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India Trip Report

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Nov 11th, 2015, 08:42 PM
  #1
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India Trip Report

I thought I posted my trip report to India but looks like I haven't. I'll try to remember everything.
We flew to India in early April- it's really hot and sticky at this time. Got into Mumbai late, and took a cab (makes sure it's an official police airport cab, don't just take anyone who approaches you they might cheat you), to the Taj Mahal Palace--amazing hotel. The cab ride was scary, they don't follow any driving rules and there's no such thing as a lane. People will honk non stop and the traffic is insane. There are homeless people- some women and kids sitting on the streets everywhere.

The security is very tight at the Taj hotel: you have to go through a metal detector and your bags have to go through an xray machine. You are greeted as if you are royalty when you get there, and the entire time, you get the most phenomenal service. They try hard to please. I've never been so pampered in my life! Their attention to detail is amazing, for example: we would come back to our room and find a bookmark for example on our book, or a cloth cleaner for our glasses, or a velcro strip holding together our phone charger wire. When you check in, they greet you with a lei and put a red dot on your forehead. The lobby is gorgeous; they have huge flower arrangements that are beautiful (almost reminded me of the flowers at the MGM in Vegas, but here it was prettier and fashioned into all kinds of shapes. The first 4 days we stayed in the Tower Wing and it was really nice. We were on the 4th or 5th floor but the only drawback was that you heard street noise at night. Our room faced the Gateway of India and the water nearby. While we were there, they would bring us a basin with a foot soak and leave it in our room. They had turn down service at night. And any possible amenity you might have forgotten or need they have for free, for example nail polish remover, nail clipper, contact lens solution, face masks, face cream, body oil, bubble bath solution, loofas, mens body spray, besides for the usual stuff like shampoo, conditioner, soap, bath gel, moisturizer, shower caps, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, disposable bags, shaving kits. Also free unlimited bottled water (I even used it to brush my teeth).

The second weekend we were there, we stayed in the palace part. and if I thought I was pampered the first time, I didn't know what was coming this time: all marble bathrooms with hot tub, 24 hour butler service, free garment pressing (2 a day), fruit plate every day, departing gifts of a little pretty indian style box and costume jewelry (bracelet and earrings). the tower ring has key cards, the palace wing has a key but it's electric and the door has a sensor (you can ask them to remove sensor from door--the maintenance guy came and did it). We had free breakfast in the lounges both times. Definitely the best service I've had at any hotel in the world that I've been in.

Anyway, the next day we toured Mumbai- we arranged a chauffeur from the hotel to give us a few hours in an air conditioned car: we went to marine drive, the dobi ghat, which is the communal outdoor laundry center- so interesting to see them hand laundering hundreds of pieces of clothing, Kamala Nehru Park- with the huge shoe- i think it was next to the: hanging gardens- was nice, chowpatty beach, Victoria terminus train station, cricket ground, Knesset Eliyahoo and Magen David, the clock tower, Crawford Market- outdoor market- an experience!, the university- just passed by outside, Ghandi House Museum- interesting, and the Prince of Wales Museum- we enjoyed the audio headset tour, but we were so jet lagged that we didn't stay long. Later that evening we passed by people selling their wares on the streets near the hotel: everyone tries to sell you something even the 5 year olds. You have to be assertive and not make eye contact if you're heading somewhere because they will all hound you to get you to just to "look" but they really mean buy.

The next two days we relaxed, walked around, enjoyed our comfortable hotel. Then early on the fourth day we took a cab to the airport and flew to Delhi. From Delhi, we went to the official police cab dispatcher at the airport and booked a cab to take us on a day trip to Agra, to the Taj Mahal. It's about 4 hours in each direction and we really regretted not taking an air conditioned car. It was a long humid hot ride. We got to the Taj Mahal- which is majestic on the outside. Inside, nothing major. But the grounds and the pools of water were beautiful as was the Taj itself. Sidepoint: we paid foreigner's rate which entitled us to use bathroom for free, but the lady sitting inside turned on the faucet and then expected a tip, didn't even want us to use the bathroom unless we paid. Everyone wants something there.

That evening we flew to Kerala, to Kochi. We had arranged ahead of time for a driver to pick us up. Always negotiate 50-75% because that's how much they up the price for tourists. We drove to our hotel, hotel Abad, bad mistake, worst hotel ever. There were bugs and mosquitos all over the place, it was dirty, and luckily we were only there for a few hours but it was horrible. and the mosques were so noisy, all their prayers were on loudspeakers at 3 am in the morning. Early the next day our driver picked us up and took us on a tour of Kochi, we visited the wharf with the fisherman getting their fish with chinese fishing nets, a really interesting contraption. We walked along the water. Then we went to the Mattancherry/Dutch Palace museum- which I would recommend, the Paradesi synogoue- which was closed, and I think that's all we did there. We wanted to go to one more place but it wasn't going to open for a while and we had a tight schedule the next 2 days.

Our driver then drove us to Munnar a few hours away- which is full of lush rolling hills. We visited the tea plantation- saw how tea is made- I highly recommend this. Then on to Mattupetty Dam which was nice overlooking the water. We passed by some waterfalls- not sure where but it was so dry that there wasn't much water. We went to echo point, along the lake. It was raining, but it was nice.

Then we drove to Periyar/Thekkady (I think these two are the same), also a few hour drive. We checked into the Elephant Court Hotel, which was great. Early the next day we drove to Periyar Lake and took a boat ride on it. We got to see a lot of wildlife: elephants, birds, monkeys, and others. It was ok, but the lake wasn't so scenic and I'm not sure if I would do it again. We then took an elephant ride somewhere nearby which was fun. We finished off with a spice plantation tour (there were many in the vicinity.) and I recommend this. You actually see all different kinds of spices- like pepper, cardamom, different fruit- like jackfruit, rubber trees growing.

We were supposed to go to Alleppey to take a backwater cruise later that day, but there was some kind of strike that day in kerala, and our driver told us that tour buses and cabs can't drive outside the area that day- something to do with communists. We confirmed this online later because we didn't believe him at first. Only in India. So we missed the last part of our trip. We relaxed a little till we were allowed to drive--only in the evening-- and then we drove back to Cochi, checked in to our hotel, the Fort House Hotel Kochi- which was clean and neat. All rooms had outdoor entrances. The back of the hotel overlooked the water and it was beautiful even at night. There were a bunch of lizards at night on the side of the hotel building, but it didn't bother us. They packed us breakfast the next day because we left while it was still dark to go back to the airport.

We flew back to Mumbai, spent another 3 days at the Taj, this time in the Palace wing, which was unbelievable. We booked massages at the spa when we arrived- was great. Our room overlooked the pool this time and was quiet. We didn't hear street noise. (We ordered avocados from room service- and didn't realize we'd be paying $8 each.) Our butler checked up on us to make sure everything was ok. They brought us those foot soaking basins again. We didn't want to leave...
One of the highlights of our trip was definitely the Taj Hotel in Mumbai. When I was booking I wasn't sure if we should pick the Oberoi Hotel for part of our stay and the Taj for the other part. I'm so glad we booked both at the Taj- It was the best hotel experience I've ever had. and then early on the third day back we flew home.

All in all was definitely an experience-- I'm glad I got to go, but not sure if I would go back. There were some places we would have liked to fit in if we had time, like Goa, Jaipur, Bangalore, but overall we still got a taste for the land and culture.
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Nov 13th, 2015, 04:47 AM
  #2
 
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Thanks for sharing your experience. We will be staying at the taj viva ta in February, but don't think it will be as upscale as the taj gateway. Your stay there sounds heavenly.
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Nov 14th, 2015, 10:23 PM
  #3
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Any Taj will be amazing!
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Jun 11th, 2016, 02:14 AM
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yes, thanks for sharing your report and being honest about the good and not so good experiences.

In retrospect, would you have changed your itinerary? made any parts longer or shorter? I'm interested because like many people here I'm toying with a trip to India, and you have covered much of the ground that we might like to see on a first trip.

Thanks
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Jun 11th, 2016, 12:00 PM
  #5
 
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Thank you for the detailed and interesting report!!

Wow--the Taj in Mumbai sounds fantastic!

Incidentally, it is not necessarily true that "any Taj will be amazing." Some yes, some "merely" good. There are different "Taj" brand levels--just as there is JW Marriott, Marriott, Marriott Residence Inn, etc.

You sure experienced "Hotel Various Extremis" syndrome. I'm curious how/why you chose the Abad inCochin, which gets uniformly terrible reviews on assorted websites (unlike some of the other Abad properties, e.g. the one on the beach at Alleppey). Glad to hear --and will keep your info for future trips--that your other places were far better.

Four hours in a non ac car?? What an awful experience! I once had that happened--the ac in the car my friend hired malfunctioned, so we had a major decision to make: windows open for slight breeze to let in horrendous air pollution /fumes, or windows closed to get the fumes of everyone's sweat! For other readers: not only ac, but seatbelts, are a must in cars in India. They are NOT standard! No car should be booked or accepted without them!!!!

Also, did you stay in Munnar, or drive through? if the latter, where did you stay, and would you recommend ?
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Jun 15th, 2016, 03:05 AM
  #6
 
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Yeah well said Taj in any form is just amazing , whether it is the most famous representation of eternal Love "Taj Mahal" in Agra or Taj Hotels in any part of the India, is always nice.
And very thanks for sharing your experience in India. I must say in this short span of time you have touched India very well. But do try to come next time and put Rajasthan, Gujarat and Jammu & Kashmir in your list and I make sure you will see different India but if you looking in complete different India then North-East India would be your destination.
Next time when you plan to visit India try make prior booking of car or taxi like your accommodation, so that you do not have to struggle between the real cab or not.
Thanks.
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Jun 15th, 2016, 07:57 AM
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I ignore any and all input from Indian TAs and drivers advising travel to Jammu and Kashmir.

The UK foreign office is less alarmist then the US State Dept. This is their advice:

The FCO advise against all travel to Jammu and Kashmir with the exception of (i) travel within the cities of Jammu and Srinagar, (ii) travel by air to the cities of Jammu and Srinagar, (iii) travel between these two cities on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway, and (iv) travel within the region of Ladakh. The tourist destinations of Phalgam, Gulmarg and Sonamarg fall within the areas to which the FCO advise against all travel.

And you can hardly rely on the security in the cities until the dispute over Kashmir is finally resolved. If ever.
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Aug 30th, 2016, 01:58 AM
  #8
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sorry just saw the questions posted.
Anhig, I think I would have done it the same, maybe less time in Mumbai? Would have liked to see more, but I think we did the best we could in the limited days

Cali, someone else booked that horrible hotel for us and next time will look into reviews before anyone orders! As for Munnar, we went to tea plantation, and then drove to Periyar so overnighted in Periyar, not Munnar.

Kritik, will keep those placed in mind.

Thursday, I wouldn't chance going there.
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Aug 30th, 2016, 09:31 PM
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Thanks for replies and advice, zxcvbnm.
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Aug 31st, 2016, 02:48 AM
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no problem
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