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Trip Report WHY INDIA, PART II, THAILAND AND NEPAL

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We last visited India in 2006 and it was only an 11 day Golden Triangle tour on our own with a driver and guides where needed. Some of you will remember that I was not overwhelmed by India itself. As time has passed and I have thought more about that experience I have decided that I was wrong and that in fact India is one of the true hotspots on the earth. For the last couple of years we have wanted to return there. We have enjoyed trip reports from Kathie, Craig, Dogster, Lcuy and many others making this desire even more intense.

So, with this in mind, I put together this year’s Asian trip. We will visit Thailand for about 10 days (our 15th visit there), then move to India for several weeks with a 5 night sojourn to Kathmandu, Nepal in the middle.

Finn Air, whom we have been very impressed with in the past on other trips, offers good service to both Thailand and India and had exceptional pricing, so I went with them for the trip. They also have excellent time schedules arriving in Bangkok mid afternoon and leaving Delhi mid-morning. We are able to collect American Airlines FF miles as well which makes it even better. To some the layovers in Helsinki might not work, but for us it is an added bonus (15 hours going and 22 hours coming home). They also fly air buses with 2 X 4 X 2 seating which is a plus.

I might note here that airline pricing from a major international location, like NY, DC or LA often lightens the cost load of a ticket… Flying from Boston on a combo ticket with Finn Air added a huge amount to the trip price, same with Korean. We could fly on jet blue and others to JFK, but I find it easier and cheaper to drive the approximately 4 hours in a one way car rental for about $100-125, instead of taking a car service to Boston Logan 2 hours or so before flight time and paying over $100 each for the flight to JFK. It only works because the Finn Air flight isn’t until about ~6PM. Coming home we will fly Jet Blue from JFK to Boston.

So with the main International flights in place I began my day to day planning for the 6 weeks. We talked with friends about joining us for all or part of the trip and in the end there were no takers. Gpanda would have called them victims…. We knew we wanted some Thailand time both in Bangkok and at the beach. The subject of getting from Bkk to India at a reasonable cost might prove to be a problem. I knew Air Asia had opened up flights which we might use through KL, but then they began service directly from Bkk. There were the Indian carriers as well and Thai air, the most expensive. Eddie’s pricing was not all that favorable this time (aniwat@seatoursthai.com) so I knew I would be on my own. I finally settled on Kingfisher Airlines, a highly regarded Indian discount airline (this week there are reports of trouble with them---damn). A one way flight through Expedia is $116 plus $65 tax each--perfect. So now we were all set to get to India. Our first stop will be Kolkata (Calcutta).

In the meantime I had some communications with Arvind at Castle and King in New Delhi (info@castleandking.com). I told him what I was planning to do, and he has made the driver/guide arrangements for us for much of the India experience, but not all. I have done 100% of the hotels online myself. In Kolkata we will be 100% on our own and will not have any C&K help until the airport pick-up in Varanasi.

So the places I will ATTEMPT to tell you about below are the following: NYC, HELSINKI, BANGKOK, KHAO LAK, KOLKATA, VARANASI, NEW DELHI, KATHMANDU AND AREA, UDAIPUR, JODHPUR, JAISALMER, BIKANER, JAIPUR AND GURGAON. I hope to cut back on the details, but probably will not be able to do so as this is what I find so interesting myself about every Fodors report I read. In fact, sometimes I get mad when people are cheap with their observations and commentary.

Having given you this introduction I will print below the details I work with each day on the trip so I know roughly what will be happening on each day:



THAILAND, NEPAL, INDIA
OCTOBER 18-DECEMBER 1, 2011

M 10/17 Budget Car, Norwood--Pd
T 10/18 Bos-JFK-Helsinki Finn Air flt AY006 dep 1740 (8.10 hrs) 27 J&L
W 10/19 arr Hel 0850 Holiday Inn, Vantaa Airport Finn Air flt AY095 dep 2340 (10 hrs) 27 J&L
TH 10/20 arr Bangkok 1345 Marriott Resort and Spa, Bangkok-Br
F 10/21 B shop
S 10/22 B shop--books 3:30 GTG @ Maeng's--Side Pocket, Suk Rd
S 10/23 B dim sum?
M 10/24 B 8:30 breakfast at hotel orphanage Pook?
T 10/25 B-Phuket Thai Air flt 215 dep 1415, arr 1535 Pure Car JW Marriott Resort, Khoa Lak-Br none
W 10/26 KL
TH 10/27 KL
F 10/28 KL
S 10/29 KL to Bangkok Thai Air flt 214 dep 1525, arr 1650 Pan Pacific Svc Apt. Soi 55 Sukhumvit none
S 10/30 Bangkok to Kolkata, India (CCU) Kingfisher Air flt 22 dep 1615 arr 1730 ITC Sonar, --- SLC, Kolkata 2 D&E
M 10/31 K
T 11/1 K
W 11/2 CCU-Varnasi, India Jet Airways flt 2641 dep 1105 arr 1235 p/u by avrind's driver Temple on the Ganges
TH 11/3 V
F 11/4 V
S 11/5 VNS-Delhi, India (DEL) Kingfisher Air flt 336 dep 1240 arr 1440??? reconfirm -- Marriott Courtyard, Gurgaon, India
S 11/6 DEL to Kathmandu, Nepal (KTM) Jet Airways flt 262 dep 1240 arr 1440 -- hotel p/u-see hotel sign Kathmandu Hyatt
M 11/7 K
T 11/8 K
W 11/9 K
TH 11/10 K order -----
F 11/11 KTM-Delhi, India Jet Lite flt 7056 dep 1515 arr 1625 Av's driver Courtyard, Gurgaon
S 11/12 Delhi to Jaipur Avrind's driver 0930 make stop @ Neemrana Four Points Sheraton, Jaipur
S 11/13 J
M 11/14 J
T 11/15 J-Udaipur, India Sheraton Udaipur Palace-Br
W 11/16 U
TH 11/17 U
F 11/18 U add celebrity info
S 11/19 U-Jodhpur. India Ratan Villas, Jodhpur-Br
S 11/20 J
M 11/21 J start Malarone
T 11/22 J-Jaisalmer, India Nachana Haveli, Jaisal.-Br
W 11/23 J
TH 11/24 J-Bikaner, India Hotel Bhanwar Niwas, Bikaner
F 11/25 B
S 11/26 B-Jaipur, India Marriott, Jaipur-Br
S 11/27 J-Delhi, India Hyatt Regency, Delhi
M 11/28 D-----driver to shop
T 11/29 D driver to shop Marriott Courtyard Gurgaon
W 11/30 Delhi to Helsinki Finn Air flt AY022 dep 1050 (Av's driver) arr 1450 (71/2 hrs) Sheraton Kamp 27 J&L
TH 12/1 Helsinki to JFK Finn Air flt AY005 dep 1410 arr 1555 (8 3/4 hrs) 27 J&L
Jet Blue flt 1016 dep 1759 arr 1918 Bos 3 C&D



Finn Air locator -------------- 800-950-5000
Thai Air locator ----------



Hotels are extremely expensive in India so I wanted to see if I could cut expenses a bit here. I was quite successful. I have used some Marriott points; some Starwood points, plus cash; some free Hyatt nights from their initial credit card offer; some Hyatt points and finally some plain cash to secure decent accommodations throughout the India and Nepal portions of the trip. I am very pleased with what I have been able to find in this regard. Only one hotel, the Palace on the Ganges in Varanasi required the awkward pre-payment that many request. I did this through a wire transfer from my investment house.
Most of the hotels are 4* by Indian standard and 3 of them are heritage type small hotels.
I see no need to spend huge amounts of money for an Oberoi experience at say $400+ per night. All of our hotels are set for the trip. I find the earlier that you process your requests the better the pricing, especially with the International standard hotels. From time to time during the planning process I recheck the pricing, often finding lower prices for a short period, which I grab…

The trip begins on Oct 17 when we pick up our pre-paid auto rental from Budget (mid-size) at a local office--$89 all inclusive---the best deal I have ever found. We head for NYC mid-morning on Tuesday the 18th.

We arrive in Bangkok one week from today and look forward to it, flooding or not. Stay tuned for more.

Bob and

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