Most visitors to India, come back raving about it, the colours, the assault on the senses, and the food! From Jaipur to Udaipur, with or without the children, the Expat Living team, along with some of our readers, reflect on their experiences in India. If you haven’t already been, it might be time?
Jaipur stole our hearts, even if my daughter did feel that a place called “The Pink City” should be completely pink. (She was finally happy when we grabbed a photo of the beautiful pink Palace of the Winds.)
Amer Fort is a great place for kids. Many rode elephants up the steep path, but we took a jeep to the top, which offered breathtaking views. But it was the inside of the ornately decorated buildings that really captured our imagination – less intricate than some palaces, but still beautiful. We also did a letterbox hunt here, so the kids had fun running from clue to clue. I like places where kids can learn something, but also burn off energy. We also visited Jantar Mantar, another place for learning and running; we were fascinated by the nineteen massive, ancient astronomical instruments.
I really wanted to stay in a heritage hotel, but the ones in Jaipur were fully booked. So our travel agent found us Shahpura Haveli, 65km north of the city, an eye-popping, 300-year-old palace that now operates as a hotel. It’s smack dab in the middle of a small village unaccustomed to travellers. We saw real India here, not tourist India. We rode camels through the friendly streets, visited markets and were treated to tea by a local family in their home. And, it being New Year’s Eve, we got a private show of dancing and fireworks. Pure magic. – MELINDA MURPHY, AMERICAN, CONTENT PRODUCER
The Holi festival
India is a vibrant place, but during Holi, it gives the world new, colourful and different meaning. Although a Hindu festival, it’s celebrated by Indians across the country. Holi is a very carefree event, and great fun to participate in if you don’t mind getting wet and dirty! It’s also a great equaliser, where children splash elders with coloured powder and women splash men, and rules of caste or class are briefly forgotten as everyone takes part.
I travelled to Jaipur in March for the festival with three girlfriends. The hotel staff told us to wear white clothing if we wanted to have the full experience of Holi. The moment we left our hotel – literally within seconds – our white clothes became colourful! It seemed like everyone on the streets of Jaipur was carrying colourful powder; even the air seemed full of colours. It was an unforgettable experience.
It took us a couple of days and many showers for our skin and hair to return to its pre-Holi colours! Be prepared that your clothes will be ruined, so wear something you don’t mind disposing of. Also, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes as the powder might cause eye irritation. If you’re bringing your expensive cameras, be careful too. – MARZENA HUGHES, POLISH
The Golden Triangle
We only had three days to explore Delhi, Jaipur and Agra; it was jam-packed, but so worth it. We really enjoyed exploring the streets and bazaars of Old Delhi. Walking the old, narrow and bustling streets, it felt as if we had been dropped on to a movie set – spices and hanging meat everywhere, rickshaws and roaming cows, and makeshift barbershops literally in the street! For dinner, we loved Indian Accent, which is known for its contemporary take on Indian cuisine and currently ranks number 19 on Asia’s Best Restaurants list. We were also really pleased with the Le Meridien in New Delhi; it was super modern, clean and well located, and had great dining options when we didn’t want to leave the hotel after a long morning of exploring.
In Jaipur, we loved walking around and eating at Chokhi Dhani – a village within a resort that has different dining areas, shopping stalls and attractions representative of Rajasthani culture. There were mostly locals and Indian tourists there, which made it an extra unique experience. Also, in Jaipur, the Amer Fort is beautiful and worth a visit.
It was surreal to see the Taj Mahal in person; we went to Agra just for a day to see it and were so thrilled we did. Tip: The Taj is closed on Fridays, so plan your trip accordingly! – AMY GREENBURG, AMERICAN, WINE & DINE AND HEALTH EDITOR
I had my virgin trip to India in 2017. Despite being a third-generation Indian, I had never travelled to my ancestral land and was excited to spend a few days there with my husband. We decided to start with Chennai as we couldn’t resist the shopping, glorious food and breathtakingly beautiful temples. The first order of business was to get filter coffee available in pushcarts along the streets. Trust me when I say that you’ll never forget your first sip of the milky goodness!
We stayed at the Accord Metropolitan, a business hotel located in the heart of the commercial hub. The best (and cheapest) way to explore the city is by “auto” (auto-rickshaw). We got great recommendations for restaurants – including Sangeetha’s Vegetarian Restaurant and Amma’s Restaurant – through chats with the drivers. We frequented T. Nagar, a bustling shopping district with established retailers and street-side vendors. From beautiful, hand-woven silk saris to a kaleidoscope of bangles and accessories, you can find it all. We loved haggling with the street-side vendors.
What stood out for me were the temple visits. With their spectacular architecture steeped in history, it’s amazing that such magnificent buildings were constructed centuries ago before the technological age. We visited the Arulmigu Kapaleeswarar Temple, dating back to the 7th century, and the Vadapalani Murugan Temple. Tip: Buy some flowers at the stalls directly outside, and for the price they will keep an eye on your shoes and ensure they don’t get stolen. – AMBIGA GANESAN, SINGAPOREAN
I took a trip to Hyderabad, the largest city in the Indian state of Telangana. It’s famed for being the hightech capital of India today, and for its immense wealth, culture and nobility in older times. Hyderabad is 4.5 hours from Singapore; I flew Scoot to get there. I was there for a wedding, and as such I stayed at the Ellaa Hotel; it has a wonderful buffet breakfast and excellent service. However, it’s a 40-minute ride to the old city.
Hyderabad is a great destination for foodies and history buffs. The must-visit places are the Charminar monument, the Golkonda Fort that once used to house the famed Kohinoor Diamond, the opulent Chowmahalla Palace and Salar Jung Museum. I highly recommend Karachi Bakery for its fruit biscuits.
I heard that Hyderabadi biryani is the best in the world, so during every Uber ride that I took, I’d ask the driver where I could find some. They directed me to Hotel Shadab. The place is so popular; I waited an hour but it was well worth it. The light basmati rice grains, flavourful chicken and assortment of spices combine to make a biryani oh-so-good that you’d have to try it to understand all the accolades it gets. It was so good that I had a different version for almost all my meals during my stay! – RAZY SHAH, SINGAPOREAN
Udaipur, Goa and Mumbai
It’s not every day you have the opportunity to travel with your good mates to a magical country that you dearly love – and play the host. When the suggestion to travel to India with the kids in tow was brought up, we jumped to the occasion! There were 14 of us: three families with seven adults and seven kids travelling over 14 days. Our ambitious itinerary included the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur) and Udaipur, Goa and Mumbai.
After exploring the Golden Triangle, we took a flight from Jaipur to Udaipur and stayed three days. We visited the spectacular City Palace overlooking Lake Pichola. The kids enjoyed their visit to the Vintage Classic Car Museum, which has a lovely selection of vehicles collected and owned by the Maharaja himself. The adults enjoyed an exquisite dinner at The Oberoi Udaivilas – a must-have treat!
From Udaipur, we flew to Goa via Mumbai. Goa was our chillout stop. We stayed for four nights at the Kenilworth Beach Resort & Spa in the south of Goa. The beach was magnificent and we even got a glimpse of an Indian wedding. The kids were pretty occupied in the pools, as were the adults. Finally, we ended up in Mumbai for a quick one-night visit and had a meal at the infamous Leopold Café.
It was a real treat to see India through the eyes of our good friends and to experience the chaos, sights, sounds and culinary feasts together. We’d do it all over again in a heartbeat! – SHIKHA GAUR, AUSTRALIAN
Johpur & Jaisalmer
We took a direct Scoot flight from Singapore to Jaipur, then a train to Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, a long bus ride to Udaipur and then a train back to Jaipur. My boyfriend and I prefer to visit places that are less travelled, and Jaisalmer proved to be the best place we could ask for.
You can choose to live within the fort or on the outskirts; we stayed at The Surya Paying Guest House, which was affordable, offering great views and food. In our room overlooking the sea, I enjoyed having a cup of chai and soaking in the peaceful energy of the city. We also had an overnight New Year’s celebration in the desert with camels. We met fun people who shared drinks and shisha throughout the night. The temperatures got chilly and even dropped to zero degrees – we had to find scraps of food to feed the fire; and we set off our own fireworks for the New Year!
Jodhpur is known for its majestic Mehrangarh Fort – we went on a flying fox across the entire fort area. One of our favourite places was the Jodhpur Village Safari, where we learnt the story of the Bishnois who sacrificed their lives to protect the sacred Khejri trees back in 1737. Tip: There’s a man at the clock tower who makes a mean omelette! We also visited the Potters Village. – NG LAY PENG, SINGAPOREAN
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