Two weeks in India, over 80 hours of travel on planes, cars, boats, and tuk tuks, 5 cities, and a few cases of Delhi belly, all with a 4 and 6 year old in tow, is an experience that can leave you at a loss for words. I had the best intentions to write down my thoughts as we traveled, but I found myself fully immersed in the experience instead. Now that we’re home, I’m excited to reflect back on our trip and share some of the details with you. Because we covered so much ground, I figured that I’d break it up into the first week of our trip, where we visited Bombay (and celebrated Holi!), Jodhpur and Pushkar, and the second week, Jaipur and Varanasi. Yep, all that in two weeks!
Our time in Bombay was mainly spent seeing friends, celebrating Holi and recovering from jet lag. It was really tough with the kids. They would take a nap at around noon, simply because they couldn’t keep their eyes open any longer, and then sleep through until about 2am. I’ll admit to having a bit of a freak-out on the third day, wondering if we’d made a big mistake taking the kids on such a long journey across the word. Finally, on our fourth day, I had to get tough and make them stay awake the entire day. Luckily, it was the day we celebrated Holi, and they had spent the best afternoon soaking each other and everyone else with waterguns and colored powder! They were exhausted at just the right time. They went to bed at 7pm and slept through until the morning. From that morning on, we were good to go! And just in time for our second stop, Jodhpur, the blue city!
When we first arrived in Jodhpur, I was confused and slightly panicked… where was all the blue? I kept asking my husband, “Ask the driver, where is the blue?” Come to find out, there is a new section of town and an old section of town. The sprawling new section contains very little blue, while the old, narrow, winding section of town is where you’ll find the famous blue. Cars can’t really maneuver in the old section, though motorcycles, tuk tuks, cows, bikes, dogs and people all share the space. To really see the blue buildings, you have to set off on foot and wander through the streets and alleys. On our first night of wandering, we happened upon RAAS Hotel, an oasis in the middle of the crowded chaos. I will never forget the crisp glass of white wine I enjoyed on their rooftop lounge, overlooking the Mehrangarh Fort with the sounds of horns and revving motorcycle engines in the distance. It was one of those perfect travel moments, and I can still taste that first chilled sip of wine.
The next morning we set out to explore the Fort, as well as Jaswant Thada. Of the two, Jaswant Thada was my favorite. That might be due to the fact that my husband fell on the slippery marble floors at the fort. Why they were wet mopping the floors during peak tour hours, I have no idea (you can’t apply logic when traveling in India). His ankle swelled right up and continued to bother him for the rest of the trip. He never once complained, but I know it was really uncomfortable for him.
I’ll pause for a moment here and tell you that while this all looks very dreamy, the reality was our kids were tired and they weren’t super into exploring forts and such. India is difficult with children, especially those that are used to open space and the freedom to run and play. I found myself saying no and careful every other breath because of fear of zooming cars, crowded streets and parking lots, and general chaos. We would usually take a 3-4 hour outing in the morning and spend the rest of the day at the hotel pool, where the kids could run, play and burn off energy. It looks like we covered a ton of ground, and we did, and our kids were absolute champs, but we really had to pace ourselves in order to make the experience enjoyable for them. And I think our strategy worked, because when we neared the end of our trip, my son said, “Mama, I’m not ready to leave India.”
We originally planned to spend two more days in Jodhpur, but it is actually a small town that can easily be seen in a few days. So we decided to drive to Jaipur, stopping in Pushkar along the way. It was a six hour drive and the scenery was spectacular. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it!) the boys were sleeping on our laps for most of the ride, meaning I couldn’t jump out of the car and capture all the photographic moments. And there were so many. We passed dusty villages where the women were at work carrying water and crops on their heads, dressed in brightly colored saris. We passed bright yellow fields of mustard plant that stretched as far as the eye could see. One day I will make this drive at my leisure and stop a hundred times to capture these moments.
We made it to Pushkar just in time to visit the Brahma Temple, the only one in India. Pushkar is a desert town that borders Pushkar Lake, a sacred Hindu site containing 52 ghats (stairways) where pilgrims bathe. After our puja (a prayer ritual) we had a vegetarian lunch – the entire town, because of its holiness, is vegetarian- and the freshly made, hot off the fire roti smothered in ghee, made for the most delicious meal.
Another two hours and we arrived in Jaipur, which is where I’ll pick up later this week. I know many of you had questions about our itinerary, and how to travel India with kids. I am happy to answer any questions you have, so please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll get right back to you. Also, I managed to sneak in some amazing shopping, so my pop-up shop will be launching this Friday, March 31 at 10am EST. Stay tuned for a sneak peek of some of the goods on my next post!