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Saturday, March 07, 2015

Choki Dhani Chenai- A Rajasthan theme village worth a visit

Choki Dhani is a Rajasthan themed heritage village, where visitors get to experience Rajastan culture and traditions. Choki Dhani is a commercial venture to give people of other states an opportunity to get a feel of Rajastan, for a fee.

We visited Choki Dhani's Chennai campus this week and below post shares my observations, notes and photos related to Choki Dhani Chennai.
First some key information about Choki Dhani:
What? Choki Dhani, Chennai- A Rajasthan Themed culture/heritage centre
Where: On the outskirts of Chennai, just off highway, near MMSC Race Track
How much: Rs 600 per person (Adult) and Rs 400 for children, Rs 10 per person extra for credit card payment.
What are all Included? Each visitor gets 5 coupons free- which could be used for various activities like Camel Ride, Bullock Cart Ride, Fun Games, Head Massage, Boating etc. Veg Dinner is included, Many other stuffs like Magic Show, Puppet Show, Cultural show etc are free while few activities like Horse Ride etc are charged extra
Timing: 4 PM to 10 PM every day, no advance booking accepted
Our experience at Choki Dhani:
It opens at 4PM but we arrived at the venue some 30-40 minutes late. Thanks to cricket match, the crowd was not much. At the gate few guys played drums and danced with a dummy horse to welcome guests. Once inside, we bought tickets at Rs 610 per person. We were asked to chose a dinner timing (6 PM, 6.45PM, 7.30 PM, 8.15PM etc). I asked if we finish early can we go to an earlier slot,.. but didn't get clear answer. I think that can be managed.
Then we were given 5 coupons each, which could be used for one of the several activities inside the Choki Dhani campus. The first possible attraction- boating- would open only at 5PM. This boating is done in below shown water body, which has just enough water to ensure boat's bottom doesn't scrap the bed. It is a peddle boat- tourists operate the peddle, staff on duty controls direction-you get to go under the bridge (seen on right hand side of below picture). This boating is nothing like boating in a natural lake, so unless you're very keen, the coupon could possibly be used for something else.
We went inside the stage (shown in above picture)- a few performers were waiting for guests. I asked the Harmonium player if I can play. He gladly let me try. Hope management doesn't sue me now for loss of revenue to customers who left abruptly...
While he played harmonium, who women danced with a firepot on their head. Amazing balancing skills were demonstrated as they did wide range of steps, sat down, got up etc, all the while ensuring that firepot on their head is maintained steady.

Next a young man showed his firefighting skills. He took two sticks, burning on one end, doused the fire by putting it in his mouth, drank some liquid and then spit fire from his mouth by spraying the liquid out on to the fire. Still photo below. Watch the video in the end to see their performance in action.

Next was camel ride- it is a super short ride and can't give you much experience. Main thing missing is the experience of getting on and off the camel. In Choki Dhani you get up an elevated platform, then sit on top of the camel which is standing. This is no fun. During our Jaisalmer trip, Camel was made to squat, we got on top of it and then it got up in a jolt. That was an experience to have. This super short camel ride in Choki Dhani is only a consolation, not real experience.
We had some kachori dipped in Kadi- I had tried Kadi in 1997 in Madhya Pradesh- it was nice to experience Kadi in same taste again.

Welcome drink and unlimited Masala tea are good. Bullock cart ride again is no match to experience in real environment, but is fine for those who have never experienced it.

Horse cart ride (Jatka), listed on the menu was not available.

Horse Ride and camel cart ride can be tried at extra fee.

Magician showed some simple stunts like disappearance and reappearance of coins, ring, hiding birds etc, all seated. This lasted just a few minutes.

Similarly, most of the other attractions last only a few minutes. Before you get a sense of what is going on, the show is over.

We went to pottery shop. He made small items for us. When I asked if I can try, he said yes. But within seconds my mini pot went out of shape and he said "its over". He should teach me make one small item, instead of charging one coupon for each attempt.

Mehendi is applied for women who are interested, there is a giant snake and ladder game where people can stand on the number, throw the dice and move themselves to next number as per the game.

A maze is nice thought.

Puppet show started a little late-about 6.30PM even though opening time was 4PM. It also lasted just a few minutes.

Rope walking was missing. Bioscope device is waste of time. A hookah point was available, which I didn't try. A Ganesha temple and a Hanuman temple are situated in campus, along with areas to relax. Dhabha style cots are available in plenty to sit and relax.

Few cultural dance were just OK-OK. "I hate this job" expression could be seen easily on most of the artists. They do same thing again and again, so it ought to get boring for them. After each show they say 'Ram Ram' (a way of salutation). But if you give only 'Ram Ram' in return, they get upset and ask for tips. Of course they are quick to add "Give only if you feel like". There's board everywhere not to give tips to artists. There was no common tipping point.

There is a small forest area with a cave (housing Sai Baba temple) and a water body. We missed it in the beginning and spotted it after dark, so couldn't take good pictures.
Finally the dinner:
It was fine. I am not very good at writing about food. It is pure vegetarian unlimited meals, served to your seat (you sit on the ground in traditional style). It was served in a closed hall without much cooling.

Good things about Choki Dhani
  • Get a glimpse of Rajasthan without having to go all the way.
  • Spacious campus, good to go with large family
  • Get to experience "Just a bit of everything" in one place
  • Most of the listed attractions were present and it was possible to experience and come out without spending more. (No hidden expenses)
If 600 Rs per person feels expensive or not is a bit subjective. If you go to any mall (Mayajaal charges Rs 300+ to enter unless you've a movie ticket) and spend 3-4 hours playing games, eating food etc, you are very likely to spend a similar amount per person. I think it is reasonable, but an alternate option of reduced entry fee + dinner/activities extra would have been better.

Not So Good:
  • Opens only at 4 PM which means you get just about an hour and a half to take decent photographs.
  • Drinking Water used is not mineral water. It feels like corporation water.
  • All experiences are very short lived. Before you begin enjoying it, it will be over.
  • Using Coupons to play games is kind of losing money. A coupon can get me a camel ride and it can get me 3 shots in airgun. If we value camel ride at 40-50 Rs, I should be getting 8-10 shots in the airgun (or similar attempts in Games section)
  • Landscaping could have been better. Hardly any greenery around.
  • AC didn't seem to be working during dinner.
Should you go to Choki Dhani?
If you have no plans or budget for going all the way to Rajastan and experiencing things first hand, then do visit Choki Dhani. It gives a flavor, however small/poor.


But if you're thinking "If I go to Choki Dhani there won't be any need to go to Rajastan" then you're mistaken. Visiting Choki Dhani is NOT a replacement for actual experience. Whatever you see/feel here is just a small sample.

There is no option to skip dinner and experience only rest of the village, which could have been cheaper.

If you've liked places like Shilparamam, Dakshina Chitra then you will like Choki Dhani. Do visit.

Watch my 5 min video made at Choki Dhani here

Reaching Chokidhani: Choki Dhani Chennai campus is about 1-2kms from NH4 (Bangalore highway). It is possible to take a bus (that goes to Sriperambadur) and get down near Choki Dhani and walk a last few kms. But while returning it could be dark and bus frequency will drop. So you need to either leave early (like 8PM) or hire a cab

Similar: Weekend destinations from Chennai *
My Rajasthan related posts: Jaisalmer Fort * Kuldhara Haunted village * Lodhruva Jain Temple * Suryagarh, Jaisalmer * Hawa Mahal, Jaipur * Amer Fort

6 comments :

sumant kamble said...

thank you for this information. this is new perspective of this place....

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Sumant

Mahesh Divya said...

looks better than Jaipur one :-)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Mahesh

Is it? I haven't seen the Jaipur one. Thanks

Vishal Srivastava said...

Choki Dhani Chenai is an awesome place. Must visit for everyone.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Vishal