We’re awake bright and early, getting ready to visit the on-site temple. I would like to say I had an amazing sleep, which I did for most of the night however the Rajvilas have resident Peacocks and Peahens and June/July is their mating season, so they are pretty vocal in the morning. From 5am these beautiful but horny birds were up and screaming out their mating calls. In the Udaivilas we only heard them every now and then so I can only assume that the Peacocks in Jaipur are much more randy.
We meet Ishveen outside our room who equally heard our feathery neighbours. As I step out, I look up to the roof and see 2 happy Peacocks chilling and watching us. I turn and ask them “why are you being so loud?” Yes, I know they can’t talk to me but they might understand me. I notice one more Peacock sat above Ishveen’s room, so it is like we have one Peacock each. They must know there are females in this block! As noisy as they are I cannot help but feel drawn to these stunningly beautiful creatures. I decide to name our three new pals, so my Peacock is Percy, Dipali’s is Peter and Ishveen’s Peacock is Paresh.
We head to the hotel’s Mandir (Hindu temple) for our welcome blessing. Ishveen makes a clever and quick escape. We didn’t think she wanted to go and laughed at her sneaky plan to avoid it.
Dipali and I arrive and remove our shoes outside the entrance before we enter. We are welcomed by the Pandit (Priest) and a member of staff from the hotel who will help to explain and translate everything. As the ceremony begins we are both quite into it, whilst we understand most of the rituals it was really great to have someone explain everything. I do recommend guests to try this at least once during your stay. It doesn’t matter what religion you follow, the experience allows you to have a spiritual connection to the country. The Pandit then asks us if there is any particular blessing we would like to ask for. I am pleased he asks us because the night before I sadly found out that a colleague of mine lost her battle to cancer and passed away. The funeral is being held whilst I’m still in India so I requested the Pandit to do a blessing for her allowing us to pay our respects to a very brave woman.
Once the ceremony is completed we thank the Pandit and staff and head for breakfast. Ishveen is sat down with one of the hotel managers who has come to meet us. We all order yet another incredible Oberoi breakfast while we chat about the hotel and the area. The hotel manager advises that if we finish our tour in time we can try an experience that is offered to guests, it is an excursion to Naila Fort. The tour allows you to travel like a Maharaja/Maharani (King or Queen) of Rajasthan, travelling to the fort by elephant. When you reach the fort you will have a picnic in a beautiful setting. Hopefully we are back in time to do the Elephant tour but I know that we have a full schedule planned today.
We finish breakfast and make our way to the main entrance where our good friend Ranjit is waiting to take us out. We drive off and after a few minutes we make a quick pit stop to collect our Jaipur guide who will accompany us on our tour. An older man with white hair and a matching white moustache gets into our car, he turns and introduces himself as Bharwani. He asks what we particularly would like to see in Jaipur, we explain that we would prefer to visit the sites that are not too commercial but still historical and beautiful. There is a site that we looked up which has been used as a setting for Bollywood films, the area is called Panna Meena Ka Kund, we tell Bharwani that we would like to visit it, he loves the idea and we head here first.
Panna Meena is located very close to Amer fort so if you are visiting the fort in your trip, try and build this into your tour. If you are a keen photographer this is a great photo opportunity. It consists of loads of zig zagged stairs built around a pool of water. It was built in the sixteenth century for the locals to gather and swim or relax. If you’ve ever seen the movie Labyrinth, in the scene where David Bowie makes Sarah walk all these steps to locate her brother, well, this is what it reminds me of. Apparently they have said that each set of stairs you take, you will not use the same set to go back up or down. Panna Meena is not a popular tourist stop so there are no crowds restricting your view, walking all the steps and exploring. There are similar and bigger sites like this in Rajasthan however because they are more popular than this there are a lot of barriers restricting your views. We have the whole place to ourselves and take loads of pictures, you can see Amer Fort from the top of the steps. There is a small group of men on one side that are performing a religious ritual. Bharwani explains to me that there must have been a death in the family and these men are performing the last rites.
We left the Kund and got back into the car, as we drive we notice the Anokhi Museum. This is another great place to visit if you are into art and block painting which is used on the fabrics that are widely sold in Rajasthan. Anokhi also have stores in some of the major cities in India. Both Dipali and I, during our stay at the Oberoi hotels have told Ishveen that we are in love with the robes at the hotel. It is not your typical bath robe, it is a lighter material with a beautiful design and as soon as you put it on, you just want to go to sleep. Ishveen has told us that the design is a typical style for the Oberoi group and the staff uniforms are designed with a similar theme. The great part is Anokhi are the designers of the robes and uniforms and there is a huge store in Jaipur, I didn’t even realise until now that they had a museum, so when we saw it we all shrieked in excitement making Bharwani jump out of his skin. As we approach we notice that it is sadly closed so the excitement wears off quickly, although we still have the store to visit later.
Bharwani tells us that he will take us elsewhere for a good photo stop so after driving for a few minutes we stop at Hanuman Sagar Lake. In reaching the lake, there is an elderly lady watching us park up; she has a surprised look on her face in seeing tourists here. She makes a bee line for us, as this is a great sales opportunity for her. She approaches us and asks if we would like to buy food to feed the fish. Be prepared to be approached pretty much everywhere in India, you will be offered loads of items that you don’t need, you will be tempted at times to buy something for the sake of it. In all tourist areas you will find this but even when your car pulls up on a traffic signal, small children or elderly people will ask for money or sell items, whilst it is tempting to try and help, it does come with risks, as soon as you are seen doing this you could potentially be swarmed by a small crowd.
We walk up to the lake, but as I turn around I see Ranjit purchasing the fish food from the elderly lady. I smile to myself at seeing this, I know he is a good hearted man but this has proved it for me. The lake is beautiful, you have to climb a few short steps to get there and pass a small Mandir. The view is incredible and the fort is within view from the lake offering a beautiful setting, very good photo opportunities. There is a steep hill near the lake with a line of goats and cows running towards us, they ran right past us minding their own business, so we are no longer taking pictures of the lake but of our new friendly animals. On another side of the hill there is a temple right at the top, this is another temple that people will trek to for a pilgrimage because it is a very steep climb.
After a short time, we continue onwards back towards the Anokhi Museum which is sadly still closed, this is mainly because it is off season. No loss, we will continue to the store instead and give our credit cards a hammering.
Ishveen advises that there is a similar factory we can visit, that makes scarves and rugs using the traditional block painting.
We arrive at Jaipur Boutique Carpet and Valentino textiles (I have to be honest, nobody looks like they are called “Valentino” I just hope this name has some significance), this is a family run business. One of the managers greets us and takes us around the factory. We see a long table with fabric stretched across and several men applying the block painting design. It already looks good and once it all comes together you will be able to see all the handmade detail. At the other side there is a huge machine that looks like something from the old cotton mill factories from the industrial revolution in England. There is one man sat in front of it weaving a detailed piece of carpet. Next to the machine there is another man who has a finished carpet on the floor; he is shaving the excess material away. The courtyard is where the production line is, on the opposite side there is a set of stairs leading to a large room with floor to ceiling shelves of finished handmade carpets that you can purchase. We are led to another room which is filled with beautiful completed scarves, all different silks and fabrics, hand designed. Jaipur is very famous for their fabrics and textiles. I honestly wasn’t too sure if I would find the factory that interesting however I have been pleasantly surprised. After seeing how much work and hand crafting goes into it, you can appreciate it a lot more.
Time to go shopping! The first place we head to is the Anokhi store, we have been desperate to see the clothes and hopefully buy half the store (finances permitting). As soon as we walk in, we are all off like crazy people on a mad dash for a bargain. There is everything from shirts, kurta tops, robes and really pretty scarves. The prices are amazing compared to the UK; the items in Anokhi are similar to stores like Monsoon but at a fraction of the cost. I found the Oberoi style robes and I expected to pay quite a lot but it was a bargain, I couldn’t be happier that I have found my new robe, I almost thought I could hear harp sounds and a heavenly light surrounding it as I picked it up (perhaps this is my active imagination).
After making a small dent in our wallets we decide to give our bank balance an easier time and head to the main market area in Jaipur. The market is a must for anyone visiting. With all the famous textiles and jewellery, Jaipur is the best place to shop. Ishveen advises that we should let her do the bargaining which is a must with everything you purchase, as soon as they hear mine and Dipali’s shoddy Hindi they will know we are tourists and whack on a few hundred Rupees. We are barely in the market yet and we can see a million items that will join us back to the UK.
I recommend a couple of hours at the market, there is definitely quite a lot of shopping to be done here. The prices are fantastic; the scarves are so beautiful. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the big named department stores in the UK/USA import some of their products from Jaipur, I am not saying this is a fact but I have just purchased a scarf that is almost identical to one I bought in Gap. Moving onto another store with a lot more scarves, I am pretty scarfed out however, the shopkeeper was a really sweet old man who proudly showed me all his designs. I see one I like and ask for a price, I didn’t even barter as it is the equivalent of £0.70 pence (USD $0.98) so I bought two! After purchasing scarves, bangles and bags, we were all shopped out. As we walk back to our car, Dipali very suddenly starts jumping up and down in excitement, there is a stall selling a snack she had in India that she tried with her family many years ago. The man at the stall looks extremely worried by Dipali’s reaction but I understand her joy at seeing something that brings her back to a happy memory. The snack is called Chana Jor Garam, it is an Indian street food made up of fried chick peas, red onions, chopped tomato, lemon juice and seasoned with chaat masala (masala seasoning). This is then wrapped in a newspaper cone like the kind you used to get at the fish and chip shops back in the day, you know, before they found out that newspaper ink is poisonous and can probably kill you. Poisonous ink aside, we order one portion of the snack as Dipali insists that I have to try it. She holds the newspaper cone up to me slowly as if she was raising an Olympic torch, and in a slightly scary but excited voice says “YOU MUST TRY THIS”. To my amazement, this simple snack is addictive and delicious, she made a good recommendation and her excitement is justified. Of all the little treasures we purchased so far, Dipali purchased her childhood memory which is priceless. Thank god for the camera phone, as we are back in the car, Dipali snaps a picture of the snack and send this to her sister. Continuing down memory lane, Dipali makes another request to buy Nariyal Pani (Coconut water) there are many stalls with fresh coconut so this is a great way to hydrate. I sadly won’t join Dipali in trying this as I don’t like coconut at all.
Shopping has been amazing and sightseeing was exactly what we wanted which took us away from the commercial sights. We are now en route to the Trident Jaipur to have a show around of the hotel and they are hosting us for lunch. I start to feel a little sorry for Bharwani as we have not allowed him to shine in the guiding field today, other than the couple of sights we wanted to see we spent the remainder of our time shopping (we are three women after all). He has enjoyed shopping with us and in that time I managed to find out a little about him and his line of work. He has been a guide for many years, he told me how much studying has to be taken to have the correct knowledge so that you may have a licence to be a guide, I’m assuming that once you have all the necessary training and licences there is a pretty good salary to be made, plus there is always a tip at the end of each day (this obviously is down to the tourist as to what the guide deserves as a tip). It isn’t a long drive before we turn and pull into the main entrance of the hotel. As we enter we are welcomed and taken straight to their main restaurant, Jai Mahal. With all the main restaurants at the Trident hotels you have a choice of A La Carte or a set buffet, the food selection will be International or Asian. We all sit down and have lunch together which doesn’t fail to impress us. After lunch we meet the sales manager in the lobby to begin our tour of Trident Jaipur. The lobby is huge and very welcoming with a lot of natural light coming through the floor to ceiling windows. There is another restaurant called Veranda, not too far from the pool offering a great outdoor dining experience, this is open from October to April which is a good season. Also by the pool is a bar area called Mansagar. After seeing the main areas, we headed to the rooms and saw a deluxe garden view room, this is the base category, if you want to have the next category, then you would choose the deluxe lake view room which is the same in size but views are of Mansagar Lake. Either deluxe room you opt for has its own private balcony, but it is worth paying the small difference in cost to have the lake view. The Trident Jaipur is running a high occupancy today so we are unable to see the suites. The hotel is in a very central part of Jaipur; it only took approx. ten minutes from the market area for us to reach here. The Trident Jaipur is very impressive and I would not be disappointed staying here, I loved the location and the rooms are a great size, they have kept the Oberoi height, light and space with the design of the rooms and main areas. The main difference I felt between the Trident over the Rajvilas is that it does feel very much like a city hotel as there seemed to be a lot more going on here, plus it was quite busy, the Rajvilas does not feel like a city hotel at all, it is like a resort which offers a lot more of a chill out feel.
After our show around we decide to head back to our hotel, we bid farewell to Bharwani and thank him for accompanying us today. We are too late for the elephant ride to Naila Fort so we decide we will have a night in and dine at the hotel. Ishveen advises that she will see if the hotel has the movie Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani which we can try and watch after dinner, we will appreciate it more as we stayed in one of the film locations. The hotel is unsure if they have a copy but advise that they can send a driver to get it for us. How is that for service? They will do everything they can to meet all your requests.
Later that evening, after a little rest and freshen up, we all meet for dinner and head to Surya Mahal. We are joined by two of the hotel managers for a brief part of our meal, the main hotel manager greets us and I notice I turn a little giggly, he is an extremely handsome man so I may have come across slightly pathetic in his presence. We agree to meet in the morning to have a full tour of Rajvilas. Once we enjoy another fabulous meal we head to the lobby to find out if there has been any luck in locating our movie, they have not managed to have the film for us today but said they will try again for tomorrow.
We are stuffed from dinner so we decide to take a walk around the beautiful grounds, the hotel is surrounded by lush gardens so for an after dinner walk it is perfect. Towards the back of the garden and dotted around there seems to be a few large tents, I have a feeling they are also rooms but I am not too sure, I set a mental note to ask during our show around. The resort is quite large so if you are not in the mood for a walk and want to head back to your room quickly then they have golf buggies to taxi you back. We are enjoying a night time stroll, you hear so much wildlife around you because of the natural vegetation, plus with it technically being the rainy season the animals are extra vocal. Walking around you can hear crickets and in the back ground every so often the peacocks are reminding us that they are here too, they are not as noisy at night time, which is a good thing. The monsoon brings out another animal resident at the hotel which we were not expecting. As we approached the pool we saw hundreds of tiny frogs doing laps. They were not around in the day time so they must come out at night when the guests leave to have a pool party. I turned near the steps and saw another 4 or 5 hopping towards the froggy pool party. The three of us cannot stop watching this, this is like a scene from Rupert Bear and the frog’s song. If you haven’t seen the movie, in brief, Rupert finds a waterfall and decides to explore it, he manages to find a cave behind the falls and when he steps into the cave he finds an orchestra of frogs getting ready for an annual singing festival. Now we know, after 8pm around June/July time there is a nightly frog pool party. We stood watching for a while, some of these frogs were showing off doing somersaults, breast strokes or the dare devil frog who swam near the pool filter to see if he would get sucked into the pipe. I don’t think they realised that we were watching them as we had one frog hop right over to us, he leaned one leg into the pool as if he was testing the water, he eventually made the commitment and plunged in. Ishveen shined her phone torch on him to offer some light in his swimming path. As we shone a light on him, he started to croak madly (perhaps he was swearing at us), I quickly snapped his picture. Like all my favourite animals that I have given names to, I decide to name my frog model Fred (I don’t know why I do these things). We decide to head back to our rooms and notice on the way back more frogs hopping in the pool direction, I’m disappointed we are not invited to the party as it’s clearly a popular spot to be tonight.
The weather is so pleasant so we stay in the courtyard talking, and learn another little tip. Do not forget to keep your bedroom door closed at all times as June is also little lizard season. As soon as your door is left open they will be straight in there waiting for you. The thought sends shivers, so after our chat I decide to make a quick Lizard inspection in the room before wishing everyone good night.