- 31 Jan - Stuck in Delhi, tour of Lodi Gardens & Qutb
- 1 Feb - Start of 3 day trek, picnic at monastery & snow
- 2 Feb - View of Himalayas & night in a village
- 3 Feb - A long descent; Bodnath, Pashupatinath & Bhaktapur
- 4 Feb - Swayambunath, Katmandu, Patan & return to Delhi
- 5 Feb - Travelling from Delhi to Aurangabad
- 6 Feb - Day at Ajanta
- 7 Feb - Sights of Aurangabad
- 8 Feb - Ellora caves & return to Mumbai
- 9 Feb - Elephanta caves & shopping in Mumbai
- 10 Feb - Things to see in Trivandrum
- 11 Feb - Excursion to Cape Cormorin
- 12 Feb - Long drive to Periyar & boat safari
- 13 Feb - Tropical luxury at Kottayam
- 14 Feb - Backwater cruise on Valentine's Day
- 15 Feb - Sights of Cochi & introduction to Kathakali
- 16 Feb - Strike in Cochi
- 17 Feb - Very long drive to Mysore
- 18 Feb - Chammundi Hill & Mysore Palace
- 19 Feb - Hoysala temple at Somnathpur & Seringapatnam
- 20 Feb - Largest Jain statue and more Hoysala temples
- 21 Feb - Travelling to Delhi via Bangalore
- 22 Feb - The official tour of Delhi
- 23 Feb - Modern art & ancient history museums, join Palace
- 24 Feb - Amber Fort & Jaipur
- 25 Feb - Chittorgarh & Udaipur
- 26 Feb - Rathambore & long ride to Jaisalmer
- 27 Feb - Havelis and citadel of Jaisalmer
- 28 Feb - Jodhpur fort and blue city
- 20 Feb - Bird sanctuary, Fatehpur Sihkri, Agra Fort and Taj
- 1 Mar - Scraping the barrel of things to see in Delhi
- Planning, organisation & difficulties encountered
- It took me nearly five months to plan the trip to India,
nearly as long as it took to save up to go there. I enjoyed reading
all the books and websites I could find. In the end I planned
everything myself: where we would go, how we would get there,
where we would stay and what we would see. Then I turned the
whole plan over to an Indian tour company, TCI, so that I didn't
have to do the actual bookings and organisation myself. On the
whole we were very pleased with the service they gave us.
- Some of the choices we made were different from those often
made by travellers to India. A lot of people just set off with
the idea of arranging everything when they arrive. This is almost
certainly cheaper and means you have the fun of figuring out
a foreign country's way of working the hard way. I was often
glad that I had made those pre-bookings and had the tour reps
to help me through daily life, since it left me free to concentrate
on the amazing sights that I had heard so much about and also
to learn how things work through relaxed observation rather than
frantic experience. We only had five weeks in India and Nepal
which is really a very short time, but we managed to see a huge
number of things. Towards the end of our stay, I was feeling
pretty comfortable in India, and another time I might do less
- We also spent at least as much money on hotels as we would
have done if travelling in Europe. Although this made our trip
rather expensive it's another thing I don't regret. It's very
easy to suffer from over-stimulation in India before you get
used to it: the noise, the people, the dirt. The hotels we stayed
in tended to be quiet and peaceful oases to which we could retreat
and relax before heading out again. This is what made the trip
into a holiday, rather than an upheaval. It all depends what
you're looking for.
- Although I did a lot of planning, I was forewarned that things
were not necessarily going to go according to plan (though mostly
they did). Once our trip actually started I was completely laid
back about everything. People's response to a lot of things depend
on their individual attitudes, the following mishaps and inconveniences
happened to us:
- We had a lot of trouble with our flight to Katmandu (this
is the sort of trouble we were expecting. In retrospect, losing
that day in Katmandu was the most disappointing mishap but I'm
sure we'll be back there);
- Our credit card number got stolen and we are still sorting
it out 6 months down the road (for some reason this doesn't seem
to upset either of us much);
- We both got sick once, and spent quite a bit of the rest
of the time feeling not exactly queasy, but not quite ourselves,
maybe due to the malaria tablets (this didn't bother me much
but Mike still talks about it);
- Mike disliked: mosquitoes, hawkers, travelling by car because
of the potholes and lack of suspension, and dirt and litter everywhere;
- I disliked: leeches, walking around on the streets because
of the traffic and lack of sidewalks, the frequent absence of
wine at dinner, and the fact that the quality of the food was
generally inversely proportional to the cleanliness of the table
- We both disliked: tipping since we had no idea how much we
should give, and being taken shopping by guides and drivers to
those dreadful tourist shops.
- on the other hand;
- We enjoyed: getting our laundry done regularly, being able
to afford room service, almost everything we ate, talking to
almost everyone we met and all the sights and cities we saw.
We took the Palace on Wheels and you might wonder what we
though of that and whether it was worth it. I certainly wondered
before we went, so here are my conclusions.
- It was virtually the only way to see everything we wanted
in Rajasthan in the time available, and it was out of the question
that we could have more time. From that point of view, it had
to be worth it, I wouldn't have wanted to miss anything we saw
for the world.
- It was undoubtedly the most comfortable travelling we did
in India and we had done a lot by that time. As a hotel/restaurant
it also compared favourably with others we had been in.
- It was very well planned and organised, the schedule was
quite tightly packed which is what we wanted, the guides were
of well above average quality.
- We enjoyed the train food, but got a bit tired of the buffets
in the hotels.
- Certainly, we were touring in very large groups and that
sort of thing has some inherent disadvantages that you can either
live with or not. You have next to no freedom to do anything
of your own accord. Actually, it also has some advantages, since
it is much easier to avoid the hawkers by hiding in the middle
of the herd.
- Some shopping is built in to every day, but on the one hand,
you are likely to get that anyway, unless you manage to avoid
any contact with Indians whatsoever on your trip, and on the
other the shops had been selected for quality and value rather
better than any others I was hauled along to without being asked.
Also we never felt that we were being rushed round the sights
as quickly as possible so we could get to the shops, as we did
on a few other occasions. True, there were places where we, individually,
might have spent longer, but we felt that on the whole the group
was ready to go.
- Our travelling companions were much more interesting than
we had imagined. Many of them had been in India working for several
months and were offering themselves a leaving treat. There were
a few Indians, clearly extremely rich.
- I think it very likely that due to economic changes in the
world an experience of this sort will eventually pass completely
out of our reach financially. After all, its very borderline
already. As such, there was certainly an element of 'seize the
day' and it's something I'll be glad to tell my grandchildren
(if any) about!
Books & web sites
- The Lonely Planet guide to India -
the one everyone swears by, but I have often found the Lonely
Planet very negative. Haven't you ever read an entry in there
and wondered why on earth you would want to visit that place!
- Footprint India Handbook by Robert
and Roma Bradnock - a highly recommended alternative and the
book we actually took with us.
- A variety of other French published
travel books that compared very favourably with both the above.
- Berlitz guide to India - recommended
if you are trying to get an introduction to India with a view
to planning a trip, if you will be just passing through, or if
you have a business trip with some free time thrown in.
- Karma Cola by Gita Mehta - an Indian's
perspective on some of the strange things westerners get up to
in her country.
- Snakes and Ladders also by Gita Mehta
- an Indian's perspective on some of the strange things Indians
get up to in her country.
- The Age of Kali by William Dalrymple
- a British journalist's close up look at people in the Indian
- Cows, pigs, wars and witches by Marvin
Harris - although only the first chapter is about India, this
is a really good book anyway.
- A cultural history of India by A.L. Basham - bought in India,
- Monde Indien by Larousse - simple rundown on Indian geography
with nice pictures (in French).
- In the Skin of an Untouchable by Marc Boulet - about a French
guy who disguises himself as an Indian beggar for a few months
to see what it's like. Despite his claim to having succeeded
in becoming Indian it strikes me that he failed to have a single
thought that was not French to the core.
- Yoga Techniques by Mercia Eliade - detailed discussion of
the history and development of a very specific part of Indian
religious life. Warning! this is a 'serious' book devoid of rosy
pink prose and exercise sequences.
- Culture Shock India by Gitanjali Kolanad - not very deep
but definitely better than no preparation at all.
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy - very sad but very
- Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard by Kiran Desai - funny, sensual
and much lighter than the above.
- Indian Interiors, published by Taschen.
- India Unveiled by Robert Arnett - a very attractive pleasant
book, with quite a religious or spiritual orientation.
is my favourite travel site. I read everything on there concerning
- I used a variety of travel and hotel guide sites to check
out plane times and hotel details, but I suggest you search around
as these have evolved a bit since the time of my trip.
- tcindia.com is the
site for the travel company we used.