Hello from California...planning our first India trip focused on golden triangle

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#1 May 17th, 2015, 10:17
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#1
Hi!

Happy to be a part of this forum. I signed up a few years back when my husband and I were looking to plan our first trip to India. My mother's health took a turn for the worse and we weren't able to go much further than initial talks. . However, i haven't posted since as though India has hung in our minds, it wasn't a feasible option until this coming October/November.

We were able to use our airline miles to book a flight in/out of delhi and will be in country for exactly 3 weeks. We are focusing on the golden triangle area and Varanasi, and are looking to lock down an itinerary soon.

I live in San Francisco, CA with my husband of nearly 7 years. I'll be 37 this summer and he is 40. We love to travel, and do it for work within the US on a bi-weekly basis (though that isn't as much fun as vacation!)

We don't have any kids..but are thinking after seeing India it may be the right time. I lost my mom almost 2 years ago to cancer. She became sick right after we married and I became her main care taker and also became quite depressed. I finally am starting to feel like ME again and i think a trip to India will help me really see so much beauty in this world but also cement how LUCKY I am to have the life I do have.

My husband and I have been to Asia (cambodia & thailand) as well as Europe, Croatia and France together and I've been to the UK, Greece, Germany and Italy without him. He's been to Ireland without me and we've been to the Carribienan side of Mexico many times.

I've been lurking and reading a bit. I know it's customary to get the feel of a board before posting too much as I met my husband on a chat board for the band phish back in 2004. We used to travel the country seeing music and that's what brought us together. So, that's my story.

Happy to offer any advice on San Francisco if anyone ever needs it, been here about 10 years via the Philadelphia area before that.

Looking forward to learning from all of you.

Amy
#2 May 17th, 2015, 10:25
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#2
Hi Amy, welcome to IM.

thanks for sharing so much about yourself in your first post. My condolences for the loss of your mother.

Will you be visiting around October/November then?
#3 May 17th, 2015, 11:09
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#3
Hi Amy (and +1)

Welcome to IM. I lived for a year in the Bay area and it is an incredible place - have some very happy memories. I understand that you have been to Asia before but India is nothing like SE Asia. So I'll suggest that you err on the side of caution.

Read up the following two TRs to get some idea of India from a first timer, solo, westerner's perspective-

1. Fing Fangs: http://www.indiamike.com/india/india...india-t212011/
2. Drew60 (he's from NC and a senior citizen at that) : http://www.indiamike.com/india/india...india-t157517/

Second, the time is adequate to do both places - Golden Triangle (about a week), Varanasi (3 days minimum but the city brings out an extreme reaction amidst posters) - http://www.indiamike.com/india/varan...g-job-t217613/

You will likely have time to do more places but it really will depend on how much you want to run around. Adding a few more places in Rajasthan - jodhpur and udaipur or Jodhpur and Jaisalmer is a distinct possibility. Seeing some wildlife is too, it will depend on your interest.

There's some time left between now and your trip but if you intend to use Indian Railways, look up Dave's advice here : Booking Indian Rail Tickets from Abroad. From personal experience, book as early as you can. You may always cancel later.

Lastly, if you're in doubt after reading and the DIY seems like a lot of work, rely on a car and driver through a reputable and recommended agency. Something like Swagatam tours (that hfot2 have used) or Namaste India.

Happy surfing and planning.

Vaibhav
#4 May 17th, 2015, 17:38
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#4
Hello Amy and welcome,

You have received excellent advice from vaibhav arora. Will offer some opinions though.

Your chosen combination of destinations and time of year should work brilliantly.

Most towns and cities have outstanding hotels and guesthouses at middle and top prices. There are some quite satisfactory places at budget prices(my choice these days) but the standards are below those in S-E Asia for the same dollar spend. I have just returned from three months in Thailand/Vietnam so feel my knowledge is current. A careful study of all sources, IndiaMike, Tripadvisor, LonelyPlanet etc etc will pay off when selecting guesthouses, transport etc.

Indian budget traveller food is a risk as food handling standards are really variable. Suggest you take along prescription antibiotics to deal with bacterial gut infection and also throat infections. I mostly travel with prescriptions from home and buy whatever at local pharmacies.

Good Luck - the anticipation is much of the enjoyment
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#5 May 17th, 2015, 18:21
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#5
welcome to indiamike! you are in for a treat. jaipur for me is incredible.
#6 May 17th, 2015, 18:54
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#6
Quote:
Originally Posted by vaibhav_arora View Post Varanasi (3 days minimum but the city brings out an extreme reaction amidst posters)
It seems Varanasi might benefit being the constituency of the Prime Minister. Read an article in today's Times of India.

Quote:
They remember that evening. An evening when light shimmered in the dark Ganga waters at Dasaswamegh Ghat and Narendra Modi boomed: “Main is dharti pe aaya hoon, kuchh karne ke liye (I have come here to do something).His forehead smeared with sandalwood paste, the farm-fresh MP spoke passionately about the need to cleanse Ma Ganga, the dream to re-establish Varanasi as the world's spiritual capital. That evening they clapped from the rooftops of their crumbling homes.

A year later, finding out how much of those stirring words have translated into action is a complex task. A discussion on MP Modi's performance at the iconic Pappu Tea Stall of Assi mohalla gets extreme. Every failing or progress is attributed either to Modi or the Samajwadi Party state government, depending which side one is on. The election campaign is long over but Modi still doesn't induce objectivity.
Article

If Modi does fulfill his promise then the only thing to be taken care of would be the touts.
#7 May 17th, 2015, 21:08
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#7
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Originally Posted by sunglasses View Post ...the band phish...
The mention of which guarantees you a special welcome to IndiaMike from us Vermonters.
Walt Whitman - Song of Myself

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
#8 May 18th, 2015, 04:06
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#8
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Originally Posted by hfot2 View Post The mention of which guarantees you a special welcome to IndiaMike from us Vermonters.
Are we talking Country Joe and the Phish here?
#9 May 18th, 2015, 08:04
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#9
Hi Amy - welcome to India Mike. With three weeks, you'll have enough time for the Triangle and Varanasi and depending on how much time you spend in each city you'll have time for a couple of other places (minimum Delhi-3 days, Jaipur-2/3 days, Agra-2 days including Fatehpur Sikri, Varanasi-2/3 days). You can add in Ranthambore National Park or possibly Jodhpur for the Marwar Festival (http://www.wonderfulrajasthan.com/marwar-festival) if the dates fit your itinerary. I would have suggested the Pushkar Camel Fair (http://www.pushkarcamelfair.com/dates-2015) but I think you may be on your way home by then (starts Nov. 14th). Udaipur is another great option with visits to Ranakpur and Kumbhalgarh Fort. In any case, October and November are good months to visit Rajasthan. And you may be there for Diwali? This year it starts on November 11th.

For longer distances (to/from Varanasi or Jodhpur), you can take a night train or fly. India has good low-cost airlines (GoAir, Indigo, JetLite). The earlier you book, the cheaper the tickets.

Where you can, stay in homestays/guesthouses. It's a great way to meet local people who will help out with recommendations for different things. Check the places out on TripAdvisor and read the reviews.

I've written a lot of inf on places I've been which you can find here - http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/m/8295b/, if you'd like to take a look.

India runs on its own time and in its own way. You'll need to bring a lot of patience and your sense of humor. But it is so worth it! Enjoy!
#10 May 18th, 2015, 09:07
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#10
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Originally Posted by Dave W View Post Are we talking Country Joe and the Phish here?
No, we most certainly are not.
#11 May 20th, 2015, 01:49
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#11
Thanks for the nice welcome!

Yes, we are talking October/November. Leaving SF October 16 and arrive in Delhi late Saturday night/early Sunday morning (1 AM Delhi time) on the 18th. We then fly out of Delhi around 2 am on November 18th.

I will read the articles you have referenced. I know that India will be a whole other beast over SE Asia and we're a bit freaked out and excited by the prospect. Everywhere we go, we want to go back--but we are always trying to experience something new too, and it just seems like the right time for India. Especially considering the huge deal we got on using miles to get there.

Our rough plans are:

Delhi>Agra>Jaipur>Pushkar>Jodp ur

we know there are other cities to see, but we are trying to figure out days/sights right now.

We know we will more than likely fly from somewhere in Rajasthan to Varanasi. We are also thinking of going car and driver from Delhi>Agra>through Rajasthan. We have a friend recommending a company, but will be looking on here too. However, trains are a possiblity. We are saving a ton of money by not buying airfare, so that gives us a larger budget for lodging and travel between towns.

I'll do some more reading and then probably post in the Itinerary forum.

THANKS!
#12 May 20th, 2015, 04:06
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#12

Help me plan: Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan, Varanasi 3 weeks Oct/Nov

Hello we are planning our first trip to India this October/November. I will be 37 and my husband 40. We have traveled in parts of SE Asia and Europe, but know India is quite different. We have really just started our plans and there is so much information and reading to do. I'm trying to hammer out the very basic itinerary I've sketched out for our 3 week tour.

We really want to see Varansi though we realize it's far from Rajasthan.
We also want to see the Taj and were thinking of seeing that first as we've heard that it may not be as stunning if we see it later in the trip. That being said, we are open to the route we take for travel and are open to ideas of what to see. this is really my first rough pass at an idea for our trip, so i apologize for it being so basic, but I am really looking for some guidance on a timeline.

things we are interested in: heritage/historical sites, temples, seeing the desert, some relaxation and maybe ayurvedaic style massages, cooking class (we love food! and enjoy cooking at home, markets/shopping

We arrive in Delhi 1am on Sunday October 18th. Leave at 2:30 am November 8 out of Delhi.

our budget is approximately 10,000-12,000 rupees (150-200 USD) per day total between the 2 of us, but we are also flexible. We can go over some days and may want to really splurge in a few areas if worth it. since we are flying for free, we have more to play with. However, we aren't afraid of more basic accommodations/travel and are always cool with saving money in some places if it means we can have more in others where it may be more important.

We don't mind flying in country and could consider trains if it makes the most sense. I'll admit i'm a bit freaked out by the train system, but could be convinced if it's the best way as i also find them interesting. We also are fine with a car/driver as we have a acquaintance who went that way and recommended highly.

This is only I have so far:

October 18: Arrive Delhi 1am (recover Jet lag, see sights)
October 21: Depart evening for Agra, (by car?) spend night in Agra
October 22: See Taj at sunrise/Fatepur Sikri on to Jaipur via Car
October 23: Jaipur

So, after that I'm a bit lost on days and sights, but I'm thinking

Pushkar
Jodhpur
either Jaisalmer or Udipur
Varanasi
Delhi
November 8: 2:30 am Fly home

The allure seeing the desert and doing a camel trip outside of Jaisalmer seem really interesting, but so do the lakes in Udipur, so trying to determine what is a better fit. We are interested in doing an overnight camel trip into the desert as it would be cool to sleep under the stars, but if it's a big tourist trap...well, maybe anyway. never rode a camel or been in major desert.....

I'm concerned about getting from Jaisalmer to Varanasi as it seems that airport isn't open..so maybe a train makes sense? or maybe we just say we do Udipur? Perhaps we don't go that far and just focus closer to the other sights in Rajasthan and fly from Jodhpur.

Still trying to decide all we want to see in each place. We like to see a lot as we always HOPE we will go back, but never can be certain....but I've also learned that doing TOO much leaves me tired, which isn't fun. I'm cool with having a rough outline in terms of what we see on a daily basis and just let things happen, but we usually like having our lodging and travel planned out.

THANKS in advance for any assistance and sorry for the length and many holes in our trip, just trying to figure out where to focus my research a bit more for additional planning.
#13 May 20th, 2015, 10:36
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#13
One possible route could be Delhi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi - Delhi.

The desert trip organized by Durag Niwas seems to be good and you can see Dave's experience in your other thread.
#14 May 20th, 2015, 10:40
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#14
Mod note: Amy - your post is merged with your pre-existing one for the same trip. The posts are largely similar in nature. Its all under India travel itinerary advice so you should look through this sub as well as look at 'similar threads' below and also use the search function.
#15 May 20th, 2015, 10:47
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#15
Given your interests (desert, historical sites, temples), Jaisalmer scores as it has the desert. True there are temples, but there are a few in Udaipur as well, they're different from Jaisalmer and not bad.

Udaipur does have the finest city palace amongst all cities in Rajasthan (better stocked than the one in Jaipur but not as spacious). What Udaipur does have is proximity to two unique and world class attractions -

Ranakpur - the group of temples are an excellent introduction to Jain temple architecture and are very scenic. Should you choose to explore them with a car and driver, stay overnight in the area and visit Kumbhalgarh as well en route to Jodhpur.

Chittorgarh - it's India's largest fort and to my mind, our finest as well. It's also a UNESCO world heritage site. I'd have spent the better part of a day exploring the fort using a car and driver.

Pushkar is the only place I'd recommend you skip. It actually looks better in photos.

ETA: Ok Jaisalmer has a fort and you can stay inside the fort - and that bit is not possible at any other fort in Rajasthan certainly. I met a guy from spain who was living in the fort for close to a month and all he did (his own words) was watch the sunrise and sunset. To each his own. You may look at my Jaisalmer trip report for some ideas.

p.p.s. There's a saying in Rajasthan - gadho mein gadh, chittorgarh, baki sab garhaiya (roughly translated as : Amongst all forts, Chittorgarh is the fort, rest are all fortresses).
Last edited by vaibhav_arora; May 20th, 2015 at 13:10..
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