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Trip Report Home from No. India and Nepal (A Brief Report by John & Judy)

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We have recently returned from a trip that began in Delhi, India. The monsoon season had just finished and we had beautiful weather. This is our second trip to India that we have booked with Mr. VP Singh at legendsandpalaces.com Just like our previous trip to Rajastan, the northern India tour was planned perfectly with stops in Delhi, Amritsar, Dharamsala, Kangra Fort, Pragpur and Shimla. Mr. Singh was in constant communication with drivers, hotels, guides, airlines, and us to ensure that everything was satisfactory and that we were being well cared for. If only our California travel agent was so attentive.
The Golden Temple in Amritsar is certainly an equal to some of India’s better known sights such as Varanasi and the Taj Majal. It was truly amazing to watch Sikh volunteers, daily, prepare tens of thousands of meals for pilgrims to the temple and to observe the evening ceremony whereby the Holy Granth (book) of the Sikhs is taken in a Golden Palanquin to it’s nightly abode, amidst the chanting of hymns, cattle drums & trumpets. The countryside in northern India was beautiful as we traveled by a Toyota SUV between destinations with an excellent driver/guide. Visiting the Palace of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and the Tibetan enclave in McLeodganj was also very memorable as were our views of the Himalayas. A stop at the Gyuto Monastery with chanting, drum beating, and horn blowing will be impossible to forget. An extra day in Dharamsala is recommended. After making worthwhile stops at Kanga Fort and Pragpur, we drove on to Shimla which was built by the British as a Hill Station to escape the heat of Delhi at certain times of the year. There is a toy train, huge bazaar, and many other worthwhile places to visit during the day. The city is built on the hilltops with houses and buildings at various levels giving the appearance of “tumbling down the mountainside”. It reminded us of the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Shimla is well lit at night for incredible views. After 9 days in India it was time to move on to Nepal. We will always remember the wonderful people, beautiful heritage hotels and the fact that neither of us became ill in India!

Mr. Singh also designed the itinerary for our 8 day stay in Nepal and coordinated with the local travel agent to arrange hotels, guides, transfers etc. After flying from Shimla to Delhi, we boarded a Jet Airways flight to Nepal. We visited Kathmandu, Chitwan N.P., and Pokhara. All three were spectacular. Fodor’s “Kathie Returns to Kathmandu 2008” blog nicely covers Kathmandu and the valley surrounding it, so there is no need to reiterate. We stayed at the Yak & Yeti which has an excellent location, delicious food, and a great staff. Kathmandu is almost as hectic as Delhi, and it's world heritage sights are truly impressive. We were driven (7 hours) to Chitwan N.P. The scenery was excellent even though the ride was long and tedious at times with broken down trucks and buses blocking the highway. At Chitwan N.P. we rode elephants in search of the elusive Bengal Tiger. Although we didn’t spot one, we did observe several one horned rhinocerous (an endangered species with less than 3,000 remaining) and other animals in the jungle. It is definitely worth the 2 days if you have time. Pokhara and the Fishtail Lodge were sensational. Beautiful weather and a perfect location on Phewa Lake provided opportunities for fantastic photos of the snow clad Annapurna Himalayan Range reflecting on the still water. Touring during the Dashain Festival provided opportunities to better understand the Nepalese and their religious beliefs as devotees were dressed in their finest clothes making offerings at Bindvabashini Temple in Pokhara. If you plan to visit here, flying at least one way is a good option.

We used to travel completely independently, but this trip has changed our outlook. The guides took us to outstanding inexpensive rooftop restaurants in Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur, Shimla, etc. with not only great food, but locations with opportunities to take magazine quality photos. It is so much easier than finding a taxi everywhere. We will continue soon with part 3 of the journey: Bhutan.

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