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Trip Report Tour of Northern India with a stop in Nepal

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We arrived home from our trip to India about 10 days ago. This trip was in the planning for over a year and since I received so much assistance and advise from fellow Fodorites, I am posting our experiences in hopes that it may help someone else in their planning.

My husband (NG) and I (LG) travelled with our friends MJ and SJ departing home on November 24, 2010 and returned on January 2, 2011. We made all of our own arrangement without the help of a tour operator. Thank goodness for Fodors - it made it so much easier. The advice and support I received here gave me the courage to take a chance and book ourselves. All in all, it went well - some things (well hotels) could have been better, but it was all part of the adventure. Nothing was life threatening and probably could be considered character building. And hey - it was India!!!

We visited many cities during our 40-day adventure. Our plan was to build an itinerary with 3 nights in each location to avoid moving every day. Well, it didn't end up exactly that way, but we had a lot to see....

After many, many revisions, this was the final itinerary:

Day 1. Arrive in Delhi late and spend 1 night
Day 2. Delhi to Amritsar
Day 3. Amritsar
Day 4. Amritsar
Day 5. Amritsar to Patiala
Day 6. Patiala to Dehli
Day 7. Delhi to Agra
Day 8. Agra to Bharatpur
Day 9. Bharatpur to Ranthambhore
Day 10. Ranthambhore National Park
Day 11. Ranthambhore to Jaipur
Day 12. Jaipur
Day 13. Jaipur
Day 14. Jaipur to Bikaner
Day 15. Bikaner
Day 16. Bikaner to Jaisalmer
Day 17. Jaisalmer
Day 18. Jaisalmer
Day 19. Jaisalmer to Jodhpur
Day 20. Jodhpur
Day 21. Jodhpur to Ranakpur
Day 22. Ranakpur to Udaipur
Day 23. Udaipur
Day 24. Fly to Kolkata
Day 25. Kolkata
Day 26. Kolkata
Day 27. Kolkata to Varanasi
Day 28. Varanasi
Day 29. Varanasi
Day 30. Varanasi
Day 31. Varanasi to Kathmandu/Nagarkot
Day 32. Nagarkot
Day 33. Nagarkot
Day 34. Nagarkot
Day 35. Kathmandu/Nagarkot to Delhi
Day 36. Delhi
Day 37. Delhi
Day 38. Delhi
Day 39. Flight home 3 am

We flew Air Canada from Victoria to Toronto and then Jet Airways from Toronto to Delhi with a few hours stop in Brussels. After arriving late (or early morning) we spent a very short night in Delhi and then flew Jet Airways again to Amritsar.

Based on the recommendation by others on Fodors I hired Ramesh Meena from to drive us starting in Amritsar and then leaving us our last day in Udaipur. As you'll see throughout the trip - he was wonderful. He quickly became like family and we had a great deal of fun with him. He helped us tremendously throughout the trip!

We flew Kingfisher from Udaipur to Kolkata, Jet Airways from Kolkata to Varanasi and Air India from Varanasi to Kathmandu then to Delhi.

I think we pretty much covered the main Indian Airlines on this trip. Jet Airways was OK, although we did have some problems – I’ll explain what happened later. I found the service on Air India to be about the worst – not particularly friendly and I felt like they pretty much ‘tossed’ our snack boxes at us. Kingfisher was definitely the best. They gave wonderful, friendly service, from the greeters at the curb, the check in counter staff to the on flight stewards. I would definitely try to fly them whenever possible in the future.

There are definitely some things I would do differently if I was to do this all over – hind sight is always the best isn’t it? If you decide to read on, I’m sure you will be able to tell the things I would change…..

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    November 24, 2010

    Well, we're on our way. NG and I arrived at SJ and MJ's last evening in the very cold weather. We won't be complaining about the cold for long! It was a short night - up at 3:00 am to be on the road by 4ish. Our son stayed overnight so he would be able to drive us to the airport for our 6:00 am departure – lucky him!

    Snowing again, but no problems with driving yet.

    We got checked in - we're all wondering if we will have our luggage for our night in Delhi since they appear to have checked it through to Amritsar. Time will tell....

    We loaded the airplane with lots of time only to find out we are delayed. Problems with the water. Very nervous at this point as they did mention that they may decide to go without it. Didn't sound too appealing since the toilets would not flush and there were a lot of people on the plane.

    Finally - before any of us were desperate they had the problem fixed. Now....for the de-icing. We don't need to de-ice....oh wait a minute - maybe we should!!!

    So an hour and 20 minutes later - off we go.....

    The short leg is over, but now the marathon to Delhi is in about 20 minutes.

    More later...

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    Wow, you covered a lot of ground (and air space) in INdia! Looking forward very much to read about your advnetures!! Thank you for the introduction and flight details. the excitment (Fodors readers) is building....(-:

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    November 25, 2010

    Not our happiest flight, but we made it….

    Sitting at the gate waiting to board our flight from Toronto - Brussels - Delhi, we felt the need to tell NG to look around....he was no longer the 'visible minority' - SJ, MJ and I got the opportunity to experience that. Since the flight was ending up in Delhi - there was not a lot of us 'white' folk waiting to board. NG is a ‘person of Indian origin’ born in Canada. This was his second trip to India – the first was over 30 years ago when he was 19 years old and went with his parents to their village in the Punjab.

    We notice when we boarded the plane that it was a little warm. Didn't worry too much about it as we figured when the plane took off that the air would come on and cool things down. Wow, were we wrong!! It took a while to determine that there was a problem. Ringing for the steward didn't help us because they just didn't come. I would push the call button and they would switch it off. Was working for them I guess…

    The captain finally made an announcement that there was a problem with the heating system and that they were unable to fix it. As it turned out it was only in our section of the plane. The people in the back section were all nice and cool - some even wearing toques. I can't even begin to tell you how awful the next 8 hours were. The heat just poured out of the vents. None of us were able to sleep. I spent a lot of the time standing at the back of the plane where it was cool. Needless to say, we were all pretty 'done' by the time we deplaned in Brussels. The man across the aisle from MJ said it quite well when he asked him if he felt like a 'roast chicken'. We weren't sure what we were going to do because we had another 7 1/2 hours to go on that plane.

    Once we got through security in the Brussels Airport we headed to the gate to see what they were going to do. We were not alone in our concern – there was quite a ‘group’ of passengers with the same question. The Jet Airways staff assured us all that it would be fixed before we left for Delhi so all we could do was hope they were correct. They were - it was fixed, and the flight to Delhi was much much better. We all actually slept most of the flight.

    We were late arriving in Delhi and it took quite awhile to go through customs and claim our bags. It was great to exit the airport doors and see a sign with our name on it. The driver had come from Chholti B & B to pick us up and waited all that time. Thank goodness for the driver - it would not have been fun at that point to arrange transportation.

    Surinder met us at the B & B to complete the paper work she required and arrange for the driver to pick us up at 6:00 am to take us back to the airport. It was 2:00 am by this time so it probably would have made sense to just stay at the airport, but who knew... The three hours sleep in a horizontal position and the shower was worth it though. We all actually felt pretty good when we got up.

    A couple of first impressions....

    - the Delhi airport is really nice - not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't the very nice, modern and well kept airport that we arrived at.
    - was expecting to be hit with a very unpleasant odor when we left the airport - I wasn't
    - was expecting to be hit had by aggressive taxi drivers when we left the airport - we weren't, although we did have a driver so perhaps they could see that we were with him and left us alone.
    - thought I was well prepared for the poverty, but was still blown away by the 'make-shift' homes that we passed on the way to and from the airport
    - expected to see cows wondering among the traffic and wasn't disappointed. It really is quite a sight.
    - many, many stray dogs wandering the streets


    Chhoti Haveli
    3500 INR per night (per room) including breakfast

    This was our first of 3 stays at the Chhoti Haveli and it was wonderful. Very clean and comfortable and Surinder, the owner, was great. She runs a really great place, serves great breakfasts and is a wealth of information. I would highly recommend this to anyone staying in Delhi. It is fairly close to the airport, which was handy on the days we arrived and departed.

    We rated her paranthas the best we had on the trip!!

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    I hope it's helpful.... It may take me a while to get the whole trip posted, but I will. I think I have finally recovered from the jet lag. Wow - it really got me on the return trip. I figured I would have this whole trip report done a couple of days after our return. Best laid plans.....

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    November 26, 2010

    Well, after a few hours sleep at the Chhoti Haveli, the driver picked us up to take us back to Delhi Airport for our flight to Amritsar.

    All went well and before we knew it we were on our way. I was a little anxious about whether or not our driver would be there to meet us. I was fairly confident, as he had come so highly recommended on Fodors, but you never know.

    We collected our luggage in the Amritsar airport (now that’s not the most modern airport I’ve ever been in) and headed outside. There was Ram waving to us and holding two bouquets of roses – one for SJ and one for me. What a wonderful greeting. We loaded up the van and were on our way....

    I don't think any of us will ever be quite the same again. I felt like my head was on a swivel and I didn't know where to look first. It's indescribable!!!!

    The traffic - OMG - never, never, never try to drive in India. It is unbelievable, but quite amazing that it seems to work. Vehicles - cars, rickshaws, bicycles, motor cycles, tractors, house drawn carts, dogs, people, and don't forget the COWS - going in all directions, beeping their horns and never stopping. It's very unnerving, but somehow it works.

    There is so much happening everywhere you look. Life seems to happen here right on the side of the road - everywhere!

    We arrived at our hotel and wanted a couple of hours to relax and get settled. We asked Ram to come back to get us a little later.

    We went to the restaurant in the hotel to have lunch, and I quickly remembered one of the reasons I wanted to come here - the food!!! Too good!!!

    NG and I got outside to meet Ram before SJ and MJ and were well entertained while we waited for them.

    The COWS - as I said before - they wander everywhere. Well, some men were right in front of our hotel trying to load these cows into the back of a truck. The cows were none too happy about it. It was quite a show. There was a young bull as well, that was really curious to know what was happening to these cows. He would come close to check it out and then when the men looked in his direction would run away. It was quite the show. Ram explained that the cows get hurt and don't always do well wondering the streets so there are organizations that try to round them up and take care of them.

    Well, if that wasn't excitement enough, just as SJ and MJ arrived, down the street came a family of pigs - yup, not kidding, PIGS.

    So, here we are, the four of us standing on the side of the street - in India (I still can't really believe it) and watching all this happen in front of us.

    COWS, PIGS, and of course cars, bicycles, tractors, horse and carts, and the never-ending stream of motorcycles - and, did I mention - these motorcycles could drive in the HOV lanes at home because they are most often carrying a family of four....

    It really is too much to try and explain. MJ and NG were almost giddy with excitement and really wanted to just get a couple of lawn chairs and a beer and just sit on the side of the road and watch. SJ and I really didn't think that was such a good idea.

    Now remember - we haven't even left the hotel yet....

    We load into the van and tell Ram that we want to go to a market near the Golden Temple that the manager of the hotel restaurant told us would be a good place to buy clothes. So off we go.

    After we parked near the Golden Temple we had to cross the street. For people that have not already been to India – go back up to my description of the traffic. SJ and I were gripping each other by the arm and saying, ‘are you kidding me, you want us to walk across here’. Little did we know that in a few days, we would be walking these streets and crossing them without giving it a second thought. It turns out, there’s a method to crossing the road – Ram taught us!!

    It’s a very good thing we had Ram – if not, SJ and I may have still been in the hotel afraid to leave the room!

    Shopping will never be the same again. SJ and I headed into a shop full of shelves piled with cloth. We are directed to sit on a bench in front of a man who begins to show us our options - too many options. Each package had fabric coordinated for a top, pants and a shawl. We decided to start with one suit each so we could make adjustments to the style if we wanted for the next one. This was a fairly lengthy process and the guys left to look around and do their own shopping.

    So back to the shopping…. Once we finally picked out the fabric for our suit it was time for the measurements. Let me tell you how excited I was when the man who had shown us the fabric was the one doing the measuring – and right there in the middle of the store. Every woman’s dream to have their measurements shouted out for someone to write down.

    When we finally finished and left the shop, we found Ram, but NG and MJ were nowhere in sight. Lucky for them they showed up just before SJ and I were going to send out the cavalry.

    SJ and I had now been standing on this street corner for about 20 min. It's hard to explain what this was like - but, the people in Amritsar don't seem to have had much experience with 'western' tourists so we attracted quite a lot of attention.

    We had all hit a wall - they say that India can be sensory overload and they weren't kidding. We headed back to the hotel to 'chill' for the evening.

    I think we were all sound asleep for the night by 7:00 pm.


    Hotel Grand Legacy
    2500 INR per night including breakfast

    This was a fairly typical mid-range hotel. It was clean and comfortable and the hotel staff was accommodating. The restaurant was very good! We ate most of our meals there and really enjoyed them. The breakfast was a buffet, but they also made omelets fresh for you. I would definitely stay here again - I thought it was great for the price.

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    November 27, 2010

    We went to bed early last night, but also got up early this morning. We were up at 4:00 am to be ready for Ram to pick us up at 5:00 am to head to the Golden Temple.

    We parked the car and then realized we had all forgotten to bring our head covers to enter the temple. We went into a shop near our parking spot to purchase something. We all got the same thing so needless to say; SJ and I weren't feeling too attractive. We looked a more little like Amish women than we would have liked.

    The temple was another Indian experience that is difficult to do justice to. What an incredible place. It is a very large complex.

    We started off by going to a building to check our shoes. No shoes allowed in the temple. This was very early in the morning and the ground was a little cold on the feet.

    It's a very giving place. There are people who volunteer at the temple everywhere encouraging you to have tea and handing out bread to everyone. There was even a woman and a small child offering us sweets. We weren't going to have any, but it was hard to say no - they kept saying, 'it's morning, you must have Chai'. I wasn't too worried about the tea, but not real keen on the plastic cups they were handing us to have the tea in. Oh well - what's a little 'Delhi Belly'.

    After having our tea and bread we headed into the Golden Temple complex. You have to wash your hands and then walk through a pool of water to wash your feet. Once inside, we were just in awe. What a beautiful place. There is a large 'lake' like body of water and the complex is build around it. The Golden Temple itself is in the 'lake'. Absolutely beautiful!!! What a spiritual place.

    The prayers are broadcast over a loud speaker for all to hear. There are people praying everywhere and men bathing in the lake.

    We walked the complex slowly, taking pictures and trying to take it all in. Quite a place.

    After some time, we headed out and back to the car. Ram dropped us back at the hotel so we could have breakfast and some 'down time'.

    We had a relaxing morning - ate breakfast and then sat in the hotel lobby for a few hours downloading our pictures, sending e-mails and chatting on Skype.

    We were back in the car at 1:30 to head to the Wagga Border ceremony.

    This is a ceremony that takes place when the border between India and Pakistan closes for the day. It's a daily event that draws thousands of people. Each side has the guards put on quite a show of marching and posturing and causing the respective crowds to cheer - hopefully louder than the other side.

    As it turned out, we arrived a little too early so we enjoyed some time in a restaurant (not like any we have at home) having a bottle of water. Well, we attracted quite an audience!!! We seem to do that almost everywhere we go.

    Two young boys, I'm guessing to be about 12 or so, came to try and sell us a dvd of the border ceremony. Well these boys could put any well-trained Amway salesman to shame. Man, were they good. They had all the tricks of the trade down to a fine art. We had quite a good time chatting with them until a man got angry with them because they weren't selling dvds to anyone else in the crowd. They were too busy talking to us.

    A very long queue of people had developed to get in to the bleachers for the ceremony, but Ram assured us that we didn't need to line up because we were VIPs and could go to the front of the line-up. NG had to make sure he had his passport because he would need to show it to prove he was a foreigner and qualified for the VIP status. He just isn't a minority anymore - poor guy!

    The young boys led us all to the head of the line to await the opening. Getting there through all the people was quite a feat - as almost everything in India can be.

    Well, they opened the gates and all hell broke loose. People started pushing from behind. We started through a gate and the guards were all upset and trying to stop us. We thought it was because they thought NG was a native and not a foreigner so he was trying to show his passport. Much to the distress of the guards, we got pushed through the gate and past them. As it turned out - they were upset because it was the 'women’s' entrance and NG and MJ shouldn't have come through it.

    So...SJ and I headed in the woman’s line-up to go through the little tent where someone searches you. This seems to be pretty common practice here - even in the malls. From there, we just kind of got swept along with the crowd up to the seating area. It was very, very crowded and these women where pretty aggressive in getting to where they wanted to be. We found a seat on the top of the bleacher like seating area, and where soon being bumped into from all directions. We watched as the show started, constantly glancing to where the men were sitting hoping to get a glimpse of the guys, but we never did.

    When the show was about half over or so, we were having a hard time with being jostled around and squished so we decided to try and get out. Well that was not so easy, to say the least. We finally made it out and headed for the washroom. Not sure how we were going to find the guys in the crown and not wanting to be crushed when the show was over and everyone was leaving, we decided to head to the car. Ram saw us and called to us.

    Well, SJ and I apparently really screwed up. We didn't realize that once through the check station we were to meet the guys so Ram could take us to get our VIP passes - there was a special seating area where the foreigners sat - men and women together. While SJ and I were being crushed by the woman, NG and MJ where comfortably seated in the VIP section!!!!

    Oh well, another Indian experience!!! Our young friends where waiting for us as we got closer to the car to sell us our dvd.

    The most interesting part of the whole experience was that continued celebrity status that we have found in India. There were people coming up to us constantly saying 'snap, snap' because they wanted their pictures taken with us. Go figure…

    I wonder if that will continue when we leave the Punjab. It's been quite an experience being stopped along the street and everywhere else we go to have people shake our hands and ask for photos. So far, those we have met in India are the warmest, friendliest people ever.

    The drive home was the usual crazy experience, particularly with all the traffic.

    Back at it tomorrow.....

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    November 28, 2010

    The day started at 6:00 am with Ram picking us up to go to the Golden Temple at sunrise. A quick stop in front of the Khalsa College for Women to search for LG’s sunglasses that fell out of my shirt pocket the night before as I was scaling a brick-wrought iron wall to get a better shot of the castle like college. MJ and I (NG) had headlamps on and MJ quickly found the glasses in under 10 minutes. Back on track to the Golden Temple. We went in and took a few shots of the place and then walked around the temple as it starting to get light. The red glow against the Golden temple provided some spectacular shots. MJ, SJ and LG were constantly asked for snaps, young boys and girls wanting to take their picture with them. An elderly man asked to have his snap and then returned with his wife. We walked through the Akal Takhat, where the holy book, Guru Granth Sahib Ji is kept during the night. There were prayers chanted by a guru and a man was beating on a large kettle drum during pauses in the prayer. Next, we went through the Sikh museum that was lined with paintings that depicted the history of the religion, complete with graphic scenes of persecutions from the Muslims attempting to convert the Sikh’s to Islam. There were also photos and death masks of the 1984 massacre of the Sikh rebels who had fortified themselves within the grounds of the Temple against Indira Ghandi’s military forces.

    A quick trip back to the hotel for breakfast and then out to the shopping district, Katra Jamal Singh Bazaar. LG and SJ picked up their tailor made pant suits, while I purchased a kirpan and a few more karas. We strolled down some less travelled alleys filled with never ending tiny cloth shops. LG and SJ\ were searching for some shawls, meanwhile constantly avoiding the endless stream of people carrying bolts of cloth on their shoulders, on rickshaws and motorcycles. Another sensory overload!

    After a few hours of wandering about, we decided to go to the biggest mall in the Punjab. It was similar to the bay centre in Victoria, with a few less floors. Security was tighter than an airport, metal detectors, pat downs and bag searches, just to get into a mall! Inside it was like every other mall in Canada, everything in English, similar stores with some name variations, with the only difference, the shoppers were all well dressed Indians.

    Back to the hotel for a quick rest and shower and then to the Crystal Lounge for dinner at 7:30. We are taking Ram out for dinner and we let him choose the resteraunt. After dinner we plan to go back to the golden temple and endure the line up to get inside the Hari Mandir Sahib, the two storey marble lined golden domed temple that is situated in the middle of the Amtri Sarovar, or more commonly known as the pool of nectar.

    We had a really nice dinner at the Crystal Restaurant. The food was really good, service was great and the price was reasonable. It’s kind of odd though. As you approach the restaurant there appears to be two separate establishments with the same name side by side.

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    Loving your report. Keep the details coming. I just returned from my first trip to India in December and I can sooo identify with your impressions of the chaotic streets and with being a celebrity. More, please! :-)

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    Thanks for the encouragement. I just sat down at the computer with a cup of masala chai to post another entry; but what I really want to be doing - is heading back to India.

    I miss the food, the people, and the excitement of India!!!

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    November 29, 2010

    This morning we set out after breakfast about 8 with our final destination for the day being Patiala. We were planning to explore NG’s dad's village of Mukandpur in the district of Jalandher along the way.

    This was our first day out on the highway in the traffic. OMG - I was silently having heart failure and SJ was about to jumped out of the car. Big trucks - did I say BIG - heading directly for us and then veering away at the last minute. I felt like we were constantly playing a game of 'chicken' with vehicles much larger than us.

    Ram says there are three things you need to drive in India - good brakes, good horn, and good luck!!!! No kidding!

    Ram, was unsure exactly how to get to Mukandpur and although we had saved a google map on the ipad before we left, there was still need for a couple of u-turns. The roads were not marked very well - Mukandpur is a small village.

    Driving the bypass through the city of Jalandher, towards the town of Phagwara, we stopped at the side of the road where some people were juicing sugar cane and then recrystalising it to separate the impurities from the finished product and make candy. We were able to sample some of the final product, it was outstanding. They had just started the process so unfortunately, there wasn't enough to sell us. This was a u-turn that we won't soon forget; the guys at this tiny operation were so kind, and willing to explain what they were doing to a few visitors to their country. They even posed for a couple of pictures for us. We thanked them for the lesson and proceeded down the road to Phagwara.

    We arrived in Mukhandpur and Ram kept asking NG if he recognised anything, but he didn't – it had been over 30 years since he had been there. Ram suggested we look for some 'elders' in the village to speak to. We stopped at the corner store or dabba (lunch) cafe and Ram and NG went to speak to an old man. It turns out that he knew NG’s dad and was recalling the events on how the land they owned was sold and who it was sold to. He also mentioned that there were relatives of his dad living nearby, and we should go there to find out the exact parcels of land that they had owned. We were led by a villager riding a bike, while we followed in the car, to a house just at the edge of town (about a block and a half away). The name on the house read "Sher (Lion) Gill". The lady of the house came out just as we arrived and the man on the bike tried to explain to her who we were and why we were there. She seemed a little confused at first, but invited us in. Her daughter was there and they soon realized who NG was. She was so happy to see us! They gave us each a glass of coke and asked us to sit down. They were extremely hospitable and she told me (with Ram translating) that this was our house too and we should stay here as long as we liked. Her son arrived and we were told that he was going to be married in February and she wanted us to stay with them until then – I wish. After a short visit, an older man walked in and when he realized who NG was, he hugged him – very glad to see him. NG didn’t recognize him at first, but then realized he was a cousin who had stayed with his family for a few weeks in the late 70’s. It really was quite an experience. I only wish we had planned more time to visit. We really were not sure of what we would find when we went to the village so didn’t plan much time there. NG really just wanted to see if he could find the old farm he had visited many years before.

    It was really wonderful to see and experience the house and how they lived. The house was very simple with cement floors, but very clean, neat and tidy. There was a small ‘compound’ out back with three cows and a buffalo.

    We took some photos and chatted for a while, but explained that we had to get going because we had a reservation at a hotel. They seemed very disappointed that we could not stay with them, but we assured them that we would next time for sure.

    Next we went to find the bank that NG’s father dealt with in Makundpur to check if there were any funds left in his accounts. We didn't know where it was, but we had the bank books so Ram used his detective skills (well actually he asked someone) and soon we were pulling up in front of the bank.

    NG and I went to go in but it was difficult to tell if it was open or not. The door opened partially, but had a chain on the bottom that was locked to the other door. There were people inside so we headed in. Again, luckily we had Ram - he went and spoke to one of the men working there and they had us come and sit at their desks behind the counter. We explained why we were there - with Ram's help, and as it turned out, they knew who NG’s father was. They told him that he went to the temple all the time.

    It was an interesting experience. I felt a little like we were in a 'slap stick' comedy. The bank was something from another time. People would come in and go behind the counter to the men we were dealing with and shake their hand and speak with them. There didn't seem to be any security in place there at all - except of course for the chain on the bottom of the doors. SJ said she thought it was there to trip anyone trying to rob the bank.

    One of the men seemed to be dispensing money from the top drawer of his old metal desk. I didn't see a vault at all, just large metal cabinets containing very old record books. There were a couple of computers (very old) on the desks, but I got the impression that they really didn't use them much.

    While NG and I were sitting there, someone had obviously come into the bank and spoke to the men because one of them turned to NG to ask if we were with the white people taking photos in town. SJ and MJ were obviously making a scene in town!!!

    As it turned out, there was money left only in the account that was in NG and his father’s name. They brought an old record book out with his signature in it from 30 years ago.

    SJ and MJ arrived in the bank - I'm so glad, because they really needed to see it. The man we were dealing with invited them to sit - someone quickly provided chairs, and they were offered chai tea. Who gets offered chai in the bank??

    The transaction was complete and we headed out.

    SJ and MJ were full of stories from town. It was a nice village, they watched men dying cloth, and saw stores selling hand made items such as mouse traps.

    At one point police cars and police men with riffles came down the street where they were. I think they were afraid that SJ and MJ were actually Bonnie and Clyde.

    There was approximately 5000 rupees in the account. As we left the bank we went back to Suk Dev's and gave his son a little wedding present from NG’s dad. He would have been so happy to know the NG went there!

    When we left Mukundpur we stopped at a gas station so SJ and I could use the ‘toilet’. While we were parked there a man came down the road with a cart – very very over loaded – being pulled by two oxen. It was quite the sight.

    Onwards to Patiala were we stayed at Baradari Palace, not kidding it was a palace, the rooms were huge and the ceilings were at least 8 m high. We had dinner at the palace - roti, three different types of dahl, and rice - very delicious as usual.

    This was our first experience with a real ‘full out’ head wobble. We had read about it lots before we arrived in India and had seen a very mild version of it in Amritsar, but our waiter had a ‘wobble’ like you wouldn’t believe. Even looking back at the whole trip – as much as we experienced this, no one even came close to this waiter. I feel terrible, but it was all the four of us could do to wait for him to leave the room before we cracked up.

    We felt quite royal sleeping in our fancy rooms. SJ and MJ – maybe not so much as Susan decided they should sleep in their mosquito tent!!

    Great Day!!!

    Random thoughts....

    - Weather is perfect

    - People of India are the friendliest I have ever met, and so polite

    - What would we do without Ram

    - We could all learn a lot about the importance of family from the Indian people

    - Dam the food is good

    - Saw many houses in the Punjab with very large statues on their roofs such as soccer balls, airplanes and birds. We wonder if they are to cover water tanks....or, just some decoration….


    Baradari Palace – A Neemrana Hotel

    5000 Rupees per night including breakfast

    Lovely place – rooms are ‘really’ big. Bathroom is as big as most hotel rooms. Restaurant had great food. Apparently while we were there a very famous Bollywood star was also staying at the hotel – not that we would have known if we fell over her….

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    What a lovely chapter! I'm so glad you had such a wonderful experience in NG's father's village. And what a kind thing to do - gifting the money to Suk Dev's son. I know the villagers made your day - and I bet you made theirs, too! I sure hope there are going to be pictures to go along with this trip report! The bank experience sounds like a hoot.

    Regarding the head wobble, our guide - who was extremely charming - had a fantastic head wobble. He knew we loved it, so he'd exaggerate it at times and we'd practice perfecting our own technique with him. I actually got fairly good at it, if I do say so myself (and what's funny is I find myself doing it here at home!). So much fun.

    Keep it coming - I'm totally engrossed.

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    Love, love , love your report of Punjab!!!!

    I've written on FF before that my theory of head bobble is an instinctive preparation for inner-ear fluid balance, to protect from car sickness in the crazy traffic and on winding mountain roads (-:
    Glad you had a wonderful, wonderful, awe-struck time. Yes, India gets into your heart and mind!
    Re: the three things you need in india, it's probably the most oft-said thing we tourists hear--from drivers, tour guides, etc. After a couple times, it gets old,but is still sooo true you have to laugh!!
    Your driver sounds wonderful. Yes, one's driver makes a huge difference to the experience. On both our recent trips, we loved our drivers, who were with us the entire time , and who made us feel safe and protected, among many other things (fresh water, translation, explanations, checking out toilets, etc. I daresay having great drivers can make or break the trip, if you chose the car and driver way of traveling in India.

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    November 30, 2010

    We were up for a breakfast in the ‘palace’ before being on the road about 9 am.

    Driving from Patiala to Delhi was about a 6 hour drive.

    Ram found a very clean ‘toilet’ as they call it in India – they don’t say washroom. We pulled into the parking lot of a little strip mall – looked very modern for what we had seen so far in India. As we got out of the car there were some men dressed in costume dancing and playing drums. They soon coerced MJ into dancing with them – we all had a giggle – but they then demanded a tip from MJ. Welcome to India....but hey, everyone needs to make a living.

    We stopped at a busy roadside dabba. We had some paranthas and chai. It was delicious, a meal for under 500 rupees for all 5 of us. We are getting braver I think – we eat and drink happily after we wipe our cups and cutlery with our ‘wet naps’.

    There were lots of villages along the way, small and large towns bustling with people, cows, camels, rickshaws, trucks and buses.

    Delhi was a nightmare for traffic, it was 1.5 hours to get from one side of Delhi to the other. It was so busy with carts pulled by cows and Honda racing motorcycles sharing the roads. Ram called the big green buses, the local transportation, as killers. Many people have supposedly been killed by these buses.

    We arrived at our b&b, Chotti Havali, late in the afternoon. Surinder, our hostess, who spoke english as if it were her first language, arranged with Ram, now in Hindi, to take us to a mall where the SJ and I could buy some clothes.

    It had been our plan to have clothes made when they arrived in India. That, however, didn’t work out so well. We had one outfit made in Amritsar, but it was a bit of a disaster. We have been wearing the same two things every day since our arrival in India – hence we were a little desperate to find something to wear.

    We arrived at a very modern mall. Similar to ones you might find in Vancouver. This particular one had an outside walkway joining two malls together.

    We had something to eat in the food fair before the shopping really got started. NG and I had Indian fast food and SJ and MJ had a pizza.

    We split up – we had some serious power shopping to do.

    MJ bought a kurta (SJ called it a dress and seemed quite concerned that he may actually decide to wear it), and NG bought a shirt at FabIndia.

    So....I had the most frustrating hour and a half I have ever had. I have seen many large Indian women, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out where they shop. I tried the whole mall and could not find any tops that would fit me. I found a couple of things in my size at Marks and Spencers, but they just didn’t do the trick.

    I was very tired and very frustrated when I met NG and MJ at the ‘meeting’ spot. SJ was in Pantaloons and MJ said she had finally found a couple of items that she was buying. NG and I waited and when they didn’t come out I went in to look for them. SJ was purchasing a couple of things and had a young man helping her. She said that he told her they had some things in my size so...I was back trying things on. Well, I finally bought one t-shirt – like that was going to help much.

    We finally got out to the van to meet Ram about 20 minutes late. He was worried and was just about to call the b & b.

    Back to the b&b to turn in for the night. Tomorrow is going to be a 7:00 am start to Agra.

    Random thoughts....

    - Security in the malls in India is tighter than an International Airport. You must go through a metal detector and then the men are frisked out in the open and the women go behind a curtain to be checked. They also check your purses and bags. When you go into a store you must check any bags of purchases already made

    - Love our B & B in Delhi – it felt like coming home even though we had only been there one night before

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    December 1, 2010

    We were up early today so we could get an early start for Agra before the Delhi traffic that possible? Surinder got up and made us breakfast for 6:30. She made us our favourite – aloo (potato) stuffed parantha’s. We have been rating them, and so far – hers were the best. We really need to learn how to make these.

    Ram was there to pick us up – prompt as always!! The drive is always eventful with crazy drivers, trucks going down the road on the wrong side of a divided highway, and the ever present honking of the horns. Of course, you also have the cows, the carts, and the people.

    We saw our first monkey’s as we were leaving Delhi. We were all very excited!! When we got to the border of Utter Pradesh – the state that Agra is in, we waited in the car while Ram went to pay the toll. We were not very pleased to be harassed by a man with a trained monkey on a leash. He really wanted us to pay him to have pictures with the monkey. The monkey looked like he would love an opportunity to make the man do tricks.

    We arrived early at Sikandra, a town in the suburbs of Agra, to go to Akhbar's Mausoleum. (Akhbar was the Moghul Emperor 1542 – 1605.) The mausoleum itself sits in the middle of a beautiful garden. We hired a guide to show us around. He had a brief history lesson for us and then onwards to the red castle-like structure that surrounds the tomb. We had to either take our shoes off or put on shoe coverings (5 rupees) to enter the holy area of the tomb. The crypt was in a domed room, man stood near the raised crypt and was burning incense . The guide instructed him to chant a muslim prayer. It was eerie how it echoed around the room. Of course he was expecting to be paid for his 5 seconds of work, so we gave him 10 rupees. Next, the guide showed us how the pillars, which were flat sided, appeared indented, an optical illusion that we subsequently saw in many of the sites in Agra.

    Next we headed into Agra to the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, or the baby Taj. This was located on the east bank of the Yamuna River. The tomb is made of white marble with four pillars surrounding main pavillion. The central dome is shaped like a canopy, not unlike the Taj Mahal's central dome. The marble is inlaid with smaller stones forming a mosaic along its walls. There are marble screens that have been cut out of a single slab of marble stone.

    These building are just amazing to me – how they were constructed without the modern ‘tools of the trade’ and heavy equipment is a mystery to me. I remember this same sense of awe in Rome.

    We were all hungry so we headed to the Taj Mahal Restaurant for a late lunch/early dinner. We had some vegetarian dahls and, of course, roti. The guys had their usual Kingfisher beer.

    We debated, but decided to go to the Agra Fort before heading to the hotel so we didn’t feel the need to rush the Taj Mahal the next day.

    Ram dropped us at the entrance. Again I thought how great to have him as he stayed with the van – and all our stuff. At the entrance we met an elderly gentleman who explained he was an ‘official’ guide. We had been warned about the need to be careful when hiring a guide in Agra – I guess it’s easy to get scammed. We decided he was pretty old and since we ‘could take him’ we would be safe.

    It was a little frustrating because he wouldn’t tell us how much and that we could just ‘pay him what we want’. We’ve been in India long enough now to know it’s not quite that simple.

    Anyway, he turned out to be great. He was very knowledgeable!!! Very intense and at times I felt like I was in school again and that there was going to be a test at the end and that I might fail!

    The fort was amazing – what a time it must have been. One of the highlights was when we got to the section that looked over the river at the Taj – it was getting close to sunset so it was quite a sight. If only there wasn’t such a ‘haze’ to look through.

    We had a wonderful day and all really enjoyed seeing the sites.

    As we were just about at the exit of the fort there were dozens of monkeys that were headed across the path of the people. Wow, they are fun to watch. These ones were really ugly though with their red back ends. It was dusk and we didn’t have our mosquito repellant on and I got bit by a mosquito – I wasn’t happy and kind of yelled – ‘I got bit’ – NG and MJ thought I got bit my a monkey, I guess I kind of over reacted as it was only a mosquito!!!

    Leaving the fort we got to experience the very aggressive ‘touts’ that I had read where so troublesome in Agra. We made it to the van unscathed and ready to head for our hotel.

    First – a stop at the English Beer and Wine store. Again, thank goodness for Ram – he saved NG and MJ from paying the ‘foreigner’ prices!! We were again reminded that NG may look like an Indian, but he is ‘not a real Indian’.

    Well, the hotel in Agra left a little to be desired – but this is India – the price has nothing to do with the quality. Thank goodness for those tents and sleeping bags!!!

    We stayed up working on our pictures that night. Just before we headed to bed – about 9:30 - it got to be quite noisy with music being played very loudly.

    NG and I were tucked into our sleeping bag in our tent when there was a knock at the door. NG, my protector, was sound asleep and only said ‘oh is there’ when I told him someone was at the door and promptly went back to sleep. It turned out not to be anything too sinister – it was just MJ. SJ had sent him to find out what all the noise was about and he found a wedding party going down the street. He was all excited and wanted to go take pictures, but SJ didn’t want him to go alone, so told him to get NG to go wish such luck, the protector was sound asleep!!! Off MJ went on his own. SJ and I were standing in her room when the phone rang in her room – OK, MJ's out in the street, the protector is sound asleep – who could be calling. Only in India....Susan answers the phone to find the man from the front desk asking if we’d had dinner yet (it was 10 pm), when she said yes, he asked her where we had eaten ....I guess they wanted to close the restaurant, but didn’t want to miss any business. We sure would have been ticked if we had been sleeping.

    Another great day!!!

    Random thoughts....

    - Haven’t found the touts as bad as I anticipated

    - Weddings – man are they noisy....and what a production

    - We saw our first camel and monkey today

    - I had read a lot about what an awful city Agra was, but I didn’t think it was bad

    - SJ and MJ went to the post office to mail a parcel – said it was a lot like the bank experience in Mukundpur

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    Well Misty, just when i thought your report couldnt get any does!!!!! Thank you!!
    I love sharing your reactions, i keep thinking," So true, so true!"
    Like you, re: Agra I didnt udnerstnad all the negatives i'd read and its "touts" I think many are at the train sation and b/c you arr by car, it wasnt as bad?? ANd yes, the Fort is marvelous! I love your story of the guide turning out to be excellent!

    Ah yes, the post offices!!! Great source of interesting stories, and the need for patience! Did you know a tourist was arrested ecently in India for losing her cool at a post office?!!

    Did i miss which hotel did you stay in Agra? Had you considered a homestay, there are supposed to be some good ones there. (We were lucky, used Starwood points for the lovely ITC Mughal)
    Chhotti Haveli--soooo glad to have a first-hand Fodors feedback. I was attracted to it for a long time--b/c of the owner's description of why she set up a b and b in ND after USA travels. Sight unseen, i had twice mentioned Chhoti in this forum( in Nov 2009 and Sept 2010) Very glad your experience confirms an instinctive sense of it being a good place.
    How did you come to chose it?

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    Hi CaliNurse, thanks for reminding me that I didn't include the hotel in Agra. It wasn't so great so I really should pass the info on.

    Hotel Amar Yatri Niwas

    It looked good on the website and the reviews were OK, but I really didn't like it much. Very worn, tired looking and noisy.

    I loved the Chhoti Haveli and am so glad we ended up there. I had tried to book the Delhi B & B based on the reviews I had read here, but they only had one room available and we required two. I think I found Chhoti on Trip Advisor. The reviews were great and I liked that it was south and closer to the airport. It turned out to be the perfect choice. I highly recommend it.

    In the future, I will definitely look for more 'home stay' or small B & B type accommodation.

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    December 2, 2010

    After a night in our tent we were up early this morning to get to the Taj before sunrise. We arrived at the ticket booth around 6:00 am, unfortunately it didn't open until 6:30, so we waited in the queue along with all the other tourists who were crazy enough to get up this early. After buying our tickets we boarded some electric buses that transported us to one of the gates leading into the Taj, no petrol burning cars due to pollutants that may damage the building. We hired a guide at the ticket stop and he met us inside the security gate.

    We saw some puppies on the way through the gardens and I must admit, I was tempted to skip the Taj and stay to rescue all the shivering puppies along with the malnourished mother. Fortunately, good sense prevailed and NG was able to drag me away. I have had a really hard time dealing with the stray dogs. It breaks my heart and I would love to try and save them all. Someone was quick to remind me though, that there were many, many children that needed rescuing before the dogs. How true!

    After a brief explanation of the reason why the Taj was built, (it was built by Moghul Emperor, Shah Jahan, for his deceased wife, Mumtaz), we headed towards the gate. This was our first glimpse of the Taj Mahal, and it is a spectacular site.

    We learned many interesting facts about the place, specifically that it is symmetrical on all four sides and the pillars are at 95 degrees so that if there is an earthquake the pillars will fall outwards. If you are looking at the Islamic script on the vertical sides of the entrance to the Taj the size of the script is constant, because as the script is read higher up the wall, it increases in size to give the illusion it is of constant size.

    I put this detail description in to satisfy my husband. I’m more of a feelings girl and not much into the technical stuff…. It was kind of interesting at the time though.

    There are lots of tourists around and the grounds are becoming busier, not to the point of being overcrowded but we are glad that we came early in the morning. We walked around the Taj; you require shoe coverings or shoe removal to be allowed up to the base of the Taj. Inside the Taj our guide pulls out a flashlight and presses it against the stone inlaid petals of a flower motif embedded in the wall. We are amazed on how the petals glow. He tells us the stone that was imported from Iran has these unique properties.

    As many pictures as you may see of this monument, nothing even comes close to the sense of ah you get when you are standing looking at it for real. It really is one of the wonders of the world!

    Even after seeing many, many pictures of the Taj Mahal, it still amazed me!!! Nothing even comes close to the sense of ah you get when you first see it. What an incredible monument. SJ and I decided that MJ and NG should start working on their monuments for us!

    After we took an enormous number of pictures we headed out with our guide. Of course he took us to a shop just outside the gates of the Taj to see a demonstration of how they inlay the marble with design. It was really interesting to watch, but of course we were then taken into the shop to see the finished products and have the usual sales pitch. The tables were quite beautiful, but we didn’t buy anything.

    We headed back to the ticket office to meet Ram and go back to the hotel to pack, have a shower, and check out.

    We headed out of Agra on our way to Bharatpur with a planned stop to explore Fatehpur Sikri.

    When we arrived in the parking area for Fatehpur Sikri, Ram had arranged a guide for us. His English was excellent and he was very knowledgeable. If my memory serves me correctly, he was working on his history masters on Fatehpur Sikri.

    We took a bus from the parking lot up to the fort – thank goodness, as it was a long way up.

    Fatehpur Sikri was built by the Emperor Akbar between 1573 and 1585 and served as the Mughal capital for 14 years. The capital was eventually moved back to the Agra Fort because of the lack of water at Fatehpur Sikri

    It was an interesting tour and great to use your imagination to picture how it would have been during the time it was inhabited. SJ raised a good point when she said it would be great if they had an area of the fort done up with the hanging carpets and furniture that would have been present in the past.

    Back down on the bus, and of course our guide never left us until after he had taken us to the shop of his ‘cousin brother’. This is a term that we have heard often in India and we think it means ‘close friend’. I am now calling SJ my ‘cousin sister’!

    Back in the car and on our way to Bharatpur. This was a one-night stop for us on the way to Rathambhore National Park. Bharatpur has a world-renowned bird sanctuary with the gates just a short distance from our hotel.

    We arrived at the Sunbird Hotel and were just thrilled. We each had a very cute cottage set in a garden. It was really nice; the only drawback was the mosquitoes. Luckily we were not in a Malaria risk zone and the cottages had the ‘good night’ mosquito repellant plug-ins. We were tired and hungry, but had to wait about an hour and a half before the restaurant was open for dinner.

    Finally it was time – and dinner did not disappoint us – we had our usual Indian Veg dishes with rice and roti and it was delicious. We even went all out tonight and order desert – rice pudding – Yum!

    During dinner we began to hear the now too familiar sounds of a wedding! We were all exhausted and wanting some sleep so we weren’t too thrilled. I cannot believe what goes on when there is a wedding in India – and we were right smack in the middle of wedding season. They go up and down the road playing music over loud speakers and set off fireworks all night long. It was so loud at one point when they set off what sounded like firecrackers it actually shook the cottage. I slept with earplugs for the very first time ever. It took me a while, but NG and I finally got to sleep. SJ and MJ weren’t so lucky – I don’t think they got much sleep.


    Hotel Sunbird
    2500 Rupees per night
    Includes breakfast

    I loved this place and would highly recommend it!!!

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    December 3, 2010

    We awoke at the Sunbird to quiet – sometime through the night the wedding celebration must have ended.

    NG and I didn’t want to get up early to visit the bird park, but SJ and MJ did. MJ had arranged a cycle rickshaw the night before to take them through the park. They didn’t have as much time as they would have liked, but really enjoyed what they saw, and the rickshaw driver was a great guide for them. They had a little trouble getting him to take them back to the hotel as early as they wanted, he finally did. NG and I ordered them breakfast while they packed up their suitcases and joined us.

    Back in the van and on our way to Rathambhore National Park. This is a stop we have all been looking forward to. It was quite the drive through several small villages and over some pretty bad roads. It was slower going than usual, but full of wonderful sites. I’m really struck again by the amazing colour. The women here seem to wear the more traditional saris rather than the pantsuits seen most often in the Punjab. It’s quite amazing to see the women working in the fields or working on the roads in these beautiful coloured outfits.

    It can’t be an easy life for these women living in the villages. They work very hard! Not to say the women at home don’t work hard, but these women are doing jobs that we are more used to seeing men do. They are working on road crews, working in the fields – by hand, not with machinery, and carrying very heavy loads down the road. And they are carrying these loads on their head. SJ wondered if they end up with neck problems, as they get older. I know I couldn’t do what they do. They have incredible posture and balance.

    We see men often at water taps or pumps along the road washing themselves and women at these same pumps doing their laundry by hand.

    We are also often surprised by the number of small children we see along the side of the road playing. Now these are very busy roads, and it’s India – they are crazy roads. We would never even let our children that age outside alone, much less playing on the side of the road. But, I must remind myself – this is India!

    It’s too cute – these small children often have forgotten their pants so they have a t-shirt on and are happily playing with their bare brown bums exposed.

    We arrive at Rathambhore and are surprised to see that there is actually a town here. For some reason, we all expected it to be just the hotels outside the park gates.

    The property of our hotel was very nice with a swimming pool and nice outside gardens. The rooms however, were not so nice. No worries – we have our India sleeping bags and our Mosquito tents
    I think the bedding was probably clean; it’s just that there were stains on them, so it left you wondering. The rooms were large and quite nice. All they needed was a coat of paint and some new bedding.

    SJ and I decided it was because it seems to be all men that work in the hotels. They need a woman to come in and fix things up. I don’t think the men notice the stains on the white duvet covers and sheets.

    It has been a very different experience for SJ and me, seeing men working in jobs that at home are more predominately women.

    We got settled in our rooms after saying goodbye to Ram. We have two nights in Rathambhore so we told Ram to take the time to go home to Jaipur for a couple of nights. We had the next day booked with tiger safaris and really wouldn’t need him to take us anywhere.

    Dinner at the hotel was great – we were the only people in the restaurant and wondered if there was anyone else in the hotel.

    We set up our tents and sleeping bags and turned in for the night early. We had to be ready for our first safari at 6 am.


    Raj Palace Resort

    11000 Rupees included two nights accommodation for two with all meals and two jeep safaris - one morning and one evening.

    I have mixed feelings about this resort. At first glance, we were not happy, but it really was a nice place to stay. It was comfortable and the grounds were really nice. I felt the bedding was iffy, but we had our own sleeping bags so that didn't end up being a problem. Like I said - with a little paint and some new bedding - it would be great!

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    Mistygirl - we are still working on our itinerary. I think it would be rather simple if we were to hire a driver throughout the trip, but my husband wants to take trains when possible and thinks we should hire drivers as we get to destinations or as needed between cities (hiring them in India rather than ahead of time). I am trying to convince him otherwise. I've read so many good things about your driver and would love to use his services.

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    Misty - interesting your comments about women wearing pantsuits in Punjab. Our experiences in Rajasthan were that nearly all the women wore saris all the time. I don't recall seeing anyone in pantsuits. It's surprising the difference given the proximity.
    (Still loving your report.)

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    Misty - just rereading your report more carefully. I have never heard of anyone bringing sleeping bags and mosquito netting with them, unless they were really rugging it. Did you find you really needed them? Do you do this usually when you travel abroad and should we consider doing this since we will likely not be staying in 5 star hotels?

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    By pantsuits do you mean salwar suits? I found them more common on younger women rather than older ones, but on this trip (mostly Dec 2010) through South India I've seen much more variety in dress than I did in 2001, when hardly any women wore anything other than saris or salwar suits.

    I travel with a silk sleep sack, originally intended for overnight trains, which I have used on occasion when I had serious doubts about the bedding. Have never taken mossy netting, though.

    Nothing wrong with only hiring a driver when you need one. Trains are better for longer distances, cars for shorter.

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    Ah, yes, we did see salwar suits. When you said pant suits, I thought, well, something different.

    Also, I'm with dgunbug regarding a "bargain" - definitely comes with clean sheets, AC and no bus! Yikes.

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    Althom, from your typo-making partner in crime, Calinurse--you mean "bugs" right?
    Say, off topic a bit, i am going to the South of India(Kerala, Tamil Nadu) again next Jan, with a first stop in Calcutta before flying south. Wanna join me?

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    LOL - yes, I meant bugs! Buses are fine. In fact, we had a blast on the public bus we rode in Old Delhi.

    Oh my gosh. Really? South India? I just might! My plans for next year are very up in the air. My new friends from the India trip want me to visit them in Australia for a reunion, and one of the women has suggested we go to Morocco. But I might consider it. If you're serious, email me: [email protected]

    (Misty, sorry to hijack your thread. More, please. Looking forward to the Nepal portion!)

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    Mistygirl, i LOVE your sympathetic and description of the village life and people on your way to Ranthambore. Those villages, the workers, so unlike anything in our own little worlds...
    LOL re the weddings. The loudspeakers,booming music and songs, broadcasting to an entire town. Were you awoken anywhere at 5 am by early morning prayer broadcasts and booming sounds to wake up the populace?

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    Great trip report on Punjab, Mistygirl!
    Good to see Patiala emerging on the tourist map, with the Neemrana Rajindra Kothi located in the heart of the greenbelt. There is enough, in the way of sightseeing, in the old city, the Gur Mandi (jaggery market); Utensils market, juttian-wala-bazaar (native shoe market)etc.The Gymkhana club right outside of the hotel where one could have a game of squash or tennis; Patiala boasts of one of the finest private shotgun ranges; an aerial joy-ride over the city at the local aviation club is also being planned. The Yadavindra Public School is ever willing to show school to visiting teachers & professors; Occasionally, the Ambassadors Cup Polo tournament is organised with high tea. The opening ceremony re-enacts the Sikh Cavallery charge at full gallop, like they did in days of yore, just adds to the variety!

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