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Fourteen Days in India With Kids: Cows, Culture and Chaos

Vegetable market in Jaipur
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In March, my family went to India for two weeks. My children were 12, 13, 15 and 19 years old at the time. It was an extraordinary experience. I have since tried to find a couple of words or sentences to sum up our time there. The default words – “amazing”, “fantastic”, “exceptional, “life changing”- don’t really work. This was a trip to one of the most complicated and chaotic countries that I have ever visited. It wasn’t perfect and in many instances, we felt uncomfortable both physically and emotionally. However, I would do it all again.

 

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Traffic, construction, pedestrians and the food market in Jaipur

 

In this blog, I am going to provide our itinerary – where we went, where we stayed, where we ate, and what we saw. In the blog called Best Places to Visit in India: Four Reasons Why You Should Go, I discuss why India was an amazing place to visit. My third blog on India is called India with Kids:  Eight Reasons Not To Go. This blog highlights many challenges that we faced when we visited India. I hope our experiences will help you decide whether India is the right trip for you and your family.

 

The Itinerary

Like any trip we take, I spent hours and hours researching India. However, there came a time that I knew that I needed help creating our itinerary. For all the helpful advice and reviews offered by the internet, I wanted the expertise that only a local could provide.

It was my good fortune that I discovered Mona Kapoor, the owner of a travel agency called Indian Vistas. She was absolutely fantastic. I told her that I wanted to:

  • visit cities and rural villages;
  • see key cultural and historical sites;
  • learn about local crafts and artisans;
  • have experiences with animals; and
  • meet locals and learn about their way of life.

She delivered an exceptional itinerary for my family.

 

Day 1 – Amritsar

Afternoon – We arrived and were greeted at the airport. On our way to our hotel, we stopped at The Yellow Chilli restaurant and had a delicious lunch.  Afterwards, we went to our hotel called Ranjit’s Svaasa.

Evening – We went to the Golden Temple and watched the Sikh’s Holy Book be put to bed. The Temple was alive with thousands of people celebrating Holi and their pilgrimage to the Golden Temple. We ate dinner at the hotel.

 

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Golden Temple at Night

 

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Putting the Holy Book to bed.

 

Day 2 – Amritsar

Morning – We returned to the Golden Temple and toured the magnificent complex. A highlight was visiting the Langara kitchen run entirely by volunteers that provides between 50,000 -75,000 free meals a day. We also visited Jalianwala Bagh, a public garden near the Temple that commemorates a massacre by British soldiers in 1919. We went back to The Yellow Chilli for lunch.

 

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Volunteers cutting vegetables

 

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Stacks of clean plates for meals

 

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Harrison learning to make roti

 

Afternoon – In the late afternoon, we drove to the Wagah Borderthe common border between India and Pakistan. We watched Indians and Pakistanis, on both sides of the border, celebrate the lowering of the Indian and Pakistani flags. It was a wild experience!  There were thousands of people watching an elaborate choreographed routine with Indian and Pakistani soldiers on each side of the border. It was as much about nationalism as it was about cooperation between the two countries with a very complicated relationship.

 

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Ladies running with India’s flag to celebrate their country

 

Indian’s dancing while waiting for the flag ceremony to start

 

Pakistani soldiers at the Wagah border

 

Day 3 – Hoshiarpur

Morning – We drove approximately 3 hours to Hoshiarpur, a city and district in Punjab. There, we stayed in the countryside around 15 minutes out of town, on a farm called Citrus County. We were the only guests for our two night stay and were thoroughly spoiled by the owners and their staff.  All meals were included in our stay.

Afternoon – After lunch, our host took us on a guided walk of the village next to the farm. We met many lovely families and were invited to every single person’s home for tea! We learned about how many families live in rural Punjab. Next, we hopped on the back of a tractor and took a tour of the orchards, which was lovely.

 

A women in her kitchen making mustard

 

A friendly lady from the village

 

Dinner – In the evening, our hosts organized a cookout in the garden. We were taught how to make a delicious mutton stew from a family recipe, and then, we ate under the stars.

 

Day 4 – Hoshiarpur

Morning – Our host took us to Hoshiarpur for a walking tour of the city. We shopped in narrow alleys, all the while dodging people, cows and dogs, motorcycles and bicycles coming from all sorts of directions. We did see beautiful wood crafts, and leather shoes, and my daughter and I tried on traditional sarees. However, it was a relief to return to the quiet and calm of the farm.

 

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Sharing the shopping area with everyone and everything in Hoshiarpur

 

Afternoon – We drove into the mountains and went for hike. Surprisingly, it felt odd to be isolated and surrounded by nature when the chaos of Hoshiarpur seemed only minutes away. There was a huge contrast between our morning and afternoon experiences.

 

Day 5 – Delhi

Morning – We drove back to Amritsar and had lunch at The Yellow Chilli.

Afternoon – We flew to Delhi. We were met at the airport and driven to our hotel, The Leela Palace New Delhi. This is possibly the nicest hotel at which I have ever stayed.

Evening – We ate at Megu, a Japanese restaurant at the hotel. The restaurant was stunningly beautiful and the food was delicious.

 

Day 6 – Delhi

Morning – We went to Old Delhi and visited Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India. Then, just steps away, we took a rickshaw ride through Chandni Chowka market area brimming with people, monkeys and cows, cars, bicycles and motorcycles. It was crazy and I was relieved to not be walking. Afterwards, we went to a Hindu Temple called LaxmiNarayn Temple and learned about the Hindu faith.

 

Laxminarayn Temple

 

Afternoon – We had lunch at Lutyens Cocktail House for another fabulous meal. In the late afternoon, we drove 1 1/2 hours to Gurgaon, a city next to Delhi. Mona (our travel agent) and her husband hosted us for drinks and hors d’oeuvres in their home. It was so nice to get to spend time with them.

Evening – We went to the Kingdom of Dreams to see a live Bollywood show. The theatre complex was incredible and we saw some amazing dancing and costumes.

 

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Kingdom of Dreams

 

Day 7 – Delhi

Morning – We went to New Delhi and visited Qutab Minar and Humayun’s Tomb, which were fascinating. We drove around the colonial part of Delhi called Raisina Hill and saw various monuments and government buildings. We also went shopping at Hauz Khas Village, which had fantastic shopping for contemporary Indian fashion and art.

 

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Qutab Minar

 

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Afternoon – We had a delicious lunch at Lazeez Affaire and then, did more shopping.

Evening – We had dinner outside at Lodi – The Garden Restaurant.  It was beautiful.

 

Day 8 – Agra

Morning – We drove four hours to Agra. We checked into the Courtyard by Marriott Agra and then, went to the Taj Mahal. This was an extraordinary experience and one of the reasons we decided to visit India. It did not disappoint.

Afternoon – We ate a delicious lunch at Bon Barbecue. After lunch, we visited stone masons descended from the masons who built the Taj Mahal.  It was interesting watching them create works of art. Thereafter, we went to the Agra Fortwhich was a fascinating. Dinner was at the hotel.

 

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Taj Mahal

 

Agra Fort

 

Day 9 – Ranthambore National Park

Morning – We drove 1 1/2 hours to Bhartapur to catch a train to Ranthambore National Park. The train ride was approximately two hours. This was a pretty interesting experience. We were all scattered about on the train in “first class” (which was not even close to first class in western terms) and shared spaces with other Indian people who couldn’t speak English. I loved looking out the window and seeing rural life. I also thoroughly enjoyed the people watching on the train. Everybody who we met was very helpful and kind.

Afternoon – We were met at the station and transferred to our hotel Sher Bagh. We had lunch (all meals were included in our stay) and then, went on our first tiger safari. We did not see any tigers, but saw other wild animals in beautiful surroundings.

 

Deers cooling off in the water

 

 

Evening – We had cocktails and hors d’oeuvres by a campfire, and dinner under the stars. It was magnificent. I had one of the most terrifying experiences of my life when I bumped into a tiger outside our tent (Ranthambore Safari in India:  How My I-Phone Flashlight Saved My Life)…really.

 

Day 10 – Ranthambore National Park

Morning – We went on a tiger safari and saw a tiger. It was amazing.

 

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Tiger on our safari

 

Afternoon – We sat by the pool, played cards and read. In the late afternoon, we went on another safari.

Evening – We had cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and dinner under the stars in a different spot on the property. It was spectacular!

 

Day 11 – Jaipur

Morning – We drove four hours to Jaipur and checked into the magnificent Taj Jai Mahal Palace and had lunch.

Afternoon – We went to Hawa Mahal, a wall with 953 little windows and balconies to allow women of the royal household to view outside events without being seen.  After, we went on a walking tour of the market and learnt about spices and Indian foods. I love exploring markets in different countries! Later, we had High Tea on the roof of a home of a local family where we learned about the history of the family and the City, and had a tour of her house. It was very interesting.

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Hawa Mahal in Jaipur

 

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Hot chilis offered in Jaipur market

 

Day 12 – Jaipur

Morning – We went to Amer, the Medieval Rahput CitadelWe rode up to the fort on the back of elephants. The scenery was breathtaking. Afterwards, we went to Jantar Mantar, a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments and learned the history and use of these items.

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Elephant Ride up to Amer Fort
Amer Fort

 

Afternoon – We had lunch at the Indiana restaurant, which was excellent. Then we proceeded to the Albert Hall Museum and saw traditional weapons and ancient clothing. It was fascinating.

Dinner – We ate dinner outside at Giardino, an Italian restaurant at the hotel. It was very good.

 

Day 13

Morning – We visited Dera Amer, a farm on the outskirts of Jaipur, and had an elephant safari. We washed and fed the elephants. Afterwards, we painted them (with natural and organic products) in a traditional Indian fashion and then, climbed onto their backs for a walk in the mountains. We had a fantastic private lunch in the garden.

Afternoon – We visited a block printing factory and watched the traditional form of hand-dying and printing patterns on material. It was very interesting. On the way back to the hotel, we did a little bit of shopping.

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Riding Elephants at Dera Amer

 

Hand printing textile factory

 

Day 14

We flew home.

If you are interested in hearing more about our time in India, please check out the list below. It is a complete list of all the articles that I have written about our extraordinary time there.

If you would like to save this article for future use, please click on “Save” on the photo below.

Agra, Agra Fort, Amer, Amritsar, Bollywood, Bon Barbecue Restaurant, Citrus County, Courtyard by Marriott, Delhi, Golden Temple, Gurgaon, Hawa Mahal, Hoshiarpur, Humayun’s Tomb, India, Jaipur, Jalianwala Bagh, Jama Masjid, Kingdom of Dreams, Laxminarayn Temple, Leela Palace, Lodi, Pakistan, Punjab, Qutab Minar, Raisina Hill, Ranjit’s Svaasa, Ranthambore, Sher Bagh, Sikh, Taj Jai Mahal Palace, Taj Mahal, tiger safari, Wagah border

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post is part of the Weekend Wanderlust travel blog party.  Please visit this Facebook page to read more wonderful travel stories.

8 Comments

  • Wow! What an incredible undertaking – and from the looks of it enjoyable and educational, also. I enjoyed reading about your adventure – I’ve not been to India before and it doesn’t look to be happening anytime soon, but you never know! 🙂

    • Yes, I loved the Langar kitchen. My understanding is that all Sikh temples have some sort of free kitchen to feed the hungry. With so much that is wrong in the world, it is nice to hear something so positive.

  • What an incredible family adventure! I’ve always found India fascinating but never got around to looking into it for a family trip. If we did, it would be when the kids are a lot older. The logistics always seemed so intimidating but this itinerary was so helpful. Your photos are inspiring and beautiful. I would love to visit Jaipur and Agra.

    • Thank you for such a lovely comment. India is such a complicated place and it isn’t always the safest. For example, railings are often missing from balconies, or from staircases. There were a couple of times while there that I thought about being there with young children and that thought scared me! It would be hard to relax.

  • I don’t think you’ll be able to guess what India will be like as a foreigner. You’re either going to be let down, or if you’re like me it might exceed your expectations. Either way, it’s a waste of time because India is absolutely bonkers. Thanks a lot for this beauty Enjoying article with me. I appreciate it very much!

    • Bonkers is the perfect word to describe India! That is so funny! I don’t think I’m in either of the camps – it didn’t let me down and it didn’t exceed my expectations. It is such a big complicated country that it is hard to fit all my experiences into one category. I want to go back and head to southern India which is supposed to be very different. I’d like another shot at experiencing India! Thanks for your comment!

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