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Rajasthan/ Sri lanka for honeymoon

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Trying to sort out India/Sri Lanka for a 2 wk honeymoon, last week of Sept, 1st week of Oct (a week in each place) Is this trying to attempt too much? Also any advice on best ways to travel around - flying/trains? And are these worth booking before we go.

I've heard lots of good things about the Sun House in Sri Lanka - has anyone been? Its near Galle I think, in the south.

Any advice appreciated!

Elly

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    I would say do Rajasthan first, and then go to a beach and/or the mountains in Sri Lanka to recover. However, October is the wettest month on average in Sri Lanka. You may therefore be better off going to Sri Lanka in September. You will of course need to fly Sri Lanka and Delhi (there may be direct flights between Sri Lanka and Jaipur, check a website, most flights go through Delhi or Mumbai). Goa and Kerala are also wet at that time, so aren't any better of an alternative.

    Within Rajasthan I would use a combination of air, rail and/or car. Which towns are you thinking of? A week in Rajasthan is pretty short, esp if you plan on seeing anything of Delhi. Given your short time, I would fly between all cities except Delhi and Agra. Delhi to Agra is an easy 3 hour train ride or drive. Agra to Jaipur is a 7 hour train ride, about the same length by car, and about 2 hours by air. If you are going to Udaipur, I would fly given your short amount of time. I would book airline flights now, and wait on the train reservations, as trains are frequent esp between Delhi Agra and Jaipur. Go to the website for the Indian National Railways at indianrail.gov.in.

    A good local air carrier in India is Jet Air. It is private and they have a much better sense of service than Indian Air. Go to jetairways.com. The website for Indian Air's domestic schedule is indian-airlines.nic.in.

    If this were my trip, and I had only 2 weeks, I would actually concentrate on spending more time in Rajasthan. There is a great wildlife preserve 4 hours south of Jaipur where you can see tigers, Ranthambore. (Run a search here, as I have posted about Ranthambore on several occasions.) Also you could spend more time in each place. A small village like Udaipur is so peaceful to spend a few days unwinding in. The shopping in Jaipur is terrific. Also, there are smaller villages outside of Jaipur that are worth a trip, not to mention Jodhpur. Many hotels in Delhi and Rajasthan have pools, so if you wanted to get in some relaxing time in the sun, you could do that as well. I guess it depends on what your objective is for your honeymoon. If you want more beach time and tropical weather, then Sri Lanka is a good choice, but maybe a week is more than you need. Also, look into flight times to see how much time getting there and back will eat into your 2 weeks.


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    Thanks so much for your response.

    Rajasthan does sound amazing and we could easily spend both weeks there, I agree. However from speaking to others I was concerned that that it might be too hectic/hassle etc (I am a blonde female!) So was thinking a beach option would be a good plan. Or do you still get lots of hassle in Sri Lanka too? Some hotels have their own beaches though..
    What's the weather like in Rajasthan at that time? Is it a dry heat? I suppose hotels with pools are a good option but we don't want to spend mega bucks - prefer smaller more authentic accommodation.

    What do you think about flying straight to Sri Lanka for 4 days then up to Rajasthan for the rest, and flying back home from Delhi?

    Thanks again!

    Elly

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    Going to Sri Lanka first sounds like a good plan. The only place I have been in Sri Lanka is an aryevedic health resort in Galle called the Paragon Hotel, which I really enjoyed but I am not sure it is where you want to go for your honeymoon. Take a look at www.ayurveda-paragon.de (click on English to get an English version.) I seem to recall that Conde Nast's Traveller Magazine did a piece on other small boutique hotels in Sri Lanka within the last 12 months or so, you might want to look for this.

    I am not sure what your budget is, but due to the downturn in travel to Asia generally, you should be able to get good deals on hotels n India and Sri Lanka this fall, so I would not rule out any hotels, including luxury hotels. Contact the hotels I mention below directly and bargain for a good rate. FYI, sometimes "authentic" in India can be more than one bargained for?.

    I don't know anything about the Sun House in Galle, although the website looks interesting. The is a hotel called the Lighthouse in Galle which is part an association called Small Luxury Hotels of the World which is an association of non-chain luxury hotels. I have stayed in several of this in Europe and Asia and have never been disappointed. You might want to consider the Lighthouse. Take a look at the website for Small Luxury Hotels at slh.com. From their website, here is the info on the Lighthouse Hotel:

    Lighthouse Hotel
    Galle, Sri Lanka
    Tel: +94 924017 (Galle) / +94 9345719 (Colombo)
    Fax: +94 924021 Galle +94 1345729 Colombo
    Email: lighthouse@slh.com
    SLH Website: www.slh.com/lighthouse/

    The weather in Rajasthan is good in late September and October, not too hot, should be in the low 80s F. September is the tail-end of the monsoon season, so there may be a little humidity lingering, but generally it is a very dry heat. It should be cool at night, esp in Jaipur and Udaipur. Go to worldclimate.com for historical average temps and rainfall.

    There are a range of accommodations in all budget ranges in Rajasthan, some will have pools, some not. Sounds like this is not too important to you. In Delhi and Agra, you might want to be sure there is air-conditioning as it may not be as cool there at night as in higher elevations like Udaipur. A good choice are the Oberoi hotels, go to oberoihotels.com. Take a look especially at the "Vila" brand hotels which are the super luxury hotels, a great choice in Agra. Other good options, thought not quite as luxurious, are the Heritage Hotels, which are mostly in former royal palaces of the Maharajahs of Rajasthan. Go to www.heritagehotels.com. The Lake Palace in Udaipur is a Heritage Hotel and I would heartily recommend it. In Jaipur I would recommend the Rambagh Palace run by the Taj Group, their website is "tajhotels.com". If you go to Ranthambore National Park to view tigers (please consider this!) then I would recommend the Sawai Madophur, also run by the Taj Group. I would particularly recommend staying in the tents which the hotel puts up from October to March. These are on a concrete platform with an attached bathroom, so you are not roughing it, but you get more of a feeling of the safari experience, and I think the tents are much nicer than their plain motel-like rooms. The hotel will arrange for jeep rides to view wildlife in the park so you don't have to do anything but show up. Bring hats and gloves as the sunrise rides could be cool in October.

    If you are going to Delhi, my favourite hotel is the Imperial Hotel. This is a lovely low-rise colonial-style hotel which was refurbished about 3 years ago. It is smaller and quieter than the Taj or the Oberoi. You can walk to the Connaught Place area (and the great Indian handicrafts shop on the way), or walk in the other direction to Raj Path, India Gate and the Parliament buildings. I find it a very convenient location and I like the lower key of the hotel, the gardens and the friendliness of the staff. They also have a pool. You can view the hotel on their website at http://www.theimperialindia.com.

    FYI, I am a blonde female who has travelled alone in India on several occasions and have not had any hassle, other than people wanting to have their picture taken with me. Frankly, as you will be with your husband, local people will leave you alone. I am not sure there are any private beaches in Sri Lanka. The concept is really not that common in Asia. The biggest hassle you have is people trying to sell you things or offer massages, etc. You can escape this a bit by staying at a beach place that also has a pool.

    If you are interested in suggested reading list (fiction and non-fiction) for India, write back on this thread. There is so much good literature written in English as well as lots of good non-fiction work.

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    you have great info here....i was with some friends last week-end who returned from the north of india recently...they had 3 weeks...it was not their first trip...they used a combo of train (including nite sleepers/ 1st class to move between some cities) and private drivers....their pictures are fabulous...stay at the new oberoi at the taj majal...its magnificant!!!

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    It is a shame you are only going for 2 weeks, for if in Rajasthan it would be very sad if you missed Jaisalmer as well as Jodphur and Jaipur.

    Jaisalmer is a very unique mediaevel fortified city with the most amazing camel treks into the desert.

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    We are going to book our flights to India this weekend - very exciting!

    Is it advisable to book hotels, internal flights & train travel in advance? We want to be fairly flexible & move around at our leisure but do the hotels such as the Rajvilas chain, Oberoi chain, The Imperial in Delhi, Samode Haveli in Jaipur, Vanyavilas or tents in the Ranthambore National park) get booked up? We would be there in the last couple of days in Sept and 1st week of Oct.
    For the Ranthambore park which are the best tent options? Cicerone, you mentioned Sawai Madophur.. any others or are these the nicest? Also I would be very interested in any fiction or non-fiction about India that you can recommend.
    What is the best way of travelling between Delhi-Ranthambore-Jaipur-Udaipur? I presume by train or is it cheap to hire drivers (or drive ourselves?) Or is it best to fly as we don't have much time.
    We are still thinking of going to Sri Lanka first for 3/4 days - really because we fancy a beach to unwind on after the wedding (and some Sri Lankan curries!!)

    Any advice very welcome!

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    OK, based totally on my personal experience, here are my thoughts:

    It is advisable to book hotels and flights in advance, as Sept/Oct is a popular month in Rajasthan. With a confirmed reservation, I find it seems easier to alter your arrival and departure dates by a day or two if you want to have a bit of flexibility. You are just changing a reservation, not trying to make a new one. A little less possible with flights, but I have generally found that hotels can usually accommodate a request to stay a day longer or arrive a day later. Be sure to check the cancellation policies for hotels and flights. For trains, you would not need a reservation, IMO.

    Delhi-Agra can be done by train, car or air. As you have a limited amount of time, it might make sense to actually fly into Deli from Sri Lanka and change to a flight to Agra, leaving Delhi for the end of your trip. I believe all your flights would be to/from Indira Gandhi International airport, which is not large and it would be easy to go from an international to a direct flight. Check to see if this is possible. Otherwise it is only about 2.5 hours by car to Agra.

    In Agra, if you can afford it, stay at the Amarvilas, from which you will have a fantastic view of the Taj and the hotel is quite stunning. The entrance fee to the Taj is something outrageous like US$14, so it is hard to justify going back a few times, but it is definitely worth seeing at sunrise and sunset, the color of the marble changes with the light, really fantastic. (Before 1999, admission was like $2, so you could keep going back). There is also a Sheraton which is nice, a bit farther from the Taj. The fort in Agra is really good, better preserved than the Red Fort in Delhi. Fatephur Sikri, about an hour outside of Agra, should definitely be on your list, and it is worth hiring a car and a guide in Agra to take you there, as the palace is quite spread out and not marked at all so you don't really know what you are looking at without a guide. 2 full days in Agra would be the minimum, I actually like the town, but a lot of people don't so 2 days is probably enough.

    From Agra, you can go to Jaipur by train, car or air. Without you limited time, I would fly if your budget allows. The train/car would take about 7 hours, and the scenery is rather flat so you do not see much. (Of course just watching India go by is a fascinating experience, so if you have the time and want to do it, the train or a car would be a good option. I would prefer the train as I am not crazy about Indian highways.)

    From Jaipur it is an easy 3-4 hour drive to Ranthambore by good roads. You could spend a few days in Jaipur, go down to Ranthambore and come back up to Jaipur to fly out to Udaipur or Delhi. (From the map, you would also think you could drive from Agra to Ranthambore, which you can, but it takes 6 bone-shaking hours over the worst roads you can image, just dirt tracks at some parts. Unless someone can tell you that they have actually put a paved road in, don't go this route. We convinced our very reluctant driver to go this way, and while it was kind of hilarious to be driving through empty deserts for hours and to have everyone in the villages you pass though come out to see you, I would not do this again!) I would stay 2 nights in Ranthambore, trying to arrive before lunch so you can get an afternoon wildlife ride in, and then a morning ride and one afternoon ride the next day, and depart after the morning ride after your 2nd night.

    More on Ranthambore in next thread.

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    In Ranthambore, as I mentioned I stayed in the tents at Sawai Madophur. There are only about 6 of these, all in a row, so one location is not better than the other. I would definitely try to book one now if you can. I will say that we did not reserve one and were there in January which is a very popular month, so you probably could get one if you wanted without a reservation, but it never hurts to reserve one. The tents are not luxurious, but are perfectly fine, they look out onto the croquet lawn and have a nice view of the main house. The other option at Sawai Modophur is to reserve one of the suites in the main lodge. The house is the former hunting lodge of the Maharajah of Jaipur and is done in art deco style. The furniture and bath fixtures in the suites in the main house are all art deco, and I think still from the 30s when the house was built, so they are a trip back in time. There may be regular rooms in the main house as well, I only saw the suites upstairs, which also have large balconies. The only place I wouldn't want to stay are the motel-like rooms in a row at the back of the property. They are small and have no charm.

    The Vinayavilas was not open the last time I was in Ranthambore, but I am sure it is gorgeous. It will definitely cost more than Sawai Madophur, but the accommodations would be super-luxurious. I have stayed in the tent villas at the Rajvilas outside Jaipur, and from the website, they appear to offer the same type of accommodations at the Vinayavilas. These were beautiful rooms with wood floors, glass walls and a high tented ceiling. It did not really feel like staying in a tent, but it was very nice. As it is your honeymoon, you might consider this.

    In Jaipur, I would say 3 days, more if you can do it. The Samode Haveli you wrote about is about an hour's drive outside Jaipur as I recall, so do also plan to spend time in Jaipur to see the city, and get in some really fantastic shopping for jewelry and cottons.

    If you still have time left, then consider flying to Udaipur from Jaipur. (Train or car w would not be an option, too far.) This is such a beautiful small village on a lake, rare for Rajasthstan. About 2 nights and 2 full days is good.

    If this were my trip, I would leave Delhi for last, and see how much time and inclination you have left to see it. There are things of interest like the Red Fort, the Friday Mosque, Chondi Chowk, etc., however, I think you may want to concentrate more of your time in Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur. The pollution is also very bad, so after 3 days you would have had enough. I would say 2 days is fine if you have the time at the end of the trip.

    Book list will follow on the next tread.

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    OK, here are my favorite authors and books about India. If you can't find a book on line or in your bookstore, you will find most of them in bookshops in India so you can wait until you get there. Airports usually have a least one bookshop, most hotels also have good bookstores, esp. the Sheraton in Delhi and the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur.

    Fiction

    Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children. A classic, it follows several Indian families starting with the date Indian gained its independence from Britain, at midnight in August 1947. You will learn a lot about Indian history and culture. Kind of like a Michener novel.

    Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Heat and Dust, Out of India, How if Became a Holy Mother (the last is short stories.) Mrs. Jhabvala is a European who married an Indian and lived in India for 40 years. She is a great story teller and again you will gain an insight into Indian life and culture. She has written many other books, the first two novels are my favorite and the latter is a great collection of short stories about life in India.

    MM Kaye, The Far Pavilions. Great love story between a Hindu princess and a British soldier set in a Rajasthan-like kingdom in the foot-hills of the Himalayas in late 19th century. She has written several other books, this is my favorite about India.

    Rudyard Kipling, Plain Tales from the Hills, Kim, Jungle Book; many other novels. Classic novels by the English author. Many are set in what is now Pakistan, but still interesting as the country and people of Rajasthan are similar, expect for their religion.

    R.K. Narayan, The English Teacher, or any book, especially the 12 novels based in a town he created called Malgudi. Funny and poignant.

    Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance, Tales from Firozha Baag. He is a young Indian writer, I really enjoy him. I believe this was on the US bestseller list for a while, definitely was in the UK

    Arundhati Roy , God of Small Things. Great book by a modern woman writer, set in South India so it may give you a little flavour of Sir Lanka. I believe this was on the US bestseller list for a while, definitely was in the UK

    Rabindranath Tagore, The Post Office, any collection of his poems. He was primarily a poet, but wrote some novels, the Post Office is his best known and is wonderful. He is very beloved in India, esp in Calcutta/Bengal where he is from. If you can read and quote him, you will impress many Indians?.

    Vikrem Seth, A Suitable Boy. This is one of my favorite books, but it is about 1,000 pages, so you have to be dedicated. Funny, sad, touching story about an Indian girl in 1960's India whose mother is determined to find her the right husband. This was on the US bestseller list in 1993.

    Paul Scott , The Raj Quartet. Again, one of my favorite books, but it is in 4 volumes so it is not for everyone. The first volume would be good if that is all you want to commit to. It is the story of an English family living in a hill station in north Indian before and during WWII. You will learn a lot about the British rule in India, good and bad.

    Non-Fiction

    V.S. Naipaul, India A Wounded Civilization, Among the Believers. A brilliant thinker and writer, he poses questions about Indian life and culture as well as the worlds major religions and their role in modern culture.

    Gayatri Devi, A Princess Remembers. This is the autobiography of the third and favorite wife of the late Maharajah of Jaipur. She was considered the most beautiful woman in the world. When Jackie Kennedy went to India in 1961 or so, she stayed with the Princess and in the pictures, Jackie looks dowdy compared to her. She was from a royal family in east India. She led a very interesting life, met all kinds of leaders. It is really fun to read her book while in Jaipur, esp if you stay at the Rambagh Palace, which was her home. It is kind of startling to look up for your reading and imagine what the palace look like, where the women's quarter was, etc This book may not be available outside of India, but you can definitely but it in India, esp in Jaipur.

    Mark Tully, No Full Stops in India, Heart of India. He was the BBC correspondent in India for about 20 years. Very interesting insight into Indian life and culture.

    Anne Morrow, Maharajahs of India. This is from 1986 and may be out of print, again you may find it in Indian book shops. It gives fascinating details about the lives of the fabulously wealthy maharajas of India, who lost their power in and most of their wealth in 1974.

    Elisabeth Bumiller, May you Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons. She is a former journalist with the Washington Post who lived in India for a few years. The book is a description of women's lives in India.

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    Hello Elly,
    If you are not keen to spend mega bucks on hotels then one of the smartest things to do would be to go to Rajasthan before 1st October. The rates are generally 50% cheaper due to off season rates. I am not aware whether Sri Lanka also has a similar seasonal rate calender.
    Last September, I spent 4 nights at Udaipur. I agree with Cicerone that this is a wonderful place to relax. We spent 2 nights at the Lake Palace. Since you will be paying in dollars, expect to pay something like $200 per day for standard rooms. Between October to 31st March the rates increase significantly. We spent another 2 nights at the Shikarbasdi Hotel on the outskirts of Udaipur. This used to be a hunting lodge of the Maharajah. We paid $85 for 2 nights inclusive of $30 for food vouchers. For foreigners this may be slightly higher , but even then it was a steal. While the Lake Palce had a stream of visitors and was close to full capacity, in Shikarbadi we were the only couple! The Oberoi Villas chain are top of the line and very expensive. The weather at Udaipur is less hotter than elsewhere in Rajasthan during September but even then the temperatures will be in the 30C mark.
    Another suggestion - if you are keen on a beach holiday, then you may consider Goa. It cuts down your travel time and you could fly from Rajasthan without having to go to Delhi. Hotels are aplenty and if you want to splurge you may consider the Leela Beach resort. Happy Honeymooning
    Rajat

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    Thanks Cicerone for all that info - esp the book list.

    Rajat, we did consider Goa (& Kerala)but were put off as have heard that the weather won't be good then. In your opinion what would it be like last week in Sept? If we went I'd like to stay in a small but luxurious hotel, on the coast, and be able to find cheap beach restuarants/bars etc serving authentic food.. any ideas? Fodors guide has some suggestions but its difficult to imagine without seeing pictures. Where can you fly to in Goa?

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