Review: India's Golden Triangle with Ranthambore
Escorted Tour - Coach
31 people found this review helpful
We travelled to India with Titan and I have to say they looked after us very well though they worked us hard. My main impression is that India is so full of contrasts – from the glorious architecture to the slums and poverty on the streets. Driving around in our coach ( blissfully air conditioned) it felt like it was unfinished project – everywhere there was building but none of it appeared to be finished as if the builder had not been paid! Everywhere was piles of rubble, buildings without roofs ( and other essential items) , piles of dirt and refuse and thick electric cables festooned across the roads and streets.
We started off our trip by being picked up by the Titan chauffer service, very comfortable and efficient and taken to Glasgow airport for a BA flight to Heathrow. This was very good and roomy, in complete contrast to the overnight flight to Delhi with Virgin Atlantic which was cramped and the food was dire. We arrived shattered at around 11.00am local time and after a quick refresh at the hotel it was off to our first sightseeing trip , featuring old Delhi , Humayuns tomb and other items but I think we were all a bit too tired to take it all in. I was not too tired however to notice the many wild Kites in the skies above – we have a few in Dumfries and Galloway but nowhere near as many as I saw in Delhi and later in Agra, quite fascinating. That night we had an overnight stay in the Maiden’s Hotel in New Delhi – an old colonial style building very comfortable and served the best breakfast of all the hotels on our trip. The evening meals were also okay but I suffered a little as I don’t like spice of any kind but I expected difficulties and was pleasantly surprised to find I could get enough to eat all week and many of the hotels had an excellent dessert section to keep me going.
Sunday morning it was time for more sightseeing – this time the stunning Red Fort at Delhi and also a trip in cycle rickshaw through the rather dirty and smelly streets that accessed the fort. It certainly opened your eyes to the real India not the fancy one they show on the adverts! We visited Gandhi’s memorial in a lovely green park then drove onto Agra for two nights in the Trident – this was a modern hotel with lovely gardens and although the rooms were a little small they served the best dessert selection with a buffet of around 7 dishes – I noticed my travelling companions still had plenty of room for dessert despite eating lots of main courses and naan bread. Monday it was a very early start so we could go to see the Taj Mahal before it got too hot and it was worth getting up for. Every bit as beautiful and dramatic as it looks on photographs but much more impressive when you see it first hand. It was surrounded by green foliage and flowers and plenty of butterflies, dragonflies , chipmunks and more kites also for those of us who find the wildlife as fascinating as the buildings. After a break to swim in the pool and generally unwind ( and avoid the 39 degree temperature) we also visited Agra Fort which was also very dramatic and worth slogging around in the still hot sun.
Tuesday we bid goodbye to the Trident and en route to Ranthambore we stopped off at a jewelry place which had an amazing collection of embroidery – a sort of museum – the work was stunning with some pieces taking 13 years to produce. There was also some historic jewelry including a ring made from the emerald worn by Mumtaz for whom the Taj was built. Also en route we stopped at Fatehpur Sikri which was the political capital of the Mughal Empire for a while in the 16th century. Though the architecture was stunning we were there at midday and it was just too hot to really appreciate its charms. We drove to Bharatpur were we boarded a train to Ranthambore. Although we had an air conditioned coach and I believe the trip was much quicker than on the coach , it was not the interesting experience I thought it would be – the window was dirty and the scenery flat and uninteresting with very little wildlife or activity in between the main cities. In general I found the travel to be less than inspiring – miles and miles of flat fields, very dry at this time of year ( early May) and it was only when you got to the traffic jam of the towns that there was any interest. Here there were the inevitable cows, sheep and even wild pigs rambling around the roads and there was also the competition to see how many could fit on a motorbike ( I counted four adults on one) and what was the heaviest loaded cart or most unusual item on a bike – the prize for this definitely went to the two gentleman carrying a six foot metal table between them! The roads in the towns were always much too small for the amount of travel on them and although there are highways between the main cities there is still lots of construction going on around them so they were “discontinuous” as they like to say about motorway hard shoulders. We arrived in time for dinner at the Ranthambore Regency – this looked lovely with us all having chalet style rooms with verandas set in really nice gardens but the air conditioning was very noisy, did not work effectively and the power went off frequently. The food was also not so good other than the wonderful naan bread here so I could not recommend this hotel as I could all the others on the trip. The next morning we were up at 5.15 to take the trip to the tiger reserve – we divided into two groups on large open top buses which appeared comfortable at first. We soon reassessed our opinion of this – the dirt road on the actual reserve was fine but the long approach road to the section in the reserve was made of loose stone with many gaps and we were all battered and bruised at the end of the 3 hour trip. We did see a tiger though! – not very close but we saw him and also saw lots of interesting birds , crocodiles, four different kinds of deer and langur so it was worth the effort. The other group were not so lucky this time but they made up for it later – we decided not to go on the afternoon trip due to the heat and needing time to recover from being jolted about. Needless to say both groups saw a female tiger within 8 foot of them. We gave the next morning trip a go but only saw a mongoose! It was then off to our final city – Jaipur. Here we stayed at the best hotel of the trip, complete with lovely balcony and gorgeous gardens and architecture. The Trident Jaipur also has a lake opposite so it beautifully placed, the food here was also good. We visited the Amber Fort and the pink palace complex the next day and they were just about my favourite, I think even beyond the Taj. The architecture was just stunning and Jaipur generally was very green and much cleaner and more beautiful with temples, forts and interesting buildings everywhere. We also had a ride in a tuc tuc to the local market which used up the rest of the groups funds though things are generally very inexpensive in India ( except food and drink at the 4 star hotels and at any meal places that the group stopped at – they seemed to charge well beyond the norm for their food – chips and coke cost more than at a motorway service station in the UK and that is sawing something). All tourist are also plagued by hawkers at all the major sites and they will just not leave you alone – if you have a good tour manager they will negotiate for you and get a fixed rate.
Finally it was time to head back to Delhi for our final night back at the maidens. It was a very long drive with just one short sightseeing stop which we were all too tired and hot to appreciate. As the hotel was now nearly empty ( coming to the end of the tourist season) we got upgraded to deluxe rooms and they were really lovely. Back to the airport the next morning and the long flight home when once again the food was poor on the Virgin flight though travelling during the day was better than the overnight flight – I watched three movies to pass the time.
Was this a holiday? Not really as not relaxing enough but certainly an adventure and worth the effort. Did I regret going – definitely not, it was an experience I will never forgot.
31 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.