Northern India Trip Report

Feb 4th, 2010, 07:03 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Aug 2009
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Northern India Trip Report

We have returned from our 3-week family trip to Northern India and this is my first trip report. We had a wonderful time and I would like to thank everyone who answered all my questions. I have traveled all over the world -Turkey, Egypt, Tanzania, Greece, Peru, China, etc- but I have to say India was a unique experience. People ask if I had fun, but this trip was more of a cultural experience. It can be difficult to take in, but it is moving and stays with you forever. There are incredible sights in India (it is true what they say about the Taj Mahal; there is an energy to the place), but it is the people and their way of life that is fascinating. We went to the following places:

Udaipur: Lake Palace Hotel
Kumbalgarh Fort
Ranakpur Temple
Narlai: Rawla Narlai
Jodhpur: Ajit Bhawan
Manvar Desert Camp
Jaisalmer: Garh Jaisal
Jaipur: Golden Tulip
Agra: ITC Mughal Sheraton
New Delhi: Radisson Hotel, Taj Mahal, The Imperial, Leela Kempinshi Gurgaon
Varanasi: The Palace on the River
Khajuraho: The Temple Lalit

It was a lot to cover, but manageable. However, if I had to drop something, it would be Jaisalmer. It is a living fort and a very interesting place, but it was also gross and touristy and given its remote location, I would drop it and add a night to Narlai. This town and hotel is amazing and my one regret is that I had only one night. Anyone going to India must visit to Varanasi. I almost didn’t go and it would have been a shame if I had missed it. You are witnessing the Indian way of life and death and it is extremely moving. Khajuraho is also a bit out of the way, but what an opportunity to see several unique 10th century temples in beautiful countryside. It was so nice to be in fresh air and to not have poverty in your face.

We had a wonderful driver the entire trip. His name is Ramesh Meena ([email protected]) and he was recommended several times on Fodor and Trip Advisor. He is a gem; solving hotel, restaurant, guide and train issues. It was my daughter’s birthday and he bought her a cake and present. He is prompt, professional, and best of all he listens. We asked to eat at local restaurants and he took us to places he would frequent. He did not drag us to shops and he is an extremely safe driver, which appears to be rare in India. I have had drivers before and Ram went beyond the normal duties. By the end of the trip he was part of the family. BTW, you do not need a driver in Varanasi or Khajuraho.
We flew on several domestic flights (Jet Spice, Kingfisher, Jet Airways) and did not have any problems. I booked mid-day flights to try to avoid fog delays, which worked great except for our 1am flight back to the USA. We sat on the runway for 5 hours before American cancelled the flight. They put us up in a wonderful hotel Leela. We took the express train 1st class from Agra to New Delhi, but don’t eat the train food. My son became extremely ill.

As far as hotels:
• The Lake Palace Hotel is a very service oriented hotel, but you pay for it. We have several food allergies and they went out of their way to make special breads, etc. for us. This was the only hotel to do so. You must stay here one night if you are in Udaipur.
• I already mentioned the wonderful Rawla Narlai.
• The Ajit Bhawan was nice but didn’t have much personality.
• The Manvar Desert Camp was a fun experience and the tents were very nice. It was a fun experience and warm enough at night (Dec 24).
• Garh Jaisal was inside the Jaisalmer fort. I read all the reports about staying outside the fort and I wish I had listened. It is a mad house of tourist trying to get inside the fort to see the temples before they close to tourist at noon, so it very chaotic. Staying outside the fort is much nicer. Our hotel was OK but there was some question about its use. There were several women outside waiting and the man working the desk asked my son (22) if he needed a woman. The joke on the trip is that mom had the family stay in a brothel. I’m not sure if it was, but I am the only who had some doubt. However, the people working at the hotel were very nice. No double meaning here. The rooms were clean. However, we did check out the next day.
• The Golden Tulip in Jaipur is a business hotel and I was not impressed in how they treat their customers. Their priority seems to be toward large tourist groups. In our case, they were short clubrooms for a tourist group, so they told us they were having power problems and to prove their point they shut the power off to my two rooms and had us move to 2 less nice rooms. I checked a couple hours later and found that people from the large tour group had moved into our clubrooms.
• The ITC Mughal was the nicest hotel in terms of luxury (we had suites), but Agra is a gross and disgusting city. See the Taj Mahal, which is amazing, and get the hell out of dodge. The pollution is so bad that it looks like smoke in the hallways of the hotel.
• Radisson-great airport hotel in New Delhi; The Taj Mahal Palace hotel has very nice rooms and facilities. The Imperial, although not as nice in my opinion, is in a better area in terms of walking out the door to do things. The Imperial was wonderful in helping with my ill son.
• Palace on the River in Varanasi is a 2 star hotel but it is very clean, the personnel friendly/helpful and in the middle of the action. I would not miss out on the action by staying in the 4 star hotels away from the river. They organized my airport pickup and my guide.
• Temple Lalit is next door to the temples and has a beautiful outdoor pool. We could walk all over town. I felt very safe in this town and it was so nice to be away from the crowds.
• Leela Kempinshi Gurgaon Delhi was the hotel American Airlines put us when our flight was delayed 24 hours. The rooms are beautiful suites. The restaurant has delicious food and the spa was very nice. It is also attached to a mall that my husband said could have been in the USA.
Clothing was one area that I worried about. In the large cities you can dress as you wish, but in the small cities and villages you need to be respectful and dress modestly. Jeans are fine and having a shawl is very useful to cover up. Keep in mind you cannot bring leather items into most of the temples.
I am sorry this report is so long. These are my experiences and opinions and I hope I have been as helpful as others were to me. Thanks again to everyone.
lisasiegel is offline  
Feb 4th, 2010, 07:24 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
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Wow, sounds like Jaisalmer has really changed. I was there in 2001, shortly after 9/11, and it was quite quiet. Guess I was lucky.
thursdaysd is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 04:30 AM
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Join Date: Nov 2009
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hi lisa this great trip report and yes i no the Jaisalmer has really changed
thanks
DelhiBelly is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 05:47 AM
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Thanks for reporting, lisa. Your report is not too long at all. We leave in 4 days for our 2nd trip to India. This time we will be visiting Varanasi, Udaipur and Aurangabad. We are staying at Palace on the River in Varanasi - did you have Pappu as your guide or someone else? Sorry to say we will not be shelling out $1,000/night for the Lake Palace in Udaipur - I understand that for security reasons non-guests are no longer welcomed for dinner. We have an overnight at the Radisson in Delhi - glad you thought it was a great hotel.
Craig is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 08:03 AM
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Craig: Where are you staying in Udaipur?
indianapearl is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 05:16 PM
  #6  
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Hi Craig. We did not have Pappu as a guide, but the hotel provided another. He was very good until the last day. We didn't want to shop and he became very upset, He probably gets some kind of kick back. It was really too bad. I must have gotten a good deal on Lake Palace because I paid much less. Have you contacted the hotel to see if you can eat at the restaurant? You must go through a metal detector to board the boat and the restaurants were not full while we were there. Have a wonderful trip.

You were lucky, thursdaysd, that you went to Jaisalmer when you did. I would have loved to have seen it the way you did.
lisasiegel is offline  
Feb 6th, 2010, 02:15 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Indiana, In Udaipur we are staying at Pahuna Haveli, a home-stay. www.pahunahaveli.com

Lisa, We will contact Lake Palace about dinner when we get there.
Craig is offline  
Feb 6th, 2010, 05:46 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
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I e-mailed the Lake Palace before our departure 11/15 to see if we could dine there. The manager graciously said only hotel guests were allowed to dine there. I think it has to do with security after the Mumbai attacks. Every Taj we stayed had a lot of showy security checks.
indianapearl is offline  
Feb 6th, 2010, 06:11 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
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Her name is Laxmi Sharma and this is her e-mail: [email protected]
indianapearl is offline  
Feb 18th, 2010, 01:54 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: May 2005
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I enjoyed reading this. Thanks for taking the time to post, and to recommend the driver.

I, too, was shocked about what you wrote about Jaisalmer. I was there in the early 1980s (!!!) and it was sleepy with very few tourists.
ekscrunchy is offline  

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