Rajasthan & Kerala: Impressions of a first timer

#1 Dec 14th, 2007, 19:03
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#1
Have just returned from our first trip to India and thought I’d post with a few impressions. This may, or may not, help others who are planning a similar trip.

We had a total of 18 nights in India and wished to see as much as possible. Advice was to stick to one region, so we completely ignored that and spent time in the north (Delhi 1 night, Agra 1, Jaipur 3, Udaipur 2) and Kerala 11. Our trip was really a tasting menu of what India has to offer. We didn’t have huge amounts of time to really get to know a place, but felt we could always go back and see more.

After reading so many nightmare stories about Delhi airport we decided to have a driver pick us up and take us to our hotel. He was to stay with us till we reached Jaipur. Arrival went easily, no hassles and we met the driver and were in the car really quickly. We hired an Ambassador, which we quickly grew to really like. Full of character, comfortable, good view from the back. It was also nice and slow.

Driving in India is an art form, it is like a dance. How vehicles miss each other is a mystery. Weaving, two or three abreast, missing by millimetres, horn, horn, horn. Any yet no road rage when someone does something crazy, which is about every 20 seconds. Cars coming straight at you in the outside lane of a dual carriageway, what’s that all about ? And outside is India in the raw. Images change so quickly, like watching a never ending video.

We only had 24 hours in Delhi, so can’t say too much about it. Saw lots of monuments, including 2 our driver took us to before we even got to our hotel. Could just about see them through the pollution ! Wandered for a couple of hours round Chadni Chowk, tiny shops in tiny alleys. Nobody bothered us, where are all the touts we’ve read so much about ?

Day 3, Agra. Up at 5 to walk the couple of miles to the Taj. We let the driver have a lay in, plus we wanted the exercise. It was dark when we set off. People sleeping on the streets were starting to get up; they shouted hello. Nobody asked for anything, till we got near the Taj; then all rickshaw wallahs, touts for nearby shops etc. Still, harmless enough. The Taj was wonderful in the early morning mist.

After breakfast on to Jaipur, with a stop at Fatekah Sikri. Nice to see, but spoilt by over-aggressive touts and a ‘guide’ who tried to con us. Now I understand about the touts !

Stayed in Jaipur 3 nights. Did some shopping (beautiful pashminas), and lots of wandering around. Near the main tourist sites were lots of shops with touts, but again harmless enough. Even slightly away from these areas, we were left completely alone to walk, to look in shops, to watch daily life. Jaipur is chaotic, busy, dirty, polluted, noisy – but I’m still glad we went. Sleeping wasn’t easy. It was wedding season, so fireworks kept the sky alight sometimes till 3 in the morning. Someone told us there had been 25000 weddings in Delhi the previous Saturday.

Hired a car and driver to take us to Amber Fort (half a day 450 rupees). Worth the visit; didn’t bother with the ride on the elephants. Enjoyed the walk up.

Ate one night at Four Seasons restaurant, excellent.

Getting used now to people forever coming up to say hello. Sometimes they are touts, but not always. Usually the same questions, name, where you from, job ? They don’t know our home town, but quickly we find they know Yorkshire. ‘Ahhh, Yorkshire County Cricket Club’ they would say very precisely and with a big smile.

On to Udaipur. Our favourite place we stayed in. Much cleaner, less chaotic, fewer touts. Wonderful hotel (Jagat Niwas) overlooking the lake. Can sit and relax and simply look at the Lake Palace. The central area was very tourist friendly, lots going on. Again, slightly away from there and you were back in India proper. We took an autorickshaw to the fruit and veg market; definitely worth it, colour, spices, teas etc. Kids running up to say hello, no beggars or touts, just lots of curious people.

Went up to one of the rooftop restaurants for a beer and to watch a bit of Octopussy. Shown every night, corny and funny. Great view over the rooftops and atmospheric sounds. Back to eat at Jagat Niwas, how romantic is that ?

Only 2 nights in Udaipur, not enough.

Have to go now. Sorry if I’ve bored you, but got lots of info from this site when planning our trip, so thanks for that. If anybody even remotely interested can post about Kerala later.
Last edited by machadinha; Dec 14th, 2007 at 19:23.. Reason: adjusted title
#2 Dec 14th, 2007, 19:13
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#2
Wow! It sounds like you had a great time! I'm busy trying to fine tune my itinery for Feb & will be doing a similar route, so your post is really useful! I'm trying to work out how long to stay in each place, as need to book our trains in advance. I'd only planned for 2 days in Udaipur, but thinking we might extend this a bit now!

Looking forward to reading your post about Kerala, as we're off there too & its always good to hear reviews! Plus it gets me even more excited!!!
#3 Dec 14th, 2007, 19:27
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#3

Thumbs up

Fine write-up, indeed. If you could just add your Kerala impressions to this thread, then the title can be changed again and the thread moved to Itineraries or so.
#4 Dec 15th, 2007, 12:19
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#4
Lovely impressions - thanks so much, 2 weeks to go now and you've made us more excited!
#5 Dec 20th, 2007, 17:18
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We flew from Udaipur to Cochin (via Mumbai) and arrived late afternoon. Unfortunately, all the coughing, sneezing, hoicking and spitting from nearly everyone in the north caught up with us and we both succumbed to a bug. We arrived at our homestay in Ernakulam feeling lousy. Our hosts made us some Ayurvedic tea and we went to bed. Next morning, we were both well again and we became instant fans of ayurvedic cures !

Generally, we stayed well on our trip. My wife felt a bit rubbish for a couple of days after eating a hotel buffet, but apart from that and the short-lived bug, we were fine. We had taken probiotics before travelling and were constantly vigilant with washing hands, brushing teeth in mineral water and reasonably careful with what we ate. We always ate in recommended places; no meat in the north, though we ate both fish and chicken in Kerala. We did speak to various people who had not been so lucky in the north, though most things seemed to be pretty short lived.

Kerala felt different from the north; not in just the weather either. It is calmer, less poor, big billboards advertising apartment blocks or cars, bigger shops. Not that different from somewhere like Thailand.

Stayed 2 nights in Ernakulam, visited Fort Cochin and then spent the afternoon at Cherrai Beach. Quite a nice beach, with a few places to stay which looked nice also. Mainly Indian visitors with a few westerners.

Then travelled to Munnar. Superb views from our hotel over the tea plantations, tea as far as you could see. Unfortunately,only coffee on the tea tray in the room ! The hotel only did buffet food, so first night went into Munnar. The recommended place also did only buffet, which tasted like it had been there a while. This meal was the one which made my wife feel a bit sick for a day or two.

The area round Munnar is very beautiful, cool and peaceful. We walked along the minor roads and men on tractors stopped to say hello.

Then down to a homestay near Allepey. Wonderful place, only 4 rooms, could only be reached by canoe. Guests ate together, so a nice atmosphere. Could wander around the river banks watching the world go by. Only 1 night; wished we had more.

Next day on to a rice boat. Only 2 of us, but 4 staff, which seemed a bit over the top! Felt a bit like Sahib & Memsahib as we cruised the backwaters. Really nice boat and food etc, but did feel just a little awkward. There we were in our big boat, engine chugging, watching people wash clothes in the river etc. We enjoyed it, but felt more detached than when we were at the homestay.

Finally, on to the beach at Varkala for 4 nights; to relax and get some sun before an English winter. Varkala is a very relaxed place, almost entirely western people of all types. Some older people there for ayurvedic treatments, young backpackers, hippy types wearing purple. Not a drunk or anyone wearing a football shirt in sight. The beach is nice enough, the surf rough but fun. The strip of ramshackle places on the cliff top full of restaurants and Tibetan salespeople hassling from morning till night. It seems where there are lots of westerners, then lots of touts. They are lovely people, but the constant ‘Come into my shop. Have a look, have a look, you can try’ started to wear a bit thin. I’m sure they would sell more if they left people alone a bit more. The fish in the restaurants was very good and fresh. Also it was great to watch the fishermen hauling their catch onto the beach each morning. We enjoyed Varkala, but a few days were enough. Our last night was in Cochin and it felt good to be back for a short while in the chaos, the bustle, the smells.
#6 Dec 31st, 2007, 16:01
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#6

Names of accommodations?

Knocker, Thanks for your trip report! Great learning experince for us future Kerala travelers.
Could you say the names of the hotels rferred to in Munnar (including the one with questionable buffet) and especially, the name of the homestay in Alleppey?

THANK YOU...and Happy New Year.
#7 Dec 31st, 2007, 17:59
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#7
Knocker, nice writeup

Quote:
My wife felt a bit rubbish for a couple of days after eating a hotel buffet
avoid those if you can. Often recycled food.
.
This is computer generated drivel. No signature is required.
#8 Dec 31st, 2007, 23:00
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The hotel we stayed in near Munnar was called Blackberry Hills. The hotel itself was really nice, lovely staff and glorious views. It was let down by only doing buffets in the evening, which we tried to avoid on our trip. First night there we went to a place called East End, a hotel in Munnar itself. This was recommended in Rough Guide and by people we spoke to, but when we went only the buffet was available. It was a bit grim; I wish now we had gone somewhere else, but we stayed. I was OK after it and I'm the one with the more delicate stomach; my wife wasn't and she has the constitution of a goat. Even now, I can't mention dhal without her looking a bit green. Next night I ate at Blackberry Hills which was better, though nothing special. My wife ate nothing.

The homestay place near Alleppey is called Emerald Isle. www.emeraldislekerala.com . Loved it there; proper home cooked food, each meal excellent, good rooms, nice atmosphere and great walks along the riverbanks. Only one night there; could have stayed much longer.

If I can be of further help, let me know.
#9 Jan 1st, 2008, 07:14
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#9

Thank for replies

Captain M, thanks for advice to avoid buffets. Will do!!!

Knocker, thank you for further details. Quite relevant and helpful, as i'm trying to arrow down where to stay in Munnar--in town or outside of town?--and names of both places you mention have been on the "list of possibles."

Same with Alleppey. There were two or three homestays that sounded terrific from research/ readings, including Emerald Isle. I'm going to write to them no

So recommendations and trip reports do mean a lot to us readers. Thanks to you, and Cap'n, and all who post here!! I'll return the favor after our trip a year from now. This forum helps make it a dream trip, rather than a nightmare!

Happy New Year!
#10 Jan 1st, 2008, 13:18
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Thanks for the information, these might help our future visitors.
#11 Jan 1st, 2008, 13:43
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i would like to add that when in munnar, do try to make it to eravikulam national park. it's only 13km outside munnar, easily managed by car. the park is well-run and you get to see nilgiri tahr, a species of endangered mountain goat at close quarters. the views are stunning - well worth the visit.
#12 Jan 6th, 2008, 19:39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Knocker View Post We had a total of 18 nights in India and wished to see as much as possible. Advice was to stick to one region, so we completely ignored that and spent time in the north (Delhi 1 night, Agra 1, Jaipur 3, Udaipur 2) and Kerala 11. Our trip was really a tasting menu of what India has to offer. We didn’t have huge amounts of time to really get to know a place, but felt we could always go back and see more.
Hi,

We are planning a very similar trip in March.
What were the modes of transportation you used in Rajasthan?

Thx
J
#13 Jan 6th, 2008, 23:44
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Hired a car and driver from Bobby Thakur at www.delhicarrentals.com. We had the car pick us up at the airport and take us around Delhi on the first day and morning of second, then on to Agra and then to Jaipur. This cost 8000 rupees for the air con Ambassador. The driver was a nice guy and a good driver. He would occasionally wish to take us to certain shops, but most of the time he did what we wanted.

He dropped us at our hotel in Jaipur and we then hired taxis or autorickshaws as we needed them. This was cheaper than keeping the original driver for extra days.

We pondered whether to catch the train or fly from Jaipur to Udaipur. The train goes overnight and takes about 10 hours I think; the flight early morning took 30 mins. We decided to fly in the end as we felt we wouldn't be able to see much anyway from the train at night; plus we were on a pretty tight schedule. We organised the hotel in Udaipur to send a car for us at the airport. We used an autorickshaw only once in Udaipur, most places were easy to walk to.
#14 Jan 7th, 2008, 07:40
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#14

Your driver in Kerala?

Knocker, thanks again for your patience in answering questions.

Who were your homestay hosts in Ernakulum (with the healing tea)?

Based largely on your recommendatino, I wrote to Vinod at Emerald Isle, who quickly responded with a wealth of info in reply to specific questions.
Did you also hire a car and driver for the Kerala part of your trip? If so, and you are willing to share the info--who ? Were you happy with that way of travel in Kerala?

Thank you, future Kerala Traveler Rebecca
#15 Jan 7th, 2008, 08:37
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#15

Munnar

For a Decent meal in Munnar I ate a couple of times at Munnar Inn, which is on the main road in
the middle of Munnar town,there is also a big open
area eating place on opposite side of road packed with locals.

There also was this restaraunt in a little shopping mall at the end of the main road where it doglegs around before heading out of town,excellent
for breakfasts,great omelletes & Toast,with coffee
or tea, cheap as.

Happy munching!!!!!

vandy
Last edited by vandy; Feb 23rd, 2009 at 07:06..

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