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Trip Report Trip Report

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My wife and I just completed our third trip to India in the past 6 years. We were in India for approximately three weeks from the end of this past October until Nov. 18th. The following will be a brief outline of places we visited, hotels we stayed at and some general comments. When I discuss hotel costs and use the term "reasonable", I am only referring to relative costs as compared to our previous hotel stays in India. The only hotel that was more than $150/day was the Raas Hotel in Jodhpur which turned out to be our favorite hotel no matter what the costs!!! If there are any specific or additional questions, please feel free to email me.

After contacting a few agencies including the ones we previously used, we finally decided to use OnTime Travel which has offices both in Delhi and New York. The agency is run by Shalendra Gupta and his wife. Both are extremely pleasant, responsive and caring individuals. They arranged our hotels, drivers and also supplied, for free, a CP for use during our trip. I already knew what hotels I wanted for each place we visited but decided it was much easier for them to make the reservations although I already knew what the approximate costs would be for each hotel. The final price for the entire itinerary was significantly below what I was quoted by two other agencies, one of which I used for my previous visit to India. I would say that this travel agency is as good as any in India and definitely better than any previous agencies we have used in terms of responsiveness, costs, and service. We couldn't have hoped for a nicer and more efficient group of people to deal with.
While previously we stayed at 2-3 star hotels, we decided to upgrade to 4 star hotels as much as possible. Looking back on our trip, for us, the additional costs were well worth it. Also, my wife and I are photographers and that influenced the selection pertaining to many of the places we visited or revisited this time.

Delhi: Stayed with some friends for a few days and then at the Radisson Blu hotel close to the new International Airport. The new airport is a very significant improvement over the old International airport and made a big difference concerning using it to reach our other destinations.
The Radisson Hotel was very convenient in terms of being close to the airport for early morning flights. The costs were very reasonable, rooms were nice, food was decent and we would definite stay there again. Free shuttle service to and from the airport is provided.
We used Jet Air (JA) for all of our flights except for one flight in which we used Air India (IA). JA was usually on time, was comfortable, clean and supplied a meal on every flight no matter how short it was. AI was a few hours delayed for our one flight, supplied no meals for short flights and planes were somewhat older. However, I wouldn't hesitate using AI again if necessary.
If you on going to spend some time in Delhi, ask Ontime Travel to have Ram Kumar (RK) drive you as much as possible. He was by far the best driver we have ever had in any of our trips to India. A very kind and considerate person and excellent driver which you will need/appreciate wherever you travel in India. AND, for your safety, try to never arrange for any night driving if possible especially on roads outside the main towns/villages.

Amritsar: Stayed at the Hyatt Amritsar. Very clean hotel, good restaurants and nice rooms that were not as small as noted on previous reviews. The costs were again very reasonable. Amritsar, a predominately Sikh town, was one of the worse cities we visited in all our three trips in terms of air quality and garbage strewed around. However, our visit to the Golden Temple (GT) was the highlight of our trip. In fact, we visited the GT both days we were in Amritsar. The GT was impressive mainly due to seeing the number of people visiting the temple 24 hours a day, We were told that they feed somewhere around 50-75 thousand people a day for free. We had a wonderful guide ( a Mr. Singh) for both our days in Amritsar who took us to the inner workings of the Temple. The people working there volunteered their time and were wonderful in tolerating camera carrying tourists. Their attitude was mainly about giving and not receiving. On visiting the second day, it was heart warming to see the big smile on their faces recognizing us from the prior days visit. The GT was as mesmerizing as the Taj Mahal but in a much different way.

Haridwar: We stayed at the Hari Ganga Haveli hotel. Again the costs were reasonable and the food, mostly all Indian, was very good for all meals. This hotel is on the Ganges. We had a Ganges facing room. However, when we were there, they were doing a lot of cleaning up of the river and the river beds were extremely low and not as photogenic as one would have hoped for. If you have ever visited Varanasi, the Arti festival in the evening is no where close to the ceremony at Varanasi, but we found the one in Haridwar to still be very nice and had a much more personal flavor to it than Varanasi. We spent a lot of time photographing people on part of the Ganges during the day but Haridwar, otherwise, was our least favorite place we visited on this trip.

Jodhpur: We stayed at the Raas Hotel. This was one of the best hotels we have ever stayed in on any trip we have ever taken in our lifes !!! The people who worked there. the food and the rooms were nothing short of outstanding. The town of Jodhpur was as crowded as all the other towns we visited but our purpose here was to spend some time in the blue neighborhoods in and around the Mehrangarh Fort. We had a Fort facing room. The photographic opportunities here were very good if you knew where to wander around. Steve McCurry's new book cover photo is from a neighborhood in Jodhpur. Otherwise, we have visited the Fort in the past but decided to briefly visited it again one morning. For those who have never visited the Fort, it is well worth a visit.

Pushkar: The Camel Fair in Pushkar was our primary goal in returning to India. This was our third visit to the Fair. We decided to stay as close to all the action as possible this time. On our previous two visits, we stayed in tent camps (see my previous trip report) and were less than satisfied in terms of convenience and travel times to and from the Camel Fair. We decided to stay at an excellent B&B called The Inn Seventh Heaven. This has been rated #1 on TA. If you are use to luxury i.e. Raas Hotel, then this is NOT the place for you. However, if you want to stay at a very convenient hotel that is reasonable in terms of costs, clean, serves good food and has a very friendly staff, then the Inn is hard to beat. It has a great location close to the market and is a 10-15 minute walk to the Camel Fair. The people at the hotel were extremely nice especially the owner Anoop and Celina and Shakti at the reception desk. We ate some of our meals at the Inn but probably more of our meals at the Sunset Cafe on Lake Pushkar. The Sunset Cafe served very good food, had an extensive menu and it is difficult to beat because of its location right on the Lake Pushkar. Sitting on the outside porch for breakfast and dinner, we could watch the activity on the Lake and the "assortment" of people passing by. The costs was very competitive with the Inn. The owner, Mr. Babu, was very welcoming and took great pride in his restaurant. We had a wonderful waiter named "Sam" for most of our meals.
The Camel Fair this year was the best of all our three visits. The weather was great and there seemed to be more camels, horses, etc. than in previous years. The town of Pushkar was very clean and the markets were as good to shop in as any of the other towns we visited.

Anyhow, the above is a brief description of our trip. We have visited almost all of India except southern India in our three trips and would say that, in retrospect, visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Varanasi and the Camel Fair in Pushkar, for us, were our favorite places. Again, since our hobby is photography, this greatly influenced all of our trips and our favorite places to visit and revisit.
And finally, we want to thank all of those individuals on both TA and Fodors who have taken the time out to answer questions and post reviews and comments. The service they perform are invaluable for anyone visiting any country. Thanks again.

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