For Cicerone - Devi Garh Q

Old May 23rd, 2012, 11:38 AM
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For Cicerone - Devi Garh Q

Hello Cicerone, Finally booked flights to India. We'll be there in mid-September, which could still be monsoon season, but it's the only time we can get away. For our rural experience, we're trying to decide between three nights at Ahilya Fort near Indore or Devi Garh, and I noticed on an old thread that you were at Devi Garh in September. How was the weather? Was it too hot for touring and walks in the village? And if we go, do you think we should also include a day in the city of Udaipur so we can relax at Devi Garh?
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Old May 23rd, 2012, 10:24 PM
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I will touch upon Maheshwar.
A visit to Ahilya Fort in Maheshwar will be a unique experience. That place is caught in a time warp and takes you back to the medieval India. Not much has changed.The river Narmada itself is the focus of the town, with people's lives centered around it. There are Shaivite temples along the Ghats of the river and you will notice devotees chanting hymns,carrying flowers, incense, oil lamps. Little boys run after cycle tyres, cows and orange robed dervishes dwell on the banks. The evenings are flooded with the golden rays of setting sun. The chants of 'Narmadey Har Har' comes floating down from the banks!
Very close by is the medieval kingdom of Mandu with elegant palaces, ruins of towers and water reservoirs,magnificent mosques.
Happy travels!
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Old May 23rd, 2012, 11:36 PM
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Thanks, vp. Sounds so magical - I've been reading about it for years and really want to go. But do you think mid-September is okay in Maheshwar (rain, heat, mosquito issues)?
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Old May 24th, 2012, 01:10 PM
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udaipur is a very nice visit... a visit to the fort palace is the main thing and a ride on the main lake..
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Old May 24th, 2012, 09:51 PM
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I would rate a visit in mid-september as Good. This is the time when the monsoons have withdrawn or are in the process of it. The countryside which is parched and thirsty before the onset, is now green. It is a dramatic time to see the Narmada in full flow!! Obviously, October to early March is the Best time.
The weather turns very pleasant in the month of September. The sun is yet warm during the day but the evenings and mornings are indeed pleasant.
As for the mosquitoes, the fort rooms have fly / mosquito proofing. The repellents are in place. The electricity is 24-hours with power back-up. The mosquitoes emerge at twilight. That is the time to be careful. Apply the cream if you intend sitting out.
Enjoy your travels!
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Old May 24th, 2012, 10:50 PM
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Thanks again, vp. Where do you think we'd find more pleasant weather during that time - Devi Garh (in the Araveli Hills near Udaipur) or Maheshwar?
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Old May 25th, 2012, 02:16 AM
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<blue>Crosscheck</blue>, that area of India does not get downpours during monsoon season like other parts of India (southern areas like Kerala and Goa esp), so I would not be concerned about experiencing heavy rain. It will be quite hot, so assuming that is OK with you, I think September is otherwise fine. The cone-shaped hills are green and quite pretty as opposed to the dry brown landscape which most tourists see in the winter months. The lake in Udaipur is likely to be full, again as opposed to the mud bottom you might find in December.

It's not fiercly hot like April and the pre-monsoon months. Some days will most likely be overcast, but that can actually be helpful when touring. Early mornings and evenings are quite pleasant, and IMO those are good times in the village in any event as it is most active. Local people are quite sensible and rest during the heat of the day. (As the song says: only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the Noon day sun.)

When I was there in September, the pool at Devigarh was basically a very warm bath and was not refreshing, and you would not want to sit out in the sun around it for any length of time; but other than that I don’t think you will notice a big difference at the hotel in the hot season. You can eat outdoors if you want (you may not want to for lunch). The hotel is one of my top 3 favourites in the world, if it were on a beach it would be #1 on my list. Not really for luxury (rooms can be quircky but loaded with charm) so much as for ambience and service.

When I was there in September, I did a fair bit of walking, including some trail walks and up to the Mother Goddess temple, and while it certainly was hot, it was fine (bring water, a hat and dress appropriately). I also went riding, and again it was warm but perfectly doable even in long pants, boots, etc.

If you are not a person who likes heat, then India in September may not be the best time of year for you. You can also find respite like the air con of the car and of course your room.

I don't think you would find appreciably different weather between Udaipur and Maheshwar at that time of year. If anything, Maheshwar will be warmer as it is 200 miles further south.

I am not a person who is bothered by mosquitoes so I have to confess that I never notice them; but then again I have lived in the tropics or semi-tropics most of my adult life and generally don't notice them at home either. In terms of Malaria risk, Udaipur/Rajasthan is considered a low-risk area, while Maheshwar is in a higher-risk area and anti-Malarial medication would be advised for that area, see
http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/desti...laria-map.aspx as well as speaking with a tropical medicine doctor.
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Old May 25th, 2012, 07:45 AM
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Thanks so much, Cicerone. You've convinced me - we've just booked Devi Garh for four days. Thrilled about the hiking opportunities and strolls into town in the evenings. (How is the road at night? Is it feasible to spend an evening in Udaipur?)

We should be okay with the heat - I have lived in several Latin American countries, so know the drill about afternoon siestas. And I share your mosquito attitude - Mr. Crosscheck, however, is a not a fan.

Just curious: What are your two other favorite hotels?

Now just have to figure out the rest of the trip. If we go to both Agra and Varanasi, the other musts on our list as first timers, we won't be able to fit in Ahilya as well.
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Old May 25th, 2012, 08:00 AM
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I too would love to know Cicerone's other favorite hotels!
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Old May 25th, 2012, 10:30 AM
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So glad you booked Devigarh! My only comment is not to book the "garden rooms" but to book in the fort itself. The garden rooms are nothing special and are a new addition to the hotel at the entrance and are not part of the fort proper.

The road to Udaipur is excellent, it takes 30-40 minutes, it's fine to drive back for the evening as it is not a major highway (which I generally do not like to drive a night in India); but you might prefer Udaipur in daylight when you can see the lake; so I would say to go during the day and then stay for dinner and come back later at night.

There are walking opportunities around the hotel and also biking as it is flatish immediately around the hotel (I have not biked but I believe the hotel will organize this for you and would be a good way to visit smaller villages). For sure see the nearby Jain temple at Delawara and the Hindu temple in Eklingji in addition to walking the village in which Udaipur is located. The hotel will take you on a walk, and then you can also go back yourself if you want to spend more time. The walk up to the Goddess temple is good; you probably should drive to the start as it is a bit far (it might be bikeable, but perhaps on a second visit when you know the way); path is paved most of the way.

September is the time of various local festivals, including the Jhoolni-Ekadashi, and to see some of the local celebrations might be interesting. You might want to ask the hotel about local festivals (drivers are also a good source of info I have found).

I hope you are considering going to the fantastic fortress of at Kumbhalgarh for a day trip, really interesting and you can include the Jain temple at Ranakpur as well. Have lunch at the Adohi Hotel at the entrance gate to Kumbhalgarh, or bring a packed lunch from the hotel and have it on the ramparts of the fort.

Mr Crosscheck will be OK with mosquitoes at night as there is air con at Devigarh and air con in cars; for the rest he will just have to grin and bear it. As Rajasthan is mostly desert with little water, I don't think he will find this to be a problem, however.

As for Maheshwar, yes it is hard to fit in everything. Like the US, India is a huge country and it is hard to cover everything in a short trip. Varanasi is extremely interesting and a big part of Indian culture, and I would certainly say to include that. I don't want to be sacrilegious here, but if you want to cut out Agra to go someplace else, then do it. There is no law which says you have to see the Taj Mahal when you go to India. If someone who had never been to the US were skipping New York or Washington DC to go to the Grand Canyon or New Orleans instead, would you say that is a terrible thing? I actually like Agra, but not everyone does. Once you get beyond the touristy bits around the Taj it is quite interesting. I think the Taj Mahal is beautiful and sublime, but again, if you have other interests, you should follow those. It’s your holiday. People may think you are odd for going to India and not seeing the Taj, but it's not your job to please those people. (And some people will just think you are odd for going to India. And some people only know the Taj Mahal.)

I was afraid you might ask about my other favourite hotels. I confess that a few are tied for third place. It depends on the purpose of the trip. And in some cases, I feel it is my duty to keep going back just to make sure that one is not better than the other (I will be doing an inspection tour in Switzerland in August):

1. Le Kempinski Mirador Hotel in Vevey, Switzerland (junior suites only)
2. Four Season Kuda Huraa Maldives
3. Portrait Suites (Ferragamo) Hotel, Rome (the suite with huge terrace, small gym and sauna preferred)
3. Seminar und Wellness Hotel in Stoos, a tiny village in the Swiss Alps where you fall asleep with the doors open and the air perfumed with the smell of wood smoke and the sound of cowbells, and then get up next day for the best easy hike in Switzerland. If it rains, you take a steam, have a massage and sit by the fire with a glass of wine. This is also about the least expensive of all the hotels on my list, which also makes it a favourite!
3. Devigarh
3. Londolozi Game Reserve, South Africa
3. Hotel Santa Caterina, Almafi, Italy
3. Poetry Inn, Napa Valley, California
3. Glenfinnan House, Fort William Scotland (esp on live music night in the bar)

Fourth place is also relatively long….
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Old May 26th, 2012, 12:31 PM
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Thanks for your most comprehensive response, especially the tip about the garden rooms, which is what I currently have booked.

Also loved your eclectic hotel list - The Four Seasons is normally too glitzy for me, but you can sign me up for Kuda Huraa!

Our itinerary is still a work in progress. We're now thinking of including both DeviGarh and Ahilya. This would mean(sadly) cutting out Varanasi because we've heard horror stories about the ghats routinely flooding in September (and Mr. C wants to minimize internal flights).

The Taj Mahal is still on the list for now because our return flight is from Delhi. Will probably start a separate thread soon and collect everyone's opinions.
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Old May 28th, 2012, 04:06 AM
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OK, well a few thoughts on the above:

1. It is quite unusual for the ghats to be flooded completely to the extent that it would affect you as a tourist. I don't think this has happened in about 10 years. In that case, the flooding came up into the streets and also affected farmers fields in low lying areas. That was due to a very heavy monsoon season. As the monsoon has not started yet in India, it is of course too soon to tell if that would be the case for you in September, but my guess is that it would not. The river always rises and falls according to the dry or wet season; in September it is higher than in February as the river is higher due to the summer rains. However, the ghats (which are simply steps down into the river) are designed to allow pilgrims to enter the water for bathing at all seasons, so in the wet seasons, the water just comes up a bit higher on the steps. I have seen it in both wet and dry seasons; both have their advantages and disadvantages. But I would not avoid Varanasi because of the very small chance of actual flooding. (In fact newspaper reports I have been reading only predict an "average" monsoon; they of course can be wrong.) You could also keep this part flexibly until the monsoon has started and you can get an idea of how big the rains are. Of course, some of this won't be known until August, which may be a bit late.

Also note that if Varanasi is flooding badly then Maheshwar is likely to be experiencing a similar problem.

2. I would not say Maheshwar is easy to get to. I assume you are flying to Indore from Delhi and then driving, I think that is about a 2- 3 hour drive. So with flight time you are looking at about 3.5 hours minimum. Not sure I see how this is easier than flying to Varanasi, esp as the airport for Varanasi is quite close to the city and will save you at least 2 hours each way on Indian roads; not something to be taken lightly.

3. The other thing you could do to limit your flights is take a train from Varanasi to Agra (I would take the day train just so you can see something, but a night train is possible and "saves" you a hotel room, although I end up more tired the next day…) So routing would be

Delhi to Udaipur – fly

Udaipur to Varanasi - fly (connect via Delhi, looks quite possible on the Jet flights, you leave at 8 am from Udaipur and arrive Varanasi at Noon)

Varanasi to Agra – train

Agra to Delhi - drive or train

Of course I don't know the rest of your itin and how this would fit in.

4. If you still want to limit flights, and still want to skip Varanasi, then you might consider Rishikesh as an alternative. This is a "mini" Varanasi, although far less touristed. (They do not do cremations to nearly the same level as Varanasi, however). It is in the foothills of the Himalaya, which makes it quite scenic and offers good walking/hiking and white water rafting and you may also be able to fit in a day at a wildlife park. (Varanasi does not offer any of the above as it is on a very flat plain) It's quite an interesting place, IMO. There is also a very good hotel, Amanda in the Himalayas, see http://www.anandaspa.com/. I hear some mixed reviews of the Glasshouse on the Ganges, I have not stayed, but see http://www.neemranahotels.com/glassh...ndex.html.htm; this group runs some other interesting hotels in India.

To get to Rishikesh, you would take a train to Dehradun from Delhi (5 hours), Rikisesh is less than 30 minutes by car from there. You can also fly to Derhadun in about an hour on Jet, this may be a more attractive option for one leg of the trip if you have limited time; however the train journey is pleasant. You can also get off at Haridwar and take a taxi, it's about an hour I think.
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Old May 28th, 2012, 10:10 PM
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You're right - Varanasi is probably less of a hassle to get to than Ahilya. But if we include Varanasi, we would also want Khajuraho and Orccha. So for now, I think it will be just AF/DG/Agra (plus one night in Mumbai upon arrival. Will find out there's a train/road trip possibility for one travel day. Meanwhile, already planning our second trip!
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Old May 28th, 2012, 10:12 PM
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And, thanks VP for the Ahilya pitch - we're in. Hard to pass up.
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Old Jun 20th, 2012, 12:43 PM
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Update: Because of travel logistics, we have added Varanasi and will save Maheshwar for the next time. Our current itinerary looks like this:

Mumbai(1)>>Devi Garh(4)>>Varanasi(2)>>Khajuraho(1)>>Agra(2)>>(afternoon/evening in Delhi before departure)

Opinions?
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