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Trip Report INDIA - AMAZING PRIVATE TRIP IN MAY 2014

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Finally got round to writing this but have now forgotten the names of the guides and the shops plus this is the first trip report I have ever written so sorry if not detailed enough!

After looking at various countries for a surprise 50th Birthday trip decided to go with India purely based on Jon loving Shantaram and wanting to go to Kathmandu! I must admit it has never been on my wish list but memories of seeing houseboats in Kashmir on the TV and watching Jewel in the Crown years ago started the search although we did not go to Kathmandu or Kashmir! Through this site I found a trip report which sounded very close to what I was looking for so I contacted Louise Nicholson and below is the final itinerary we sorted out. Jon knew he was going to India about 2 weeks beforehand but had no idea throughout where we were heading next.

I cannot recommend Louise highly enough, she listened to what I wanted, changed things around to suit and made sure that every hotel was checked that they could provide smoking rooms and areas. Nothing went wrong with what she had arranged, it was a couple of my choices that proved a problem and the company she uses in India dealt with these problems quickly. We never felt pressured to go on all the sightseeing, places were recommended and it was left with us to discuss with the local guides. Louise also provides detailed information on what to pack, tips and a wonderful shopping guide which gave us the opportunity to purchase some beautiful items.

We live in Phuket, Thailand so getting the visas was not straightforward but managed to pay to have someone deal with them in Bangkok, the saving grace of living here! I am told the procedure has now changed again but will find out later this year when we try to get them again for another trip through Louise, hopefully the UK will be added to the visa on arrival list.

Throughout the trip we were met at each airport by a guide and driver but we had a separate guide during our stay in each place, all were excellent.

We flew Jet Airways (see below) and Air India on internal flights, there was not much to chose between them.

Mumbai - 3 nights
Agra - 2 nights
Delhi - 1 night (airport stopover)
Nagaur - 1 night
Mihir Garh (outside Jodhpur) - 2 nights
Jodhpur - 2 nights
Udaipur - 4 nights
Goa - 5 nights
Mumbai back to Bangkok



Day 1 - Bangkok to Mumbai

I choose Jet Airways for the flight from Bangkok to Mumbai as Malaysian had just had the missing plane and reports on Air India were not good and Thai business is not up to much. The flight out with Jet was good, the seats in business were not as advertised as it was a small old plane but the food was excellent as was the service. The return flight was dreadful, even older plane with bad seats, food was poor but the service was good.

Driving through Mumbai was an experience and the city was very different from what we imagined, lots to take in!

Taj Mahal Palace Hotel - Tower wing (we smoke so this wing has a smoking floor and the room has a balcony (small) overlooking the Gate of India - love this hotel and the location is great and very glad Louise persuaded me that it was the best choice!

The first night we just checked out the hotel and had a quick walk outside. The swimming pool area is really nice and all very colonial.

Day 2/3 - Quick excellent breakfast and met our guide for the next two days who was excellent as was our driver.

Our sightseeing included a walking tour of downtown Mumbai, visits to the markets, V & A Museum, boat trip to Elephanta Island some shopping as I had requested a stop at M & S to stock up. Favourites were the park above the Parsees’ Towers of Silence (Jon spent ages trying to see vultures) and we were accosted by people from the south all wanting to have their photo taken with us, Victoria Terminus and the Buleshwar Market. In general everyone was friendly although we did get stared at a lot and I was glad we had a guide especially when negotiating the traffic to get to the car. We were very surprised at the number of old colonial buildings still in use, the wide streets and parks. Elephanta Island was interesting but it will take half a day at least. We also went to the washing area, good for photos!

We ventured out into the streets at the back of the hotel to get supplies but there are no 7 elevens here, just a very small local version selling soft drinks and the beer/lager you have to get from the bars.

The area behind and to the side of the Taj has a number of boutique type shops and restaurants, unfortunately we did not have time to check out all of them but I did spend a few hours in one selling beautiful embroidered tops at silly prices.

One of the best meals we had was from a very busy street restaurant a few streets back from the front entrance of the hotel …..was just a bit hesitant carrying take away bags through the security at the Taj!

Would certainly go back to Mumbai as I think there is much more to see, especially for shopping.

Next - Agra

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