Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan holiday report

Our client has just returned from a 16 night trip to Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan. Here is their diary of their holiday.

We had an amazing time and would definitely recommend getting a car and driver, everything was so easy and everything fell into place so well.  Even though it was hot we were not tired at all and we had very full days as you will see from my diary.  We used Global Holidays and Namaste India Tours and our driver Sanjay was brilliant, he really took care of us and took us to lots of places that weren’t in our itinerary.

All our hotels as well as the car were air conditioned which made for a comfortable life.  The only downside for us was that some of the places were vegetarian and not very imaginative vegetarian at that, sometimes we felt as though we were living on rice and cauliflower in different guises, I won’t be buying a cauliflower again for 6 months.  Also there was no drink available in restaurants and hotels and we were just dying for a nice cold beer at the end of the day, fortunately Sanjay always knew where to get one and kept us well stocked for drinking in our room.

We did know that some places were vegetarian and dry states so couldn’t complain about that.  We did find food and drink much more expensive than it is in Goa, our usual haunt in India, and the quality of food was nowhere near as good but that isn’t what we went for so didn’t let it bother us too much.  Would recommend taking a couple of coat hangers with you as we found hangers very scarce if at all in the hotels we stayed in.

Make sure you always have plenty of change to pay for leaving your shoes outside temples.  I think we spent more money getting our shoes back than they actually cost us in the first place!  The tipping business really got on my nerves.  I found some of the waiting staff very rude.  They would bring the bill and stand at your shoulder watching you get your money out of your wallet and even had the audacity to tell you they expected 10% tip.  We found this a particular problem when stopping at restaurants on the highway whilst travelling from one place to another.  I found this a bit extortionate as I do not give 10% tip in Goa and people accept what I give with no complaint.

As stated above we found the food expensive in some places and the service did not warrant a 10% tip.  We are not mean when it comes to tipping and usually tip everyone and anyone but I think it is up to me how much I tip after all tips are meant to be earned and should not be obligatory.  Another thing which I found very annoying was having someone hanging over me whenever I went to use the toilet.  Having someone stood virtually on top of you when you are trying to comb your hair and being pounced on the minute I open the cubicle door really irritates me.  I am quite capable of going to the toilet and washing my hands all by myself, I even have my own toilet roll. All our hotels were booked on a bed and breakfast basis so if this is the case with you inform the waiter when you are ordering breakfast otherwise you will be charged for breakfast as we were on the first day!  Here goes anyway:

 Friday, 6 April

Left home at 5:00 a.m. for Manchester airport.  Quick check in with Etihad for initial flight to Abu Dhabi before transferring to Delhi, we then had breakfast in the airport.  After doing the duty free shops we headed to the gate.  Excellent service so far, not long to wait and quick to board the plane for our 9:25 a.m. flight.  It was a brilliant flight, watched a couple of films and had a couple of long naps.

Food good and well supplied with free drinks.  Arrived at Abu Dhabi at 7:35 p.m. and announcements were made on the plane telling people which gates to go to for their ongoing flights.  We waited in the lounge for our ongoing flight to Delhi at 10:30 p.m.  We arrived in Delhi at 3:30 a.m. and were met by Sanjay our driver for the next 16 days.  Very impressed with Delhi airport, a real treat after the one in Goa, everything is very well run and easy to find your way around.  Sanjay dropped us off at our hotel ‘The Good Palace’ in Karol Bagh at 5:00 a.m.  We were pleasantly surprised with our room as we compared it with hotels in Goa.  It was in a brilliant position for shopping.  Will do reviews on all our hotels.

Saturday, 7 April

 We managed to get a couple of hours sleep and got up at 8:30 a.m.  After a light breakfast at the hotel we headed off about 10:30 a.m.  (We were supposed to leave at 10:00 a.m. but the restaurant staff were on ‘Indian time’) to start our sightseeing around Delhi.  We visited the Monkey Temple, Laxmi Narayan Mandir Temple, Government Buildings, Presidential Palace, India Gate, Red Fort, Raj Ghat where Ghandi was cremated and Jama Masjid Mosque which was a bit of a rip of place.

It was a bit of a walk from the Fort and worth getting a bicycle rickshaw if you visit it but when you get there there is an old guy outside who insists you pay for a covering for your head even if you have your own and also insists you leave your shoes with him for the usual fee even though domestic tourists appeared to be carrying their own through.  We declined both offers and he was very rude to us therefore we didn’t go into the mosque.  Sanjay got us stocked up with beer (Kingfisher Blue), rum and coke which he got for us as he said they would charge us more as tourists if we went and bought it.  He did this throughout our holiday which was very good of him.

We went back to the hotel for a shower and later in the Jawahar from Namaste came to see us so that we could actually pay for our trip as no money had yet changed hands.  He also arranged our guides for us in the places where we expressed a desire for official guides.  We then went over the road for dinner to the ‘Tempting’ restaurant – no alcohol served but the food was good – 2 curries, jeera rice, raita, 2 naans, 2 lime sodas, water – 840 rps.  We read the weather forecast for tomorrow – ‘Cosy morning turning into a hot and uneasy afternoon’!  We don’t get forecasts like that at home.  We had a beer in our room and read for a while before getting a nights sleep in.

Sunday, 8 April

Left hotel after breakfast at 9:40 a.m. for Jaipur.  Stopped for lunch at a rip off restaurant on the highway where we were told on presentation of the bill ‘no service charge’ but he did expect the obligatory 10% tip and stood over us while we counted the money out.  We arrived at the Glitz hotel in Jaipur at 4:00 p.m. after stopping off for photos on the way.  We restocked with beer and water as Sanjay said it was expensive in the hotel.  We had dinner in the hotel which was one of the better meals we had in the whole holiday, we even splashed out on half a bottle of wine and 2 gin and tonics which made us feel human again.  There was Rajasthan dancing in the hotel after dinner which was nice.

Monday, 9 April

Our guide met us at the hotel with Sanjay at 8:30 a.m. and we headed of for Amber Fort which is 11 km from town.  We queued for the elephant ride for about 20 minutes, 900 rps per elephant for 2 people.  A fantastic site, we took lots of photos.  Our guide left us to wander around on our own and take pictures, he did get a bit worried as we were gone for so long exploring every nook and cranny, he thought we had got lost.  He then took us on to the obligatory carpet weavers; they were very good quality but not our style.  We then went to a block printing demo.  We did buy a lovely tablecloth with 6 napkins 95% silk, very good value.

Next stop was the jewellery.  We can never resist jewellery and bought 3 rings each.  Finally we headed for Jaipur town (Pink city) to the City Palace, Jantar Mantar Observatory which was a fascinating place, I didn’t think I could be so interested in astronomy.  We had lunch at ‘Durgh The Fort’ restaurant.  On the way back to the hotel we went to the Jaipur Blue Pottery Arts Centre where we bought a soap dispenser.  They had some really lovely things but there is only so much pottery you can display around the house and we didn’t think it practical to be taking pottery around with us for the next 2 weeks.

Back at the hotel we had a full body Ayurvedic massage for 900 rps.  In the evening Sanjay took us out to another restaurant down the road where they once again had Rajasthani dancing and music and we actually joined in this time, wasn’t much good at it though.  We met up with a man who had spent all winter in India, mostly in Goa, and had a long chat with him about his trip.

Tuesday, 10 April

Left Jaipur at 9:40 a.m. for Pushkar and arrived in Pushkar at 13:20, we stocked up with beers (Godfather beer) on the way in.  On the way to the hotel we booked a camel safari for 5:00 p.m.  We arrived at the hotel at 13:30, New Park Hotel., fantastic hotel.  We had lunch at the hotel and then lay around the pool for the afternoon.  Didn’t go into the pool as it didn’t look too clean.  We then went on our camel ride for the sunset, 2280rps each.  My camel was called Black Widow and her handler was Lala.

We left at 5:00 pm and returned at 7:30 p.m.  We went through the local village which was all agricultural land; we saw goat herders and their families with their goats also saw pigs and monkeys.  We also crossed the edge of the local cricket pitch where a game was in full swing with most of the village watching it, can’t see that happening at Lords!  After watching the sunset in the desert we returned via Pushkar town.  We had dinner in the hotel – mushroom pizza and lime soda then went back to our room and sat in the garden with a rum and coke before bed.

Wednesday, 11 April

Feel as though we have been here for ages as we have seen and done so much already.  We had breakfast of pancakes and honey which was lovely and then headed off for a walk through Pushkar.  We first called into the Sikh temple for a look round where they were very welcoming.  We then went through the bazaar to Brahma temple.  We had lunch at Out of the Blue rooftop restaurant where the service was extremely slow although it was a lovely place; we are beginning to get bored with vegetarian food now.

We did some shopping in the bazaar and bought a throw and some cushion covers and we visited the lake.  We headed back to the hotel and had a longed for cold beer outside our room and sunbathed by the pool for the rest of the afternoon.  We just had Pringles and a beer in the evening as we were all veged out.  After a shower we painted out nails, read and after a rum and coke had an early night before moving on to our next stop.

Thursday, 12 April

We left the hotel at 9:00 a.m. after breakfast of more pancakes and honey for Udaipur.  We arrived at our hotel The Raj Palace at 5:10 p.m.    On the way we stopped in Ajmer to see a Jain temple.  We had lunch on the highway at 12 noon at Mawar Restaurant where we had vegetarian snacks.  It was 45C.  We visited Sahelion-Ki-Bari (1710-1734), gardens for royal ladies and maids of honour.  We then went on to Maharana Pratap Smarak Samiti and his horse Chetak memorial gardens.  A lovely story, reminded us of the film War Horse.

In the evening we ate at the hotel garden restaurant The Whistling Teal.  At last we had a lovely meal with meat!  The service was very good and the staff really friendly.  We had the works, G&T’s and lots to drink, the food was very good.

Friday, 13 April

 After breakfast set off from the hotel to the Jagdish Temple then on further up the hill to Udaipur City Palace.  Magnificent palace which took us around 3 hours to look around.  We didn’t have a guide although there are many official guides around.  Everything was well documented and we had our own guide book.  We took lots of photographs.  We had lunch at Paiki Kibana Restaurant inside City Palace grounds, a lovely bit of sophisticated civilisation.  After lunch we went to the Crystal Gallery and Durbar Hall.

A combined ticket for all sights can be purchased.  The Crystal Gallery and Durbar Hall are within the Fateh Prakash Palace Hotel.  An audio guide is provided with the ticket price but you do need some form of identification to be left as a deposit for the return of the guide, e.g. credit card, passport.  Wasn’t really comfortable about this but wasn’t much choice.  Can’t understand why a cash deposit cannot be made.  A free drink –soft drink/tea/coffee was provided in the Surya Darshan Bar at the end of the tour.

The Crystal Gallery is amazing and a must to be seen.  Consists of crystal chairs, tables and a bed as well as everything else you can imagine in crystal.  We went back to the hotel at about 4:30 p.m. and at 5:00 p.m. Sanjay took us down to Pichola Lake for an evening boat ride to see the sunset, unfortunately not a good sunset but a nice boat ride.  We used Mewar Boating, 200 rps each as opposed to getting a boat from the City Palace as this was much cheaper – 500 rps from the Palace although they do throw in a free cup of tea.  We skipped dinner again this evening and just had a couple of G&T’s in the hotel garden with a few free poppadoms thrown in.

Saturday, 14 April

Left the hotel at 9:30 a.m. for Bundi.  Visited Chittorgarh on the way.  A brilliant site, well worth visiting but you need a driver and car as area is so vast.  Climbed up 157 steps in Victory Tower.  Arrived there at 12 noon, left at 2:00 p.m.  Had lunch in village centre at Saffron Garden Restaurant supposed to be ‘best in town’ but nothing to write home about.  Left at 3:05 p.m. and arrived in Bundi at 5:50 p.m. at Nawal Sagar Palace Hotel a beautiful Heritage hotel overlooking Lake Nawal.  Very large room, comfortable bed.

The hotel were preparing for a wedding reception in the garden.  Unfortunately we had a very bad storm most of the evening.  We managed to see the groom’s arrival on horseback with his entourage but then the heavens opened after he went to collect his bride from the hotel opposite so they never came out again so we never saw the bride.  Had dinner in the hotel, good food, meat and beer available.

Sunday, 15 April

 Got up just after 8:00 a.m. and after a nice breakfast in the garden we headed off for Bundi Palace and realised my legs were killing me after all my step climbing yesterday.  It was up a steep hill.  Bundi Palace is a bit more dilapidated than some other palaces but still worth a visit.  Be warned, there are lots of big monkeys there and you are advised to take a stick around with you.  They seemed a bit wary of people with sticks, although we didn’t have one and we were okay although a bit nervy.    Also there is a camera charge and whether you are using your camera or not you have to pay for it.  Some enthusiast had 3 cameras on him and even though he was only using one he had to buy 3 tickets.  We then went higher up to Chitrasala the Queen’s Palace which had beautiful gardens and some lovely paintings on the wall.

An archaeologist from the site took us around and into locked rooms so if you can get hold of him go for it for a tip at the end.  He explained all the wall decorations to us which depicted court life at the time.  At 12:15 pm we then wandered down to the main old town to the bazaar.  Not much to buy for tourists but interesting to see.  We arrived back at the hotel after 1:00 p.m. hot and tired and looked forward to a nice cold beer but it was not to be – beer is only sold in the evening – so we settled for a lime soda and a snack lunch.  Now headed off to sit in the garden for a read until our next foray at 4:30 p.m.

Sanjay took us firstly to Chaurasi Khandan Ki Chhatri, a temple built in 1683-84, the carved pillars were now undergoing some restoration.  Next onto Rani Jiki Baori Queen’s step well (46 mtrs deep).  Collected beers (Bullet extra strong) on way back to hotel and recovered from our day’s exertions with a drink in our room before getting ready for dinner.  Nice dinner in hotel gardens chatting with Sohill (Manager) and Sanjay.

Monday, 16 April

Left Bundi for Ranthambhore at 9:45 a.m.  Arrived at hotel Raj Palace at 1:00 p.m.  Lovely room with complimentary toiletries, tea/coffee making facilities, flat screen TV, fridge, large bathroom.  There was also a swimming pool and nice gardens.  We had a buffet lunch and whilst eating, horror of horrors, a group of about 60 schoolboys descended on the place.  We quickly headed for the pool and hoped they wouldn’t be allowed in but it was not to be.  After about 15 mins all were jumping in and shouting – that was the end of what we thought was going to be a peaceful afternoon.

I looked up after about 30 mins to see our bags and shoes in over an inch of water because the pool was overflowing with so many people in the pool and because of all the mess they were making jumping in and out of the pool despite a notice up saying no diving or boisterous play in the pool.  We were furious as all our clothes and things in our bag were wet through and I had my camera and phone in my bag.  We complained to the one teacher in charge who seemed to be of the opinion that we should put up with it as they were just children (aged between 10 and 14).  We made it clear to him we had no intention of putting up with it and so he then tried to keep them away from the corner of the pool where we were laying although they were soon back.

As we found out a few times on our travels there is nothing worse than spoilt, rich Indian children with a superior attitude and who seem to have no respect for anyone else.  At 5:00 p.m. Sanjay took us to ‘Wild Women Craft shop’ which was to help local poor people with their industry so we went on a spending spree again buying sequined throws, cushion covers and bangles.  We were torn as to whether to buy a tiger painting and beautiful silk pashminas but decided to hold off.  We probably paid over the odds for some things but it was for a good cause.

At 7:00 pm. we met with the man from Ranthambhore Tiger Sanctuary to finalise the details for our 2 safaris.  We had a buffet dinner in the evening.  We went down late to avoid all the kids but unfortunately they had made a good job of devouring most of the food but to be fair they did bring us some more out.

Tuesday, 17 April

Had a 6:00 a.m. pick up for the safari, you need to take your passport with you.  The hotel provided tea, etc. if required but we couldn’t face all the kids at that time of the morning so didn’t bother.  Didn’t see any tigers but saw lots of other wild life and it was a nice ride out.  Came back at 9:30 a.m. and had breakfast while thankfully the kids packed up and left the hotel.  We spent the next few hours having a peaceful sunbathe and a swim in the pool.

We had lunch in the hotel garden at 1:30 pm and left for the evening safari at 2:30 p.m.  Unfortunately we again had 4 rich spoilt teenage girls in the canter with us who seemed more interest in attracting the attention of the guide than seeing any animals.  We felt sorry for him as he had a difficult time with them as they wouldn’t sit down and do as they were told, in the end he just left them to their own devices.

One thing that does annoy me is the double standards that seem to abound, we are expected to cover up and dress discreetly which I do agree with, but Indian girls can apparently dress as scantily as they want including mini skirts.  We took a different route this time which was much more picturesque.  It got to sunset time and still no tigers so headed off to exit the reserve.

We were getting near to the entrance/exit when the jeep in front stopped so our driver charged down and there they were 3 tigers!  They were known as D25 – a male tiger and 2 cubs.  Their mother had died and the father was taking care of them which apparently this was unusual, it was the only family in the reserve where the father looked after the cubs.  So don’t give up hope of seeing the tigers.  As we were there the night before, in hindsight we would have gone on a safari then as well, i.e. 3 visits whilst there, the more you do the more chance you have of seeing the tigers.  We went back to the hotel for shower and dinner.

Wednesday, 18 April

Left at 9:30 a.m. for Agra via the ‘Wild Women Craft Shop again.  Having seen the tigers we wanted to buy a tiger painting.  We chose the one we had seen the artist painting the day before, he had just finished it.  We also bought 2 silk pashminas for 1000 rps each, we could resist, they were beautiful.  We usually pay about 300 rps but these were exceptional quality and hand embroidered.  We left at 10:25 am and stopped for lunch on the highway at 2:00 pm and were on our way again at 2:30 pm.  We stopped off at Fatehpur Sikri.

The car is no allowed to drive up to it so we got a bus from the car park up to the temple, 10 rps for 2 return.  We didn’t have a guide but I would recommend you have one as on reflection we wished we had had a guide but it was a bit chaotic when we were there as it was some kind of Heritage Day and it was free to get in everywhere so we weren’t aware of any guides being around until we were on our way out.

We left at 6:15 pm and arrived in Agra at 7:30 p.m.  Our hotel was the Royal Residency.  We had free safe deposit box at this hotel which was just as well as buy the time we had left Agra we had bought so much.  We had dinner in the hotel bar as there was a party going on in the restaurant and kids were running riot once again so the manager took us up to the bar which was very nice.

Thursday, 19 April

We were up early for the Taj Mahal.  Our guide met us at the hotel and at 5:45 a.m. we headed off with Sanjay.  He was a very good guide and took brilliant photographs for us, he knew all the best spots.  It was well worth having a guide as he told us so much more than the guide book did.  He took us to a good book shop to buy a decent book about the Taj Mahal with beautiful pictures in, a good coffee table book.  It was an amazing site but a very sad story.  We arrived back at the hotel at 8:10 am for breakfast.

At 9:10 am we left for Agra Fort with the guide.  After the Fort he took us to a marble school where men were taught the old traditional art of inlaying the marble with semi precious stones.  After much deliberation we bought two marble elephants inlaid with jewels which were beautiful.  We didn’t have enough money with us to pay for these as we were not expecting to go shopping but they said to take them and bring the money in later – never in England would this happen!  We then went to an Embroidery and Jewel school and showroom which was an amazing place.  We again got into a spending mode and bought an evening bag decorated with semi precious stones for £24 which would have cost a fortune in England and a beautiful display rug which was also covered in jewels and beautiful embroidery.

Apparently the things were cheaper because the Government donate the jewels to keep the craft going but you pay for all the workmanship which takes years to do, it is well worth going to see it was so beautiful.  We negotiated a 17½% discount as it was the end of the season so didn’t do too bad.  Again we had no money so left a small deposit and were told to take the things with us.  We insisted he kept them until we came back and paid as I was beginning to feel a bit guilty taking expensive things without paying.  On the way out he took us through the jewellery section where they had beautiful jewellery.  I think they see us coming!  We resisted though.

We went back to the hotel to collect more money; they were all willing to take travellers cheques with a good exchange rate so we agreed to pay that way.  By now Sanjay and our guide were wilting in the heat but we were on a high and loving it.  We went back to pay firstly for the elephants and then on to the Embroidery/Jewel school.  We had decided on the way to give in again and have a look at more rings.  We bought a beautiful sapphire ring,  a Star of India ring and matching earrings.  Went back to the hotel for a late lunch and our rings were delivered, the size had to be altered, whilst we were eating.

At 4:30 pm we went out to see ‘Baby Taj’ tomb of l’tmad-ud-Daulah and then on to Mehtab Bagh (Moonlight Garden) to see the Taj by sunset at the other side of the river.  Again no decent sunset but it was nice and peaceful to sit there.  This was also where the Shah Jahan was going to build the Black Taj before his son had him arrested.  Went back to the hotel for shower and dinner.  Good food in this hotel.

Friday, 20 April

 Left again at 9:15 a.m. for Delhi.  Visited Akbar’s Tomb (builder of Fatehpur Sikri) in Sikandra on way.  Again wanted money for shoes, we declined and carried them around with us.  Sanjay bought us both a box of sweets famous to Agra – Petha – made from pumpkins and sugar cane, one of the nicer sweets I have tasted in India.  We arrived in Delhi and went to the Post Office to post postcards back home.  Sanjay then telephoned Salaam Baalak Trust as we had brought things out from England for them.  Two of the guides came to Delhi train station to meet with us and take us to their offices near to the station and home to some of the children.  We would have liked to go on one of their 2 hour tours but didn’t have the time.

We met a German volunteer who was teaching English and computer studies to the children.  We bought some of their promotion calendars to take back home and left the things with them and found our way back to Sanjay in the station car park.  Will definitely go back when we visit Delhi again in the future.  Went on to our hotel via the wine shop.  Checked into the Good Palace Hotel again and sat drinking our beer while we checked up on the English football results for a couple of hours on the TV.

After a shower we again went to the Tempting Restaurant over the road for dinner.  We ordered starters and main course and explained carefully and in great detail that we wanted the main course after the starters but what happened? They both arrived at the same time.  Something else I can’t understand about India, why do they always bring the starters at the same time as the main course.  Well not always but very often!  We had an early night as we knew we would get no sleep tomorrow.

Saturday, 21 April

Last day in Delhi spent finishing off our sightseeing.  Headed off after breakfast around 9:30 a.m.  First visit was the National Railway Museum where we met a lovely Indian family who seemed fascinated by us and wanted to have their photograph taken with us.  We then headed for Qutub Minar, Lotus Temple, Humayun’s tomb.  It was now 4:40 pm and we decided to treat ourselves to English afternoon tea at the Imperial Hotel, this was 2440 rps for two which included tips.

You could eat whatever you wanted from a selection of sandwiches, snacks, cakes and of course scones, jam and cream, also as many cups of tea as you wanted and it was beautiful tea, could have sat there drinking it forever.  Definitely decided on our next visit to Delhi we will go there for dinner one evening.  Sanjay then dropped us back at the hotel at about 6:30 pm and so we headed off for some last minute shopping as Karol Bagh was fantastic for shopping, our hotel was right in the middle of the shopping area.

We bought 6 pairs of sandals in 1½ hours and could have bought more – the sales were on!  We went back to the hotel for a cold beer and a big bag of nuts and decided not to bother with dinner as we were still full from the afternoon tea.  Had a shower and repacked with some trepidation as we had bought so much on our travels.  We were still underweight though as we had dropped so much off at the children’s home in Delhi.  We then settled down to watch Premiership football with the remaining rum and coke until 12 midnight when Sanjay arrived to take us to the airport.

We arrived well before check in time, sailed through everything and headed for McDonalds for milkshake and chips.  Flight was on time at 5:00 a.m and we arrived in Abu Dhabi at 7:00 a.m. and waited for our onward flight to Manchester at 10:10 a.m.  The drinks on the plane to Manchester were a bit sparse and not as good as the flight out, a cup of coffee after dinner would have been nice.  We arrived back home at about 5:00 pm in the usual dismal weather but full of happy memories and lovely souvenirs.   We will now plan our next trip, still so much to see, although we are back in Goa for our annual fix for 3 weeks in December.

On reading through this, we do sound like two alcoholics but we did only have one beer each each day honest!

We are happy to provide more details, prices etc. if anyone requires more info.

Happy travelling to you all.

 

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