Plain and yellow dahl; plain naan; chicken and vegetable masala; chicken bharata; dahl makhana; paneer butter masala; pharatas; sweet lassis; tandori chicken; darjeeling chai; tandori roti; vegetable curry; aloo gobi; street vendor peanuts; chapatas, thali dinners, north Indian mixed vegetable curry
Early morning boat along the Ganga River in Varanasi; Tiger treking in Kanha National Park; walking around the outer streets of Darjeeling; seeing sunrise over Kanchenjunga outside of Darjeeling; Christmas vigel mass at Mother Terese's mission house; Indian train rides to each destinations; hanging out in the fort in Jaisalmer and seeing the sunset after riding a camel to remote sand dunes.
Indian Rupee: 43.5 to 1 US dollar
Cost of Goods and Services
Large pot of Darjeeling tea: $US.90
Metro subway token in Kolkata: $US.10
8 hour, sleeper class train berth: $US7 per person
wool angora sweater: $US3.50
wool sherpa hat with ear flaps: $US2.50
Average per day hotel cost: $US15 (Middle class hotel room, with a/c, western toilet, tv and hot shower
Average per day food bill for a family of four: $US13
Beautiful rajashtani wall hanging textiles: $US2.50
Our 34 day itinerary through India
Flew into Kolkata from Bangkok;
Kolkata to Siliguri via night train and then 3 hour jeep to Darjeeling;
Darjeeling back to Siliguri and then night train to Varanasi;
Varanasi to Jabalpur via night train and 6 hour bus to Kanha National Park;
Bus back to Jabalpur and then 3 hour train to Satna and then 3 hour jeep to Khajuraho;
From Khajuraho to Jhansi via 3 hour jeep and then 3 hour day train to Agra (Taj Mahal);
Agra to Bharatpur (Keoladeo National Park) took 1.5 hours by local bus;
Bus from Bharatpur to Jaipur took 5 hours by bus and then 14 hour night train from Jaipur to Jaisalmer;
Jaisalmer to Delhi via 20 hour night train.
The streets of Kolkata. The street scene of Kolkata seems to be played out throughout the city... a mixture of ever-horn blowing taxis, rickshaws, smog-belching buses and local trains contribute to the congested environment, street vendors occupying the curb areas and selling all types of foods and trinkets; the constant flow of people on the sidewalks and the air laden with dust and pollution. At night, the street vendors and others were sleeping on the sidewalks, under their rickshaws and in numerous nocks and crannies. The people of Kolkata were very friendly. Kanchenjunga dominates the skyline of Darjeeling and gives a very inviting view of the Himalaya (The Himalaya is a place we want to return). Sunrise on Tiger Hill is a very touristy, yet rewarding daily event when no clouds are present. The early morning boat ride along the Ganga River in Varanasi to see all the ghats was magical. The lavender sunrise glistening off all the ghat walls and seeing people worship in the river was inspiring. See the burning cremation ghat and watching 5 people being burned illustrates the circle of life and brings questions of how western cultures view death. Going throughout India on the Indian Railway system. Rural India. My likes of smaller, rural communities and settings was very evident in India. Most cities are very congested and being in the country tends to be both refreshing and rejuvenating from Indian travel. Seeing a Tigress with two large cubs, 3 species of deer, jackal, guar and numerous birds in a tremendous Sal Forest setting in Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh. The temples of Khajuraho are magnificent. The fine detailed carving is the best I have seen. Sexuality dominates the theme of these temples. Waking up in the early AM to see the sunrise on the Taj Mahal. I found myself always looking at the Taj and realizing this could never be duplicated in today’s world. I am not much for buildings, but seeing this moment to love was truly awesome. The fort rising out of the desert in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan was truly a sight as we entered the area. Living IN the fort and experiencing fort life while looking over the city added to the magic of this small town. Also, I realized how exotic this area is after spending two days on a camel safari. The entire town is honey in color. Amazing!
We flew into Kolkata from Bangkok because it was the least expensive airline ticket to the Indian subcontinent and would prevent any back tracking around India, which would have happened had we flown into Delhi. There has been much written and discussed about the difficulties and differences of traveling in India. Prior to India, many people told us to prepare ourselves for this experience, others said you will either love or hate India, but you will remember it. Yes, it is different and each person will react to India travel based on their own preferences. Personal space becomes much smaller, people constantly want to enquire about you or help you, the street people, transportation frustrations and the congestion and chaos of the larger cities all become part of the experience of India. Throw in great food, colors, smells and the cultural heritage of India and traveling locally through India travel does become challenging, yet rewarding. Anyways, how much can one prepare oneself for a travel experience or how much do you want to.
In regards to traveling in India, my first suggestion is to take time and become very familiar with all aspects of the Indian Railway system. The railway system was our dominate mode of transport across India. We spent 5 nights on trains! There is a website at www.indianrailways.gov.in for all train schedules and fares and train codes and stations. Also, to see pictures of the different classes of train go to www.seat61.com. Also, there are foreign tourist offices in Kolkata, Delhi, Varanasi, Jaipur, Jodphur and Agra. These are extremely helpful in finding the correct train to your next destination. Purchasing train tickets must be down several days before departure, so some thought needs to be put into when one wants to leave their current destination. Also, when attempting to buy train tickets at any train station, go to the Enquire window FIRST and get a form and tell them where you want to go. This window will locate the train code and name and help you fill out the form You MUST have a form filled out correctly before getting in the reservation ticket line. By the way, we traveled sleeper and 3tier AC throughout India. 3 Tier was the most economically and provided bedding and a comfortable environment and a great price.
Throughout India, but especially in Agra and Varanasi, motor rickshaw and taxi cab drivers want to help you find a hotel and provide you transportation. In both these areas, the drivers did there best to trying to dissuade us from going to the hotels we wanted to go to, because they get commission from the hotel they are trying to sell you. Find drivers who don’t want to sell you something, or take you somewhere other than were you want to go. In Agra, the pressure was very high and we asked to be dropped off several times, because they were not going to take us where we wanted to go.
We stayed in mid-range hotels throughout India. Yes, this cost more – mid-ranged averaged between 14-19 $USD per night – but there was a big difference between mid-range and budget accommodation, which usual ran around $USF7-11 for a double per night, in terms of cleanliness and the accommodation. For example, we stayed at the seven-seventeen Hotel in Darjeeling, which really felt like a 4 star hotel for $USD16 per night for a double with our own bathroom, view of the city, great service, and a clean environment.