Dave's India report...
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The incredible noise, the shimmering heat, the smell- yes I had had enough of Birmingham so I packed my bags, braved the M42, The M40 and the M25 and headed off to Heathrow and the magic that is Terminal 3.
A first for me I used the Purple Parking Chauffeur Service which worked out cheaper than using one of the normal car parks. A time was arranged for me to arrive at Terminal 3 and there to meet me was a strange man in uniform (no not a traffic warden) who promptly took my car away. On return as soon as you reach the baggage hall you simply ring a special number and your car is waiting for you as you emerge from the terminal. All in all a very good service.
Check in Jet Airways
As we were travelling in Premier Class we were checked in opposite the main terminal at The American Airlines Park Avenue, which has its own covered walkway directly into the terminal. Check in was smooth and efficient and we were then escorted to the United Airlines Executive Club where we met most of the group.
Departed on time at 2125hrs - Arrived Mumbai at 1050 hrs ( Flying time 9 hrs)
Seated in premier class in seats that convert to beds, it was very nice being able to lie down. Entertainment system quite good, you can choose when to watch a particular film rather than have to watch it at set time.
There are 38 of these seats in the A340 and approximately 212 in economy which has a seat pitch of 32". The crew were excellent obviously newly trained but very keen. Food excellent, nicely served with good crockery. This is a new service and shows in the attitude of the crew. We were also advised that they are starting a daily service direct to Delhi from 30 October which will be much better for people travelling to Northern India. A very good flight with very attentive service
Organised chaos but a system that does appear to work. Arriving on time we had to transfer by bus to the domestic terminal.
Flight departed on time 1350 hrs, Flight arrived Delhi 1545 hrs, Excellent internal 2 hour flight on 737 with very good meal served.
An immediate shock to the system when the noise and heat hit you, we were met at the airport and escorted to the Oberoi Hotel a modern deluxe hotel some 30-40 minutes from the airport
Oberoi Hotel/ Delhi 30 August 2 nights
The Oberoi is a modern city hotel, quite pleasant.
Breakfast at the hotel , followed by sightseeing trip of Delhi
The city of Delhi consists of two parts:
Old Delhi was the capital of Muslim India between the 17th and 19th centuries and has several monuments, mosques and forts. Narrow streets full of cows, ox and masses of people most living in very basic accommodation. Very noisy, dirty, hot but absolutely fascinating
New Delhi is the imperial city , created as the capital of India by the British. In 1911, Edwin Lutyens, a famous English architect was chosen to design New Delhi . This consisted of wide, straight avenues, dotted with many parks and low colonial buildings with spacious gardens
We visited The Red Fort, Jama Masjid (India's largest mosque) and also a cycle rickshaw ride through the colourful bazaars of Chadni Chowk
We also visited in New Delhi the grand government buildings and parliament house, The India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhawan (Presidential Palace). In addition we also visited the 234 foot high Qutab Minar and Humayun's Tomb built in the 16th century by the second Mughal Emperor.
Lunch and a sight inspection was taken at The Imperial Hotel, In the evening cocktails were taken at The Ashok Hotel followed by dinner at the Taj Mahal Hotel
Depending on arrival time into Delhi one night stay would be sufficient, however I would suggest you should stay for maximum of two nights which would enable you to see main sights and acclimatise gently.
Delhi- Agra Coach 5 Hours
This was a long journey but time passes quickly as there is so much to see. Air conditioned comfortable coach - for independent travellers travel is by car, I suggest you make sure they have air conditioned vehicle. Please note for independent travellers the driver will be with them for the whole visit, however their command of the English Language may be limited. English speaking guides are provided at each destination.
Oberoi Amarvillas, Agra 01 September 2 nights
WOW - a luxury hotel with spectacular views of The Taj Mahal. 112 rooms all with views of The Taj and the closest hotel to The Taj. Definitely worth upgrading to a deluxe room as they have a balcony and you can sit and look at one of the finest monuments in the world. Walking distance to The Taj but hotel provides buggies to transfer clients, this goes some way to protecting people from the hawkers.
Lunch taken at Trident Hilton which was a lower grade but quite comfortable and dinner hosted at the hotel
Taj Mahal - Absolutely stunning, best to visit twice, once at sunset and again at dawn. Sunset tends to be quite busy and I would suggest exploring the whole monument at sunset and at dawn just sit and take in this incredible sight. Normally on all tours only one visit is included, so any extra visit will cost about £8. Also note Taj Mahal is closed on a Friday. Security is also very strict.
We also visited Agra Fort which was built by Akbar, the third Mughal Emperor. This is a stunning building with walls of red sandstone, almost two miles long which contains palaces, audience halls and mosques and combines Islamic and architectural styles and is well worth a visit.
Some of the group also visited Itmad-ud- daulah (Baby Taj as it is known) which was built before the Taj Mahal and is one of the most beautiful Mughal Tombs. The drive alone was worth doing, crossing a small metal bridge crammed with people, livestock, carts and in many case monkeys which appeared to be everywhere.
We also took lunch and a sight inspection at The Mughal Sheraton Hotel and dinner and sight inspection at The Taj View which none of the group particularly liked. I would recommend a stay at Amarvillas, Sheraton, Trident Hilton in that order.
Two nights needed here, no longer. It is quite dirty with rubbish all over the streets and cows and pigs snuffling through it, but again the whole experience is fascinating and the Taj Mahal is everything you imagine it to be.
03 September Agra- Bharatpur (1 hour)
First stop the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri. This is a World Heritage Site, a royal city 26 miles west of Agra. It covered an area that was over two miles long and a mile wide It was built in 1571 but abandoned 15 years later when it was realised there was a lack of water available. This is a standard stop on The Golden Triangle Tour and is well worth the visit.
A short drive onwards to the Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary better known as Bharatpur which was a former hunting preserve of the Royal Family of Bharatpur,. This is 29sq. km. of marshland, home to over 360 different species of birds. A magic place for twitchers but not the place for anyone else
Lunch and inspection at Laxmi Villas Palace Hotel. This is a heritage hotel and was built in 1887 for the younger brother of the ruler of Bharatpur and was converted from a palace into a hotel in 1994. This type of property would appeal to a certain type of client who is not keen on modern luxurious hotels but prefers a more traditional style.
Onward drive to Jaipur ( 5 hours)
Oberoi Rajvillas/ Jaipur 03 September 2 nights
Wow again - after a long journey a peaceful and luxurious hotel awaited. The group were all given their own rooms in this extravagant resort 12 kms from the city centre. 71 rooms all in villa style with step down bath and bathroom that opened onto own garden area. A little bit disconcerting that there are no curtains in the bathroom and I managed to frighten most of the wildlife away. Dinner hosted by the hotel.
Known as the pink city and is the capital of Rajastan. Originally painted pink in honour of a visit by the Prince of Wales in 1906. Very colourful city and one I particularly like. Streets are full of animals including camel drawn carts.
Delightful excursion to Amber Fort on elephant back, jeeps are available for those who prefer. Superb views from within the complex. Lunch and site inspection of The Sheraton Hotel
We also visited the observatory (built in the 1700 ), The City Palace and museum and the Palace of the Winds. Feeling particularly brave some of us also went shopping to be descended on by what seemed hundreds of hawkers and shop owners. Having been asked by one if I knew his cousin who lived in Hill Top Road in West Bromwich I decided enough was enough and we all returned to the sanctity of the hotel.
Dinner and sight inspection of Samode Haveli which is a 150 year old royal mansion now a hotel with 21 rooms, a fantastic heritage property which again would be suitable for the client looking for more traditional property full of character and history. I would recommend minimum of two nights in Jaipur.
05 Sept Jaipur / Deogarh 6 +hours
Departed hotel early for breakfast at Rambagh Palace Hotel in city, A Taj flagship hotel, palace style and very impressive, being the best of The Taj hotels we saw. Some building work going on with swimming pool but lovely spacious rooms.
Deogarh Mahal, 05 September 2005 2 nights
A 17th century fort turned hotel looming over the bustling village of Deogarh. To reach the hotel you have to leave the coach and travel by cantor through the narrow streets of the village until you reach the top. Children and adults alike all waive and these delightful people seem so pleased to see you. This is a heritage hotel, absolutely stunning first impression with every bedroom different and lots of character. Certainly not plush and there is a problem sometimes with water supply but what a superb property for the right type of traveler. The owners Rawat and Rani Saheb and their son were delightful and hosted us for dinner and also took us to their house in the middle of nowhere which they rent out to people such as Dani de Vito !!.
Deogarh itself is a very interesting village with lots of shops but very little hassle, a welcome break from the noise and bustle of the cities.
After breakfast we took an interesting train journey across the Aravili Hills and the Marwar Plateau before lunch at the hotel and a chance to explore the village. Later a site inspection took place and dinner was taken on the roof of this astonishing hotel. One word of caution, there are many steps and narrow staircases in this property.
Deogarh/ Udaipur 07 September 2 nights
A five hour journey through some lovely mountainous scenery to Udaipur stopping at some wonderful carved Jain Temples at Ranakpur. These were stunning and well worth the extra miles in reaching them instead of going straight to Udaipur
Lunch was taken at the Maharani Bagh Orchards (gardens and oasis)
On the way from here to Udaipur we experienced one of those magical moments which occasionally you chance upon and for me was the highlight of the trip and what India was really about. In one of the small villages we drove through the road was blocked with all the village people. They had turned out to seee a troup of dancers/gypsies who tour the villages after the harvest and perform dance and music for the whole village before hopefully being invited on to the next village.
The atmosphere was magical and even in heavy rain the locals were amused by some of the group joining in the dancing Hopefully I have captured some of the atmosphere on film, time will tell.
Oberoi UdaiVilas 07 September 2005
Wow and wow again this hotel was probably the most impressive of all the hotels we stayed in so good in fact that Tony Blair was their on one of the days. If it's good enough for Tone its good enough for me.
A very nice city, the first thing you notice is that it appears far wealthier than the other cities visited. It stands in a valley amidst green hills on the banks of Lake Pichola. The most famous sight is of course The Taj Lake Palace hotel reached by boat. We were very fortunate because there was water in the lake which had been dry until the monsoon. I understand that a lot of clients had refused to stay when they found out there was no water in the lake. Dinner and a site inspection of the Taj Lake Palace Hotel took place that night, we travelled by boat from our hotel and I have to say I would recommend staying at The Udaivilas in preference to The Lake Palace.
A sightseeing tour of the city took place visiting the impressive City Palace followed by a visit to a temple and a stroll through the colourful bazaars. Lunch was taken at The Shiv Niwas Palace again a heritage hotel, excellent position and most of it is the residence of The Maharana of Udaipur.
In the evening a farewell dinner took place in the grounds of The Udaivilas hotel in which all the group wore national costume. An excellent end to an excellent trip.
09 September 2005
The group flew from Udaipur to Mumbai ( approx 90 minutes) and then faced the battle to transfer from the domestic terminal to the international terminal complete with baggage. This is not the easiest place to do this and I think we were all relieved when we had checked in for the London flight.
Jet Airways were again excellent, food, service were very good and travelling in premier class full use was made of the bed !!
Quite simply the best trip I have been on. Flights, hotels and organisation were first class. The care and thoughtfulness provided by Trans Indus and Oberoi could not have been bettered. The educational was exactly that an education. It was certainly not a holiday, there was very little free time or the chance to relax but the point of the trip was to show people what India is all about and to experience a different culture. I feel that this was achieved and I will certainly be keen and confident in telling people about eh destination when booking with us.
The advertising for India calls it Incredible India and this is very true. It is a fantastic country full of surprises wherever you go. Standards in the hotels are very high however several of the group did suffer with 'Delhi Belli'. It is not surprising considering the heat, the travelling and the huge amounts of food that were consumed.
The best time to go is November to April, apart from Delhi & Agra in early January which can be covered in mist.
It is a fantastic country, full of staggering monuments, lovely friendly gentle people. None of the group at any time felt threatened and I would happily recommend India as a holiday with a difference.
If you are thinking o visiting India call Dave on 0845 003 2211 or 01543 258631.
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