We arrived in Delhi November 10th and were quickly processed through immigration. Outside the
Terminal we were welcomed by Pankaj with a driver and transferred to the Claridge’s Hotel. The hotel
accommodation was faultless and the inclusive breakfast more than adequate. Pankaj made everything
effortless for us.
The next day we were joined by a driver and Sanjeev our guide. We spent much time viewing Gandhi’s
Memorial, the markets, had a hair-raising rickshaw ride and then stopped for lunch. After lunch we
visited the Jama Masjid Mosque. We also visited a Hindu Temple which was amazing. We found Sanjeev
helpful and knowledgeable about India’s history and current affairs. Sanjeev took us to an artisan centre
apparently modelled on Gandhi’s self-reliance principles of arts and crafts. However, we found the
salesmanship somewhat pressurised, the merchandise expensive and the authenticity questionable.
Although we did purchase a ‘pashmina’ scarf. For the evening, Indus Bound kindly arranged a dinner
at a nearby hotel which we both enjoyed.
On November 11 th we were transferred from the Hotel to Delhi Airport and flew to Amritsar. We were
met by a local representative and Vinod our driver. Unfortunately, Air India didn’t load some of our bags
in Delhi but it turned up later at the Taj Swarna hotel which Vinod drove us too. We had a leisurely
afternoon and were then collected by Vinod and ‘Happy; our guide who took us to The Golden Temple
at night, a spectacular sight. After wondering with the crowds, Happy dropped us at a local Restaurant
he recommended. We returned to the amazing Golden Temple on November 12 th and took in the vast
and impressive complex of the community kitchen. This was one of our favourite places. Later we
attended the Wagah Border ceremony. The Taj Swarna was again faultless with a very good breakfast
offering. Happy was well informed and amusing as well!
On November 13 th Vinod drove us to Dharamshala, seat of the Dali Lama. The drive took almost a whole
day across unmade roads due to mud slides and construction work. We checked in at the Chonor house,
and although the staff were very welcoming, this hotel, although quaint, was a much lower standard
than the previous two. The ‘restaurant’ dinner selection and food was not up to standard and the
breakfast similar. Unfortunately, we consumed either contaminated food or water in the hotel and
had an upset stomach requiring her own medication to resolve. I contracted a cold as well. On
November 14 th Vinod and our guide took us to visit The Church of St John, the Kangra Art Museum and
the Dalai Lama Temple. We were very impressed with Vinod’s navigation of the steep and narrow roads!
We would not recommend the Chonor House, our guide was adequate but both of us were unwell so we
may not have been very attentive although we would recommend Dharamshala.
On November 15 th Vinod drove us to the Wah tea plantation at Palampur. This was an exquisite
experience and the staff couldn’t do enough to assist us. They provided a steam inhalation remedy for
my head cold and reassured we about the food therein. We very much enjoyed our one night here
after a brief view of the tea factory and an early evening picnic tea watching the sun go down: we would
definitely revisit and wished we could have stayed longer.
On November 16 th Vinod drove us to Shimla which took the best part of the day. We checked in to The
Clarkes Hotel. We found The Clarkes ‘quaint’ with character and in a great position on the Mall but tired
and lacking in atmosphere; we would not return there. Although part of the Oberoi chain, the hotel was
quite dated and the room was cold, although it had great views. On November 17 th Vinod and our guide
Anip took us to the Toy Train for an interesting one- hour trip part down the mountain. We then visited
the Vice Regal Lodge, the State Museum, the Gaitey Theatre and Christ Church. Sadly, Vinod had to
return home for personal reasons but Anip took good care of us.
On November 18 th we were due to fly to Delhi but as the flight was cancelled a driver drove us to
Chandigarh and another driver drove us back to The Claridge’s in Delhi.
On November 19 th we were driven to Agra by our new driver Sanjay and were meet by a local
representative at our hotel ITC Mughal with Mukash our guide. After checking in, we went to the Agra
Fort and the Baby Taj. On our way back to the hotel we visited a women’s refuge at Sheros Hangout
Café for a snack and to admire their work stimulated by tragedy which was humbling. We started early
on November 20 th to visit the Taj Mahal as the sun arose and visitor numbers were minimal. This was
truly stunning! After returning to the hotel for breakfast and check out (the hotel was first class in every
aspect), we visited Fatehpur Sikri. Saying goodbye to him, Sanjay drove us a long way (!) to Jaipur, first stopping at Abhaneri
Stepwells, enroute to the Samode Hotel.
On November 21 st we were joined by our guide Dilit? and shown the Palace of Winds enroute to the
Jantar Mantar which was very enlightening. We then drove to the Amber Fort which was so, so vast and
magnificent; we even spotted two elephants on the away to the City Palace. The Hotel was full of
character (200 years old?) and the outside dining and breakfast more than satisfactory. This was one of
our favourite hotels.
On November 22 nd we flew from Jaipur to Udaipur with Sanjay very kindly taking our bags by road. On
landing with hand baggage, we transferred to The Fatehgarh. The Hotel was adequate and the dinner
either a buffet or Al La Carte. Breakfast was a little lacking in choice and service compared with, say
Samode or The Claridge’s . On November 23 rd our guide joined Sanjay and we went to the Lake Pichola
for a leisurely boat trip, the City Palace, the Jadish Temple and then an exciting Tutut ride through the
old town. We also enjoyed a music and dancing display.
On November 24 th we flew to Cochin via Hyderabad which was a long day. On arrival we had a 2-hour
transfer to the Marari Beach Resort which, for five days, we found an oasis of calm after our demanding
and exhilarating trip! We enjoyed her yoga and ayurvedic treatments and I completed reading several
books in the sun. Accommodation, service, staff and food was excellent. Even the mosquitoes were kept
under control. We were sorry we not able to see more of Kerala may be next time…..
On November 29 th we transferred back to Delhi and then London on the 30 th Thank you to all who made
our visit memorable including a special mention to Vinod, Sanjay and the various guides mentioned
above but especially to Pankaj who went above and beyond to ensure we had a wonderful visit to India.