Sir, Mam have you been happy with the service, do you like ….…. It was something that was becoming a familiar question and certainly a way to put me off my breakfast. Basically we were starting to feel that nothing was for free in India and everything came at a cost or was it time for us to start playing hard ball……..
Early start with the kids all geared up for a 4 hour drive from Ranthambhore to Jaipur and with limited resources to entertain the kids they are happy to get out their travel journals and do some English lessons and a little of Math. Jaipur seemed more modern and the streets less littered with rubbish, still plenty of cows on the roads to avoid, fantastic bakeries and other western eateries to temp us on our 3 day stay in Jaipur. We were happy to arrive at our Hilton Hotel (last free Hilton in India) looking rather dusty, scruffy and unkempt we were presented with a lovely Mango cocktail to ease us into the environment and straight away headed to the pool for a refreshing dip as the temperature had lifted. We were all excited to be in Jaipur but especially Arabella as it is labelled "The Pink City".
Babu picked us up and drove us to a complementary evening the tour company had paid for us to attend. What can I say!!! The evening we go on is the 2nd October a public holiday to commemorate Ghandi's Birthday. The place full of Indian tourists we stood out like sore thumbs and all I can say is it was like a really bad mock up culture village / fair with fire eaters, Indian dances, fortune tellers, tightrope walkers, elephant rides etc and the cultural meal we were provided with was like eating spicy wallpaper paste. Asked by Babu if we liked it we said it was an experience for the kids and left it at that……
Man it is hot!!!!! 10 am and dripping with sweat sitting on top of an elephant going up a steep hill for 20min was great and Amber Fort was a welcome site on top of the mountain with a cool breeze. A little light entertainment was Luca charming a cobra with a snake charmer and once charmed stroking the cobra, he loved the experience so much he wouldn't stop talking about buying a snake charming flute for the car journey back into Jaipur.
Been getting a little sick our town guides choosing where we eat but not many options sometime so had to stomach another Indian, you tire of eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner and its only been a week! We pulled up to be greeted at the door by a dwarf dressed in full traditional Indian costume it provided a little entertainment for Luca, then we sat down to an old fella playing a traditional flute and young boy spinning around. The Kebab's were good but no tips for the added entertainment as could have done with peace and quiet!
Far too hot for us all we quickly checked out Jantar Mantar and passed on the city palace and headed back to the hotel to embrace the pool.
Sunday was to be a day off and more relaxed. It was great Babu drove us to a shop called Big Bazaar it sold everything, we bought a large stash of pencils, rubbers and sharpeners for our school visit we are hoping to do and some cheap clothing for the kids. Back to the Pink City to try and find a snake charmer I met the day before to see if he would sell us his pipe and he did, one very happy Luca trumping on it in the car, I'm sure it did Babu's head in but provided some light entertainment for us all.
We woke up on the following day, the doorbell rang early, it was the birthday cake we order for Lucas birthday. We had brought some candles from the UK, insert 6 and proceed to wake up Luca to the sounds of Happy Birthday, no better way to start a birthday than eating chocolate cake in bed.
It's difficult having birthdays aboard and we wanted to make the day as special as possible, down at breakfast they wrote happy birthday into his coffee.
We then went on a 3hr drive to Pushkar.
We had been given several warnings around the amount of hassle and were not looking forward to wandering around the place. Check-in to our hotel, it was too hot to venture out and decided to meet the driver later and Luca wanted to spend the afternoon in the pool.
Late afternoon headed into town and was pleasantly surprised, it had a very laid back hippy feel to the town that was strictly vegetarian and no alcohol place, Pushkar is a Holy place for Hindus and walking round was hassle free and the first time we got to wander freely through the bazaars.
One rule we had on your birthday was that you could choose where to eat (Luca was convinced that he could control what we ate also), initially we wanted to eat near the hotel but Luca was determined to head into town, completely unprepared for mosquitos we headed in and found a wood fired pizza place which made the most fantastic pizzas, good choice Luca!! We decided to get an auto rickshaw back to the hotel, the driver let me drive it back part of the way but the highlight came when the driver asked Luca to drive it, the driver placed Luca at the helm and stepped out of the Rickshaw, at this point Luca was driving solo, with banging techno pumping out, what a way to finish a birthday. We have to thank Luca that night for giving us confidence to step out of our comfort zone and venture out independently, we have never looked back from this point and made a commitment to be more in adventurous.
Next was Udaipur the lake city, the tour company had booked a hotel on the waters edge, truly stunning views from the room.
With our new found confidence we headed into town to visit the bazaars, Arabella was after a handbag similar to the one Maddalena bought in Pushkar, Edwina had seen a few days ago a cow she loved but didn't buy it, she is now on the browse for a cow but nothing seems to match the standards of the first cow. Arabella and Maddalena got their first henna tattoo, Luca joined in with a henna gecko on his arm.
Went to dinner at Ambrai the most magical setting on the lake with views of city and palace the food was great and Arabella gave the thumbs to eating Goat.
Having ventured around city palace, temple and boat cruise on lake, everything seems to be starting to merge into one, although the tour was I would say a necessity at the start I feel we could do with being more independent but not at the point of using public transport. So we sacked in the last stop on the tour and head to the Lotus café for a yummy lunch, kids got jacket potatoes with baked beans which seemed like heaven for them.
Heading back to the hotel via the markets where once again the kids got to practice their bartering skills. The hunt for the cow resumed…….