Last year I was approached by the marketing team at Scoot Airlines. They asked if we would be interested in travelling to Jaipur, India to film a family travel campaign for them to use on their Facebook and YouTube channels. We quickly agreed and this is our list of top places to visit in Jaipur with kids.
I hadn’t really thought to much about going to India, it certainly wasn’t the top of my bucket list. In fact India was probably close to the bottom of my list. I didn’t really know a lot about India and even less about Jaipur and I had heard all the horror stories about people getting sick and to be fair Slum Dog Millionaire doesn’t really paint a great picture of the place. I was really concerned about taking the kids and them getting sick and basically seeing some pretty confronting sights.
As a family we had never experienced an offer like this before and it was a big leap of faith to travel halfway around the world off the back of quite a few emails and one Skype call! People thought I was crazy and I have to admit I was damn nervous, until I arrived and met the crew. I quickly settled down and I can report that they were a bunch of champions, absolutely fantastic with the kids and we had a great time with them.
Scoot were even good enough to let us go a couple of days early so that we could do a side trip on our own to Agra, I couldn’t bare to be a 3 hour drive from the Taj Mahal and not see it. I am so glad I did, I rate seeing the Taj Mahal at sunrise as one of my best ever experiences.
It’s very easy to travel between Jaipur and Agra via the Indian railway, this was our plan although due to flight issues we had to organise a private driver. I found our driver through Trip Advisor, Agra Day Tour Packages.
Here’s the finished product, our family travel campaign fronted by our 10 year old daughter Keira, who had never acted before! I think you’ll agree she did a great job of it.
In case you want to see it on Facebook, click the link.
We stayed at the Park Regis in Old City of Jaipur, we use Hotels Combined for our hotel needs and I recommend them for competitive prices.
We spent 6 days filming with Scoot in and around Jaipur, there’s a surprising amount of attractions and palaces in Jaipur, here’s our top choices.
On the first day of filming with Scoot, we had an early breakfast and the headed straight to Amer Fort, also known at the Amber Fort. Amer Fort and Palace was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013. Located high on a hill about 11 kms from Jaipur. It was our first introduction to hawkers , they were persistent and nothing like what we have experienced before. To get to the entrance of Amer Fort, it’s a personal choice between via elephant back or by foot and jeep.
This huge palace complex constructed of red sandstone and white marble was built in the late 1500’s. Jaleb Chowkis is the main entrance to the palace and this is the place where the royal women where able to view this courtyard through the veiled windows. It is also where we conducted the first shot of the campaign. It did take Keira a while to get this one just right. It was 38 degrees and the heat reflecting off the concrete, sandstone was relentless. We had an area above Jaleb Chowkis all to ourselves which was closed to the public and it had an amazing view right across the front of the Fort and back towards Jaipur.
Diwan-e-Khas (Hall of Private Audiences) is covered in intricate mirror work, it’s also called Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors), the floors and pillars of this building are white marble. The upper part of Diwan-e-Khas, known as Jas Mandir, has delicate floral designs with glass in them.
On the opposite side of the garden, is Sukh Niwas. A place of pleasure, it’s where the king reportedly relaxed with his harem of ladies. Back in the day it would have been quite luxurious and comfortable with stylish curtains and bathing pools to beat the oppressive heat. We did some filming of the kids playing and Phil our cameraman chasing them. It was definitely one of my favourite places to visit in Jaipur.
Hawa Mahal aka the Palace of Winds is located in the old city of Jaipur which is commonly referred to as the Pink City. It was built in 1799 on the edge of the City Palace in Jaipur, it is constructed of red and pink sandstone. Constructed so that the ladies of the palace could look out over the street, from the small windows, unobserved. There are 953 of these windows in total, spread over five levels!
Our first attempt to film here didn’t go well, we arrived in the early afternoon and the back ground noise was loud and we couldn’t get the shot. The crew decided we would return the next day at sunrise. This enabled us to film from the other side of the road without all the street traffic. We also took some photos from the roof top cafe across the road and we were able to watch the sunrise as the golden light lit up Hawa Mahal as it crept over the top of the building. It was beautiful and serene and we got a lovely crew photo while we were there, watch out for the crazy monkeys though!
The three gates, Ajmeri Gate, New Gate and lastly Sanganeri Gate, spaced 500 meters apart, provide entry into the Old City. I wasn’t aware during our visit but you are able to enter Hawa Mahal, you enter from one of the streets just past the monument, there will be a blue sign pointing to where you need to go. Wish I had of known that during our visit.
Jantar Mantar meaning “calculation instrument’ is located near the City Palace and Hawa Mahal and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site like much of the old city. We visited here on our second day with the crew, it was another very hot day and we did quite a lot of filming here. The crew were finding it difficult to get clear shots as being a popular tourist attraction we had quite a crowd gather to watch.
Jantar Mantar was built in 1734 and is home to the oldest stone sundial in the world. The Jantar Mantar observatory comprises of 19 instruments to measure the position and distances of extra terrestrial bodies. These instruments are basically stone structures, depicting interesting geometric shapes. Built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur to compile astronomical tables and to predict the times and movements of the sun, moon and planets. It is advisable to take a local guide or an audio guide for clear understanding of the instruments and how they work.
This is also located directly behind Hawa Mahal it provides you with a great view of where the women of the royal court would have sat watching the world from their veiled windows.
Jal Mahal which means Water Palace is not surprisingly surrounded by water. The palace consists of 5 levels, of which 4 are underwater when the lake is full. We visited Jal Mahal at sunrise on our last morning in Jaipur. It was a lovely serene experiences and we were alone, no tourists although there were a few locals around enjoying the view. Sunrise is the best time in Jaipur, you can enjoy the attractions before the hustle and bustle of the organised chaos sets in.
The palace is located out in Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur and appears to be floating in the middle of the lake. The solid stone walls hold back millions of litres of water and the special designed lime mortar has prevented water seepage for over 250 years.
Jal Mahal was built in 1750 as a lodge for Maharaja Madho Singh I and his entourage to go duck shooting. It was later used by Maharaja Madho Singh’s son as a summer palace, the breeze across the water would be cooling during the hot Indian summers.
About 3 years ago, romantic gondola rides around the palace ceased, access to to palace is now banned. The palace is currently under renovation and will soon open as a exclusive restaurant. Now that’s one restaurant I wouldn’t mind visiting, however I would have preferred they turned it into a exclusive hotel.
If you have watched the video above, you’ll recognise this as the place where we did the pigeon shoot, it’s also where we did the the horse and cart shoot. This brilliant construction was built in the 19th century by Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh ll, for the visit to the city by the Prince of Wales. The museum is home to 24,930 items including the apparels, jewellery, weapons, artifacts belonging to the royal families.
The museum complex constructed in 1868 is Indo-Saracenic architecture which features beautiful pillars, arches and vast courtyards. One of the oldest museums in Jaipur, it is also known as Government Central Museum. Located in the centre of a large roundabout, its original design is beautiful by day but spectacular at night. We drove past it on the first night and I immediately noticed and asked if we would be visiting that building.
We took a while to get this shoot right, Keira kept looking at the producer and she was frightened of the pigeons flying back into her face. In the first shoot she ran through the pigeons and one pooped on her foot! We started to attract a bit of a crowd, there was an Indian family with two little girls that had been watching her for a while. At the end of the shoot, Keira went straight over to the little girls and gave them a hug and introduced herself. It was a heart melting moment and we took some photos of all the kids together. I love that she took the time to say hi, she’s got such a kind heart.
Also known as Birla Mandir, it refers to different Hindu temples or Mandirs built by the Birla family. All these temples are magnificently built, this particular one in Jaipur was constructed from white marble in 1988. The three domes in the complex symbolise the three major religions that are followed in India.
The beautiful building is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the goddess Lakshmi and features carvings, reliefs and statues of the two deities and other gods. Large marble panels in the interior of the building are engraved with extraordinary sculptures describing various mythological events and themes.The ceiling inside the temple is breathtaking, the amount of white marble used to build this temple is just incredible. On arrival you have to remove your shoes before walking on the marble floor both on the inside and the outside of the temple. The kids had lots of fun sliding around the on the marble outside the temple.
Much like a traditional Indian bazaar where you can purchase colourful spices full of amazing aromas, there are local people sitting on the ground creating hand made fresh flower arrangements with marigold flowers. This is where we filmed the spices scene in the video, the guy that owned the spice store got a bit upset because we were all standing around watching Keira and blocking his customers!
This is also a great place to buy colourful scarves for family and friends or saris of all colours to remind you of the ‘explosion of colours’ that is so very Indian. Be careful though, the snake charmers are around and will happily preform for a small donation and the traffic is crazy and very loud. This is also another reason to visit at dawn, its a lot less chaotic and so much quieter without all the car horns.
This area is full of surprises, amongst the crazy chaos don’t be surprised to see and elephant walking down the street. The area is full of dogs and monkeys but is all seems to work. Expect to barter here, play hard but don’t offend. I generally went to half and then barter slightly up from there and found a happy medium about there. If they’re not happy with the price, you’ll know about it.
High tea is a British tradition and India, having once been a British Colony, has a very strong tradition of exceptional high teas in their top 5 star hotels. We experienced high tea at the Taj Jai Mahal Palace Hotel. A masterpiece of Indo-Saracenic architecture, Taj Jai Mahal Palace is set amidst 18 acres of landscaped Mughal gardens and dates back to 1745. This incomparable palace is a repository of Rajasthan’s history. It was previously home to three Prime Ministers of Jaipur State.
An exquisite hotel, the first thing you think is why aren’t we staying here! We did however enjoy the high tea and I’m sure you’ll remember the scene where Caelan has his one line ‘more tea ma’am’! The kids definitely thought they were very special sipping tea and eating cucumber sandwiches.
Like all places there’s good and bad and we did experience a couple of places that I would recommend you don’t visit. Only 2 and I have listed them below:
I had been warned about the treatment of elephants in India, you are confronted with working elephants at Amer Fort and here again at Eleday. They are such beautiful creatures but I could instantly see that these elephants weren’t looked after the way they should. We chose not to ride the elephants here and we did the shoot with us painting and feeding the elephants bananas. I was actually a little scared of them and could tell that their carers have not been as kind as I would expect them to be.
I suggest you find one of the ethical elephant sanctuaries, you can find them by googling ‘ethical elephant sanctuaries in India’. Please do your research though and if you have an opportunity to see them in the wild on safari that would be by far the best ethically sound choice.
We went to the Monkey Temple on the last afternoon before heading to the airport. Galta Ji Jaipur is a unique Hindu temple as it is centered around a natural spring that has been channeled to fill seven large pools. In these pools pilgrims come to bath away their sins while, at quiet moments, the playful monkeys can be found swimming in the holy waters.
The monkeys were quite aggressive and a little scary and the kids were hiding behind me. The natural spring pools were bright green and filled with algae. We did however have a hit of cricket with some local kids on the way in! Craig of course was pretending he was Shane Warne and trying to over arm bowl, it was quite funny.
Without a doubt! We loved Jaipur and I think because we had no expectations we were pleasantly surprised. There are so many beautiful places to visit in Jaipur, I think it was the perfect place to be introduced to India. Our side trip to Agra totally blew me away! Not many kids can say they have experienced sunrise at the Taj Mahal. It was one if the best travel experiences I’ve ever had and I think it will be hard to beat!
We were lucky enough that none of us got sick while in India. We didn’t eat from street vendors and we ate at restaurants most days, some of them quite expensive, thanks Scoot, they also picked up the bills. The kids had the ‘butter chicken’ tour of India and become quite the connoisseurs! My favourite meal was our first lunch at the Peshawri Restaurant at ITC Rajputana in Jaipur. We had a taster menu that gave us a bit of everything! It really was delicious, especially the slow cooked lamb legs.
I am very keen to return to India, I would love to visit Goa, Hampi and Kerala they are at the top of my bucket list. The organised chaos you experience in India is like no other. Its an assault on the senses and the colours and smells will blow you away, some of them literally! India you surprised, I didn’t expect to like you but I loved you and can’t wait to return.
Last but not least, I want to thank the team at FlyScoot for taking a chance on us! I think I can confidently say we come through with the goods. To our crew, Ben, Phil, Isaac and Rasheed, I can’t speak more highly of all of you, you were true professionals, patient with the kids and we are glad to have you as part of our family!
Ever heard of Cleartrip? Check them out for cheap flights within India. There are some great places to visit in Udaipur, which isn’t far to travel from Jaipur, definitely worth considering if you have time in your itinerary.
Have you been to India? How was you experience? Please tell me all about it in the comment below.
Craig, Sal and Our3kids.
Disclaimer: We were guests of Scoot Airlines, as usual our opinion is our own.