The plane wheels hit the ground with a jolt and our seats rocked slightly with the movement of the plane. A few seconds later came the applause – the mainly Indian based passengers did the customary clapping for a safe landing. This act of applauding that we are alive always makes me smile. I smile because I believe it to be a lovely act – strangers all rejoicing that we are alive and congratulating the crew, but I also smile because it means I have entered a new culture and country again. It was another soft landing in my travels, but this time the landing didn’t end on the runway.
We all hear way too much about India being this exotic, crazy, smelly, colorful, dangerous assault to foreign travelers. And I was just finishing a two day flight itinerary that included a 22 hour layover in Delhi just to finally make it to Jaipur for Holi. Well-rested was not in my vocabulary at the point when I got off the plane in Jaipur. However, having anticipated that jetlag would take it’s toll on me I decided to make my entry into India ‘soft’ and I booked a couple nights of luxury at the Radisson Blu Jaipur. After doing a big project with Carlson Club in North America in 2013, I was excited to see how the foreign locations stacked up. But I was most excited about being horizontal in a nice, big, fluffy bed.
Charlie and I had 5 days in Jaipur culminating in the Holi festival, but I decided not to be like my normal self and try to fit in too much. After 7+ years of travel and accepting my age, I have learned I need to often ease into a culture and time zone. By easing in it makes me much more productive and open to the newness of it all. Luckily I live a lifestyle in which easing in is a possibility since I often do extended travel of 4 weeks in a country. I would be in India for 7 weeks on this trip, so I didn’t feel the need to rush out and fill my every minute with sight seeing just yet.
Instead I arrived at the Radisson Blu Jaipur to air conditioning and a beautiful suite where we had plenty of room to stretch out, relax, catch up on a little work, and ease into Jaipur. We took full advantage of the comfortable surroundings and ridiculously large breakfast buffet.
After a couple of days of pampering, we went out with Charlie’s friend and private guide, Janu, to see some of the best of Jaipur as well as get prepared for Holi festivities. Since the 3 years that Charlie had seen Janu, he seemed to build a little tourism empire in Jaipur. It was really fun to talk to him about how he grew his business from him hustling people at the train station to a fleet of cars and guides who would transport tourists all over the main sites of Rajasthan complete with a well designed website. After meeting him it made me sort of sad that we hadn’t planned to stay in the area longer.
Our main reason for coming to Jaipur was to see the elephants in Jaipur at the elephant festival and Holi, however when we found out the elephant festival was canceled, Janu suggest the Elefantastic park instead. Elefantastic was home to many elephants and their handlers. It was sponsored by the government in some way –but it was all a bit unclear to me. Regardless, the elephants were treated humanly and were cared for well. Each elephant had a home with his handler’s home attached – creating a happy elephant family household. When you arrived you were ‘assigned’ your own elephant for the ½ day. You could feed, walk with, ride, paint, and swim with your elephant for half a day. It was quite a good and well thought out organization. I personally enjoyed just hanging out and feeding our elephant, however it was also pretty fun to go watch the elephants play in the water and other tourists swim with them. I passed on the swimming due to the water conditions which wasn’t the cleanest, but plenty of people went anyway.
Janu treated us like royalty taking us to great restaurants and lassi shops, as well as driving us all over helping us get prepared for Holi. He also managed to show me some of the sites of Jaipur since this was my first trip there. And the best part – he helped us navigate Holi day which was the biggest help of all!
After 5 well looked after days in Jaipur we were settled in to India pretty nicely. Between the Radisson Blu and Janu, we had a pretty soft landing. In fact, it was even deserving of a little applause.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Radisson Blu for a couple of days in Jaipur, however all of my opinions expressed here are my own.