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Customized India Itinerary...Agra, Jaipur, Ranthambhore, New Delhi...

Customized India Itinerary...Agra, Jaipur, Ranthambhore, New Delhi...

Mar 6th, 2004, 04:44 PM
  #1  
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Customized India Itinerary...Agra, Jaipur, Ranthambhore, New Delhi...

Originally I had intended on finding my way to India this year, but since I will not be able to travel this year until June, it will be too hot. Instead I will go to Italy (10 night tour) and Zambia (11 night safari).

However, my wife really wants to go to India next year, and I am thinking of combining a four night Dubai trip with an 11 night stay in India.

Previously I had intended to stay at the very best places (namely Oberoi hotels/resorts) but now it seems as if my wife's parents will be accompanying us and I will likely be paying for them, for at least the ground portion. Therefore, I would like to find more economical accomodations, but still top-notch places.

I have come up with the following places and so far they have resulted in about a $2,500 savings, and that is while staying in suites (the room at the place in Ranthambhore, for example, is 1,000 sq. ft.).

I did retain the Amar Vilas while in Agra but I did downgrade the rest of the places. Here is where I am considering staying:

Agra - Amar Vilas (2 nights in Deluxe Rooms with Terrace)

Jaipur - Samode Palace (3 nights in Deluxe Suites)

Ranthambhore - Sawai Madhopur Lodge (3 nights in Executive Suites)

Delhi - Imperial Hotel (3 nights in Imperial Room, 450 sq. ft.)


If anybody knows of these places, I would appreciate some feedback. Thanks in advance.

Roccco is offline  
Mar 8th, 2004, 12:54 AM
  #2  
 
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Rocco, I see your trip is back on. I am a big fan of the Imperial in Delhi as you know, and also of the Sawai Madophur in Ranthambore. I have not stayed in the suites, but have seem them. Make sure they are putting you into the suites in the actual main lodge building. These are large, most have terraces and most have their original art deco furnishings and bathroom fixtures. You might also consider the tents, which are fun. There are heaters and attached bathrooms.

In Jaipur, the Samode has received some very negative reviews here, including one about 3 weeks ago. Run a search. I saw it a few years ago and was not impressed, and I don?t think it has been redone since then. The Samode is also not really in Jaipur, it is about an hour north, which makes it inconvenient for sightseeing in Jaipur. I would suggest you look at Rambagh Palace or the Jai Mahal instead. Both are in Jaipur and both are run by the Taj group. The website for Taj hotels is tajhotels.com. I love the grounds and history of the Rambagh, but I think the Jai Mahal would also be fine. Run a search here for comments on both. At the Rambagh, there is a wide variety of quality and size of rooms, so do ask to look at several when you arrive. Avoid the rooms in the basement.

I don't know if you are still considering Dubai, as discussed it is fairly boring. If you still want to go, look into staying at the Ritz-Carlton, which is probably the nicest Ritz I have ever seen or stayed at. Large rooms, great public areas, nice lawn and beach, lovely spa and good restaurants. It is about 10 minutes further down the beach from the Burj Al Arab. The One and Only Residence and Royal Spa Mirage is just down the beach from the Ritz and is also a nice hotel with good size rooms and some interesting features like a lagoon surrounding the hotel. If you want a desert experience, the Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa would be a good choice.

A layover in London or Paris would be so much more fun. Also, if you are coming from the West Coast, going via the Pacific with a layover in Hong Kong would be a much better choice than going through Dubai, IMO.
Cicerone is offline  
Mar 8th, 2004, 09:19 AM
  #3  
Ben
 
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It is important to distinguish between the Samode Haveli (which is very much in the middle of Jaipur) and the Samode Palace, which is outside of the city. I posted regarding the Samode Haveli a few weeks ago, in response to a negative posting - I very much liked the Samode Haveli, but it may not meet the expectations of some guests.
Ben is offline  
Mar 9th, 2004, 03:52 AM
  #4  
 
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Ben is correct, the negative post I saw was about the Samode Haveli, not the Samode Palace, my apologizes for any confusion. However, it was the Samode Palace I saw a few years ago and was not impressed with, and would stick by my original comments. The hotel is not a member of Leading Hotels or Small Luxury Hotels (as most of the Oberois and some of the Taj group hotels like the Rambagh Palace are). I am wary of the Heritage Hotels in India like the Samode Palace, as their quality is very uneven. The location of the Samode Palace is a huge drawback as well, IMO.
Cicerone is offline  
Mar 9th, 2004, 04:14 AM
  #5  
 
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In Ranthambore u can also consider Sher Bagh (www.sherbagh.com) - supposed to be the nearest property to the game reserve. Only tents. In Jaipur u can also consider Jal Mahal, a small 18 room property, also a converted palace - very reasonable. Look up www.heritagehotels.com. On Samode properies I would agree people have had diff experiences - I know people who have loved it. However Cicerone's point re location is vgery well taken - in case u are interested in seeing Jaipur u should stay at Samode Haveli - or some other city property. One general comment I would make re palaces and heritage properties is one needs ot be a bit more tolerant than say of a Vilas property. These were not intended to be hotels so are not so well designed, may have long corridoors and be a bit noisier, etc. The pleasure lies in imagining what they must have been when maharajas dweeled there and enjoying the differences.
Sameera_Anand is offline  
Mar 10th, 2004, 03:46 PM
  #6  
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Thanks for the very helpful replies!

Please comment on the following itinerary, keeping in mind that I will probably switch to Raj Vilas in Jaipur to be safe, possibly adding $100 per person per night to the cost, but adding immeasurable peace of mind in the process:

10 Jan'05 : Arrive Delhi - Agra (200 Kms / 4 Hrs)Met on arrival and drive to Agra. Enroute visit Sikandra - Tomb of Emperor Akbar. Arrive and check-in at Hotel. Day at leisure. O/night

11 Jan'05 : Agra, Breakfast at Hotel and visit Taj Mahal - Built by Shahejahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. Also visit Agra Fort. Afternoon at leisure. O/night Hotel.

12 Jan'05 : Agra - Fatehpur Sikri - Bharatpur (60 Kms), Breakfast at Hotel and drive to Bharatpur bird sanctury enroute visiting Fatehpur sikri. Afternoon visit sanctury. O/night Hotel.

13 Jan'05 : Bharatpur - Ranthambore ( 280 Kms/6-7 Hrs), Breakfast at Hotel and drive to Ranthambore. Arrive and check-in at Hotel. Afternoon at leisure. O/night Hotel.

14 Jan'05 : Ranthambore Morning/Evening Park Safari's. O/night Hotel.

15 Jan'05 : Ranthambore - Jaipur (170 Kms / 3-4 Hrs) Breakfast at Hotel and drive to Jaipur. Arrive and check-in at Hotel. Day at leisure.Evening visit to Chokhi Dhani - an ethnic village theame restaurant. Enjoy the Folk Dances and Rajasthani Cusine.O/night O/night

16 Jan'05 : Jaipur, Morning visit Amber fort and enjoy the Elephant ride upto fort. Afternoon city tour and visit City Palace, Observatory and Hawa Mahal. O/night

17 Jan'05 : Jaipur, Day free at leisure. O/night

18 Jan'05 : Jaipur - Delhi (265 Kms / 5-6 Hrs) >Breakfast at Hotel and drive back to Delhi. Arrive and check-in at Hotel. Day at leisure. O/night

19 Jan'05 : Delhi, Breakfast at Hotel and visit Old Delhi - Here visit Jamma Mosque, Rajghat and drive past Red Fort. Afternoon at leisure. O/night

20 Jan'05 : Delhi,Breakfast at Hotel and visit New Delhi - Here visit India Gate, Parliament /President House, Humayun's Tomb and Qutab Tower. Afternoon at leisure. O/night

21 Jan'05 : Delhi Departure, Breakfast at Hotel and transfer to Airport in time to connect flight for onward destination


Cost of Land arrangements - USD 1769 Net Per Person (Minimum 04 Person travelling togeather)

Cost includes
- Accommodation on Twin sharing basis
- Daily Breakfast
- All Transfer/Tours using Airconditioned Toyota Qualis
- Local English Speaking Guide for sightseeing at Delhi/Agra/Jaipur
- Park safaris at Ranthambore National Park
- Elephant ride at Amber Fort
- Dinner at Chokhi Dhani,Jaipur

Cost does not include
- Monuments Entrances and payable extra @ USD 50 Net Per Person
- Tips,Porterage,Drinks,Mineral water,Lunch/Dinner, Camera fee or any other e xpanses of personal nature

Hotels/Rooms Envisaged
- Agra - Amar Vilas (Superior Dlx room with Terrace)
- Bharatpur - Laxmi Vilas Palace (Heritage)
- Ranthambore - Ta Lodge (Junior Suite)
- Jaipur - Samode Haveli (Sheesh Mahal Suite)
- Delhi - Imperial (Imperial Room

Remarks
- Have included Bharatpur in between Ranthambore - Agra. It's a world famous bird sanctury and you will enjoy
your stay.

- There are only 02 suites at Taj Lodge,Ranthambore/Samde Haveli and to to hold the reservation, we will have
to book well in advance.

----------------------------------------

I would like some commentary on the order of the itinerary. Because I will likely be skipping to Dubai so I have a chance to visit Botswana later in the year, I will likely arrive in Delhi in the wee hours of the morning (4AM - 5AM), and take advantage by transferring directly to Agra to avoid traffic.

I only added the bird sanctuary to shave off 90 minutes from the transfer between Agra and Ranthambhore, but I don't know how wise this is. Possibly it would be better to do the following...Agra-Jaipur-Ranthambhore-???-Delhi. Where could I stay of interest between Ranthambhore and Delhi for one night to make the trip less strenuous? I don't really care about the bird sanctuary but that is where the tour operator suggested.

Thanks again!
Roccco is offline  
Mar 10th, 2004, 03:53 PM
  #7  
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Wow...only after posting this did I realize that the tour operator pulled the old switcheroo on me and put in the Taj Lodge in Ranthambhore!

Hmmm...after doing a search on Google, I did find that the Sawai Madhopur is often referred to as the Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge, so I am assuming that this is one and the same?

Roccco is offline  
Mar 11th, 2004, 02:05 AM
  #8  
 
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Looking pretty good.

I am kind of surprised you aren't going to the Taj the first day, esp as you will be right next door. You can easily make your own way over, pay the huge admission fee ($16 per person), and take a look around. It is especially beautiful at sunrise and sunset, so try to go then. Of course, you may get just as good a view from the hotel, so you may save on the entrance fees!

With regard to Bharatpur, if no one in your group is interested in birds, I would skip it and spend more time in Agra, Jaipur, Ranthambore or Delhi. Spending a night there really seems like a waste of time. I also have my doubts about the Laxmi Vilas. Have you searched for comments on this hotel? (No Trip Advisor for Asia yet, unfortunately). As discussed below, and as you seem to know, a better route is Agra-Jaipur-Ranthambore, with a stop of about 2-3 hours at Fatephur Sikri on the way to Jaipur. I would have the hotel pack lunch and have a picnic among the ruins of Fatephur Sikri.

I have posted this before, but the drive from Agra to Ranthambore is on terrible roads, rutted and full of potholes and actually dirt roads in many places. I can't emphasize enough how bad this drive is. I believe this will be the case even if you go via Bharatpur, and the fact that they estimate a 6-7 hour drive makes me think you would be taking the same route I did. (Even my driver didn't want to take this route, but we insisted, not knowing any better because on the map it looks possible. . .) Please ask your tour company some specific questions about this portion of the trip. Remember that there will be 5 of you in the car which will make it even more uncomfortable. My recommendation is that you go to Jaipur first (good road between Agra and Jaipur), spend a few days there, and then take the good road from Jaipur down to Ranthambore.

I would actually take the train back to Delhi from Ranthambore. It takes just about 6 hours, would give some good scenery and the chance to experience Indian trains and train stations. Most importantly it would be faster than driving which would take between 8-10 hours, and by that time you will probably have had enough of Indian roads anyway. . . Let the driver go back to Delhi when you arrive in Ranthambore (as you don't need him for this portion of the trip) and make your own way back to Delhi by train. He could even take the bulk of your luggage and shopping. The Golden Temple Mail (train #2903) leaves Sawai at 1 pm and arrives in Delhi at 6:30 pm, a nice afternoon ride. This would also give you a chance to do a morning jeep safari before you leave Sawai. First class fare is about US$30 per person. Website for Indian Railways is www.indianrail.gov.in.

In Jaipur, Raj Vilas is probably a good idea (although a bit out of town), also consider the Rambagh Palace. If you stay at the Raj Vilas, they have a lovely restaurant where you can eat outdoors in a courtyard with pools and fountains and there is generally dancing as well. Having looked up Chokhi Dhani on the web, I see it is a theme village, not sure this is really what you want. Take a look at http://www.chokhidhani.com/entertainment.htm. Could be very kitschy or very good, I have seen both in Jaipur. (The Rambagh used to have an excellent evening cultural performace, ask your agent if they still do, that might be worth it rather than the dinner they have planned for you. )

I would actually divide up the sightseeing over two days rather than having one very long day sightseeing and one day free. The first day go to the Amber Fort in the morning which is outside Jaipur, maybe have lunch somewhere on the way back, do some shopping in the afternoon. The second morning go to the City Palace, the Observatory and the Hawa Mahal last, as its is an interesting neighborhood and there is some shopping around there. The City Palace is huge and you could actually spend a whole day here, so give yourself time. I found the Observatory fascinating, it is a series of huge ancient time measuring and timekeeping devices, not an observatory as you might expect. You could have lunch and then go to the Hawa Mahal, then more shopping until dinner.

In Ranthambore, the tour seems to include only 2 jeep safaris, I would recommend you make your own arrangement to do a jeep safari tour on your first afternoon. They leave around 3 pm, which means you should have arrived at the hotel already. The Taj can arrange for a jeep and driver for you, send them an e-mail in about late October or November to make a booking. There is only one hotel in the Ranthambore area run by the Taj group, and on their website they refer to it as The Sawai Madhopur Lodge. I don't think any there was any switch, unless there is another hotel in Sawai with the name Taj, kind of doubtful. If you can't get a suite, take a tent.

In Delhi, it looks like you aren't going inside the Red Fort. I would request that your tour includes at least a brief walk inside and look around. The grounds are extensive and there are several interesting buildings and gardens.

Cicerone is offline  
Mar 12th, 2004, 08:33 PM
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The Raj Vilas, though a fabulous property, is a little out of Jaipur, so you might reconsider and stay in the Rambagh or the other Taj property.Do take a visit to the City palace as well.While in Delhi you must also visit the Bahai temple which is a beautiful structure in the shape of a lotus flower.
Vrins is offline  
Mar 12th, 2004, 10:28 PM
  #10  
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Cicerone and Vrins, thanks for the additional feedback.

I think the suggestion of taking the train back from Ranthambhore to Delhi is an excellent suggestion. However, would it be safe to have my driver take back my luggage to Delhi?

Regarding Jaipur, I would be perfectly willing to consider the Rambagh Palace, but I have not been able to find a picture of a historical suite, which at least on www.realrajashtan.com seems to be about the same price as a Luxury Tent at Raj Vilas. Really though, the historical suite would have to be above and beyond the luxury tent in order for me to stay there.

About the tiger viewing, I have requested twice daily game drives, although I am not sure if I copied and pasted that portion of the email from the tour operator. It will be very odd doing a game drive in India, but I am somewhat comforted in knowing that we will have a jeep to ourselves (four of us) instead of riding in some of the atrocious looking trucks/trailers that are shown in some pictures, hauling possibly 15-20 guests at once.

I will make sure that the Red Fort is included and I will definitely make my own way over to the Taj Mahal on the first day at Agra.

Lastly, any comments on whether Jaipur or Delhi would be more deserving of a fourth night (taking out the bird sanctuary) would be appreciated.

Thanks again.
Roccco is offline  
Mar 13th, 2004, 02:55 AM
  #11  
 
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Roccco - how did you find out about www.realrajasthan.com? I will shortly be working on an early 2005 India trip and am interested in your feedback as to how much you are saving versus reserving the hotels etc. individually. It seems like a really good website but I would want to have some assurance that the company is reliable - also once you decide on your itinerary, how much of a deposit do they require?
Craig is offline  
Mar 13th, 2004, 04:17 AM
  #12  
 
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For pictures of the various rooms at the Rambagh, take a look at Leading Hotels of the World (lhw.com) as the Rambagh is there and there are some photos. Also try the Taj group's website. Send an e-mail to the hotel asking for photos of the suites by e-mail. (I just did this for my trip to Italy next month and got several photos over the web, seemed to be no issue for the hotels.) One thing I will say about the tents at Rajvilas is that they are not huge. They are a good size, but I would not call them spacious. They have the bed in the middle of the room which takes up a lot of space. Not sure if this is important to you, but I though I would mention it. The rooms in the "regular" part of the hotel are more spacious as they place the furniture in a more space saving way, plus the bathrooms are really something. The ones in the tent are nice and very "safari" like, but the bathtub is in the middle of the bathroom area which is really not cut off from the bedroom except by curtains and I just found that kind of weird. The other thing about the tents is that you won't have a view at all, in the first place the tent flaps are low, and in the second the tents are located in an enclosed area so you won't get views of the hillside or desert areas. In the regular rooms at the Rajvilas or at the Rambagh, you would be able to get rooms with garden views and some might have views of the hills. I think the overall quality of the Rajvilas is probably better, but I might trade that for views, history and charm, plus nice gardens.

Hard choice between Jaipur and Delhi. I think I would add it to Jaipur. I can't tell from your last day what time your flight departs, is it in the morning or do you have a full day or half day in Delhi? If you have at least a half day in Delhi on your last day, then I would add the extra day in Jaipur. You could take a day trip into desert areas to see ruined castles, etc. The only reason to spend it in Delhi might be if you want to go to museums (they are several good ones in Delhi) or do some last minute shopping, although I think Jaipur is actually better and easier to get around for shopping. If your wife wants to buy a sari (I remember this from previous posts), then set aside a morning or afternoon for looking at the hundreds of choices, plus there would be time to have under-blouses made with matching trim, etc. Pick a shop, go in, sit down get some tea and start looking. . . .

I would have no worries having the driver take the luggage back and leaving it at the Imperial, but that is me, I am a trusting optimist who has never really had a bad experience travelling, and never in India. My mother certainly wouldn?t, as she trusts no one (and still no bad things have happened to her, so go figure). Obliviously you would not put valuable things in the luggage, and would lock it. You may want to see how you feel about the driver generally and decide at the end of the trip. It really is not a pain to take luggage onto the trains (and you will find many, many offers of help, more than you actually want), so if you don't want to give the luggage to the driver, you can take it with you just as easily.
Cicerone is offline  
Mar 13th, 2004, 03:51 PM
  #13  
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Craig,

I posted a detailed response to your question on the thread that you started over on the Africa board.

Cicerone,

Thanks for the additional information about Jaipur accomodations. After your comments, I think I am shying away from Raj Vilas to instead the Rambagh Palace, although I haven't had a chance to check out the photos yet.

I am not sure about what time I will leave on the last night. I am working with www.awardplanner.com, a great website that will track down frequent flier seats, on getting me seats from LAX - Delhi. From what I have seen, I do think that I will arrive in the very early hours of the morning but I am not sure about the departure back to Los Angeles yet.

Thanks.
Roccco is offline  
Mar 16th, 2004, 03:49 AM
  #14  
 
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U could consider a night at the Neemrana Fort Palace - gorgeous property. Outskirts of Delhi. See it on www.heritagehotels.com. Highly recommended to destress after a hectic tour! U could consider making that your last night in Del as is relatively near the intl airport.
Sameera_Anand is offline  

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