img_6605Good friends of ours told us before they left Mumbai that any Indian tourist attraction could be “done” in 24-48 hours max. This was music to our ears! With 3 young children at our heels but a keen desire to explore India as much as possible during our time here we were skeptical about how much we would actually get to see. It’s a rule we have stuck to, and apart from extended weekends in Goa its worked for us.

Thanks to their advice we started our mission to visit as much as we could within our capabilities. We “did” Jaipur in a weekend.

Jaipur is a great city to explore especially in a couple of days and a wonderful introduction to Rajasthan. It’s easily accessible from Mumbai and we chose to take an early morning flight to make use of the day and children who wake early anyway. We arrived in Jaipur at about 7.30 am (its only a short 1 hour flight from Mumbai). Jaipur’s main attraction is the Amber Fort, which is stunning and was my first experience of an Indian Fort. I loved it.

Our plan was to get to the Amber Fort early take an elephant ride up to the Fort before checking into our hotel, The Tree of Life.   The hotel arranged for a car and a guide to meet us at the airport, as we drove through Jaipur in the early morning we loved seeing the lake and then drove the 20 minutes out of the city to get to Amber Fort, at which point the guide informed us (looking at the queue) there would be a 2-3 hour wait for an elephant ride up to the Fort. Sorry kids! We just couldn’t hang around that long and in the already hot day. We saw the coach loads of western tourists bake in the hot Rajasthani sun waiting for their elephant ride, which was part of “the package” no doubt. I have since heard that the queues start in the early hours of the morning. No thank you! We promised the children that we would try for an elephant ride another time. So we drove up the Fort and our guide took us inside.

It was fabulous. I loved the openness of the Fort; we saw all the elephants arrive on the parade ground. The children ran around while the guide organised our tickets. We had a good guide who, whilst knowledgeable, was also understanding of children and we asked him to keep the tour brief and child friendly. He made sure we were not following the crowds of large tour groups or being pestered by local tourists for photos. I enjoyed learning about the history of the Fort, its battles, Maharajas, wives and children. How wealthy the royal families were, it’s hard to believe the riches the Kings had and yet its not obvious when you look at the city itself. Not unlike Mumbai or India of today – so much extravagance at one end, and immense poverty at the other.

Still, our children enjoyed hiding and running between the pillars, watching the elephants climbing their trails (with tourists on their back) up to the Fort from small windows in towers high up in the Fort. I loved the architecture and the colours and its great that the children can run around this historical sight and see how Kings and Queens lived centuries ago.

The day got hotter and we soon realised the children were starting to get frustrated and bored at being photographed by strangers and we were all in need of snacks. So we headed back to the car.

We came prepared, brought snacks and drinks, including food for my baby boy so we could eat on the run. We drove back to Jaipur city, known as the Pink City and visited the City Palace.

The City Palace was also stunning, great architecture and this time there was an emporium inside which all guides must take you to, although you are not obliged to buy anything. We watched artists drawing and saw instruments, plus the usual puppets, shawls on sale.

After visiting these two sights in one morning, we took our little travellers back to the hotel (Tree of Life) for some much needed pool time, where we spent the rest of the day

The Tree of Life was a great find. We really enjoyed staying here, the main reasons being we had so much space. I was getting disheartened looking at the larger branded hotel websites for Jaipur and was surprised at the cost of the hotels and the size of the rooms. We would have had to take 2 rooms and with such small children I was reluctant to do so. At the Tree of Life, we could book a one bedroomed garden villa for the same price as a regular room at the ITC for example…

This proved to be the best decision. The Tree of Life is about 20 minutes out of Jaipur on the Amber Fort side, so heading into the countryside. We saw goat herders, wild peacocks, and people working in the fields. We slowly started to unwind as we reached the hotel. We spent the rest of the day around the pool while the children played. Dinner in the main hotel area was good too. Really nice food and the staff were very attentive and even offered to walk my son’s pushchair around while we ate our dinner.   After the girls ate they were able to run around outside the restaurant, which was a stand-alone building in the grounds of the hotel, we could watch them from all of the windows. They were exploring the statues, paths and stepping-stones.

The following morning we had breakfast and took a drive into Jaipur again to look a some of the shops. We found a block printing shop that showed us the process of block printing which I find fascinating. Its worth a wander around the local shops, we bought puppets for the children and some fabrics, including a hanging for a doorway in the girls bedroom.

We really enjoyed our weekend in Jaipur – our first taste of Rajasthan.  I think the key is to keep it short and sweet.

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