Katie's Slice of India - The Destination Lounge
Katie's Slice of India

One of the most valuable thing we can do for our clients is share our first-hand experience of the destinations we have visited. Each of our team have enjoyed exploring different countries and return with exciting stories (and sometimes warnings of places to avoid)!

Well this time Katie has been whisked away to India, courtesy of our friends at Exodus Travels.

Exodus have long been the experts in exploration and adventure itineraries for our clients. Indeed, they have given talks at our Destination Events that have led to some taking the plunge to explore amazing corners of the world.

While she was away, Katie kept a diary of her journey, so she could share her experiences. It is by no means exhaustive, so if you're interested in an Indian holiday, give her a call on 01271 862626 and she can tell you more!

 

Day 1

Where to start! What can I say but a fab way to start the trip! Yared, a representative from Jet Airways, met the group and we were checked into Business class and where we were then fast tracked through security and then taken by buggy to the departure gate. Due to being on an educational we were allowed to board before the rest of the passengers and have a private tour of the aircraft from First to Business Premiere and economy. Economy was comfortable. Good leg room but tired looking seats and unfortunately due to our upgrade I was unable to experience the economy section first hand but luckily enough I have enough to say about the business. With a herringbone configuration the seats were comfortable and would lay flat when ready for a sleep. The staff were amazing throughout the flight attending to all needs and serving lovely food by china and actual real cutlery. The tv screens were a lot bigger then economy and touch screen but to my shock horror the films were old and had a rubbish selection... but who cares!! I was going to sleep on a flat bed with my pyjamas given to me by the staff. Best 9 hour flight I have ever taken.

Departing the flight we were fast-tracked through passport control where are luggage was waiting for us and where we first met our guide for the week, the lovely Chetan.

We were transferred to our first hotel ... The Jaypee Siddharth. First impression’s big, expensive and business like but the rooms were lovely and very comfortable beds. They had a nice Tapas restaurant and fresh bakery and most of all an outside pool for cooling down in the heat of New Delhi. ( I was shocked that you have to pay for wifi in a business hotel and a glass of wine worked out at £15.00 )

After a quick shower and change we were taken by rickshaw to the train station which was a 10 minute ride and there we checked onto the train in the female only carriage while the boys went in theirs and we were off to Old Delhi. The heat was so intense with this came the smells of spices, people and street life. We spent a few hours wondering through the back streets of old Delhi taking in the sights of the buildings, people, dogs cows and colours. It was so busy and I have never seen so many vehicles animals people all at once and electrical wires hanging down everywhere. Certainly an eye opener to India. The fact everyone seems so poor here and life is hard and we came across a lot of begging everyone smiles or just stare at you out of pure intrigue. I loved it here.

The evening meal was in a local restaurant and my first Indian Thali. Mixture of Rice, curries and condiments with a diet coke all for £3.00 wow... topped off with an early night.

 

Day 2

Today we had an early start to catch our 7 hour train ride to Pushkar. The Railway station was a complete eye opener this time of the morning and apparently this is the quiet time, I would actually hate to be here when it’s busy that’s for sure. It was so hot underground even at 6am and the smell was so over powering you had to breathe through your mouth. I was happy to get on the train into our air conditioned carriage. It was a comfortable ride and you could just sit back and watch the World go by while taking in the sights and my there were some sights along the way. ( men and their morning toilet regimes to put it politely and lots of men).
The train was very clean and had its own attendants who made sure the toilets were clean and everyone was happy and comfortable. I was surprise to be served tea and a biscuit and then later a light snack of only what I can describe as a vegetarian/ mash potatoes sausage with sauce, 2 slices of bread with orange jam and more tea. Before you knew it the 7 hours were over and we then had a 2 hour car journey to Pushkar.

Finally were at our accommodation for the night... Pushkar Resort and what a lovely little place this was in a very quiet area with Bungalows as bedrooms... grass lawn with an outside pool. The Bungalow were lovely and decorated with local ornaments and a giant cloth that covered the ceiling. Very traditional décor. Not sure if I would say 4* but a very good 3* with a dodgy shower and electrical lamps though. It was very cosy and the bed were comfortable.

Lunch was in the Resort restaurant and today I had a chicken Tikka masala with saffron rice and it was beautiful.
Then after lunch and when the heat of outside had slightly cooled (still boiling) we went into Pushkar where is rained like cats and dogs for about half an hour. As soon as it stopped we were walking through the colourful streets dodging cow’s dogs and bikes. We visited a temple Brahma temple bare foot and it was so busy due to the Birthday of Ganesha. There were people there and children that had never seen western people before so we were celebrity’s and had our photos taken when normally it’s us taking the pictures. It was beautiful and so was the temple. I felt very privileged to see this. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed to be taken of the temple but I Have my memories. Then we made are way to Pushkar Lake where locals were taking there baths and cleansing their bodies... just amazing sights to be seen.
As we watched the sun come down we had time to visit the stalls and purchased local crafts before heading off to meet a local family where we were fortunate enough to share an evening meal with them on their roof top terrace. Here we had home cooked food of Thali and it was beautiful as were the family that welcomed us.

Already day 2 was over... but not before a sneaky evening swim.

 

Day 3

The journey to Jaipur. We left after breakfast about 9.30 and had a 3 hour drive to our hotel where we would be staying for 2 nights. When we arrived at the Devraj Niwas it was a pleasant surprise as the hotel was beautiful. The perfect boutique hotel with a courtyard that has a bar and restaurant where locals from all over come and use because of its amazing reputation. Definitely my favorite so far. The rooms were beautiful with a modern feel but classic furniture and every details was perfect.

After lunch and a rest we were ready to see Jaipur the pink City. It was so busy at the streets again are buzzing with people and stalls... colourful markets of fruit and veg... cows and goats everywhere and again you can imagine the attention we were attracting. We walked for hours it felt just soaking in the atmosphere but the heat was unbearable even at this time. Not so sure of the monkeys either... one wrong look and they would chase you. A few times we had to make a run for it and crossing the road was like a game of chicken but with your life. With all this you can’t help smiling as you walk around.

The rickshaw ride to the cinema was hilarious and they actually race each other to get you there. A few hairy moments but nothing you can’t handle. It’s the best feeling just sitting back and people watching (not so sure about the little man riding the rickshaw with 2 people in the back.. rather him them me )

The cinema was welcome with both arms and mainly for the air-conditioning.. Slightly gutted the coke machine was broken and you can’t help smile at samosas instead of popcorn. This I declined but I had to try the Marsala flavoured crisps. Never again but each to your own. The Bollywood file.. Hero, a brilliant experience and even though I couldn’t understand a word and struggled why most was in Indian with the odd English word now and then it was hilarious. Every action or kissing scene the locals would rear up and scream shout and clap. We so need to sort our cinemas out in the UK... there would definitely be no one telling you to ssshhhhh.

After a tuk tuk race back to our hotel and a dinner of noodle and curry I was ready to hit the sack. Yes noodles not rice, I needed a change.

 

Day 4

After an interesting breakfast we were getting ready for a full day of sightseeing. First stop was the Wind Palace and it was a beautiful building pink and all sorts of shapes...you can see why it has the name it has.

Next we were taken to Amber Fort and word cant describe how you feel when you see it. It is so pretty to look at and absolutely massive. With the river lying below its just stunning. To see Elephants just walking through the streets dodging the cars or the cars dodging the Elephants more like was mesmerising. Painted from the trunks up to their heads in bright colours but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for them and If I have been offered a ride I think I would have declined. I was glad to hear the government are hoping to stop this and offer the Elephants a better life free from carrying giant seating and people. Instead we were taken to Amber Fort by small jeeps on a bumpy ride up the mountain.

There we were given a tour, then hounded by men selling everything and anything but also time just to wonder around and imagine what it would have been like back in its day when it was in full working ordering.

It was just beautiful and so pretty with killer’s views. There is even a wall that goes on forever I can only describe a miniature China Wall. It was a real highlight to spend time here and see the Amber Fort.

Lunch was in a local restaurant and clay oven Chicken curry.. Yum!!

Back to the crazy streets of Jaipur and then a visit the City Palace but by now we are all absolutely exhausted and so hot its unbearable. I was trying to take in as much as I can but I was glad to get back on the bus and to the hotel to cool down in time for a light dinner and early night ready for tomorrow’s long journey.

Not before a glass of Kingfisher beer mind!!

 

Day 5

Today I was sad to leave Jaipur but we were on the way to Agra and had a lot of travelling to do so I know it was going to be more of a dull day but we get to see the Taj Mahal tomorrow so you won’t see me complain.

We left at 7.30am and we had a 5 hour drive to Fatehpur Sikri. When we finally got here we had a tour and got to learn how it was built and why it was left and there was an interesting story about a stone in the front lawn that an Elephant that would stamp on bad people’s heads and kill them if they were up for murder. The Elephant even had a temple built for him when he died! It was an eerie place but very interesting.

When we had finished the tour hear we went into the local town for lunch. Guides don’t normally bring guest’s here but Chetan had a great restaurant they used for Exodus groups and true to his word the food was fab and washed down with a fresh lime soda. I can see why many people don’t come here its madness and I actually felt I would be run over at some point. If I never hear a beeping horn again I’ll be happy. To be fair though the main street was exciting and seeing day to day life makes it so special for me. You could sit and people watch for hours here.. The colours, spices and street cooking was the real India.

We left here for a drive to Agra and with traffic took about 3 hours to get to our hotel the Jaypee Palace and what a massive luxurious hotel this was. A bit too big for me but air con was welcome plus a bed. Why is it when all you do is travel you actually feel more tired?

As it was black clouds and getting dark outside everyone decided to eat at the hotel and have a very early night up for our 4 am wakeup call and so that’s what we did. Funny I think everyone is curried out due to that fact dinner time came and we all ordered a steak sandwich.. Every single one of us and even funnier we all wished we had a curry ha ha... not sure it was steak.

 

Day 6

Who cares about the 4 am wakeup call.... Nope not me as we were going to the Taj Mahal. The trick is to get to the gates by 5 ish and queue so that you are first in the queue and can get the best photos of sunrise over the Taj Mahal.

I’ll never forget the first moment I seen the Taj Mahal and no words can describe it. All I can advise is that you go see it for yourself. But I did have a lump in my throat and do as I write this and I’m not overacting. It’s beautiful and the full story behind it is so so sad but one I am glad to know it. Love & death is never a good combination. I have some amazing photos and memories and am grateful I had the opportunity to see The Taj Mahal... definitely beats Amber Fort and really is the highlight of my trip.

After breakfast we left here for our long trip to Delhi for our last night. The trip felt like it was forever and Delhi is just so big it’s hard to take in how long you travel and that’s just through Delhi. Our last nights was In the Taj Princess right in the middle of the shopping district. You cant even drive to the door. Hotel staff pick your cases up by bikes and you walk about 10 minutes to get here but its worth it. Rooms are very small but comfy. The roof bar is lovely and restaurant and food was really nice here!! Before we had dinner and went back to our rooms to pack we went out to do some last minute shopping and bartering. It was really busy and I was pestered so much I got what I needed and headed back! Only so many sunglasses and watches you need in life.

As our last night and last dinner we were having together we all Thanked Chetan and Chris from Exodus and I was actually sad to be leaving everyone. It was a really amazing trip. But bed calls once again for tomorrow we were going home.

 

Day 7

Home time!! An like a proper agent in style... once again in business class and I could of cried with happiness. Before this we experienced the lounge and it was comfy with snacks, drinks soft and alcohol and free wifi ( didn’t work )
The flight was just as comfy but unfortunately the same films we have flying out so after my delicious chicken dinner I was in bed asleep ready for home.

Thank you for giving me some amazing memories and truly a wonderful trip. I hope you get a small glimpse from reading this, if not go yourself!

India is probably one of the poorest Countries I have been to but one of the richest when comes to seeing people happy and smile.

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