Jaipur with Kids
The drive from Jodhpur to Jaipur took around 6 hours. We arrived at our hotel around 4pm. Jaipur is the largest city in Rajasthan – and the hottest place we have visited so far. We stayed here for 3 nights.
We were staying at the Rajvillas – the first of the Oberoi hotels to be built.
We knew we were going to be in a suite….but on arrival were upgraded to the Kohinoor Villa…..which consisted of the ridiculously cramped 11,000 sq feet of accommodation and a 20m private pool in its own courtyard! The joys of travelling off season!
The suite was RIDICULOUSLY large, and far more lavish than we needed. But we dug deep and made the best of it.
The hotel does tented accommodation that I tried to book, but unfortunately its only available outside the monsoon season.
Elephant Safari to Naila Fort
The hotel provides Elephant Safaris to the Naila Fort – (one of) the private residences of Mr Oberoi, the owner of the hotel chain (I booked this by mistake, thinking that we were visiting The Amer fort).
This was quite an expensive mistake, as each elephant cost about £190. Whoops.
The Naila Fort is about 30 minutes from the Rajvillas – we were driven to a small village a few miles from the fort, and within minutes were on top of two Elephants ambling through the village and in to the Rajasthan countryside.
We plodded on for about 30-45 minutes, through beautiful countyside. It was nice seeing rural Rajasthan up close, and people just going about their daily business. At the end of the elephant ride, we were whisked by car up to the fort.
To be honest, we were not that interested in it, but were obliged to oo and ahh as the custodians showed us round. Mr Oberoi is very much revered by his staff, and they are clearly very proud. It is an impressive renovation – the Fort was derelict having been looted and plundered. It was subject to stringent planning restrictions (including the number of visitors it can take each year).
The Rajvillas design was inspired by this hotel, so its like a mini version of the main hotel buildings. Obviously the private quarters were out of bounds to us.
We admired the views and the architecture, then had lunch in one of the courtyards. The kids loved the elephant ride so although not what we expected, not the end of the world.
Elephantastic: Elephant Farm and Sanctuary
The kids had such a great time with the elephants, so that night I contacted the owner of Elephantastic to see if we could visit the Elephant sanctuary just outside Jaipur. Half a dozen emails back and forward and early the next morning we were on our way.
We arrived at the farm around 9.00am, and after a brief chat with Rahul the owner, were immediately put to work feeding the elephants. The handlers encourage you to get up close and personal to the elephants – give them lots of eye contact, and speak to them, stroking them…and of course feeding them – apparently the way to an elephants heart is through its stomach!
We introduced ourselves to our elephants, talking and giving eye contact.
Tentatively feeding them…..
We did this for about an hour and a half, before Rahul brought out natural paints for us to paint them. By this stage we felt completely comfortable around the elephants.
And during the whole thing the elephants continued to munch.
Washing and drinking
Painting done, it was time to give the Elephants a drink from the hose, and washing them clean.
We walked with them bareback, which was fabulous, but not the most comfortable, before a blanket was placed on their backs and we took a much longer walk out into the fields. To be honest, not a huge amount more comfy than just bareback – but loads more fun than the previous day, when we had travelled in comfort on the Howdahs (elephant saddles).
When the Elephant session was over, we sadly bid farewell to our new friends and were driven to Rahuls house where his mother gave us a traditional lunch. She is extremely proud of her son. She only has limited english, so chatting with her wasn’t too easy. Abbi ate 5 of her Chappatis, making her very happy. This meal was a really nice way to end the experience.
Elephantastic is an amazing experience and I would recommend it to any age group. A true highlight of our trip.
Other organisations in India and South East Asia run Elephants farms. Ive heard terrible things about how the animals are treated…and its more like a circus. Don’t confuse Elephantastic with these organisations. From the outset, its clear that the needs of the elephants here come first. Elephantastic is an elephant sanctuary first, and a tourist experience second. This remains the favourite thing that we did in our whole India trip.
The City Palace
Feeling like we needed to do something cultural (lounging around the hotel doesn’t count kids!), we dragged the kids away from the pool to the City Palace museum. I will be kind, and say it was underwhelming.
Having been wowed by the architectural details and splendour of other forts and palaces, this seemed like a real let down (and far pricier than any of the other places we visited).
The museum makes as much as it can of a rag bag of not particularly interesting clothing items and articles. The munitions room is more interesting – though the weather was sweltering when we visited…so we tended to be more interest in the exhibits near the fans! We took the audio tour…which even manages to take you through the vastly overpriced gift shop a few times!
The Throne room is interesting, (although no photos are permitted in here), and the giant silver water vessels are mildly interesting, but really this not something we will remember. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone if they have visited other parts of Rajisthan.
The Tripolia Bazar
Directly outside the city palace, and lining road to its entry, is the Triploia Bazar. Covered walkways give some respite from the intense jaipur heat, and the bazar provides all manner of traders. Its chaos on the street with cars, yuk tuks and rickshaws all driving and parking haphazardly. On the pavements its just as chaotic.
We wandered around here for an hour or so, running the gauntlet of shop keepers trying to lure us into their stores.
Unlucky for them we were just browsing this time.