To get under the skin of a country there is a lot to be said for travelling widely. After all, if it has taken you more than 15 hours to get there, then seeing as much as you possibly can in your timeframe is really important.
We had the most amazing trip to India, made more memorable by our driver Raj. The decision to book a car and driver from indiabycaranddriver.com really made our trip to the Golden Triangle. Honestly, it made our whirlwind 9 day stay possible.
We packed so much in due to the patience, helpfulness and kindness of Raj. Nothing was ever too much trouble; even getting up really early or going back late at night. He also gave us a great insight into the country, the people and customs.
We arrived in Delhi on the morning of a money crisis, learning that overnight the Government had withdrawn all the 500 and 1000 rupee notes from circulation. This meant that at the airport there was no money in the ATMs, which we had planned to use to get currency for our trip. Therefore apart from a small amount of UK money and our cards we had nothing.
Raj took such great care of us and always called ahead to make sure arrangements were all in place like our safari tickets, our guides etc. He was protective of us and even gave us a mobile phone so that we never had to wait around.
The car was immaculate; we had water, soft drinks, fruit, sweets on offer at all times, and if we mentioned fruit that we saw being sold by the roadside Raj would stop and buy some for us to try. Honestly he went above and beyond his job to make our trip as memorable as it was.
Driving in India, especially in Delhi, is interesting to say the least! You need nerves of steel
just to be a passenger. How Raj negotiated the chaos I have no idea and we always felt really safe. As a way to see the country it worked really well for us.
The traffic is like central London, nothing moves. The only difference is that whilst we and they have three lanes, they make five or more lanes of traffic and sometimes they come at you the wrong way… There is the most amazing mixture of people, cars, bikes, tuk tuks, rickshaws, buses – all trying to get along and no one gets hurt. It's a miracle!
The roundabouts in New Delhi are beautiful – they are like mini parks. Some have fountains, topiary, grass, flowers and all seem to be enjoyed as mini parks in the middle of the traffic.
And we had an amazing rickshaw ride in Old Delhi through Chandi Chowk spice and textile market, passing the Red Fort, the largest mosque in India, temples, and monkeys by the side of the road.
From Delhi Raj drove us south to Jaipur.
Jaipur was far less chaotic than Delhi and as it was Raj's home city, he was going to see his family whilst we stayed. He invited us to meet them on our stay, which we had pleasure in doing.
Whilst in Jaipur we booked a guide to see the Amber Palace, followed by an amazing time at the elephant sanctuary where we washed and fed the elephants and saw how they lived. We also saw the City Palace where the Maharajah still lives, when not in London being educated.
Our cookery lesson that evening with Lokesh was amazing and we learned so many dishes that we were inspired to try at home.
Next morning we were off to Ranthambore and our tiger safari. This was a long journey and we needed to be there for our 2pm safari. We arrived and it was a real WOW. The hotel was originally built by the Maharajah in the 1930's as a hunting lodge, and our Queen Elizabeth has even stayed there.
We were upgraded to two adjoining suites with interconnecting doors, gardens, hammocks etc, two bathrooms each, dressing rooms, separate sitting rooms with toilets for receiving guests. Simply stunning. Just a shame we didn't have too long to enjoy the facilities.
Mum and I booked a massage for 6.30 pm after the safari thinking we would need some pampering, and it was lovely.
Next day we were on to Agra after a leisurely start and breakfast, the only one of our entire trip. Agra is a surprise because it's a tourist magnet because of the Taj Mahal but it's dirty, chaotic, poor, surly, and honestly ugly apart from the Taj.
We decided to get our first view at sunset from across the river and because of that opted not to get up at 5.30 am to see it again with hordes of other people. Later the next morning though we visited the inside and it was truly beautiful.
We then returned to Delhi for an overnight stop before flying home from this truly amazing and memorable holiday.
What I Wore And Packed
In some countries, making the most of your trip will mean taking internal flights with the limited luggage allowance that often applies. So how do you pack for a multi-stop trip where the temperature can rise and fall as you travel, and you need to pack it all in one cabin bag? This is how we did it.
Our packing held up well and we had plenty of clothes even in just one cabin bag each. Leaving the UK in November we wore warm clothes – so we knew if it was cool at night in India we would be fine.
To travel in I wore:
- Down jacket that folds away into a small bag
- Comfortable walking shoes (these shoes, being closed, would be used all through our trip except in the evenings)
And following our What To Wear In India packing list I packed:
- 3 pairs of lightweight capri style trousers (I don’t really like dresses and skirts)
- Lightweight walking trousers
- 2 t-shirts
- 2 cotton long-sleeved shirts
- 1 long-sleeved linen top
- 1 dressier evening top
- 1 unstructured jacket
- 1 pair of smart sandals for evenings
Written by Helen