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Gilawi's India trip report - February 2008

Gilawi's India trip report - February 2008

Old Mar 28th, 2008, 07:06 AM
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Gilawi's India trip report - February 2008

At last I have the time to post a trip report of my amazing and fully enjoyable trip to India. First like to give thanks to all whom contributed (in one form or another) to make this trip a most memorable one: Thanks Craig for starting all it up when we met in Bankgok two years ago and comment his experience in India. That was the starter for me. Thanks Cicerone,Waynehazle,rhkkmk, blberger, CFW and lot of other posters who gave very helpul information when needed. And thanks to my Tour Planner, Mr. VP Singh (Legends and Palaces), who organized a flawless and logistically perfect trip for me and my wife. I must say that his personal interest throught the whole trip (which included frequent phone calls while travelling and when getting into the hotels) make this trip one that will be in our memories forever. Recommended highly his service.

This will not be a very detailed trip report. Will focus on what really make India a special place for us. Also will comment on travel experiences, places and Hotels used throughout.

San Juan - New Delhi: Departed San Juan, Puerto Rico to Chicago O'hare, on February 8. Same day took the flight to New Delhi, arriving next day around 9PM. Next day - around 10AM - met our driver and took our first look at New Dehli. Visited Qutab Minar, Lotus temple, India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhawan...interesting places but not really impressed by any of them. In the afternoon visited Chandni Chowk in a rickshaw, Sis Ganj, a Sikh temple, and Jama Masjid. Chandni Chowk was my first time I've will experience the chaos of Indian cities and towns (which I enjoy...hundreds of peolpe, women with their colouful and beautifil Saris. The visit to Sis Ganj was very interesting too. There were a group of worshippers listening to lectures of the Coran, and later some music and singing was performed. Next day visited the Humayun Tomb, Connaught Place and the amazing Akshardham temple. And alert here is pertinent. Although this temple was amazing, it gave me mixed feelings: you cannot take your cameras, videocameras and a long list of other things indicated at the ticket office. So you will never have a picture or video of you in this beautiful temple (you will need to buy postcards or DVD to keep memory of the place). Other thing, if you plan to visit the Ranakpur Jain temples, visiting Akshardham temple first could be anticlicmatic. Those beautifully and very detailed carved columns that you will find in Ranakpur you will see in Akshardham. The difference: Ranakpur's are very old and the AT are new, giving me the feeling of been in the Epcot World Showcase. But don't misunderstood, AT is an authentic and amazing Jain temple worth a visit if you go with this information beforehand.Remember this is just my personal experience. I'm sure many who have visited the place will disagree with my comments.

Varanasi - I will borrowed some words from VP Singh to describe my experiences in this city: "an assault to your senses". None of the others cities I visited in India can compare to the incredible and surprising Varanasi. Just trying to get to our hotel at the Ganges (Rashmi Guest House )when we arrived was an experience itself: people, cows, rickshaws, religious processions, music, smells...all contributed to the feel that we were in the India you imagined (or not imagined),and leave us speechless. Taking a boat in the early morning to see daily activities at the river, watching a night ceremony for the dead (aarti) at the Ganges, walking on the ghats, visting the cremation site and seeing the procedures and actual burning of some of the deads were the highlights of our trip. In the cremation area they won't let you take pictures or videos, so the only opportunity to do so will be taking a bot excursion and shooting at some distance with Telephoto lens. Beware that there are some scammers that will give you a "special permit" to take some nearby photos for 1,000 rupees. I would suggest anyone going to Varanasi to spend at least two full days to really experience and try to digest (in a good sense)the visit to this overwhelming (again, in a good sense) city. Another thing, although there are very nice hotels in the city, no near the Ganges, I urge you to stay at the river. This will enrich your experience much more than staying on the outskirts of Varanasi. Maybe if you take a look at the pictures will speak louder than my words in this report. Go to Flickr.com and sign in: [email protected]
Password: awilda

Will post later more of this trip report.
gilawi01 is offline  
Old Mar 28th, 2008, 07:51 AM
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Great start! I'm really looking forward to your full trip report. India is on our list of must-experience places.
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 08:06 AM
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great start....we will enjoy your perspectives
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 09:36 AM
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Great pictures. You really captured the essence of India. I can feel the dust and heat, and smell the fires
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 11:28 AM
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more! more! I'm heading there again in May, and you are putting me in the mood!

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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 11:35 AM
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Enjoying this, Gilberto - hope it will be as good as your photos...
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 12:57 PM
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Gilberto, as you know I have been excited about your trip for some time. Your pictures are amazing and I can smell and taste Varanasi ... but in a good way.

Looking forward to more.
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 05:15 PM
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Great photos -- wetting our appetite for more of your trip report.

Don't want to hijack this great report, but would love to hear about the plans for your next trip to India in May. Maybe start a new thread -- Lcuy's next trip to India. You're one of the people that got me excited about travelling to India. So glad you did!
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 05:32 PM
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Looking forward to more! Glad to hear another vote for staying on the river in Varanasi - and for staying there longer.
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 05:34 PM
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Thanks CFW!
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Old Mar 29th, 2008, 03:44 AM
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Enjoyed your photos, Gilawi! And I'm looking forward to the rest of your trip report!

BTW, here is a direct link to the photos:
http://flickr.com/photos/[email protected]
It's not necessary (and not recommended!) to give out your password on Flickr.
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Old Mar 29th, 2008, 08:10 AM
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Thanks Nutella!
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Old Mar 29th, 2008, 06:46 PM
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India trip report - part 2

Next destination was Agra. We were transfered to the Varanasi train station to take the Marudhar Express night train. We did this just for the experience of travelling in an Indian train. The train station itself was another interesting one: there are uniformed personell to take your lugagge to your compartments, but as soon as they took ours, they rushed and almost get lost among the hundred of people at the station. In an instance we thought we wouldn't see our luggage again. We lost eye contact and we were really worried. But we were wrong, they just took it to the right platform and were waiting for us with a smile. A curious thing happend while waiting for the train. There was a cow happily walking over the rails. I thought: "Does that cow knows a train is coming in a few minutes?" How she will get out? I really started to worry as I saw the train coming at a distance, and try to scare her off the rails. People waiting at the train platform laughed. Apparently the knew exactly what the cow was going to do as the train approaches. Well, the cow went away just in the right moment, and then I started to laugh too (that's the Indian cows way of doing things).

The night train experience was not that bad. I think it was Waynehazle's train story written in his journal: "The Crucible..." that prepared me for the voyage. Arrived early at Agra and checked in Taj View Hotel. On that same day we made our first of two visits to the Taj Mahal. It was a glorious day: bright sunshine, no haze and the quality of light was perfect for photos. As we pass the gate and took our first glimpse, we just sat and for more than 15 minutes stared speechles at this most amazing monument...it was that beautiful. Took lot and lots of pictures and, at that moment, decided to do a second visit in early morning, which I did. With much less people that in the previous day, this time took time to admire and sit besides the walls and just contemplate from this perspective (it was much more bigger than I thought).

In Agra, we visited Fort Agra, Baby Taj and Itmaduddaullah tomb (many monkeys here), all very interesting. I would recommend the firs time visitor to do this places first. The Taj will overshadow any monument that you will see after that.

In Agra we met again our driver (Rampal) who will drive us for the rest ot the trip. On our way to Jaipur we visited Fathepur Sikrit, one of the world heritage cities. Anyone on their way to Jaipur must visit this place: beautiful buildings on a very pretty and very quite and peaceful setting.

The road from Agra to Jaipur came to be a super-stress test I've never experienced before. Just one lane on each way, with hundreds of trucks carrying all kinds of products. In this trip I've concluded that the Indian drivers are the worst or the best you'll ever see: the best when they constantly avoid those big trucks honking their horns and coming at you at full speed, and dodging the cows, camel carts, cyclists...any sort of things that moves and shares the road with you. We couldn't close our eyes to rest for a moment. My wife was constantly emiting alert sounds like ooohh, ahhhh, careful, there is a cow, a sheep, a camel...etc, etc. I had to give her the impression that everthing was fine and said the drivers are experts (which I think they are) in this kind of situations to calm her down, when in reality, I was making the same sounds in "silent mode". You would think they are the worst drivers when he is the one who charges against the trucks coming at you and try to pass any vehicle or animal in front of his car. But, you know what? After travelling for some days I've concluded that Rampal was really an expert driver. We travelled for more than 1,000 miles and became so used to his driving that even we took naps. In fact, we thought it was incredible that we didn't see an accident in our whole trip.

In Jaipur visited the beautiful Fort Amber and took our gaily caparisoned elephant to the top. It was and enjoyable experience. Again, it was a very beautiful day. Later on went to see the Palace of Winds. City Palace & Museum and the Old Observatory. The amazing thing at this place is that the instruments really worked and gives accurate reading of time. In Jaipur stayed at the very nice Jas Vilas Hotel.

From Jaipur went to Jodhpur. The road was not as bad and congested as from Agra to Jaipur. Here we visited the amazing Meharangarh Fort. We really like this place. The views from the top to the "blue city" were beautiful. The fort itself was one of the highlights of our trip. Here you woulndn't need any guide. At the ticket office you can pay for an excellent recorded tour in variuos languages. The vist to the spices, fruits and veggie market was very interesting and colourful. Our hotel was Ratan Vilas.

On part III will report on Jaisalmer, Ranakpur and Udaipur.
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Old Mar 30th, 2008, 02:48 PM
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Gilberto, I am glad your train trip was better than mine. But whose wasn't?

I am also glad you saw more of Agra than just the Taj.


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