India Trip Report

Old Nov 29th, 2009, 02:30 PM
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India Trip Report

Been back for more than a month now, so here goes:

First time in India, 10 days, October 10-20th: Flew into Delhi for three days, train to Agra for one night, by hired car (10 hour drive) to Pushkar for two nights, train to Udaipur for three nights, flight to Mumbai for 1.5 days before flying back to New York.

A few general impressions:
-I debated a lot whether I was trying to cover too much in ten days or whether it would be too little for ten days and I'd run out of things to do. The above itinerary turned out to be perfect.
-It takes a while to get used to India: the traffic is like nothing I've ever seen before, haggling with every rickshaw driver, those awful motorcycles barreling through the crowds, everyone trying to sell you something, people peeing in the streets and the parks and there is cow shit all over the place. Took me about 5-6 days to really feel comfortable.
-The people are the friendliest of any country I've ever been to. Never before have so many people come up to ask where I'm from, what kind of work I do and how I am enjoying India, or to take pictures of me or to ask me to take pictures of them.
-If you are not a fan of loud noise, don't visit anywhere near Diwali when there are fireworks exploding everywhere. Sounded like Baghdad.
-You'll have to take off your shoes at every temple and mosque. Better off not wearing socks since the floors are so dirty.

Flight: Air India from New York to Delhi, return from Mumbai. About $825 roundtrip when I booked, which is about the cheapest I've ever seen. I was worried about AI, but it was much better than all the horror stories would suggest. Seats have more legroom than any economy class I've ever been on and that's important for a 16 hour flight. Food is decent. Videoscreens have lots of Hindi options but not much English. Their service is friendly with some odd glitches such as when they woke up the poor guy next to me to give him a blindfold to help him sleep. Of course, this was also the same week that the AI flight from Mumbai to NY was delayed after one of the pilots showed up drunk.

Delhi - Saw the Red Fort (no big deal), Jain Temple, Gandhi Smitri, Gandhi Museum, National Art Gallery, India Gate, Jama Masjid, Sikh Temple, another mosque, Khan Market, International Toilet Museum (worth it if you have time time - it's an hour ride from New Delhi Station), Bahai Temple, and Humayun's tomb, the best part of the Delhi and best to visit in the late afternoon.

Agra - A really awful place. Poor, dirty, run down, constant harassment from salespeople and rickshaw drivers. But Taj Mahal was even better than I expected. Despite all the recommendations, I found it best in the afternoon. Early in the morning was just as crowded and the sky was gray and hazy.

Pushkar - The lake is mostly dried up, but it's still fairly relaxing and the people are extremely friendly. Where there is still water, there is a lot of harassment of foreigners at the bathing ghats. Better off going to the dry part of the lake and wandering around any temples you may find and hiking up to the hilltop temple.

Udaipur - Even more relaxing and lots to see. At the City Palace, it might actually be worth it to hire a guide. The Crystal Gallery is pricey at 500 rupees but I thought it was worth it and a boat ride around the lake is a nice way to escape the motorcycles and cow shit of the city. You can also use the pool at one of the fancy hotels in the City Palace for 250, which for me was free since they said they'd "send a boy" to collect my money but the boy never appeared. Climbed up to the Monsoon Palace, about a two hour climb, while everyone else drove up. AND don't miss the Sahelion Ki Bari gardens, one of the most beautiful gardens I've ever seen.

Mumbai - Turned out - surprisingly - to be my favorite part of India. For a city of 20 million, it feels so much more sane than the rest of India. Rickshaws are banned from the city center, people seem to drive on the correct side of the road, and no cow shit. I got a driver for the morning and saw the Gandhi museum (excellent), the Hanging Gardens (nice), the Haj Ali Mosque (definitely an experience despite the beggars), and the synagogue (very colorful and with shockingly little security). Then walked around Maiden Oval (my favorite part of the city) and to Marine Drive, which except for the toxic water could almost be Tel Aviv or Rio, then back to the Gateway of India (insanely crowded) and the Taj Hotel (now heavily secured)

Hotels:
Delhi - Ginger Hotel, about 1100 per night, excellent choice, great value, good service, A/C, good hot water, flat-screen TV, ok food, a little hard to find but once you know where you are it is perfect.
Agra - Hotel Sheela Inn - about 800 I think - OK, no big deal, and no hot water, despite what it says in LP. Close to Taj East Gate ticket office.
Pushkar - Our Pukka Place - 1100 per night - was strongly recommended on here, but in reality it sucks. The room was full of mosquitoes and a wide variety of other bugs flying and crawling around. I asked for a new room which had ants in the bathroom and in the decaying walls. In the morning, hot water was only available from a bucket, despite its website promising 24 hot water on tap. They told me most people don't want hot water since its not cold outside. Fine, but then don't advertise it on your website and don't charge as if you do have it.
Moved to Hotel Navratan Palace - 650 - right on the main street, A/C, TV, hot water, no bugs and pool of questionable cleanliness. Much nicer.
Udaipur - Hotel Udai Niwas - They sent a rickshaw to meet me at the station, which I was not expecting and was never charged for. The manager remembered me from our email chat. Rooms are colorful, everything works properly, staff is friendly, restaurant has great views and ok food. Service needs some work: had to keep asking for soap, towels and TP and had to ask four times for them to clean the room. But otherwise a good choice.
Mumbai - Hotel Causeway - perfect location on Colaba Causeway, good A/C, TV, hot water, entrance through a dark alley so may not be great for solo women. They let me stay till 7PM for only half days rate when I was expecting to be charged for a full day.

Gay scene - Not much to speak of, but plenty of guys online. Posted for Delhi and got 77 responses on the first day. Met up with two guys, one a really nice doctor and the other a bit odd. I tried to make clear that I was just looking for someone to meet up with for a drink or coffee, but that did not stop either one from practically begging for more. And if you are looking for more than a drink or coffee, you've come to the right place.
trebex is offline  
Old Nov 29th, 2009, 03:15 PM
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Thanks for posting. What else did you do/see in Pushkar?
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Old Nov 29th, 2009, 03:44 PM
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I walked around a lot and went into any temple that was open to visitors. I also climbed up to the hilltop temple, took a tour of the Sikh Temple and had reflexology for about $5. Strolled around the market a bit as well.
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Old Nov 30th, 2009, 09:24 AM
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Thanks So much for posting. Other than Mumbai we are going to the same places in January so great to see what others think and did. Our friends just arrived home last night from the same places and conveyed the same thoughts that it took a while to get used to the cow dung, noise, touts people peeing everywhere and general intensity of India. I am not sure if this information will 'prepare me' or not however. I will post a trip report when I return and let you know. They were in Udaiapur for Diwali and said it was amazing but that the lake was low there as well.
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Old Dec 4th, 2009, 10:45 AM
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Can you tell me about your experience with finding internet cafes or access to wifi in Mumbai and/or Dehli?
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Old Dec 4th, 2009, 03:17 PM
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I've been curious to try Air India's non-stop from JFK, but was worried about service and too many kids (Indians love to travel with babies and little kids!).

To mingtsainy - internet cafes are everywhere in every Indian city, town, outpost, village, you name it, however internet service may be slow. You should check what their internet speed it before using their service. You can always check out the next cafe down the street.

Some cafes will just tell you who in the area has the best internet speed.
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Old Dec 10th, 2009, 11:26 AM
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Thanks Jaya!
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