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Trip report. India and Bangkok. Sort of.

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Trip report. India and Bangkok. Sort of.

Old Oct 28th, 2013, 10:44 AM
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Trip report. India and Bangkok. Sort of.

We left ORD on 10/2 for two weeks in India and a week in BKK afterwards. Unfortunately the time in BKK was limited to basically a hospital stay for my wife who got some horrible gi bug in India which manifested by the time we came to BKK. Fortunately she is on the mend and we are home as scheduled on the 25th but she was in Sumitivej hosp. in BKK for 5 days so we were there but saw basically nothing. However she is ok now so that is all that matters.

So lets begin. We had enough ff miles to go biz class so outward we flew ANA to Narita. Let me say that there is a reason ANA has a 5* rating according to airline equality. Everything was excellent from the service to the food and the extra attention. They had the new modular seating on the 777 and in addition to a seat which went fully flat they provided a nice quilt instead of a blanket and also had a nice pad for the bed. Quite comfortable really.

We have been in Narita before and its as I remembered it. It seems very stuffy, like no air is circulating. Fortunately the biz class lounge was fine and the food and beverages were good.

We connected on a Thai airways A380 to BKK and had an overnight stay there before going on to DEL at 1800 the next day. The BKK airport made Narita seem cool. It was sweltering. We booked a hotel called the Vismaya for about $48.00 which included R/T transport so the deal was good. its fine for an overnight stay but its basically in the middle of nowhere and the immediate road leading to it is so full of potholes that it seems you can drive in a straight line for more than 20 feet. The rooms are clean a bit bare but it had AC and the service was good and the price was definitely right. It took about 30 mins to get there from the airport which is longer than advertised but again it fit the purpose. If we had to do it over again the Novotel right in the airport would be our choice though its about 3x the cost.

The next day the hotel arranged a cab for us to go to a mall as I needed a new shirt so we did so and there in addition to some clothes I clicked one off the bucket list. I tried what I had been curious about for quite a while, the infamous durian fruit. You know its the one with the putrid odor and the sweet taste and custardy texture which Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods fame could not stomach. Well actually it tasted pretty good once you got past the odor. How something can smell so bad and taste so good is beyond me.

So we caught our 1800 flight to DEL on Thai and I must say the service in biz class is very good. However compared to ANA the food was more like what I would expect in economy class.

We arrived in DEL late evening and much to my surprise they have separate biz/1st class check in lines in immigration so we got thru in a timely manner. Our bags were practically there when we hit the carousel and then right away you experience the Delhi hustle. A porter offered to push our bags which I had just put on carts to the waiting cars for $10.00 USD so we declined. I mean he watched me load them so hey the hard part is over. He followed us to the cars and tried to get money form our relatives who met us at IGI. My nephew offered rupees but no, he wanted dollars. Well no sir, you lose this time.

Next, three days in Delhi before going to Ajmer by train for our nieces wedding.
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Old Oct 28th, 2013, 11:58 AM
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So sorry your wife got sick! But if you have to be hospitalized in Asia, Bangkok is the place to be hospitalized.

Looking forward to hearing more about your trip.
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Old Oct 28th, 2013, 10:08 PM
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Definitely would like to hear more about other places in India you visited beside Delhi.
deepak Agra
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Old Oct 28th, 2013, 11:47 PM
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Glad to hear your wife is feeling better, five days in hospital sounds pretty severe.
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Old Oct 29th, 2013, 03:14 AM
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I am a nurse with 34 yrs. experience and this was the worst case of gastro enteritis I've ever seen. More TR to follow!
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Old Oct 29th, 2013, 05:56 AM
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So now its three days in Delhi B4 our train ride to Ajmer. We went straight to the hotel, the City park as its the nicest property in proximity to our relatives and if you know Delhi traffic staying further away could prove to be nearly impossible to commute. This place is about 3.5*'s I would say. Its clean, had great AC as it seemed no matter what we did it stayed pretty cool, the service is wonderful and it has a decent buffet breakfast with the rate which came to about 90.00 USD per night. Not bad at all. Its just that there isn't much around there to see or do.http://www.cityparkhotels.com/pitamp...pura_index.htm

There are a few things I noticed about Delhi that are different from our last trip there 3 yrs. ago. The air quality seems much better which is d/t to practical elimination of diesel powered vehicles. Most commercial vehicles run on CNG now.

Fewer cows are walking all over. My nephew told me the govt. made an effort to move them to more secluded areas and honestly the incessant horn beeping seems to have lessened. You do hear it when traffic is bad as if beeping constantly is going to help but overall it seems to have quieted down. However the traffic still is basically chaotic with vehicles darting in and out and all manner of motion on the streets including bicycles, three wheelers, scooters as well as cars, buses and trucks. An above ground el system has been built but where its still in progress the traffic is horrendous. This is why our trip to CP took forever.

CP used to be the prime shopping area but now Delhi has tons of malls so really going there to shop isn't necessary.

Our purpose in delhi was to catch up with relatives, shop a little and get over jet lag before going to Ajmer. As this was our 7th (and last) trip to Delhi there are few attractions we have not seen so its not like this was tourism time for us.

The 2nd night our rels took us to one of my fav restaurants BBQ nation. There they had a surprise BD party for me which was such a nice thing to do. I sure did not expect it. At this place you get skewers of meat and veges that you cook at a grill on your table. Its fun, a little loud and prices by US standards are quite moderate.

After visiting with the family, shopping a little and my wife getting some tailoring done it was time for that very early train ride, around 0600 to Ajmer. We got up around 0430, the Cp had the taxi as promised and on time and off we went to the train station and here we had to deal with the Delhi hustle again. We had 4 big bags. I mean they each had the max of about 70 lbs. and the porters wanted a lot of money to take them, like 2000 rupees. This like $33.00 but it was very early and they offered to wait about the 40 mins. until the train arrived and put the bags on boards so I agreed. They were way to heavy for me. While waiting I talked to one of the guys who said he had been working as a porter since he was very young and silly me I began to feel sorry for him, even thinking to give more than the high fee we agreed to. Then old slick tried to DOUBLE the fee after he and his gang loaded the bags for waiting time. Sorry pal. He got what we agreed to which was more than enough anyway. BTW its a very long walk to the platform and involves lots of stairs so I did not have too much regret for his fee but don't be ridiculous.

We took the Shatabdi train to Ajmer which took about 6.5 hrs. or so. The train per my nephew has new German coaches which means it rides better and it seemed to. We were in ex. AC 1st class which basically cost about $100.00 USD R/T for two. Not bad at all. The service is good and the food provided is decent. Also much to my surprise once on the train and despite having paid for the tickets we have to pay more d/t a recent fare increase. It was only 50 rupees but it just seems odd that to have pay after you have already paid full fare.

Along the way a backpacking couple got on and say with us. She was from Vermont and he was french Canadian so we had a very nice chat about their adventures. They were heading to Pushkar and seemed to be planning their trip on the fly. Oh to be young and adventurous.

On to Ajmer next.
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Old Oct 29th, 2013, 03:03 PM
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Looking forward to more. So sorry to hear your wife got so sick! (Was it a posh hotel or street food?)

Would it be India without chaotic traffic? Moving the cows must have helped, but how is the trash situation?
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Old Oct 29th, 2013, 03:19 PM
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We avoid street food. It's hard to say how we got ill. I had some diarrhea but started Cipro and it was fine by the next day and I continued a 10 day course. Sue became sick the day after I did so she took Cipro too but her bug was probably resistant.

I think is most likely that we got sick in Ajmer given the time frame and Ajmer is pretty dirty. We have been there 7 times and it seems as dirty as ever. Many of the streets have open sewage and it's just very dirty there. Delhi seems cleaner. More to come. .
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Old Oct 29th, 2013, 04:03 PM
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Yes, I thought Cipro was no longer the antibiotic of choice for Asia. My doctor stopped prescribing it a while back. When I got ill on my last trip it was very clearly posh(ish) hotel food, but I, too, avoid street food in India.
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Old Oct 29th, 2013, 04:31 PM
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Cipro is no longer the antibiotic of choice for some areas of Asia: Thailand and Nepal were the first to be put on the list and it sounds like India should be on the list if it isn't already. Azithromycin is what the cdc recommends.
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Old Oct 29th, 2013, 04:47 PM
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Good to know. She got an IM of rocephin in the hotel and then a 5 days course if IV invanz in the hospital. We do plan to go to Bangkok someday to see what we wanted to see but missed so looks like a z-pac will go with us.
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Old Oct 31st, 2013, 07:29 AM
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So now we have arrived in Ajmer about 30 mins. early. And its hot. By feel I am guessing 95F. Most of our relatives are there to greet us and we get the usual flower garland treatment which is always very nice. The groom, all 6' 5" of him is there too. Pretty tall as Indians go. All the while we were wondering what to do with the suitcases as our 4 bags stuff to the gills are with us and are full of gifts for the family, most of whom are in Ajmer for the wedding. Believe me we are dying to offload this stuff and lighten things up a bit. Finally we decided to go to our hotel first and then later take the bags to my BIL's house for distribution. We shoped for basically about 30 people including kids so we ended up using those vacuum bags to pack in as much as the suitcases would hold.

The hotel was a heritage property called the Merwara Estates which is situated upon a hilltop and has a fab view of lake Ana Sagar and the mounains. My BIL knows the manager so he got the reservation for us and at first glance this place looked fantastic. Yes it was old and needed some paint and overall renovation but that did not take away from its grand old charm. However eventually other things did and then some. The room, a two room suite with a nice sized sitting area had a safe but by the time I figured out how to use it there was one problem. It was not bolted to anything. yep, you could pick it up and walk away with it. Some safe. The closet had all of two hangers. The BR was nice and modern and the AC worked ok though it was pretty loud. Then there was the service. Really poor. Your room would not be made unless you told them to make it, the room service dishes were left in the hall for two days, the bedposts were tottering, on the verge of falling off and the comp. breakfast was fair at best. Its all veg, no eggs and the selections were very limited. And they ran out of juice on the last day. I can overlook some of this but what tipped the rating to unacceptable was what happened on the 4th day of our 5 day stay. The asst. manager came to us and said, "there is some problem. We have to more you to a different room to accommodate a block of guest who want to be in the same wing." Huh?? I said we booked this in January so why did you come to know this now?? My wife refused, I refused unless the new room was acceptable AND the rest of the stay was complimentary. Well I don't think he expected this as he walked away and we never heard from him again. Never in my life have we ever been asked, let alone told we MUST move to a new room to accommodate someone else. The bottom line is this place makes its money hosting big parties and weddings so the inconvenience of one couple does add up to profit so why bother treating us as guests. The room he wanted to put us in was much smaller and right off the courtyard where that night they had a wedding which had we been moved would have kept us up all night. Read the reviews on trip advisor. Mine is still at the top I think and most show dismal service or worse.

The next two days were packed with ceremonies before the wedding. They seem to be repetitive in that the bride greets visitors and receives gifts. the difference is that on the 1st night they do this thing where a dryish paste is made from turmeric and people take turns rubbing it on the bride. She was basically wearing shorts and a sleeveless top to by the time they were done she was quite yellow. This is also done for grooms as well. Its a lot of fun for everyone except perhaps the pastee but its part of their culture and tradition.

My wife had a great time seeing her family again and we did get on epic with her and all her sibs which is the 1st time in our 7 trips to India this has happened.

Next, the wedding and a very nervous groom.
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Old Oct 31st, 2013, 08:50 AM
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Enjoying your report, jacket. In Turin at a B&B that we had reserved 5 nights at, after 4 nights, we were told there was a "mixup" and we'd have to move to the owner's friends B&B so a wedding party could move in. We moved to a hotel.
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Old Oct 31st, 2013, 10:45 AM
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Glad to hear your wife is better but sorry she was so ill far away from home.

Enjoying your trip report.
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Old Oct 31st, 2013, 01:16 PM
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Marija. Good move. No pun intended.
Thanks Chris. It was rough for us in many ways. However as it turned out the hospital, Samitivej is according to my friend in Bangkok the best there and the care was very good. Also I took an insurance policy offered by Allianz thru the UA and did so just a week before we left. As it turned out this paid the bill so we had some good luck too.

Stay tuned.
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Old Oct 31st, 2013, 01:20 PM
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I'm enjoying your trip report, too, and remember following your preparations.

How awful that your wife was so sick when you were away and I'm glad that she is alright now.
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Old Oct 31st, 2013, 04:41 PM
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Enjoying your report, despite your wife's illness.
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Old Nov 5th, 2013, 05:49 AM
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Sorry about the delay in the next report. We were still busy following up with Sue's medical condition which seems to be near a full recovery. She is working again and some of her lab values are normal or getting that way so we are very pleased and her MD thinks a repeat CT is no longer necessary given her clinical picture. Thats great. And I have a flu bug. Oh well this will pass.

So the day of the wedding we went to the church early. You see three yrs. ago when we were in Ajmer for another wedding the driver got lost so we actually arrived late. This time we were to make certain this would not happen again so we were among the first to arrive. The groom was already there with his best man and from time to time we glanced at him and he seemed to be getting more and more nervous. Then he was taking deep breaths and put his hand to his chest as if to keep his heart inside his body. Actually I was getting alarmed so Sue and I both thought it would be best if I spoke to him. So I asked him if he was a little nervous and reassured him it was perfectly normal and gave him some breathing techniques to relax himself which seemed to work out well enough. Phew!

By the time the bride arrived we got a surprise. Sue was asked to walk her down the aisle along with her father of course. Her mother is unfortunately mentally ill and while she came to some of the pre-wedding functions she just did not have it in her to come to the wedding. Sue gladly played the surrogate mom you could say and the wedding began on time or close to it.

The ceremony itself was a Christian one and as it was in Hindi I can't really say what transpired though it did seem like many other Christian ceremonies. It last just over an hour and there was the usual mass of pictures as they walked the aisle as man and wife and outside posing with just about everyone. They both looked very nice. Next was some fun stuff that is part of the culture or custom there.

At the reception the arrival of the groom is an event to be heralded and it was! There is sort of huge boom box on wheels blasting music, drummers going crazy and they have a portable generator with cables to what I can describe as ornate lights, like portable chandeliers that are being carried by hand. Its quite a sight. The friends of the groom are in the front to this procession and are dancing like madmen which for me was stunning as it was hot! and they did not seem to be sweating much. I would have fainted if I had to move like that. . They do know how to celebrate!

So after some time the heralding stops and the groom emerges form the car but now here is where the cultural game begins. Before he can enter the reception hall he is stopped by friends and sibs of the bride and he has to negotiate an entrance fee. Thats right. He has to pay a cover charge to get in. Its in good fun but hey this is India and bargaining is part of the culture so there seemed to be a serious moment or two but it did not go over the top. Actually India was our honeymoon nearly 35 yrs. ago and I had to go thru the same thing. However later the groom gets payback, literally and figuratively and now its his turn to charge a fee which is done before he cuts the cake.

The reception was set up in the church yard and I must say it was nicely done. A huge bar was set up though no alcohol was served and there were stations set up for snacks and separate stations for veg and non-veg entrees. The food was good though the next day Sue and I were both ill. We both had cramping and diarrhea and started cipro. I responded very well but as you know for Sue it was far different. I do think that Delhi has improved in terms of hygiene but Ajmer is still very dirty. It hasn't seemed to change in all the yrs. we have gone there.

The next morning there was yet another ceremony which I skipped. This has to do with the bride leaving her home and a prayer meeting was in order. Actually her home is an apt. in Delhi so its not that she is literally leaving her original home but its part of the custom. It took about 2 hrs. and Sue said it was too long and it was too hot. I do think that at least part of her becoming ill has to do with too many ceremonies, too much activity in temperatures that are too warm for us.

That evening we took the family out to dinner. There is a nice restaurant in a hotel called the data inn which is in Ajmer central town. The food was very good and even for like over 20 people the bill was around $140.00. Not bad at all. I charged the bill on visa, love those ff miles, and left a tip on the bill. As we were waiting outside for the car the waiter came to me and said that the tip amt. I left would not be run. Huh? Then why is there a separate line for the tip?? I thought this was another example of the Delhi hustle and as he did not seem to push the matter I was convinced the tip would go thru. I mean why have it there and if it doesn't go thru then why did you not tell me ahead of time so I could have given him cash. Well a few days later when I checked my visa statements and did the math it turns out he was correct, but at this time were were in Delhi. I felt badly about that but also think they could have communicated this glitch much better. The only was for me to be comfortable with this was to refund the entire bill on visa as a credit and then rerun it again and then I could pay it and add cash for the tip and to do all that as our car is arriving is just impractical. This is not the time to tell me. Even my Indian nephew thought it was a scam. Sorry.

So now its time to go back to Delhi. The Shatabdi train leaves at around 1600 so we got packed and left the Merwara Estates never to see it again as its the worst hotel we've ever been in. We went to my SIL house to wail it out, had some lunch, met with the family one last time and went to the train. Some of the family who were not at the house met us at the train including the bride and groom. We had our bittersweet goodbyes and when we will see them again who knows. Maybe never unless we can bring some of them to the US for a visit.

Next stop Delhi quite late. Stay tuned.
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Old Nov 5th, 2013, 06:53 AM
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Very interested to read about the wedding, especially as the ceremony was Christian (I once got to attend a wedding in India, but it was Hindu - although very low key for India). So sorry your wife got so sick, but I regard all buffets with deep suspicion! Did you eat veg or non-veg? I know a lot of people go veg in India in the hopes of avoiding trouble, and I do it if I have doubts.
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Old Nov 5th, 2013, 08:07 AM
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We ate non veg at the wedding. Usually we avoid meat however when in India.

Ajmer has open water troughs running on either side of the streets in some places and it's full of garbage and is quite dirty. I mean Its grayish in color.
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