It was my first experience staying in a heritage hotel and the Pearl Palace in Jaipur, Rajesthan was the perfect choice. But what is a ‘heritage’ hotel, you ask? It can be defined as accomodation which has traditional architecture and has distinctive qualities which mirror the area’s way of life. *Boujie for cheap has entered the chat*
The artwork in this heritage hotel was breathtaking. There were statues and stonework recreating the multicultural aspects of India and it’s faiths. The bedrooms were themed and sported different colours, represented a diverse range of vibrant arts and were the perfect combination of luxury and tradition.
Check out how stunning the hotel is
Look at that artwork tho, damn. I felt like a princess entering my own palace. The staff were lovely and attentive. But the food. Two words: Aloo Paratha. Add a coffee and I was set up for the day. The sister hotel Pearl Palace is two blocks away and has a rooftop restaurant called The Peacock Rooftop Restaurant. I didn’t get a chance to dine there but some of the dishes featured sounded amazing; Paneer Butter Masala, Paneer Tikka etc. (If there was an award for how much Paneer a person could eat in a day, I would have won it by now).
I just loved the whole interior of the hotel and how it was Travelodge prices; it definitely gives British hotels a run for their money. Check it out: http://pearlpalaceheritage.com/. We paid £191 for three nights (two rooms) which is a bargain.
In the summer of 2018, I travelled to India for the first time with my family. As a British born Indian girl I was excited to discover my roots and explore my heritage. I wrote an article about my experiences on Gal-Dem so give it a read!
But what did I learn about the specifics of the Indian way of life which is a contrast to the British Indian way of life? Visiting my family in India really solidified this. I decided to write a blog post about it!
It’s common for people to eat on the floor at mealtimes. Sitting cross legged with a plate of bateta shaak ( potato curry) on my plate, eye level with my family I found myself eating more mindfully, really taking in the taste and visual imagery of the food. As I was balancing food on my lap, I couldn’t really eat and scroll brainlessly through my phone at the same time
Even though I’m Indian, I found there was a stark contrast to the way I was viewed by Indian natives. It was obvious I was a tourist from everything to the way I dressed to the way I spoke (more on that in the next post). Relatives would often ask me if I spoke Gujarati (my mother tongue) and I would hear workers talk about me thinking I couldn’t understand them.
The blunt inequality was made blindly obvious to the amount of adult and child beggars on the streets. It forced me to appreciate the fact that I had a roof over my head and food and I that I was travelling India as a tourist, able to visit restaurants and stay in hotels.
Family and culture share different vibes to the UK. The relationship between caste and marriage is a significant value in Indian culture whereas in the UK, it is more overlooked.
The driving in India is WHACK. Constant speeding, hanging on for dear life and cows in the way! There are no rules.
In parts of India, it is the norm to dress modestly, no miniskirts and keep shoulders covered. People will stare.
Navigating the markets is a strength. Big contrast to Camden. People’s persuasion will be dialed up to a 100 and you will have to put your bargaining skills to the test.
If you think Indian food in the UK is good you’ve underestimated how unbelievably Peng and beautiful the food is in India. I developed a serious addiction to Aloo Parathas at breakfast with Indian tea and don’t get me started on the Paneer.
The last stop of the Rajasthan part of the trip after Jodhpur and Jaipur was Udaipur, known as the City of Lakes.
An artificial lake which is perfect for boating trips and taking in the mesmerising scenery across Udaipur, Lake Pichola is well worth a visit. Lake Pichola also contains palaces, museums, temples and restaurants if you tire of checking out the stunning waters, (which you won’t obvs). The boating trip starts from Rameshwar Ghat and takes visitors to island Jagmandir where tourists can explore and feel like royalty. Check those quarters out!
Checking out Jagmandir made me feel like I was a queen checking into my luxury retreat without a care in the world. Butlins, take note. The attraction has been converted into a small hotel with just seven hotel rooms but also a restaurant, bar and spa which is pefect if you’re craving a luxury holiday away from the perils of society in your own little island.
Another magnificent palace? India is truly spoiling us. City Palace is also the largest palace in Rajesthan. The palace exhibits a blend of Rajasthani, Mughal, Chinese and European culture. Take a look at the beautifully designed women’s quarters Zenana Mahal which has been converted to a museum, perfect for curious people like me who want to gawp at what would have been my home if I’d been a rich Rajesthani Princess.
Jagdish Temple was a beautiful mandir situated outside the royal palace. I loved seeing the beautiful temples in India which were a world away from the ones in my hometown. The temple is mainly devoted to Lord Vishnu, the Hindu God who is the preserver of the Universe.
My next stop after Jaipur was of course, Jodhpur, likened to the being the ‘blue’ city in contrast to Jaipur’s pink paradise. Full of beautiful scenery, more magnificent architecture and colours, I was excited to see it.
The main stop on my Jodhpur Jaunt was architectural beauty, Mehrangr Fort. The fort is 410 feet above the city and boasts terrific views. It also contains a road leading to the city which is great if you want to do your exploring on foot.The fort divides up several palaces which are a must-see such as Moti Mahal, Phool Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Zenana Dude, Takht Vilas, Jhanki Mahal.There are also two temples. From paintings to palanquins, Mehrangr Fort is showcases the wonderful scenery of Northwestern India as well as a majestic palace. The fort and museum also contains pieces of heritage art includng costumes, carvings and decoarations.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see as much in Jodhpur due to time constraints, but on my next visit I will journey to sights such as Bal Samand Lake, Mandore Garden, Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park and Kaylana Lake.
I must apologise for the backlog of India posts that I haven’t uploaded but quarantine has given me the chance to finally update these and post it!
Known historically as ‘The Pink City’, Jaipur exceeds expectations to become a terracotta paradise. But why is it called ‘The Pink City?’. The Maharaja of Jaipur sought to impress Prince Albert during his trip to India in 1876. This included building lavish buildings and gardens as well as repainting the city pink in order to create an atmosphere of hospitality. To this day, the pink colour scheme remains.
My exploration started with arriving at the Pearl Palace guesthouse which blew my mind. A heritage hotel, it combines traditional indian architecture and art for a truly authentic experience.
My first stop was the Amer Fort. Mughal architecture, lavish marble walls and an opulent courtyard, I couldn’t wait to get a slice of Rajesthan history. It also contains Sheesh Mahal, an ornate display of mirrors. I was in awe of how beautiful the fort was and the courtyard gardens were nothing to sneeze at either. The stunning backdrop was a pretty picture of Indian countryside.
Usually, when I want to build something beautiful I stick to decorating my Christmas tree but it looks like palaces have always been in style as India is full of them! Mosaic patterned walls, sculptured mirrors, no wonder so many people flock to see this important piece of Jaipur’s history. The palace is divided into four different levels with different attractions such as the Diwan-i-aam (Hall of Public Audience), the Diwan-i-kaas (Hall of Private Audience), Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors) and the Sukh Niwas where winds blow over waterfalls to create a cool climate.
There is also two light shows every evening. One is in Hindi which starts at 8 and the English one is at 7.30. There are also puppet shows and a classical dance program which can be located in Sukh Mahal.
If you want to go shopping for gifts/specialty items and traditional wear then look no further than Bapu Bazaar. Famed for being the place to sharpen tourists’ bargaining skills, Bapu Bazar is a delight with a plethora of items which appeals to all sorts of people. I picked up some colourful trousers which unfortunately reminds me of this meme*:
*Substitute for India.
But I didn’t care because they were pretty and cheap! I also took the time to stock up on Lehengas as it had been way too long since I’d bought new ones. Colourful Bangarees and jewellery were also selling fast and I took this opportunity to pick up some.
Authentic Rajasthani culture? Cultural performances? Great food? The Chocki Dhani village enticed us because it was a chance to see a glimpse of the ‘real’ India and satisfy my urge to delve into my roots. Chocki Dhani is an ethnic resort and model village attracts both tourists and locals, not only for their promising attractions but also the culinary experience with an extravagant open air buffet restaurant.
Walking inside after paying the entrance fee, I was lost on what to check out first. I opted for a puppet show where a man was using a wooden control bar and string to move a few cute doll figurines who were decked out in traditional Indian wear including little minature cloth saris.
In the village there were different performances going on. We stopped to check out two Indian girls in gagra cholis (traditional skirt and top with intricate designs and colours) who were dancing energetically. A man was providing the background music by using a tabla (classical drums). There was so much spirit and passion I stopped to watch.
There were other dance performances going on. One in particular was enjoyable because one of the girls tried to coax audience members into showing off their moves too! Eventually, one woman did come up and dance proving that positive energy is contagious.
Another performance which I coudn’t tear my eyes from showed a young woman dancing on glass!
There was lots to do and see at Chocki Dhani. From the unconventional art of palm reading to a merry-go-round to games for kids. After seeing the many attractions, we settled down to eat at the candlelit buffet dinner. There was so much to choose from. You could have Rajasthani cuisine or more Western cuisine as there was a pasta bar. My favourite was the pani puri which came served with different chutneys and dips that I had about 13. No regrets!
Overall, my experience visiting Chocki Dhani was amazing and I loved that so much Indian culture was showcased here.
For the ultimate cinematic experience, I strongly recommend a visit to the grand Raj Mandir, a luxurious cinema in Jaipur. With two staircases and a magnificent foyer. Odeon, take some notes. It is worth noting the cinema exclusively shows movies in Hindi without subtitles. I am not fluent in Hindi but can understand it to an extent, (before anyone calls me a coconut, my mother tongue is Gujarati) so I was looking forward to testing my language skills.
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Aloha! The first week of 2019 has come and gone and I’m excited for a year of new opportunities, dreams and most importantly…travels!
The thing spurring me on most to get those dolla dolla bills is the excitement behind exploring new cities and places. I want to get lost and I want to do it on foreign ground.
2018 was a brilliant year me for in terms of travel as I got to see the beautiful India and get in touch with my roots. Gujarat and Rajesthan are such different places to London and it was good to experience life in an alternative community. I also visited Zadar in Croatia with the family which was a new experience as I had no idea what to expect on that trip as Zadar isn’t as well documented or touristy a location as say, Dubrovnik or Split.
My 2019 travels will depend heavily on my bank balance as at the moment I am unemployed. -insert crying face-
As of now, I have a trip to Copenhagen which I am very excited about. The Danish city boasts great architecture, cycling and lovely Scandinavian culture which I can’t wait to get my teeth into. My recent read The Little Book of Hygge has motivated me to love all things Danish and I am also intrigued to see their way of life up close!
I also have another trip booked in November to see Miami!
Beaches, cocktails and cruising through the streets blasting Will Smith’s Miami…I can’t wait!
I also plan to explore more of London, I live in such an extraordinary city and I think I take it for granted a lot of the time. I need to step out of my comfort zone a bit more and I believe 2019 will be perfect for this
On the way to Jaipur our driver stopped off at Elephant Village ‘Hathi Gaon’ as me and my sister had mentioned we were fans of the cute trunk carriers. We were told that the the things we could do here ranged from riding, painting, bathing and feeding the elephants. Personally, the thought of painting elephants for entertainment made me uneasy and I oppose riding them because of the incessant cruelty these poor things are put through! Here’s an article on elephant abuse.
Another thing which concerned me were the reviews I read online about this place. It seemed that a lot of tour guides were teaming up with the owners and scamming tourists by charging more than what was necessary. It seems tourists are also not getting what they paid for e.g. riding the elephants for less time than what was agreed. This is disgusting and I felt sorry for the poor elephants as they were forced to carry families and endure abuse.
So instead the owner just let us feed and stroke them and I got to get up, close and personal with Nelly and her friends.
I loved the short but sweet time spent with them and in the future I’m definitely going to go to some more ethical elephant sanctuaries.
I woke at the crack of dawn (sorry 8 AM) today because it was the day we were going to see one of the most renowned sights on Earth. As a designated UNESCO World Heritage site, Emperor Shah Jahan definitely went the extra mile to create a memorial mausoleum for his wife Mumtaz.
The palace was a short walk from our hotel and we reached there in about fifteen minutes. We queued up, received our audio guides and began our sightseeing.
Once we got to the main viewpoint of the Taj Mahal we were able to take in all of it’s beauty. Ivory marble, the architecture was mesmerising with a view like that it was obvious why so many tourists flock to see it. However, that was also a negative as I was pushed and shoving trying to get a photo that I wished I had extra limbs at this point as being both short and British was not helping! Picture me attempting to find a decent angle while fending off hundreds of other people: “Excuse me, sorry, could I just squeeze past?”.
We made it to the front and took in the formation up close. If the view was amazing from the previous angle it was certainly something here. Every little detail was rich and intricate and a magnified image of perfection. It wasn’t just a case of building something beautiful no, it was carefully planning out and assembling every little structure, design and corner. Traditional patterns and mosaics covered the insides and surrounded the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. Romance is clearly not dead.
Learning so many facts about the Taj Mahal in itself was great as I wasn’t that knowledgeable about the history so it was good to pick up some unique bits of Indian history. All in all, I enjoyed seeing the Taj Mahal in all its finery but didn’t enjoy the crowds and the hassle that comes with big tourist sites!