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If you had one month in India, where would you go?

If you had one month in India, where would you go?

Jun 11th, 2008, 02:30 PM
  #1  
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If you had one month in India, where would you go?

It looks like we will have more time in India than we thought, so I am scrapping my original itinerary and starting from scratch. We now have a month. We want to start in Bombay and end in Kathmandu. The rest is now a blank. What would you do? Though we've traveled extensively around the world, its our first time to India. We like to travel by car/van or will consider train (especially overnight train) if the road between two places is impassable (we used to live in a place that had very few, and horrible roads, so kinda bad roads don't scare us!). We like to stay at least 2-3 nights in each place. We like to travel independently. We have a moderate budget -- probably can't stay at the Oberoi every night, but can splurge on a couple really nice places. Is there a place that you absolutely loved and wished that you could have spent more time there? Please let me know and why. I've read several guidebooks and think we want to do Rahjastan, Delhi and Varanasi. How would you build the perfect itinerary? Thanks in advance for all your ideas!!!
travelaw is offline  
Jun 11th, 2008, 04:35 PM
  #2  
 
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Here's where we went in four weeks:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...7&tid=35111329
Marija is online now  
Jun 11th, 2008, 05:11 PM
  #3  
 
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My husband and I are going at the end of July this year and will be there for 18 days. My husband has been many times (in fact one time many years ago he stayed for three months).

His recommendations are: You don't need to spend alot of time in Bombay. Try a couple of days in Delhi(Red Fort,Jami Masjid, India Gate, Lodi Gardens, Qutab Minar Tower, Safdarjan's Tomb, Lotus Temple), a trip to Agra (to see the Taj at sunset and during the day if possible, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri on the way down). A trip to Darjeeling is worthwhile for a couple of days (Tiger Hill,Ghoom Monastery, Batastia Loop, Toy Train, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute ,Zoo, Tenzing Rock, Tibetian Refugee Center, Tea Garden). You definitely want to make some time for Southern India. Fly into Madras but not a lot of time there. Mahabiparum, Ooty, Goa, Cochin,and Mudumali.

We have an whole itinerary mapped out with hotel names and prices, airline names, flt numbers and prices, things to see. If you think it would be helpful, we would be happy to email it to you. Also - we have driven in many places around the world that others have recommended against - but even my husband will not drive in India. We are flying between major cities (Spice Jet and Jet Airways have very inexpensive flights) and getting drivers or hotel sponsored tours once we get there.

Let me know if you want the documents.
Merrisr is offline  
Jun 11th, 2008, 06:34 PM
  #4  
 
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What month are you travelling? That would make a huge difference to me. Delhi in April is over 100 F most days, but in Feb is in the 70s with flowers blooming. But you would have other options in April. Also, what are your interests, outdoor pursuits, cities, religious sites, beaches, hills, mountains, etc. India is a huge country with a vast range of options.

I agree that there is no reason to start in Mumbai. There are many international flight options these days, including into places like Bangalore, Hyderabad and even Amritsar (check Jet Airways from London for the latter). You might want to check into these options which may give you more flexibility and the chance to see other parts of India.

My perfect itinerary would not include Nepal, it would include Bhutan instead.
Cicerone is offline  
Jun 12th, 2008, 07:28 AM
  #5  
 
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I travel a lot there for work and the internal flights are booked with the Inetrnational and only end up cosying a nominal amount more i.e. 200 euro for 3 business class internal on Jet when I use Air france...so much easier and its easy to change flights once over there for a small fee. Hyderabad...not my favourite place...why not Kerala or Goa so different in each part of India it will give you an overview.
SiobhanP is offline  
Jun 12th, 2008, 05:35 PM
  #6  
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Thanks for linking your TR Marija. It was great reading and I do hope to incorporate some of the places you visited. It sounds like you had an absolutely fabulous trip! Merrisr, my email is [email protected]. I would love to see your itinerary. Thank you! Thanks also SiobhanP for your flight advice. I will check out Kerala and Goa -- we were thinking we should either take a northern route or a southern route (and return to India in the near future to do the route we don't do this time) -- and are leaning toward the northern route through Rahjastan, which seems like the typical first time trip to India, though we are not necessarily sold on that.
Cicerone, from browsing this forum I know you are extremely knowledgeable about India, so I am especially interested in your advice. We will be traveling in December. We are flying to Mumbai because we were able to finagle FF RT first class tickets there. I would have preferred Delhi, but the airline we have points with doesn't fly there. We are ending up in Kathmandu, because we have been invited to visit some friends there. We really like cultural sights -- my DH is an urban planner and a history buff, and we both appreciate cultural experiences and religious sites and temples. Though we both grew up on the beach, we are not big beach buffs. Of course, a day at the beach might be nice as a rest along the way. We like hiking and boating and have done some of that on our previous trips -- we wouldn't mind a bit of climbing or sailing, but would probably prefer to concentrate on the cultural and historical sites/ruins on this trip. We are not interested in the tiger safari -- we have experienced that before, and though we really enjoyed it, we don't feel compelled to do Ranthambore in India, although I am sure it is beautiful. We've also been on camel and elephant safaris (in Egypt, Morocco and Thailand), and that was fun, but again, its not a huge priority for us to do that again. We do love the elephants though. Camels . . . not so much. We enjoy seeing the countryside as much as the city. Our lovely daughter and her friend who will be accompanying us are in involved in the film industry -- we are using whatever connections we have and trying every which way we can think of to get into Film City (Bollywood), which they would love to see. We consider ourselves foodies and love trying new (to us) and unusual dishes. We like the Indian food we get here in the States, but we are looking forward to experiencing the real thing. We do not like big box hotels, and although we appreciate luxury (we actually get to stay in very nice hotels 3x a week for our jobs!), we definitely prefer boutique hotels, home stays or small hotels with a lot of character. On a long trip we usually factor in a luxury hotel a time or two for ultimate relaxation and to restore our energy reserves. I love fabric and decorating and will probably try to find an unusual item or two to bring home as a memento. When we were in Turkey I bought a bolt of fabric and reupholstered one of our sofas with it. That gives you an idea of the kind of "souvenir" I like. I should mention also that, as experienced travelers, we are extremely patient and flexible -- we aren't ruffled very easily, and I understand that will be a benefit to travel in India. That doesn't mean that we accept or tolerate sub-par services -- we've been known to diplomatically insist on what we've paid for and will fire bad guides if necessary! I would very much like to visit Bhutan, its quite high on my list, but not sure we can do both that and Nepal this time. Thanks so much in advance for your thoughts. I do hope I've given you a fair idea of what we are like and what we might be interested in. You guys are the best!
travelaw is offline  
Jun 12th, 2008, 06:05 PM
  #7  
 
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we have traveled to india in december. it's actually a great time to visit some of the hotter locations. just know that if you're doing the northern route, it does get pretty chilly. the furthest north we went was delhi/agra, but it was down to 0 celcius when we were there.

also -- i would recommend anything but driving. the traffic in india is like no where i've ever been, & even my relatives there use a driver
ared2879 is offline  
Jun 12th, 2008, 06:25 PM
  #8  
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Thanks ared2879 -- I should have made it clearer, we will use a car and driver and not drive ourselves, though we have done that in some places that others have warned us not to, without any problems. Somehow, though, I expect India is different and NOT a place I want to drive myself. I also declined to drive in Cairo, which turned out to be a smart choice, as I probably wouldn't be here posting on Fodors if I had!
travelaw is offline  
Jun 13th, 2008, 01:26 AM
  #9  
 
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Do use a driver...the traffic and driving is like nothing I have ever seen in my life and we have so many close calls in taxis that I never look ahead just the side as its keeps my nerve intact in cities like Delhi and Mumbai.

I think mumbai is more exciting than delhi and vibrant. Studdingg old and new buildings. I found it fascinating the few days I was there.

As for Film city not sure its possible to get in...they do not do tours and its very "Closed" to the outside. I am told that you need serious connections to get in...alternatively you could go to one of the large cinema's in Mumbai and see a movie It will be an experience and fun for the girls.

I do not know any boutique hotels in Mumbai but the Taj palace is amazing in the older section. I had the pleasere of a room in this section 2 years ago and i did not want to leave!

For a boutique place in Kerala My friend stayed at Malabar house in Cochin. I had a meal there this past May and it was superb and very reasonable. Will stay here next trip! http://www.malabarhouse.com/ There are 3 linked to it but the malabar house itself was so lovely and a boutique hotel in Cochin.
SiobhanP is offline  
Jun 13th, 2008, 02:29 AM
  #10  
 
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Check this:
http://www.bollywoodtourpackage.com/

and ABSOLUTELY stay at the Taj Palace.
dogster is offline  
Jun 13th, 2008, 05:11 AM
  #11  
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Thanks SiobhanP for the hotel recommendations -- and we will definitely do a cinema in Mumbai. I've heard that can be a lot of fun. dogster -- thanks for the Bollywood link! Not sure how I missed that in my internet search . . . Will definitely check it out!
travelaw is offline  
Jun 13th, 2008, 09:15 PM
  #12  
 
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travelaw, the info on the reason for your itin is helpful. I would still suggest that you consider alternative flying routes, just because I don’t know that Mumbai would be top of my list of places to go as a tourist to India even with a month. Bollywood aside (and I agree that it has always been my understanding that it is very difficult to get into the studios, I would also say you have to work on the connection angle there), there is not a whole lot to see and do there for the tourist. It is a huge, huge city with lots of traffic problems. So my first thought would be to check if the airline you have chosen can do the RT into Bangkok, because you can fly from Bangkok to Varanasi and also from Katmandu to Bangkok, so that might make a good route. Varanasi would definitely by on my “list” of places to go, it is one of the most important spiritual centers in India for Hindus and a major Buddhist pilgrimage site. Varanasi may also make an easier introduction to India than a city of 20+ million plus people like Mumbai. (Let’s just say there is no urban planning there.) You might want to look into flight schedules and see how it all works, but Thai Airways goes to Varanasi five times a week from Bangkok and daily from Katmandu to Bangkok (the Varanasi flight may be a code share with Jet Airways, a very good Indian carrier).

If you do end up finding that Mumbai works better for your flights, I think the Taj is fine choice, the Intercon also has a nice location along the sea and is a smaller more intimate hotel in my opinion (although I have not stayed there, but have had meals there, they have a lovely rooftop bar/restaurant area). I have stayed at the Oberoi numerous times and have never had a bad experience there; however I think that the location of the Taj for a tourist is superior as you can walk to many things. If you want to do the Bollywood thing primarily, then I would recco that you stay in the Juhu Beach area, which is about 10-12 miles north (or 2-3 hours with traffic) from the India Gate area of Mumbai, but is the “Malibu” of Mumbai and is closer to the studios and is also the home for many of the stars. (It is also much closer to the airports.) The JW Marriott Juhu is quite nice on the beach, and I personally have seen both Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan there (Amitabh is known to work on in the hotel gym on occasion). If you do not recognize those incredibly famous names, you may want to rethink the Bollywood tour, as it may not mean much to you….

For hotels, I think an excellent guide is Special Places to Stay India, see http://sawdays.co.uk/. The Park chain in India probably closest to “boutique” hotels in India (a term I really don’t understand the meaning of), they are a member of Design Hotels which are quirky hotels generally; I think there hotel in Delhi is quite nice (have not stayed in the rooms, but their restaurants and bar are some of my favourites in town, see http://www.theparkhotels.com.) Of course the Imperial is probably a true “boutique”, as it is a one-off and not part of any chain or group, but you may not want to pay their prices in December! www.theimperialindia.com

For other places on my list beside Varanasi, I think Delhi really offers a lot to see and do (and easy flights from Varanasi if you start the trip into India from there). Most people of course want to go down to Agra and see the Taj Mahal, that is about a 4-hour drive or about 2 hours by the super-fast train. From there Jaipur is a very logical connection. (It is also possible to fly from Varanasi to Agra via Kingfisher and a connection in Delhi, but it is a tight one, but you might look into that, see http://www.flykingfisher.com for information. Kingfisher is IMO the best airline in India and certainly would rank up there with the better international carriers.). Jodhpur, Udaipur and places in between are all logical places, get a guidebook and map and do some planning, as it is a big area with a lot to offer.

If you wanted to try to get in some walks/hiking, I have done some hiking in the Rishikesh area recently which I thought it was very good, and this area was very lovely and in December/Jan would be even better I think because it would be quite clear and you could get Himalaya views. You can also whitewater raft, which your girls may enjoy. Rishikesh is a major religious centre and is a small town where you can get right into things, I found it a bit more accessible than Varanasi, and really fantastic for people-watching. The aarti as sunset I found very moving. Very few western tourist compared to other places. The Ananda hotel I found really really wonderful and will definitely go back, see http://www.anandaspa.com/. Yoga, spa, the ambience and grounds of the Palace, just a great place. (My trek guide saw a tiger quite near the hotel one day, but alas, I did not see it.) I would think that you could do hiking and trekking in the desert areas of Rajasthan in the months you are considering, I don’t know much about it, but I am sure you could find things about it. I think Shimla and Darjeeling would be interesting in December and would have the possibility of snow and would have good hiking too. Of course in Nepal you can trek, I don’t know about Dec/Jan but I am sure your friends can give you info on that.

Beaches are of course of possibility, you have the west coast which will be dry in those months, I think I would avoid the east. I think hiring one of the rice barge houseboats for a 2 nights or so is always a good idea, but Goa may be more interesting to your husband with its churches and Portuguese flavour (and the food is terrific, but so is Keralan food). Food in India overall is not going to disappoint, in large cities you will have a choice of Indian and also western cuisines, most of it very good, and in smaller towns and villages you will get the excellent regional cuisine.

You might also consider Hyderabad in south India, which is also huge in the film industry (mainly Tegalu language films, a south Indian dialect) and which does have studio tours (my ever-alert mother sent me an article on this, check the New York Times for the last year or so as I recall). I think Hyderabad is very interesting, it is a majority Muslim city and has a different feel, and food. Some interesting architecture too, the high court is something right out of the Arabian nights. Some great museums and Golconda fort. A big high-tech city rising up out of the ancient city, so an interesting mix. Off the regular tourist path as well. I would certainly pick Hyderabad over Mumbai for interesting things to do and a different experience from a huge city. You can fly there easily from Mumbai or Delhi (and Kingfisher goes from Jaipur). You could use Hyderabad as a starting point for beaches in the south like the Kerala area. (You can fly on Air Deccan to Cochin or Goa.)

I would have no worries if you want to skip Ranthambore, I am a huge fan, but I have not been to Africa and have a suspicion that it would pale by comparison, and it is after all your trip. You can’t do everything and you should not try.


Cicerone is offline  
Jun 14th, 2008, 09:35 AM
  #13  
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Wow. Thanks so much for all your input Cicerone -- you are a fountain of knowledge! This gives me lots to chew on -- excellent suggestions. I will definitely look into flying through BKK and see if that works. Its probably a bit longer route for us, but definitely worth checking into.

Varansi is a must on all accounts, so I will definitely make that a stop on the itinerary. It seemed so from reading the guidebooks, but everyone here also thinks so, so it will be a definite!

Great info on Juju area. I have to admit, I didn't recognize the names you mentioned, but my lovely daughter got very excited when I read them to her. As I said, she is the real film buff in the family and is launching a career in that field. dogster has given me a link to an outfit that does Bollywood tours -- I have emailed them. It will be interesting to see what they offer.

A friend at work also mentioned the JW, so I will look into that. Thanks for your other hotel recs. I probably should have defined boutique hotel - my idea of a boutique hotel is just what you thought, a small independent hotel. They can be quirky, but usually they offer great service just because they are so small.

I will read up on Rishikesh -- that sounds really great and exactly the type of info I was looking for -- its not a place I would have considered without a recommendation from someone who's been there. Will also look into spending sometime in Goa, Kerala and Hyderabad -- though they all might have to wait til the next trip. There is so much to see in India it makes planning a trip there overwhelming. I truly appreciate all the input from everyone on this board. It really does help manage the information.
travelaw is offline  
Jun 15th, 2008, 08:13 AM
  #14  
 
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Travelaw,
I have emailed you the intinerary documents. Let me know if you do not receive.
Merrisr is offline  
Jun 16th, 2008, 06:59 AM
  #15  
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Received. Thank you so much merrisr! The task now is paring down all the places we'd love to visit! Yikes! I wish I were retired with money --like dogster, of whom I am now officially envious. If you haven't yet done so, read his Great Stumble Forward on the main Asia forum if you get a chance. Hilarious. Brings back so many of our own travel (especially cruise) experiences. It will be a classic on this site... And a fantastic glimpse on what to expect in India.
travelaw is offline  
Jun 16th, 2008, 03:32 PM
  #16  
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Taj Palace and JW have no rooms available on our dates. Dang! Does anyone have any other suggestions for Bombay?
travelaw is offline  
Jun 16th, 2008, 03:47 PM
  #17  
 
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'we definitely prefer boutique hotels, home stays or small hotels with a lot of character.'

Then consider this in Mumbai: it's just a block from the Taj. You'll find it here:

www.sawdays.co.uk/accommodation/india

run a keyword search on Mumbai. It's new and grrrrroovy. I checked it out - alas, full when I was there.

And thanks for those really kind words above.
dogster is offline  
Jun 16th, 2008, 03:59 PM
  #18  
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Thanks, dog dear, for the suggestion. I forgot about sawadays. Unfortunately the GH is also full. Looks like finding suitable accommodation in Bombay on our dates is going to be a challenge. And we are 6 months out! What are you doing up anyway? Isn't it like the middle of night in Melbourne?
travelaw is offline  
Jun 16th, 2008, 09:07 PM
  #19  
 
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What dates are you in Mumbai? Are you using the hotel's [Taj/Oberoi etc.]direct booking portal[s]?
dogster is offline  
Jun 17th, 2008, 11:41 AM
  #20  
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We are in Bombay 12/4-7/2008. Yes, we used the hotels' own booking portals. We haven't tried Oberoi -- I got the impression not to after your report. Still, I should probably try it, since we've not gotten anything else so far. BTW, am continuing to enjoy your stumble forward -- sucking way too much time up at work!!! Great stuff though . . .
travelaw is offline  

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