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Karen and Blip go to India with Intrepid

Karen and Blip go to India with Intrepid

Dec 19th, 2010, 04:42 PM
  #1  
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Karen and Blip go to India with Intrepid

Thanks everyone for the helpful tips you gave before my trip to India. I had an amazing trip - saw incredible sights, met some wonderful new friends, and had fantastic, almost surreal experiences - from disco dancing on Bollywood night to spiritual consultation with a renowned swami to... but wait I'm getting ahead of myself.

Although I usually travel with my daughter or sister, I ended up with no travel partner for this trip, so decided to go with a tour group (and a little stuffed sheep named Blip). I chose Intrepid for it's small-group size and it's philosophy of "real-life experiences." It proved to be a wise choice.

I left Baltimore on a blistery December afternoon and flew British Air to Heathrow, then on to Delhi after a rather extended layover caused by snow in London. I arrived, finally, at Delhi's new airport four hours late, around 5:30 a.m., and looked in vain for my Intrepid transfer. I walked back and forth searching for my name on a sign. By my fourth pass, everyone was looking at me with sympathy and I decided to find a phone and call Intrepid. (There's a bank of phones along a wall and a guy dials for you and then collects the money when you hang up - easy as can be.) Turns out my ride was there after all, but had gone to sit down thinking I wouldn't be through arrivals so quickly. It did take a bit of time - slow lines - but I hadn't checked any luggage so I made it through expeditiously.

I got to the hotel around 6:30 a.m. and went right to bed. We stayed at the Grand President in Delhi. It was nothing fancy but reasonably clean. I slept for 5 hours and headed downstairs to meet the group.

There were eight of us, 7 women and 1 man - five Aussies, a Kiwi, a Canadian, and me - the American (plus one sheep). Our tour guide was 34-year-old Tej, a native Rajastani, a fellow Libra, and a real charmer whose love of India and enthusiasm for life were contagious.

We set off for Old Delhi via the metro and got our first up-close-and-personal taste of India's population problem. It reminded me of Washington, DC's metro on the 4th of July after the fireworks, but it wasn't a holiday. It was just India. Because people were so tightly packed together, there were separate cars for women only, which Tej recommended. So he and John lined up with the men, while the rest of us lined up with the women.

We emerged on the streets of Old Delhi - a fascinating scene. People everywhere bustling by, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, garbage in the street, a mix of smells, horns honking constantly, motorbikes. I've been to Bangkok and Cairo and Moscow and Seoul and New York. Delhi is a world unto itself. It's intense - and it's fascinating. I was mesmerized and wanted to stop and stare and take it all in. But Tej was moving and I didn't dare pause too long for fear of getting left behind!

We visited Jama Masjid mosque, where several kids wanted their picture taken with me or another member of our group. I thought i was getting too old for that, but I guess blonde hair and fair skin are still a novelty even if you're past 50.

Then we hopped a small local bus. It, too, was unbelievably crowded. It looked full before we got on, but somehow we squeezed in. We headed for a Sikh temple, where we removed our shoes, donned orange bandanas, washed our hands and feet, and joined the other worshippers in a large hall. Afterwards we visited the kitchen area where volunteers provide free meals for anyone (any caste, any religion) who comes. We helped with making the chapati - rolled the dough and flipped the bread.

Then after another bus and metro we arrived back at the hotel. Dinner that evening was a short walk down the street. I had some chicken dish, which was delicious. I was a little worried about the food before I left, but I needn't have been - I loved nearly everything I tried.

Next day we got up early to catch the train for Jaipur....
more to come.
althom1122 is offline  
Dec 19th, 2010, 05:48 PM
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My Delhi photos are online:

http://kbutler1122.zenfolio.com/p283555214


I'll post more later.
althom1122 is offline  
Dec 19th, 2010, 05:49 PM
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Oh, it's fun to read about your trip! Both of us were first-timers to India this year.
Kathie is offline  
Dec 19th, 2010, 07:53 PM
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Great that you and Blip loved it, Karen. I was a bit concerned that his fur might make him to hot.
Glad you loved Intrepid and your guide. I'm thinking of a doing a small group tour for the future 2012 (to Gujurat--wanna come?).
Yes, it is fun and a bit puzzling when loads of people want your pic--especially the school kids. You feel like a a celebrity and wonder what you've done to deserve such attention!
Looking forward to the next segment...
CaliNurse is offline  
Dec 19th, 2010, 07:58 PM
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The photos are terrific-- they cause smiling or laughing with great memories. Ah, Incredible India!
CaliNurse is offline  
Dec 20th, 2010, 03:31 AM
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Thanks, Cali! Yes, the memories make me smile, too.

I meant to mention that the metro, despite the crowds, was unbelievably orderly. The people actually got in lines to board the trains rather than just crowding in like they do here at home. It really surprised me. Of course, once on board no one could even move because we were packed in like sardines.
althom1122 is offline  
Dec 20th, 2010, 06:55 AM
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Looking forward to reading the rest of your report, Karen! My DH has stated he can't get excited about India so I'm considering going solo, perhaps with a group like Intrepid. Which of their trips did you go on?
bniemand is offline  
Dec 20th, 2010, 07:17 AM
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Wow! Great start and great pictures. Can't wait for more. Bniemand - don't give up on your husband. Mine said he would never go and now we are ready to book our flights for next November. While he sings to me nightly, ending all songs in "don't take me to India", he is also excited about going.
dgunbug is offline  
Dec 20th, 2010, 10:06 AM
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althom1122: You were quite fearful about a sneak snake attack. Looks like that didn't happen (at least, I hope not). Love your photos!
indianapearl is offline  
Dec 20th, 2010, 10:40 AM
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fantastic...i can't wait to see and read more...

bob
rhkkmk is offline  
Dec 20th, 2010, 02:23 PM
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NO SNAKE ATTACKS. But... there is an interesting story, which I'll relay in the course of the report.
althom1122 is offline  
Dec 20th, 2010, 03:19 PM
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Remind me to tell you sometime about a nine-foot king snake and a Ford 150 pickup.
indianapearl is offline  
Dec 20th, 2010, 05:16 PM
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P.S. A few things I forgot to mention about Day 1. After the Sikh temple, we went to the spice market. We went up some steep stairs to a 2nd floor, open-air area. I saw a guy stretched out on what looked somewhat like a bed, but he was completely covered except for his feet. I thought he was dead. Tej later told me he was only sleeping. The spice market was an interesting place. The air was so thick with spices and pepper smells that it was really hard to breathe. Everyone was coughing and coughing (not just us but the locals, too). We walked past three men sitting on the ground, one of whom was lathered up and receiving a shave. I asked if I could take their picture and they smiled big and nodded yes (you'll see it in my photos). Right after that, we saw a man urinating with his back to us. He then turned toward us, zipped his pants, said hello, and walked past. We then went back down the stairs to the ground level and stopped at a nut stand to stock up on snacks for our train ride the next day. Also forgot to mention that the only man in our group, John, was pick-pocketed on the metro and lost his wallet and credit cards that first day. Tej loaned him money throughout the trip - it wasn't until the last day that he got a replacement card. Intrepid took good care of him.

Also that day, at dinner, I informed Tej and the others about my snake phobia. Tej said it was possible we'd see snake charmers at some of the tourist sites, but he'd keep his eyes peeled for me and steer me away. He reassured me it wouldn't be a problem. The others (by this time we'd already bonded) agreed they'd look after me.

JAIPUR

After a sleep that was all too short, we left the hotel via two taxis at 5:15 for a 6:05 train to Jaipur. The station was hectic - with tuk-tuks, taxis, and people everywhere. Quite a few people were sleeping on the cement floor under blankets inside the station. The train left on time and the ride was fine - there were three reasonably comfortable seats on each side and breakfast was included (tea or coffee plus an omelet or vegetarian wrap). Even the bathroom wasn't too bad, although it was Indian style (squat). It was about 4 1/2 hours to Jaipur, where a van took us to our hotel, the Bissau Palace. http://bissaupalace.com/facilities.htm

It was really cool. Like something out of the Arabian nights. After a brief rest, we ate lunch at the hotel on a patio overlooking the pool (a bit cool for swimming), then headed out in our van for Amber Palace, just a few miles outside of town. I was wowed. In fact, I kept saying "wow, wow, wow". The sun shown on the fort walls making them truly amber-colored. With the scalloped walls and arches and intricate mosaics, I found myself imagining flying carpets swooping all around. Lot of kids (and even a few adults) asked for pictures with us. The views of the countryside from that mountain-top perch were beautiful.

Enroute back to the hotel, we had two shopping stops - at a pottery place and a jewelry store. I bought a small vase for a friend at the former, nothing at the latter. I know some people don't like shopping stops by tour groups, but I didn't mind them. There was no real pressure to buy and they weren't overly long. Plus, given that there were 7 women in our group, the shopping was a fun part of the trip.

That evening was an included dinner, and Tej took us to another hotel/palace. The dinner was a buffet and quite nice. I had some chicken tikka and spinach panneer (or something like that?), plus samples of some other things. We went around the table and shared our highlight of the day. For me it was Amber Palace. Tej said, as a tour guide, his highlight was seeing my face light up every time I said "wow".

Afterwards there was a small puppet show outside - we were the only guests. Basically there were four puppets in the background that never moved and then they'd announce, here's the king with his horse. And a king puppet and a horse puppet would drop down onto the stage and the horse and king would move. So after about the fourth different puppet, the announcer said, "And here's the snake charmer..."

Of course, everyone looked at me and down dropped this puppet with a flute and a basket. And out came a little puppet cobra that went up and down and then back and forth across the stage. Everyone got quite a laugh out of it and congratulated me on being so brave.

At the end, the mother-daughter pair from Australia (Lidia ad Kathy) bought a pair of puppets, and so did I. (No snake puppets, though.)

Then we headed back for a good night's sleep. More Jaipur later...
althom1122 is offline  
Dec 20th, 2010, 05:33 PM
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Oh, one more thing on day 1 in Jaipur. When we left the puppet show, we had to take tuk-tuks back to our hotel. Tej said we could 2 tuk-tuks or we could squeeze into one rather than send some of the women separately. We were game and somehow all seven of us crowded into one tuk-tuk (John had skipped the puppet show and gone back early, and one of the women was sick and had stayed back at the hotel). We laughed all the way home. It suddenly seemed like we were teenagers again away at summer camp. It was so much fun. When we got back at the hotel, we all sat around the lounge area, ordered drinks, and talked. I introduced Blip - he was quite a hit.
althom1122 is offline  
Dec 20th, 2010, 05:54 PM
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And here are the Jaipur, day 1, photos to go with this latest installment.

http://kbutler1122.zenfolio.com/p233838108
althom1122 is offline  
Dec 20th, 2010, 06:33 PM
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more great pics....the guy with the red turban was in one of my pics too i think...

was it samode palace where you had dinner?? i remember they have a small puppet show in the courtyard there....

now i am excited again about the trip i am working on for next fall to india...

keep it coming
rhkkmk is offline  
Dec 20th, 2010, 07:17 PM
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Great stuff, love the detail. Pleased that Intrepid worked out for you - although surprised by the shopping stops.
thursdaysd is offline  
Dec 20th, 2010, 09:18 PM
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What fabulous pictures. Can't wait to read and see more.
dgunbug is offline  
Dec 20th, 2010, 11:54 PM
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Fabulous pics and a great report.

Your enthusiasm comes thru...you are having a great time in India.

Keep it coming.
magical is offline  
Dec 21st, 2010, 04:22 AM
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All those bodies covered with blankets in the train station! The colors in India are so wonderful.
indianapearl is offline  

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