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The Best Exotic Off-Season Holiday: Udaipur/Varanasi/Agra/ Delhi

The Best Exotic Off-Season Holiday: Udaipur/Varanasi/Agra/ Delhi

Old Oct 1st, 2012, 05:26 PM
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The Best Exotic Off-Season Holiday: Udaipur/Varanasi/Agra/ Delhi

In late August we dropped our youngest son off at college. Twenty-two years of 24/7 parenting suddenly over in a flash.

How to celebrate the transition from sprite soccer parents to achy empty nesters? After much agonizing, we decided on something epic: a round-the-world journey to see the highlights of northern India and find enlightenment for the years to come. In spite of serious obsessions with both exotic travel and dal, neither of us had been to the subcontinent. It was time.

Or was it?

For the trip to coincide with a big birthday and work with our schedules, late September or late October were the only possible options. In September we could manage 11 days on the ground, in October only 8.5. We read multiple trip reports and sent out a desperate query to Fodorites (thanks, India veterans!) but worried that October would be too whirlwind and September too wet.

DEDICATION:
The dogster became very involved in our trip planning. He called it a “sign” when AA canceled the flight we were holding for the eight-day October trip. And in a deleted thread he also said September would be fine monsoon-wise if we “hunkered down,” and suggested the stunning restored palace in rural Rajasthan, Devi Garh, now my favorite hotel in the world.

This trip report is dedicated to him.

BOTTOM LINE:
A magical vacation. Though we are seasoned travelers, we spent most of our time gazing at everything in awe. The sights were breathtaking, the people welcoming, the food delicious, the street life mind-blowing, the discounts impressive…and the weather just fine.

We’re not really spiritual types, but we found ourselves doing yoga, meditating, having ayurvedic treatments, chanting with a Krishna priest during our own private aarti ceremony and achieving peace and serenity at the Anokhi outlet store.

We also saw the requisite wonders, swam in idyllic pools, hung out with locals in the village, flew kites from our rooftop, sampled art/music/dance, consumed only vegetarian food, took thousands of photos and survived a Bollywood film in the most odious of Odeons.

For the most part the monsoon cooperated. And neither of us got sick.

There were a few photography mishaps, shopping regrets, and a Ganges water level issue. But all in all, it was one of those life-altering trips, especially because Mr. C and I discovered we could be great travel companions without our offspring. Since our return we’ve been burning incense, greeting each other with “Namaste,” and still haven’t gone back to eating meat.
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Old Oct 1st, 2012, 06:09 PM
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Thanks for the report Judy. I have persuaded my wife to do a real trip to India this winter so hope to see some of your photos and more stories!
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Old Oct 1st, 2012, 06:13 PM
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Oh I'm looking forward to hearing more!
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Old Oct 1st, 2012, 06:14 PM
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Oh, I've been awaiting your report! We are thinking next year we may go back to India, after all we have 10 year visas. Great start and the perfect dedication to dogster... falling in love with India.
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Old Oct 1st, 2012, 06:37 PM
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I've been looking forward to this. We found the vegetarian diet in India to be quite satisfying and have had many meatless meals since. Need to hear more...
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Old Oct 1st, 2012, 06:38 PM
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I, too, am looking forward to your report. I think it is very appropriate to dedicate it to dogster. I'm sure he will be following along from overhead.
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Old Oct 1st, 2012, 07:06 PM
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Wonderful start! Can't wait to read thhe rest!
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Old Oct 1st, 2012, 07:46 PM
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Wonderful start to a great upcoming report.....I can just sense it.

Great dedication to a great lover of India travel -- Dogster.
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Old Oct 1st, 2012, 08:03 PM
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Report wanted! We are following in your footsteps in February and NEED to be prepared. We will not be vegetarians. My DH will probably enjoy the "tourist Western" meals at our hotels, but that is OK because he is coming...he would rather be in Italy. This is the trip I have wanted for years, now getting.
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Old Oct 1st, 2012, 08:48 PM
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looking forward to more for sure..

how do we know dogster will be looking DOWN?

we often ate meats in India, but very carefully.
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Old Oct 1st, 2012, 09:25 PM
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Settling in for a good read.

An Indian chicken can certainly do you in...

Dogster is no doubt looking sideways.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2012, 05:54 AM
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No doubt dogster is hovering over an Anokhi outlet awaiting a waft of peace and serenity. Or maybe he was radiating it. Waiting for more details.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2012, 09:21 AM
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Please submit your trip report!
Thank you...
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Old Oct 2nd, 2012, 10:32 AM
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Great start and perfect dedication. Can't wait for the rest...
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Old Oct 2nd, 2012, 05:29 PM
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Thanks so much, everyone. I did feel dogster's presence, especially because many locals asked us if we were "Austrian," meaning Australian.

goodness - I will eventually get around to the trip report, but my M.O. is to cover my pre-travel neuroses in depth. I do promise to be concise when describing our actual adventures. Please bear with me.

Correction: I neglected to mention Khajuraho, one of our noteworthy destinations, in the title of this report. I am going to see if I have enough clout with the Fodors editors to get this corrected.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2012, 05:35 PM
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ITINERARY - 10-23 September

LAX-LHR-BOM – BA (AA Award)

Mumbai - 1 night Waterstones - near airport (fly to Udaipur)
Udaipur – 4 nights Devi Garh Palace (fly to Varanasi)
Varanasi – 2 nights Suryaudai Haveli (fly to Khajuraho)
Khajuraho – 1 night Lalit Temple View (driver to Orchha, train Jhansi to Agra)
Agra – 2 nights Oberoi Amarvilas (driver to Delhi)
Delhi – 1 night, B-Nineteen B&B (complimentary late checkout)

DEL-BKK-SEOUL-LAX (Thai Airways flash sale)

WEATHER/BUGS:
I think I experienced more anxiety about monsoon patterns than I did about our son leaving for college. I had heard that Europeans flock to India in September because it’s less crowded and there are great deals (30-40% off on some of our hotels), but the mere existence of these bargains made me apprehensive. I even discouraged friends from going with us because I didn’t want to take responsibility for treacherous flooding, unbearable humidity and Dengue-carrying mosquitoes.

What I feared: When I (compulsively) googled “Varanasi September,” a link from a government tourist site kept popping up, warning me that “September is not the best month to visit Varanasi,” along with similar ominous predictions for Agra and Delhi. The historical info was just as bleak.

Even during the trip, the weather sites showed little black clouds with lightning bolts for all our locations for the entire time we were traveling. One site predicted a high of 31 C (87.8F) in Agra, with a “feels like” or “comfort factor” of 48 C (118.4F).

What really happened: Two brief thunderstorms while we were in vehicles in Udaipur and Varanasi and some midday mugginess in Khajuraho and Agra. At least one glorious day in each location, others somewhat overcast in a dramatic way, lows in the mid 70s, highs in the mid 80s. None of the sweatiness in djunbug’s trip report. There were, however, limited sunrises because of morning mist, but many spectacular sunsets. And a few bites at dusk at the posh Oberoi, of all places.

What I learned: Trust dogster.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2012, 05:36 PM
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OUR SECRET FOR AVOIDING DELHI BELLY:
We both travel frequently and I have lived in Latin America, so we know the drill about preventing gastrointestinal incidents. In this case, we thought a vegetarian diet would work because we could eat the spicy food we love without worrying about the spices covering up rancid meat. But when I went to our travel doctor for Malarone, she and I had the following conversation:

DOC
You know, the only time I’ve ever gotten sick while traveling was in India.
ME
That’s awful.
DOC
It was! Are you going for work?
ME
No, I’m going for empty nest enlightenment.
DOC
I see. If you’d like, I can prescribe Rifaximin, a terrific antibiotic that stays in the intestines and doesn’t get absorbed into the bloodstream.
ME
Wow – Sounds excellent, whatever that means….
DOC
Without the Rifaximin, your chances of becoming ill in India are 50%. And with it, you’ll have just a 2% chance, although for my patients, it’s been 100% effective.
ME
Is it safe?
DOC
Yes, it’s been used for years to treat traveler’s diarrhea, but now studies show that it works as a preventative. I’ve prescribed it for those who absolutely cannot afford to get sick – rock stars, politicians and one guy who was doing a three billion dollar deal.
ME
Hmm…we were planning on just looking at temples and buying a few pashminas. But we’d prefer to stay healthy. Are you allowed to prescribe it to garden variety travelers?

Later, I got a second opinion from my internist and he too mentioned the miraculous non-absorption thing, as well as a patient who took it for a two-billion dollar deal! What are the odds of two people in the same neighborhood both doing multi-billion dollar deals in India? And bragging about the amount of their deals to their doctors? It didn’t matter, I was sold. Rifaximin for us.

A few days later Mr. C went to the pharmacy and called with good news and bad news. The good news: Our insurance covered half of our prescription. The bad: The other half cost $25 a pill, or $500 for 10 days. I guess it is designed for those who do billion dollar deals.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2012, 06:17 PM
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Loving it all, crosscheck - yup even (or maybe especially) the pre-travel neuroses.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2012, 07:26 PM
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Now I know why I'd never heard of Rifaximin!
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Old Oct 2nd, 2012, 08:17 PM
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Keep it coming! What a completely fun and delightful report!
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