There is nothing like a local tour company to give a truly local experience. In Jaipur, it is a descendant of a local maharajah who can look after his clients with attentive service and insider knowledge. India Heritage and Culture Tours can prepare itineraries for local sightseeing as well as more elaborate plans to visit other regions of India.
Mr KV Singh, grandson of the Maharajah of Khandela and owner of India Heritage and Culture Tours, also owns Mahal Khandela, a heritage hotel catering to the Australian visitor seeking an authentic Indian hotel experience. Australians already constitute a significant number of guests in this small and friendly establishment located in a residential area to the west of the city centre; this is a hotel used by Intrepid Travel for its clients visiting Jaipur. The modest building was originally a city home for descendants of the maharajah, though a discreet exterior gives little away as to its royal connection. For travellers seeking value for money, not to mention a place to relax with a dip in the pool after a day of sightseeing, Mahal Khandela offers an ideal base of exploration.
In Rajasthan, royal families extend across the state and maintain ties to their places of origin. Mahal Khandela is named for the town where Mr Singh’s grandfather was the maharajah; his cousin, the gracious Dr Raisal Singh, runs a charity hospital adjacent to his residence, Castle Khandela, which receives guests wishing to experience a homestay where the kind owner’s selfless generosity imbues his home and its lovely courtyard garden with a sense of uplifting altruism. The cuisine at Castle Khandela is especially noteworthy; the Castle maintains its own farm on the town’s outskirts where it grows organic vegetables used in the kitchen to prepare the tasty dishes served to guests.
To the north of Khandela is Mandawa, one of the most popular stops on Rajastahan’s Shekhawati route encompassing several towns where centuries-old mansions, called havelis, are decorated with exceptionally vibrant frescoes which survive in various states of repair. Castle Mandawa is owned by another member of the royal family; the large compound sits just above the town and provides guests with a wonderfully atmospheric experience, especially in the public areas where the traditional frescoes and paintings have been retained in a well-preserved state.
Closer to Jaipur is Castle Kalwar, another private estate receiving guests wishing to experience life as a royal. On the outskirts of the city, Castle Kalwar provides a tranquil respite from the busyness of city life; despite being not far from the edge of town, the loudest sounds at Castle Kalwar are the calls of the many peacocks which gather for a colourful display during their morning feeding times. The genteel owner grew up in the castle and today welcomes guests to stay in his family home.
This week, Scoot Airlines introduces its nonstop service between Jaipur and Singapore, the first-ever air link between Jaipur and the Asia-Pacific region. The SIN-JAI flight is especially well timed for travellers flying Scoot from Sydney and Melbourne to Singapore and continuing onward to India, permitting arrival on the same evening. Jaipur International Airport is one of the designated entry points for visitors arriving with an Indian e-Tourist Visa pre-arranged online. This easy-to-use facility permits travellers to register their personal information online and be issued with a visa number before arrival, making the actual arrival process at the airport streamlined and stressless.