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General Travel Tips: India

Out of India

sunny

We'd originally planned to make the journey from Jaisalmer to Delhi in one day, but it turned out that this piece of planning (to be fair, executed many months ago sitting in front of a laptop in California) was not terribly practical, not least because the distance between the two is about 800 kilometres! And so we took the advice of our driver, stopping overnight on Thursday at Bikaner, a little under halfway between the two.

We chanced upon Lalgarh Palace Hotel which was built a little over a hundred years ago for Maharaja Ganga Singh (a signatory of the Versailles Treaty, no less!). The Maharaja's stately home combines both European grandeur with more local design features such as wooden and sandston carvings. Our room, one of maybe twelve set around an open-air courtyard, had a four poster bed so high that steps were provided to get onto it! Many of the hotel's features, from our room's ceiling to the dining room, billiards room and bar are original and, although not terribly well maintained, it was a real treat to spend our last night in India here.

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We finally reached the parking lot that is Delhi on Friday evening, in plenty of time for our 11pm flight to Kuala Lumpur where we would pick up a connecting flight to Hanoi. Actually, with a few hours to spare, we headed into town to give Lloyd a drive-by of India Gate where, happily, there was a celebration of India's Territorial Army! Even though we arrived after dark, the mood was light with hundreds of Indian families enjoying the park. Vendors strolled by with colourful balloons, toys, candy floss and food.

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Unfortunately, we didn't have time to wait around for the band to actually start playing their bag-pipes! If you look closely, you can see Lloyd featured in the big screen......

The traffic didn't allow us anymore time for sight-seeing, so we headed to the airport and checked in for our Malaysian Airlines flight. After ten days of - well - not much to eat at all, the 'Subway' sign after security was too much of a temptation for us. Apparently the diet of lentils and chipati had failed to satisfy more than just the two of us; as we turned the corner into the store, we saw about twenty caucasians busily ramming sandwiches down their throats as fast as they could. Within a few minutes, we were racing through a turkey salad sandwich, and - yes - we did rejoin the line to order a second sandwich....

Next stop - Vietnam! But first, a few tips if you're planning a trip to India:

1) Partly due to fewer language barriers and in large part due to a strong rail and (relatively speaking) road infrastructure, India is one of the easiest places to get around, so FTG*. This is absolutely a place to travel independently, and we loved the freedom we had during this leg of our trip.

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Fewer language challenges, sure, but it's far from a sure thing. It took us a while to realize that this sign was for CHILLED beer...

2) Travel on an Indian Train at least once. Even though many of the long-distance trains are overnight (limiting what you can see of the countryside), there's something unique about Indian trains versus the (many) others we've been on. Don't miss it.

3) But bear in mind that if you go 2AC class (2 tier bunks, air-conditioned), you'll at best have yellow tinted windows that don't open. At worse - like us - you'll have yellow tinted, cracked windows that don't open. Again, it just restricts your ability to see anything.

4) Train experience aside, hire a car and driver to take you around. Shop around online and you'll probably get a better deal than we did just showing up. That said, you don't want to scrimp too much. Indian roads are - absolutely - the most dangerous we've seen and you want to be sure both the vehicle and driver can deal with it. We insisted on seat-belts (hey, it made us feel better) and you'll probably want AC too.

5) Don't miss Varanasi. This was my second trip to India and I have to say that Varanasi continues to top my list of favourites (at least of the India I've seen so far!). It's the spiritual heart of India, and reveals a side of India that you don't see if you are otherwise sticking to the Golden Triangle and Rajastan as we did.

6) One night in Agra is enough! We wouldn't have missed our stay at the Oberoi Amarvilas because of the once-in-a-lifetime view of the Taj (we got the best rate we could online through the hotel's website), and also because this kind of hotel offers important insight into India's history. We can't tolerate this kind of deferent service for too long, but it's something that should be experienced once. And one night is enough. There's NOTHING in Agra but the Taj Mahal and the Fort. Get in, get out, and don't waste any more previous time than you have to. If you're staying at the Amarvilas, the bank manager will also be happier.

7) Special tip for the tea drinkers out there. I'm one of those travellers who takes her own teabags and expects the simple pleasure of a good cuppa in the morning. Even with your own teabags, India isn't the kind of place where you will get a good cup of tea. By ordering hot water rather than coffee or tea, I had the unfortunate 'benefit' of seeing exactly what was in the water, and I'm afraid - even though no doubt perfectly safe in nearly every case - it was enough to put me off drinking at all. If I was to do this again, I would take my own mini-travel kettle and boil my own bottled water. Lloyd really wished I had ;o) - with my routine caffeine fix, I might have been more pleasant to be around.

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On this lucky morning it only took three attempts to get the perfect cuppa

8) Ladies: if you're going anywhere on a camel, wear a sports bra! I had no idea camels could trot, but when they do.... ouch!

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9) Don't miss Jodphur's Mehrangarh Fort.

We may add some more as we have more time to reflect on our time in India. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you have questions on any of our comments!

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A creative street vendor's advert in Jaisalmer.

*FTG = "F-the-Group" (i.e. "Forget"-the-Group, or "Forego"-the-Group, or ...).

Posted by jacquiedro 17:20 Archived in India Tagged tips_and_tricks

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Comments

whoa baby, do ANYthing to get that woman a good cup of hot water for tea and avoid that scowl LOL

by pshack

Hey,
Just want to say good work with the blog. I have been catching up on your travels belatedly through looking over your archives, but enjoying the read and picking up on some good tips as you have visited a lot of places that will make up part of my rtw itinerary.
Cheers
Daniel

by dbgomes

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