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Palaces, temples and thali - another trip to India !

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Nov 2nd, 2018, 02:50 PM
  #1
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Palaces, temples and thali - another trip to India !

Its nearly 8.00am and we’re in Brisbane Airport (BNE) after leaving home two hours ago. Today we travel in economy with China Southern Airlines to New Delhi via Guangzhou. I’m sure the next 20 or so hours will just fly by (sorry).

This is our third visit to incredible India, most of the destinations will be new to us, with the exceptions being New Delhi and Jaipur. I’ve leapt out of my safe zone and forgone a dedicated travel agent to organise the trip, this could turn out fine, or not. All will be revealed.


I have booked a car and driver through Namaste India who were responsive and candid. Most accommodation is reserved via booking.com with one via Airbnb, two direct bookings and one generous offer from a Fodors member. We both love to eat and cook Indian food, so I hope to raid a kitchen or two. I have a couple of guides/walks lined up, and a plethora of ideas, suggestions from Fodors friends and “stumbled across” bits.


The itinerary looks like this :

3 November

Arrive New Delhi 22.50, stay at On the House guesthouse in Safdarjung enclave, 2 nights.



4 November

Walk with Delhi by Foot to the Mehrouli area, the oldest area in Delhi.




5 November

Pick up by Namaste India driver.

Drive ~ 4 hours to Mandawa

Stay - Hotel Radhika Haveli in Mandawa. 3 nights


Tuesday 6 November

Sightseeing in Shekhawati region

Painted havelis, an outdoor art gallery.




Wednesday 7 November

Sightseeing in Shekhawati region - and it’s Diwali !




Thursday 8 November

Drive ~ 3 hours to Bikaner

Stay - Jaswant Bhawan. 1 night

See Junagarh Fort, Rat temple ??




Friday 9 November

Drive ~ 3 hours to Osiyan

Thar desert by Jeep/camel.

Stay - Hacra village camel experience. 1 night




Saturday 10 November

Drive 3.5 hours to Ajmer

Stay - Badnor House. 2 nights.




Sunday 11 November

Day trip to Pushkar 15 kms away.




Monday 12 November

Drive ~ 3 hours to Bundi

Stay - Hotel Bundi Haveli. 2 nights.




Tuesday 13 November

Sightseeing Bundi




Wednesday 14 November

Drive ~ 3 hours to Jaipur

Say goodbye to driver.

Stay - Airbnb of artist. 2 nights




Thursday 15 November

Walking tour of history and street food in Jaipur with owner of Airbnb.




Friday 16 November

Drive 4 hrs to DEL, driver to be arranged.

Jet Airways flight dep DEL 12.25, arrive ATQ 13.50

Stay - Johlz Homestay 3 nights




Saturday 17/Sunday 18 November

Gurinder Singh guide for two days, Golden Temple, Wagah border, street food, cooking class...thanks CaliNurse.




Monday 19 November

Pick up by Namaste India driver.

Drive - 4 hrs to Rupnagar.

Stay Prakriti Farm homestay. 2 nights




Tuesday 20 November

Guide for nearby Ramsar listed wetlands, morning.




Wednesday 21 November

Drive 2 hrs to Patiala (via Chandigarh for a look at the modern architecture).

Lunch at Gymkhana Club, afternoon sights with guide, dinner with VP Singh and his wife.

Stay at The Baridari Palace. 1 night




Thursday 22 November

Drive 4 hours to Rishikesh

Stay at Yog Niketan by Sanskriti. 3 nights.




Friday 23 November

Decompress in Rishikesh.




Saturday 24 November

Day trip to Haridwar, guide from DBF maybe.




Sunday 25 November

Drive - 5 hrs to Delhi

Stay - yet to be determined. 1 night.




Monday 26 November

Depart DEL 12.35




Tuesday 27 November

Arrive BNE 8.30

Air train to Nerang.




As with previous trips, you’re welcome to come along for the ride, warts and all, no holds barred. I value your input on places to see, things to eat or stuff to experience as we trip.




So now we will crawl through security screening and pick up a few snacks.

Jeez Louise, these long haul days are evil....are we there yet ?
sartoric is offline  
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Nov 2nd, 2018, 03:35 PM
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Looking forward to following along. Sounds like quite a trip.
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Nov 3rd, 2018, 12:29 AM
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Hey Sartoric, bon voyage. Wishing you both a happy and safe journey. Will be following you.Good luck.
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Nov 3rd, 2018, 03:14 AM
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Fantastic, Sartoric! Looking forward to your journey! Safe travels!
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Nov 3rd, 2018, 05:22 AM
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Joining you too. Looking forward to the sights and sounds.
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Nov 3rd, 2018, 06:45 AM
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oh great. Another TR from India while I am still vacillating about where to go and what to do! just stop it!

Seriously I hope you have a great time and I will be watching with enormous interest.
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Nov 3rd, 2018, 11:23 AM
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Looking forward to joining you on your trip to India!
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Nov 3rd, 2018, 05:13 PM
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Signing on. Sounds like a great trip. Will be interested to read how Shekhawati is doing.
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Nov 4th, 2018, 12:31 AM
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Have a wonderful time Sartoric. Will be following along as we head off to Mexico in a couple of days.
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Nov 4th, 2018, 06:30 AM
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Aww, thanks for your interest people, here we go.....
We made it to our guesthouse in New Delhi at around 1.00 am local time, which given the time difference, was almost exactly 24 hours after leaving home. To say we were buggered is an understatement. Only 15 hours were actually in the air, the rest was getting to, through, or waiting in airports. Southern China Airlines were okay, one out of the three meals was quite edible, the other two served to break up the monotony of the long flights. The staff were pleasant enough, we didn’t crash, and our luggage arrived with us, what more could you want ?

Our two hours in Baiyan Airport Guangzhou only reaffirms my opinion that China is not somewhere I want to spend any time. We had a beer at the “brew pub” - AUD $28 for two small beers, even more expensive than the notoriously dear Australian airports offerings. Our e visas at New Delhis Indira Ghandi airport worked really well, with the smiling officer telling M that biometric fingerprints weren’t necessary for people over 60. Finding a working ATM was a challenge, but, third time lucky, we were good to go with the taxi driver sent by On the House guesthouse.
I’m so glad I contacted them about transport, their website suggested Uber, (impossible without a working SIM, which I still don’t have) and taxis, as we all know, can be problematic. To add another layer of complexity, our guesthouse is located in a gated community, where the usual gate is shut at 10 pm, and our flight landed at 10.50 pm. They offered to send their regular taxi guy, who cost about 1200 rupees including wait time.


A night watchman carried our two small suitcases to the third floor, unlocked the door to the “cedar” room, pointed to the remote control for the tv and promptly left. Anyway, our room is highly decorative but functional, the bed firm (we probably could have slept on a brick wall last night) and breakfast this morning was adequate, cornflakes, apple juice, a masala omelette with toast and jam, plus coffee. Good to go, we took Mr Taxi to the Qutub Minar metro station to meet our arranged guide from Delhi by Foot, and avoid the hassle of figuring out how to actually use the metro. Lots of angst followed... coming up in the next instalment.

Last edited by sartoric; Nov 4th, 2018 at 06:46 AM.
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Nov 4th, 2018, 06:56 AM
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Glad you made it OK, worried about the angst.
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Nov 4th, 2018, 11:06 AM
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oh good, I love a cliffhanger.

Great beginning to the TR, if not to the trip.
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Nov 4th, 2018, 02:23 PM
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Oh, dear, waiting for the next installment! But let me say now, Welcome to India!

I just completed my e-visa application and my brain is hurting from all the tedious detail!
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Nov 4th, 2018, 06:34 PM
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Yikes! Hope everything’s okay.
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Nov 4th, 2018, 09:22 PM
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Signing on.......
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Nov 5th, 2018, 07:28 AM
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Everything’s good. And yes, the visa process is excruciating. Thanks for reading and sorry for the following long post. I set up the story and now must tell it. Going forward, I will work on my brevity tool.

So Mr Taxi got us to the Qutub Minar metro station about 15 minutes early. He offered to wait with us until the guide arrived, but I said “no, not necessary, you can go”. That was my first mistake. We chilled for 15 minutes, politely fending off the 100 or so auto rickshaw drivers who wanted to take us to Qutub Minar.

Twenty minutes past the appointed hour, concern crept in, and I started looking for the details of who the guide is, his phone number and where exactly we were to meet. Doh, the email was downloaded to my iPad and not the phone, I have not yet bought an Indian SIM, and the iPad was back at the guesthouse. Second mistake.

After 30 minutes of silently berating myself, I went through the security system into the station itself, sheez, there are 8 exits. Surely the guide would have been looking for us.... Eventually, when another auto rickshaw guy offered to help, I asked him to hotspot me some wifi. No way, but he did suggest asking at customer care in the station. Okay, back through security to an awkwardly located customer care booth, where the older gentleman took one look at me, pushed back his chair and got a young guy. Young guy whipped out his own phone, gave me his hotspot password, and I downloaded the details of the guide.


Back outside I tried several times calling the guide, the phone calls went unanswered. Another young guy who had been loitering outside the station tried calling the number for me...same result. So then he called Delhi by Foot head office. Yay, a person answered. It turned out our guide had been pickpocketed of his phone on the metro and was at the police station reporting the theft. We were asked to wait where we were, he wouldn’t be long. I felt somewhat vindicated in using Mr Taxi, relieved that we hadn’t blown the $145 (prepaid) cost of the tour, and a bit smug that I’d rescued the day, albeit with the help of two nice young men.

The tour guide turned up, he was an hour late, but off we went. The tour itself was not what I expected given the company came highly recommended, their website looked great, and the cost. I’d give it a 5 out of 10, perhaps the guy was rattled after the phone loss. He spent an inordinate amount of time explaining the history of the 7 ancient cities of Delhi, which he illustrated with coloured stones while we’re standing in the dirt outside Jamali Kamalis tomb. We visited several more mosques and tombs in the Mehrauli Archeological Park, dusty green and covered in litter and graffiti. A shame really, with a bit of care it would look much better. The walk through the old city and a working mosque was more interesting, the markets lively in the lead up to Diwali and just when it started to look really interesting, guide decided time was up. I protested, what about the street food that was supposed to be included? He begrudgingly bought us a snack, and gave us an extra 10 minutes to eat it, then rustled up an auto to take us away. What about Hauz Khas village ? The auto would take us there. It didn’t. We got dropped off at a deer park, pointed in the general direction of Hauz Khas and set free. No tip for Mr Guide.

The day actually turned out okay, we missed Hauz Khas, but we eventually found our way back to On the House, refreshed ourselves with a little duty free gin and tonic, then set out to find a restaurant. Our dinner was fantastic, dum biryani, tandoori mushrooms, marinated paneer and garlic naan, washed down with cold Kingfisher beer.

Magical sleep followed until 3.15 am when the time change had me wide awake. Tomorrow we would meet our driver for the next 9 days. Fingers crossed he’s a good one.
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Nov 5th, 2018, 08:16 AM
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Ugh! That kind of thing is why I prefer guide books! I did Qutb Minar, and in fact all of Delhi, on my own (before the metro, too). And yes, a lot of the Indian sites are/were in dire need of TLC, especially the Muslim ones. At least Humayun's Tomb got cleaned up, and I think they may be working on the tombs at Hyderabad.

Hope the driver is good. If not, ask for a new one before things get too dire.
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Nov 5th, 2018, 07:02 PM
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Sartoric!!!!! Good morning to you in India!
Found this earlier today. Apologies for being a bit late to the followers’ party.
Some inevitable questions and comments soon, but for now, just want to say hello. So glad you’re sharing your story. Love it all, including the warts and “no holds barred”
observations!

If you’d like, I can recommend a reasonably priced, delightful small B and B (owner lives downstairs) that t is pretty close to the airport, for your last night prior to departure from New Delhi. Let me know...:

Looking forward to the next installment. Travel, eat, and drink well!!!
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Nov 6th, 2018, 03:13 AM
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Here's hoping the rest of the trip is less angst-ridden than the start!

I'm looking forward to seeing and reading about the rest of the trip - the Shekhawati region intrigues me, and I expect that you'll have some wonderful photos. And the rest of the itinerary looks fantastic! I haven't yet made my second visit to India, and now you're tempting me to plan a third!

Oh -- got my approval for my e-visa in less than 48 hours! Amazing!
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Nov 6th, 2018, 04:28 AM
  #20
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Thanks CaliNurse, will let you know. Currently considering staying an extra night in Rishikesh, then flying from Dehruden to Delhi on the morning of our flight home. Yes, Progol, painful but quick was my experience too with the e visa. I’m having trouble posting photos at the moment, will do when I can.

After an embarrassing early morning faux pas (beckoned outside to meet the driver, I wrongly assumed the Indian man approaching was him - err wrong, that guy was another another guest) I met our driver Ramesh. R hails from Dharamsala (where they banned single use plastic bags 20 years ago, how progressive) and is enthusiastic, knowledgeable and on our page. I think we’ll be fine.

We set off for Mandawa in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan by 8.30 expecting a four hour drive. It was more like 7 hours, don’t trust Rome2rio for drive times in India. The traffic and air pollution in New Delhi is horrendous, a BBC article posted yesterday, said it was 20 times above the recommended safe level, and the worst in years. The sun was a bright red spot in the hazy morning sky.

Namaste India loaned me a SIM card, so after an hour or so we stopped at a small town to top it up. Long story short... an hour later I had a working SIM with data, BUT - a new SIM had to be registered under Ramesh’s name, I had to promise R that I wouldn’t call anyone in Pakistan, we had attracted a plethora of interested strangers to the phone shop, had a cup of masala chai (courtesy shop owner) and I found a rather nice necklace in the dirt outside. Husband M has a full grey beard and is invariably called Mr Singh or Baba, he’s loving it.

Radhika Haveli in Mandawa is beautiful. It’s a restored mansion with 12 guest rooms and is highly decorative. It’s on the Haveli tourist trail, many people stop in to see the common areas. The staff are unfailingly kind, although I couldn’t help thinking of Fawlty Towers when we waited over an hour for dinner. There were only two other couples in the dining room, and one of them gave up and left before their meal arrived. The food was not bad, and we were assured everything was cooked fresh. M reckons he saw an Uber eats driver pull up (kidding).

Slept soundly until call to prayer at 5 am.
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