Map of places we visited






31 Jan - Stuck in Delhi, tour of Lodi Gardens & Qutb Minar
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 on Wheels
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 Mahal
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 planning.
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 cloth;
  • 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

Travel books:

  • 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 news.
  • 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, pretty interesting.
  • 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 good book.
  • Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard by Kiran Desai - funny, sensual and much lighter than the above.

Picture books:

  • Indian Interiors, published by Taschen.
  • India Unveiled by Robert Arnett - a very attractive pleasant book, with quite a religious or spiritual orientation.

Web sites:

  • is my favourite travel site. I read everything on there concerning India!
  • 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.
  • is the site for the travel company we used.