A Trip To Cherish With My Gal Pals!
The best trips are those that happen without too much planning. The trip to Rajasthan I recently took with my school friends is proof of that. In November 2022, a few of us happened to catch up at a housewarming ceremony. What started as a casual talk to go out of town soon turned into reality, thanks to our enthusiasm. They say one should strike when the iron is hot; this is exactly what we did after the initial chat. Not wanting the idea to fizzle out (as it usually does), we planned and booked the holiday within 3 weeks!
Rajasthan is huge and has so much to offer. We knew we would not be able to cover too many places if we wanted a true leisurely holiday. After adding on friends who were interested in the trip, we chose to do two of the big cities and cover two smaller ones en route, based on inputs and requests from the group.
The trip started with an early morning flight from Bangalore to Jaipur. In keeping up with our foodie spirit, we polished off a homemade picnic breakfast at the airport! We landed in Jaipur on a cloudy gloomy day and checked into our hotel just before noon.
Day 1 - Jaipur
Since it was well past 1 pm by the time we started from our hotel, we decided to first energize ourselves with some food to help us with the sightseeing. Wanting to taste the local food, we stopped at a street food joint and enjoyed a hot meal of samosas, kachoris, and pakodis with hot tea & flavored milk. With a happy tummy, we set forth to explore Rajasthan!
Amer Fort was our first stop & it was my first experience of a fort in North India. Though I have been to Red Fort in Delhi, I couldn’t explore it much as it was at night. I loved the quaint, paved roads leading uphill to this fort. Inside, the architecture was breathtaking. Huge, intricately carved archways showed off a style that was touched by both Persian and Indian influences. Places inside like the Sheesh Mahal have so much thought put into their structure that you are bowled over by the little things that one kept in mind those days. It is mind-blowing to think how lamps and mirrors were used not only for light but to also heat the place on cold nights. And the airway-waterway systems put in place to handle the heat during hot summer afternoons make for a good study in engineering as well. The windows from the fort wall give you breathtaking views of the city sprawling below. The melodious music drifting in from various street musicians sitting across the fort only added to its charm.
En route, we found hawkers selling a variety of stuff from accessories to curios to paintings. The trick is to know when to bargain and how much because sometimes they are so reasonably priced that it would take away from any profits of the seller to give it at a lesser cost.
We stopped by Albert Hall for a quick visit and did not spend much time there as we were tired after our flight and all the walking around the huge fort. This is the Government Museum and houses many paintings, artifacts, and pieces of jewelry.
Next was a brief stop at Patrika Gate. Since it was at night we were able to enjoy a view of arches with lighting. This is a nice place to relax and we found many joggers too enjoying their exercise in the crisp fresh air.
We decided to call it a day and ate a simple but yummy dinner of hot khichdi to make up for all the street food that we kept munching throughout the day.
Day 2 - Jaipur
After a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel, our first stop of the day was Hawa Mahal. It is built of pink sandstone. One can take pictures of this from the exterior itself, which we too did! Then we walked inside to the Zenanas. The little separate spaces for each of the queens, decorated with colored glass were lovely. Many films have been shot at this location too!
From here we walked to Jantar Mantar, which was at a short distance. Again, the engineering and science of those times and how accurate they are to our modern version is amazing. We looked at the various sundials and understood how the study of hours, minutes, and seconds were divided. We also looked at the zodiac dials and marveled at how they were built for the relevant zodiac sign to show the shadow of the sun as it changes over the different months of the year.
After spending an hour here, we visited the City Palace. We almost skipped this because we were hungry and tired after walking all morning. After a discussion outside the ticket counter, we decided to only visit some of the exhibits and the courtyards. And man am I glad that we did! This is where the Royal Family lives. Inside, we saw some beautiful paintings & photographs depicting the bygone era, looked at the weapons on display, and clicked some Instagram-worthy pictures too!
After about 1 ½ hours inside, we were very hungry even to walk to the parking and find our van. So lunch was masala noodles from a roadside stall with many cups of hot masala chai in kullads.
It was early evening by then and we decided to go shopping in Bapu Bazaar! This bazaar has many shops selling costume jewelry, footwear, clothes, and much more! I bought a lovely reversible cotton jacket that would be ideal for the cool Bangalore evenings, some lovely juttis, and a few cotton shirts from my father and husband! You can bargain in many of these shops – go ahead and test your skills and walk away with your loot for the best price! Tired but happy, we hauled our loot back to the hotel in rikshaws as our van could not be parked close by.
After resting for a while, we were ready to explore again – this time we decided to visit Choki Dhani as we had heard very good reviews. It is a theme restaurant that is modeled on a Rajasthan village and serves authentic Rajasthani food! It is a good place for one to spend a couple of hours and enjoy a staged rural setting. There is an entry fee that covers the dinner too. There is a little artisan market, live roti counters for tasting, storytelling, fun activities, puppet show and so much more! After enjoying the ambiance, we then headed to the central hut to have the HUGE dinner that was served in leaf thalis. It was a good end to the day.
Day 3 - Pushkar
The next was Republic Day and we aimed to check out before noon. After an R-Day Spl Tri-Color breakfast, we visited some shops close to Hawa Mahal and bought ourselves colorful lehariya skirts. We had already planned to wear similar clothes on any one day and had carried white tops. These colorful skirts complimented the tops beautifully. I also bought some gifts for my girl gang back home.
We then headed to Pushkar and reached the desert for a Camel Ride by around 4 pm. While me and some of the girls opted for a cart, 2 more adventurous souls rode on the camel! It was a fun experience to get down and walk in the desert sands and sip chai from kullads to the accompaniment of some local music! We didn’t realize how the time flew by and then scrambled to head back to the city as the whole point of visiting Pushkar was the temple.
It has the world’s only Brahma Temple where he is worshipped as the main deity. Legend has it that Lord Brahma was cursed by his wife Saraswati and hence there are no other temples dedicated to him. Though we missed the evening aarti at the sarovar, we were able to perform a small puja. We were the last ones to leave and it was dinner time. We had heard of a famous paratha place called Lalaji Ke Parathe and wanted to try it. We enquired around the local shops and headed towards the place on foot. The town around the temple is old and has narrow paved roads, flanked on either side by shops. It happened to be the wedding season and we had to weave through 3 barats, amidst all the band baja. It was a fun experience. We arrived at the end of the road and didn’t find any shops that were selling parathas. Looking around, we saw a dimly lit cart selling food. Going closer, we realized that this was the famous Lalaji rolling out his variety of parathas! From mushrooms to jalapenos and mixed vegetables, there were many unique ones. It was worth the walk and wait. The dinner was yummy!
We were staying at a heritage haveli that was converted to a hotel and that night we actually felt the cold – it was around 8 degrees! We all huddled in one room, catching up on gossip and laughing away till 3 am, sipping on hot premix teas.
Day 4 - Nathdwara
We had a long day of travel to Nathdwara, so we started early. In Nathdwara, we visited the world’s largest Shiva statue which was opened to the public just a couple of months back but couldn’t go up as there was a lot of crowd. We then visited the Srinathji Temple, which apparently is a very important one for Gujratis and Rajasthani’s. The temple is open briefly only for 8 darshans a day. With multiple entrances, there was some confusion about where to go. Luckily for us, a guide suddenly appeared and thanks to him, we had a good darshan as well as learnt the history of the temple. The road from the temple to the parking place is filled with little eateries and shops, and one can get clothes and costume jewelry for very reasonable prices. We reached Udaipur and checked in to the hotel and called it an early night.
Day 5 - Udaipur
The day started nice and bright. We decided to visit the City Palace, which probably was one of the mistakes that we made while planning the dates. It was weekend and also the prince’s birthday and was very crowded. Even the boat ride to the Lake Palace had a wait time of over an hour. Due to this, we didn’t enjoy it as much as we would have. As this was our last day of the trip we had worn our colorful lehariya skirts and we got so many compliments from strangers. Each time, it pepped us up. We learnt the beauty and positive impact of paying compliments to strangers – I am sure I will now pass it on and tell someone if I love what they are wearing. Of course, in true girl gang style, we shot a little reel too! The sights and exhibits were wonderful though we were tired after an entire day in the sun.
We then went to the Karni Mata Temple, which also had a wait for the cable car ride up to the mountain. Just when it was our turn, there was a sudden downpour. However, once we reached the top after the rain, the night view of the city was spectacular.
Day 6 - Udaipur
Since we lost a lot of time the previous day, we decided to check out early and visit Sahelion Ki Bhadi en route to the airport. Though not a large space, it is a pretty garden and one could imagine the princesses playing there with their friends. Since we had about an hour at hand, we decided to do some last-minute shopping! Unfortunately, many shops were closed as it was a Sunday. We still managed to find a tiny shop that sold lovely Bandini sarees and I bought a couple of them for me and my mother.
With our lovely purchases and even more beautiful memories, we headed to the airport to come back home. While all of us were classmates in school, not all were part of the same friend group and had drifted apart over the years. Though we reconnected around 10 years back, we only caught up briefly over breakfasts or lunches. This was a very different experience for each of us and we opened up to one another. Things we didn’t really know about each other, surprised us. As the group came together for one last selfie at the Bangalore airport, we each knew that a special bond was created on this trip!
Though the experience at large was wonderful, there were some misses. We could have done a slightly stricter itinerary and covered a few more places if we were a bit more disciplined (but we were trouble makers in school too 🙂 ). Also, none of us checked the baggage allowance and unnecessarily spent extra on couriering our purchases! We could have also checked for crowds on weekends and maybe planned those days better. These are pointers for our next trip, which hopefully happens this year end. We plan to start a kitty so that we can pool in funds for the trip!
While we did the air travel booking ourselves, we booked our hotels and van through Rajasthan Touring. While there were some problems with the hotel at Udaipur, the services were otherwise good. We got a spacious 12-seater van, and a very good driver Mr. Kuldeep Singh who safely ferried us across cities over 6 days. Sharing a few contact details below, in case anyone is visiting Rajasthan soon.
- Rajasthan Touring : +91 9351549292 Ranveer Singh (who coordinated with us) & our driver Kuldeep Singh +91 8619501370
- Guide at Nathdwara Srinathji Temple : Naresh +91 90793 05028
Here is hoping that this post inspires people to travel and reconnect with old friends!