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Visa to India!!!

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Phew..Visa arrived. We did use a company in Houston to obtain visa and they arrived a week before we needed them.
Here is our itinerary:

We are staying in mostly the Oberoi bubble..partly because my daughter has food allergies and partly because I want to experience India through bubble(I'm a little spoiled). In Mumbai we are staying in a marriott. We have car and driver (recommended here) all set but rest we are planning with much help from this forum! I am so excited!!!! I'm a little worried that I might have messed up not having a guide but I think we can get one if needed at different places. If anyone has strong recommendations please give. We are doing 2 tiger safaris in Ranthambore.
So excited I can't stand it!!!

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    If you find you want a guide at specific places, either your hotel, or the company your driver is from can arrange them when you get there. We found the drivers are very knowledgable about the area, and maybe in a fort or palace you would actually need a guide. Have fun and get out of the bubble once in a while. Our driver took us to a candy store , we bought a bag of Carmel's, then went to a village. We walked around, and people invited us in to see their homes. The children were tons of fun. They loved the Carmel's, and we had a very enjoyable hour seeing how the real India lives.

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    We did a trip last April using the Oberoi bubble and loved it. My husband did not want to go to India....I drug him kicking and screaming! Told him he could stay at the hotel and be pampered while I went with the driver. We used a car and driver (no guide) for a week, doing some of what you are doing. It was a trip of a life time and we would love go back!

    Needless to say the hotels are fabulous...we had used a package so the price was very reasonable, especially for what we got.

    Besides all well known must sees, my suggestions for you for less know/visited things to do/see are:

    1. Visit the small rural village of Abhaneri, 5Km or so off highway Agra to Jaipur for medieval step-well and temple - The Harshat Mata temple is a great example of early medieval architecture in Rajasthan. The temple dates back to the 10th century. The ruins of the temple and pieces of sculptures and the carved pillars are interesting and it is still active. The Chand Baori, a step well, is the world's biggest and deepest step well. It is an amazing sight. The well has a depth of 100 feet and measures 35 m on each side. This square well has 3500 steps and is 13 storied. Each platform is connected by two sets of steps. These have perfect symmetry and the play of the light on each side is wonderful. The walls of Chand Baori have some beautiful and delicate carvings. This step well was built during the 9th century. It was less an than an hour total(drive time and visit) off the main road, very interesting and NO tourist. We stopped and had a soft drink from one of the little store like stands..people were friendly. The willage is very rural!

    2. We didn’t do this, we just didn’t have the time and I was concerned about the walk as I use canes, but many suggested it - Galta-ji, the Monkey Temple. again on the same highway just out side Jaipur. Many tourists miss it. It is wonderful, not on tourist path. People bathing in the spring fed pool, monkeys and local pilgrims. Quiet, mysterious kind of place very moving and different from the other more famous Jaipur sites.

    3. In Jaipur DO visit the Anokhi Block Printing Museum and gift shop behind Amber Fort in small town of Amber for block printing lesson. All the displays are well explained and so is the history of the amazing building this museum is housed in, very attentive staff and a delightful gift shop. They were block-printing the day we were there and you can try you hand at it, neat.

    4. Then go to the close by step well and old temple. It is close to the Museum. The museum staff can point the way to this stunning step-well known as panna miyan kund...which by the way was shown in the film Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Another fabulous place, across from the well, is the old Meera temple. Get out and walk around, explore the step-well, the village well behind and the small temple. You will meet local women at the well doing their laundry while their young children bath in buckets. Walk around the narrow alleys near the well for a slice of life and NO other tourist.... We both loved this.

    5. In Delhi get you driver to arrange a rickshaw ride through lanes and narrow bazaars of Chandni Chowk. It cost almost nothing and was one of our best experiences. See if you can also arrange for the rickshaw driver to let you out on the sari selling street so you can walk into some of the shops. Ladies with their husband were sitting on cushions while the shop owner was spreading out the beautiful fabrics for them to pick from.

    As far as a guide...we used one only twice. We arrange with our company for a guide at the Taj and Fatehpur Sikri. Our driver spoke prefect English was fun to talk to and have answered all our question on local custom and sites. He helped with admission tickets at all our stops and told us how to get around at the different stops, plus we had a provided phone. We called him a couple of times when things kind a went side ways when we changed the pick up plans while at a stop. Worked like a charm...absolutely no need for a guide most places, plus the Indian families we met at the sites were very friendly and someone was always willing to give us help if we needed it. It was so much fun to explore on our on and not feel like we were on a forced march with commentary!

    A guide came with us for the sunset visit for views of the Taj from the gardens (which are nothing) across the river...worthwhile especially since they were doing cremations just down the river. The village you go through getting there was having a festival which was very interesting also. The guide went with us next morning for the Taj sunrise visit, I was glad...he knew where to go to get the best photos before the crowds built and also had lots of info and stories.

    At Fatehpur Sikri, I was again glad as that is a huge area and he had good info to offer, I really enjoyed this stop, it would have been much less interesting with out him. He met our car at the parking lot gate and took us on the bus up the hill to the complex and left us at the mosque to catch the bus back to parking lot. That bus ride was husband had a conversation with a teenage girl as her father watched and listened.

    Both these guides were local people, good English and pleasant to be with.

    If you are interested we did a daily blog with some might give you some ideas.

    Go to the blog archive at the bottom of the page and click on April 12. We visited India the first part of the trip.

    Have a great trip!

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