“Kesariya balam.. Padharo mare des.. des re..” (Listen)
I heard this song initially in Balika Vadhu Hindi TV serial few years ago. The setting of the plot is in Rajasthan and this song kept playing as the title track every now and then. Little did I know then, that I would visit the place afterwards.
For the december vacations, many of the friends including travel websites and holiday packages, suggested Rajasthan as the place to go in India during December. Though we hesitated because of the cold weather and how it would affect N, there was no alternative coming up to suit our taste. The Delhi-Agra-Badrinath trip we had in 2009 was tempting now to do a north india tour once again. And so I set off planning the trip, which finally came to six days. Though the itinerary was created, and we went around following the main outline plan, sightseeing plans got topsy turvy but we managed to cover the most important places.
Finally this is what happened.
We, a family of six people(including both sets of parents and N) started on Sunday evening flight from Bangalore to Jaipur and checked into hotel Suryaa Villa for the night. Also, we rented Toyota Innova for the next 2 days.
In the morning, after breakfast, we visited all the forts of Jaipur, Amer fort, Nahargarh fort and then Jaigarh fort and ended up having a late lunch at Rainbow Restaurant on Amer road. In evening, we roamed around Jalmahal before returning to the same hotel to retire for the night.
We drove to Pushkar for visiting the Brahma temple and then came back directly. Though we had plans for visiting Ajmer, the elders were not that interested in ‘unheard’ Jain temples and the mosques.
We had an elaborate and expensive breakfast in Laxmi Misthan Bhandar(LMB) hotel and explored the City Palace afterwards. After covering the nearby Jantar Mantar which was at walkable distance, we had lunch from the City Palace Cafe. Before the end of the day, we also visited the interior windows of the Hawa mahal. Though we had plans of shopping in the bazaar streets, all were tired, and the Jaipur city bazaar crowd deterred us more from venturing.
Starting early at around 5am, we all got into Ranthambore Express train(04821) at 6.10am towards Jodhpur. From the railway station we arranged a Qualis for checking into Mandore Guest House and had lunch. The Qualis taxi driver, Prithvi Singh was so friendly and informative that we engaged him for visiting Mehrangarh fort and Jaswant Thada in the evening, and then returned to the guest house for dinner and rest.
To experience Rajasthani food, we dared to experiment that day without having breakfast at the guest house. The cordial driver showed us some famous sweet shop, but unfortunately it was not open until 10am. So we had some onion kachori, bread kachori, jilebi and gajar halwa to start the day. Afterwards we went to Umaid Bhawan Palace, and then Mandore Gardens, did some shopping, and lunch at Annapurna Restaurant Dhaba, again on the advice of the driver. In evening, we set out to Osian and stopped at Desert Cafe where we hired jeep safari to drive into the desert(which had little shrub vegetation unlike the real sand dunes) and then at the cafe, had tea(Rs.50!!) before driving back to Jodhpur guest house.
Again we started early to board the Jodhpur Indore intercity express train(12466) at 6am to return to Jaipur. Though we had plans in our initial itinerary to cover the places missed out in Jaipur, the elders were tired and the temples and gardens were quite far and not considered that important. So we rested at the railway station itself, before moving to airport in the evening, for the flight back to Bangalore. A better alternative was to board a return flight from Jodhpur , but flight rates were expensive since we booked late.
At Pushkar, a guide who offered the history details of temple and to show around the ghats, cheated us by leading to trap of poojaris asking for money in the name of donations(bhog). This ruined the whole pilgrimage experience, since he excused himself without showing us the actual temple. The highlights at the Umaid Bhawan palace were only the museum showing history and artifacts of the creator Raja Umaid Singh and few vintage cars. Apart from the cars, there was nothing much to see there. At Jantar Mantar, we took a bad decision of taking an audio guide instead of personal guide. It became quite hard to understand the long audio explanations, but we did a workaround, by hovering around the groups roaming with guides to hear bits and pieces of information from them.
Suryaa Villa in Jaipur is a decent heritage hotel, with average rooms, but value for money service. The customer service was very good, the restaurant was OK, and there is outdoor and indoor dining, with an adjacent small swimming pool. They arranged taxis and had good knowledge on the sightseeing. Overall we were very satisfied with the budget hotel.
Mandore Guest House in Mandore is outside the Jodhpur city, but had a very good gardens with ambience. They had total of 16 bungalows, consisting of 3 hut rooms, and other stone cottages, with modern bathrooms. The food in the restaurant was very very good. The drawbacks were inefficient administration (we were presented with some other’s bills twice), and the complete absence of support for pickup from station, considering that the guest house is quite far away from the city central.
A good trip to refresh ourselves before we soak in the new dawn of 2014. The photos are shared in this Flickr set.