouse, Udaipur – our favourite guesthouse so far.  Great family room with lots of character in a local neighborhood, but still near to central Udaipur.  Wonderful views from the rooftop restaurant and really nice staff.

Travel Costs This WeekIndia with kids

We have definitely noticed much lower costs in India and are hoping to bring our daily budget under $150 CAD/day.  We aren’t quite there yet.  We are still spending a lot on food and drink each day.  We have been eating at tourist restaurants and the kids often order more expensive Western foods on the menu.  We are back to eating 3 meals out a day, plus a stop for cold drinks.

Total Costs this Week: $1,174 CAD ($168 CAD/day)

Accommodation Costs: $331

Food and Drink Costs: $458

Transport Costs: $110

Entertainment/Activities Cost: $264

Up Next?India with kids

We continue on to Jodhpur, the Blue City of Rajasthan and Jaisalmer, where we hope to go on a camel safari and sleep in the desert.

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