The drive from Agra to Jaipur is quite a smooth one, except that it lacks too many places to eat. Some resorts are a little off the highway, but nothing that would be quick. I stopped at an open-air place that seemed clean. Most of the menu items weren’t available, but the stuff they had was quite good. The drive also passes by Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary and Fatehpur Sikri, a well-maintained fort built by Akbar. The road is mostly good and I didn’t find much traffic till I entered Jaipur. Jai Mahal Palace is in the middle of the city but it is a large property with huge greens and a very traditional feel.
The check-in process was smooth and we were soon shown into the ‘upgraded’ but still slightly smaller than expected rooms. Most of the time beyond this was spend eating, playing in the lawns, and on a safari in the Jhalana wildlife resort. Let’s talk about each…
Food and drink were the highlights of the tour. My favorite meal was this dinner at a small place called Spice Court. It was just outside the hotel and served local fare with a strong focus on meats and spicy kebabs. While my primary objective of going there was their Laal Maas (Spicy mutton curry, a local specialty) the server recommended Keema Baati (minced mutton balls with a spicy dip). We ordered both and a couple of other appetizers. Everything was incredible, especially the Keema Baati was to die for. These were two cricket ball-sized servings with a masala gravy as a dip – crazy level of spice and all deep-fried. By the time we finished, I was stuffed to the core. The rest of the meals were in the hotel and were quite delicious. There were more laal maas and some pizzas with beer involved. We had ended every night with some good old old monk and that always works well.
The hotel lawns were fabulous and even though the pool was closed due to covid, there were many things to do. We flew a kite, played a lot of badminton in some windy conditions and even tried our hand at both cricket and croquet. There was also a large lawn that I could run around and I did 11km the morning after the Keema Baati.
The primary destination of the trip wasn’t Amer Fort or the Hawa Mahal or even the Jal Mahal. We weren’t even planning to shop in the local markets of Jaipur. It was to try and spot one of the 36 leopards in Jhalana Reserve. It is a small reserve just on the outskirts of the city and not very well known, yet. What the reserve loses by not having that much variety of wildlife, it covers up by the density. While we didn’t spot a leopard, I know several people who did. We did see a lot of spotted deer, Neel Gai, mongoose, and a lot of birds. The safaris are well organized and we were picked up from the hotel since we booked with them. The starting point as a small visitor center and washrooms and the reserve itself are not too large – 2 hours is more than enough. It was a good trip, but I may have to come back to spot a leopard.