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julies Oct 18th, 2011 08:10 PM

Thanks for posting this. Your comments are immensely helpful for those planning a trip.

And, you've confrimed what I thought all along about apartment rental in India. If you don't mind my asking, approximately how much per night did you feel you needed to pay for a hotel room that was in an acceptable location and with acceptable comforts? While we like "nice" places, we certainly don't need or want luxury.

thursdaysd Oct 19th, 2011 05:23 AM

I've ridden a number of Indian trains without ever seeing a rat, although there was a mouse in the aircooled waiting room at Gorakhpur on my last trip. The trick with Indian train stations is to find the AC/first class/aircooled/ladies waiting room. The one at Coimbatore is positively luxurious, but it costs all of 15 INR an hour - probably why it was nearly empty. I thought I remembered Jodhpur as having a rather nice foreigners' waiting room, but it was 2001, and maybe it was at Jaipur.

I always prefer squat toilets to western in Asia (and some other places), especially on trains. More hygenic....

dgunbug Oct 19th, 2011 06:01 AM

Believe me, there was no avoiding the rats which were outside the train station. You have to pass that area to get into the station. I do believe that they may only come out at night and the sun had not risen when we arrived to find our train.

dgunbug Oct 19th, 2011 09:54 AM

Julies - Our hotels were relatively inexpensive, but remember that we traveled off season. We got a great deal at the Taj chain - most were running a special - 3 days for the price of 2. Also, we did not pay extra to have rooms with a view. We could care less as we rarely spend the time looking out the hotel window. The following were the approximate prices spent on hotels nightly:

Jagat Nivas:
Taj Khajuharo: $100
Taj Gateway (Agra): $90
Palace on the River (Varanasi): $55
Gateway Hotel Rawalkot (Jaisalmer)
Country Inn & Suites (Jaipur):

KittyKautz Oct 19th, 2011 10:07 AM

Thank you June & Mike!!!

julies Oct 19th, 2011 10:21 AM

The info on hotel pricing is very helpful because many people here seem to go the 5* route, and that is not us. 3 nights for the price of 2--you were lucky.

dgunbug Oct 19th, 2011 10:54 AM

Sorry...did not intend to send that yet. Here's the completed list:

Jagat Nivas (Udiapur): $60
Vivanta Hari Mahal Jodpur by Taj : $142
Chandela Hotel - Taj (Khajuraho) $100
Taj Gateway (Agra): $90
Palace on the River - Rasmi Guest House(Varanasi): $55
Gateway Hotel Rawalkot (Jaisalmer)Approx $100
Country Inn & Suites (Jaipur): Approx $75 incl breakfast
Usha Kiran Palace Gwalior (Taj): Approx $100
Bundelkhand Riverside Hotel (Orchha): $54 incl breakfast
Wood Castle Hotel (Delhi): $61 incl breakfast

dgunbug Oct 19th, 2011 02:07 PM


We stayed at the Gateway Hotel Rawalkot, a Taj property which was comfortable, but not up to the standards of the Taj hotel that we had stayed at in Jodphur. The hotel was 6 kilometers from the city center, necessitating a tuk tuk or car whenever we wanted to go into town. That was no problem as tuk tuks are so inexpensive. The pool seemed nice, but again, no shaded areas. The staff assured us that umbrellas had been ordered. The dining room was adequate, but not that inviting. There was dining outside and music, but it was just too darn hot for us. We noticed that there were several large tour groups at the hotel during our stay. Wifi was available, but again for a fee. Most hotels in India have wifi but there is almost always a charge.

We debated a long time on where to stay in Jaisalmer and while the Taj was clean and well staffed, I regret not having stayed in town at the Nachana Haveli, in the old city just outside the gates of the Fort. It has tons of ambiance, is centrally located and has a delicious roof top restaurant. Be sure to check out the reviews from Karen & Bob who will be staying there in a few weeks. We did not see a room so cannot vouch for the same.

Jaisalmer is a town filled with tons of atmosphere and we had a wonderful time there. While we probably stayed one more day than we actually necessary, the extra time was not bad as it gave my husband time to recover from the pollution in Jodphur. After relaxing for a short time, we headed into town and decided to do lunch at the roof top restaurant Saffron, at the Nachana Haveli Hotel. Lunch was delicious and the view from the rooftop was great. I definitely recommend lunch here.

We had decided that on this day we would just wander the city, reserving the next day to actually go into the Fort area. We also checked out several tour companies to get some basic information on camel excursions. We did not want an overnight into the desert, but preferred instead to go by jeep or taxi to pick up a camel and then go out to the desert for the sunset. Since it was still very hot at night, the desert dancing and dinner was not an option.

As an aside, it is interesting to note how the local people remember your face and they seem to know where you've been and where you are going. Jaisalmer is a small town and everyone seems to know one another. One is instantly befriended by merchants, touts and guides that would like to offer their services. We met one young man who befriended us and walked around for quite a while over a two day period, hoping we would go to his shop. On the third day we met up with him again and I did feel compelled to go to his shop, but sadly the merchandise was of an inferior quality and nothing that I wanted to purchase.

Besides the people watching, picture taking and wandering through the streets of the city surrounding the fort, one should take time to visit some of the elaborate havelis, which are impressive for their lavish latticework. On our first and second day we visited the following three Havelis which should not be missed.

Salam Singh Ki Haveli -- This Haveli was built about 300 years ago and a part of it is still occupied. Salim Singh was the prime minister when Jaisalmer was the capital of the princely state and his mansion has a beautifully arched roof with superb carved brackets in the form of Peacocks. Best observed from outside – not as impressive inside as other Havelis.

Patwon ki Haveli -- one of the largest and most elaborate Haveli in Jaisalmer and stands in a narrow lane. It is five stories high and extensively carved. It is divided into six apartments, two owned by archaeological Survey of India, two by families who operate craft-shops and two private homes. There are remnants of paintings on some of the inside walls as well as some mirror work. I really enjoyed this Haveli.

Nathmalji-ki Haveli -- Two architect brothers built it in the 19th century. Interestingly, while one concentrated on the right, the other concentrated on the left and the result is a symphony epitomizing the side-by-side symmetry during construction. Paintings in miniature style monopolize the interior walls. Mighty tusker elephants carved out of yellow sandstone stand guard to the Haveli.

We hired one of the local guides on our first day and enjoyed it immensely when he walked around with us, taking us into a Jain Temple, explaining about Jainism and about the history of the Havelis that he showed us. We learned about the water shortage, how the havelis were constructed without cement and water, using an interlocking construction system. He also explained how the people of Jaisalmer managed to conserve their water through its multiple uses. We learned that wedding invitations are painted and posted on the side of one's home. It was unfortunate for us that we never experienced a wedding celebration as we were not in India during the wedding season.

We also learned how Indian people can easily identify one another, the region that they come from, their caste, occupation, as well as their religion, based upon the type of saris worn by the woman, their jewelry, the men's head turbans and the shape of their mustache. All very interesting.

Our guide took us to a government cooperative to look at the beautiful handicraft (of course hoping we would buy something). Several of the beautiful bed spreads were very tempting, but we passed on those as we really did not need another spread. The handiwork was just beautiful. After we were shown the handcrafts, we were able to discern the difference between textiles made by the Muslims, Hindus and the desert people. Incidentally, just inside the fort's gate is a shop that had beautiful shawls and scarves. I did not buy anything, thinking that I'd be back or that I'd find something later and I still regret not making a purchase at that time.

Over the next two days we continued to wander. One day we ate lunch at a place called the Jaisal Treat Restaurant. It is not far from the circle outside of the city gate. The food was a bit oily, but tasty. There was no atmosphere, but the air conditioning was terrific and there was free wifi.

Another day we had lunch at Trios which was good, although a bit less atmospheric that Saffrons. My husband enjoyed it more than Saffrons as the dish he had was less spicy. I thought Saffrons was better. We did enjoy our conversation with the owners of the Trio restaurant.

On our second day we set out for Jaisalmer's ancient fort, built in 1156, and perched high on a pedestal overlooking the city. Jaisalmer is referred to as the Golden City and the fort is unique as it is the only "living" fort in India. The cobbled streets of the fort are still alive with the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We spent a good part of a day wandering though the alleys and passageways of the fort, admiring the ornately carved windows and balconies, visiting the temples and watching the people. As my husband was still feeling a bit under the weather, we decided to wait for the following day to visit the Palace and we returned to our hotel after lunch to relax until our camel adventure that evening.

We decided to have the hotel make our arrangements for our camel safari and they had a taxi driver pick us up at 4:00 pm. On our way out to pick up our camels, we stopped at Ladawa, which was the original capital before Jaisalmer. The only thing remaining there today is a Jain Temple which was lovely and well worth stopping at. The guide there opened up several of the doors so that we could view the various gods, and of course so that he could get a tip.

Once we arrived at the area where camels and their drivers were congregating awaiting tourists like ourselves, we negotiated a camel ride at 300 rupees per person. We did not want to share a camel as that meant that the driver would merely be leading the camel by a rope. It would have been cheaper had we shared one. This was not to be a private ride into the desert, but rather a caravan of camels setting off for the dunes. It was all fine with us. We loved the experience of riding the camel, even though it was for only a short period. When we reached the sand dunes (Sam Dunes), we dismounted and walked around awaiting the sunset, watching the other tourists, taking pictures, allowing people to take pictures of us and with us. It was all great fun. There was music, people dancing, and children, as was often the case, asking for money to take their picture. Our camel drivers were great and offered to take pictures of us. This was a very enjoyable few hours. Our ride back after sunset was less than enjoyable. The taxi driver was horrendous, driving too fast, flashing his brights when other cars were coming at us and keeping them on, blinding the oncoming drivers. We noticed that the other drivers did the same. We were greatly relieved to arrive back at our hotel in one piece.

On our last day we set out back to the Fort and headed for the Palace which we still had not seen. Once again the English Audio tour was well worth the price and very informative. We enjoyed seeing yet another palace, although we were beginning to see many similarities in the palaces at this point. Our overnight train out that evening was scheduled to depart at 4:20 pm. Our hotel allowed us a late check out, therefore after finishing the palace tour, wandering a bit further and having lunch, we returned to the hotel to shower and relax before heading to Jaipur.

We were taken by taxi to the train station, only a short distance from the hotel, where we awaited our train. Thankfully, no rats this time. The Jaisalmer train station is fairly small and it was easy to find our train once it arrived. We had reserved a four person 1st class sleeper cabin, but the other two passengers never showed up. The train left on time and rode smoothly upon the tracks, however, the beds were hard as a rock, making it most difficult for us to sleep through the night. We arrived in Jaipur at 4:50 AM and hired a tuk tuk to take us a very short distance to the Country Inn and Suites.

althom1122 Oct 19th, 2011 06:35 PM

Fantastic! Loved this segment. I've got to go back and get to Jaisalmer. Keep it coming!

dgunbug Oct 19th, 2011 06:52 PM

Thanks Karen. I'm sure blip would enjoy jaisalmer too!

thursdaysd Oct 19th, 2011 11:58 PM

I was disappointed with the two Gateway properties I stayed at on my recent trip - Taj only in name! They were my splurges, I was speniding in the 1500 to 2000 INR range most of the time, and the cheaper places did have free wifi. I particularly liked the new Keys chain, but they are targeting the Indian business market more than tourists,

I loved Jaisalmer. I stayed in the fort itself: the place was very basic but the view from my window seat was lovely.

julies Oct 20th, 2011 06:35 AM

You say you probably stayed one day too long in Jaisalmer. How many nights were you there?

dgunbug Oct 20th, 2011 07:54 AM

We arrived at 11:45 on a Thurday so we had 1/2 day then, Friday, Saturday and almost a full day on Sunday - we left at 16:30 by train. We took long naps each day, but that was due to the heat and the fact that my husband was still recovering from his asthmatic episode. We enjoyed our time there and if you love to shop, I am sure you could spend the extra time browsing the many stores.

dgunbug Oct 20th, 2011 08:40 AM

We arrived in Jaipur by train at 4:50 AM and headed just a short distance away to our hotel, the Country Inn & Suite. We should have requested an early check in, but didn't think to do so. We waited in the lobby until about 6:00 when a room became available. After freshening up, we headed to breakfast which was included in the price of the hotel room. While we were not officially supposed to have breakfast on the morning of our arrival, the hotel comped us on this day. The breakfast included a large assortment of Indian food along with an omelet station. I believe the buffet opened at 6:30. The hotel was well situated and we enjoyed our stay here. The beds were extremely comfortable and the room modern and clean.

More later...

iamles Oct 20th, 2011 08:44 AM

dgunbug- Great report! It's both helpful and entertaining...looking forward to more.
Did you make all hotel reservations yourself?

dgunbug Oct 20th, 2011 09:05 AM

Thank you iamles. It is always encouraging to hear that someone is reading and enjoying a report. All hotels were reserved on our own by contacting the hotel directly.

Leslie_S Oct 21st, 2011 10:14 AM

I'm reading along and enjoying too!

I'm sad to say I'm interested in the details of your husband getting pickpocketed. I hope that was not a huge problem for you - what a bummer. My mom & I leave for India in a couple of weeks and I'm wondering about wearing moneybelts or not. Hate to but maybe in crowds we'll have more peace of mind.

dgunbug Oct 21st, 2011 12:20 PM

Leslie - you should absolutely wear a money belt. Both my husband and I wear money belts, carrying the majority of our cash in it and only money for the day in our pockets. I keep the passports on me along with extra credit cards and insurance info. We also have a copy of all credit cards and our passports kept in another place. Unfortunately, and for no good reason, my husband also had his driver's license, a debit card and two credit cards in his wallet with about $200.00. The money was not all that much, but the cards were a pain to cancel. The number on the MasterCard was incorrect for international calls and we had to have our kids at home contact the credit cars company.

My husband was pickpocketed at the lotus temple and it soured him on going into any more temples or mosques after that. At the lotus temple you will be given a burlap back and told to put your shoes in it, then carry it to an area to be checked in. I gave my husband my shoes and walked ahead. Instead of taking his shoes off ahead of time, he took them off near the counter and in the crowd he was jostled by three men working together to steal money and wallets.

thursdaysd Oct 21st, 2011 01:18 PM

Wow dgunbug - so sorry to hear that! I loved the lotus temple.

Leslie - absolutely wear a money belt - under your clothes and don't access it in public. I have one day's worth of money in my wallet, sometimes with a credit card, and that's it unless I need to visit an ATM or cross a border. Great peace of mind!

I get the international phone numbers for my cards before I leave home, but I've recently found that you can call 1-800 numbers for free using Skype.

dgunbug Oct 21st, 2011 01:32 PM

We got the international number off the cc but the number was incorrect and it was also
Incorrect on the Internet. The cc company acknowledged that the numbers were wrong. It was a royal pain trying to contact them.

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