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Rajasthan

 

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Summary

 

Foreword

I found out on Verychic website a private tour : 15 days in Rajasthan. It's about a tour with a private car and a driver.
I chose 5* glamour hotels, half pension included. I took all options (entrance fees, rides, ....)
Depending on periods, rates are twice much. So I chose the lower season in May 2019. Pro : few tourists. Cons : Heat, 108 to 120°F but it's bearable.
It's a real pleasure to take pictures when nobody is there.


Flights

Departure at 10 pm on April 29th from Lyon to Dubai with Emirates, then Dubai to Delhi after 3h waiting.
Returning from Delhi on May 12th at 10pm, arriving at 0:05am (Dubai hour) but I had to wait 14h in airport before taking off to Lyon !!!
Emirates did not give any coupon for a lunch as they did in a previous flight (with 9h wait). Probably because it was my second flight with them.
Food is fair, and not very good on flight Dubai-Delhi.
Time difference with France : Dubai +2h, Delhi +4h30.


Driving in India

In India, driving as in England. So, overtaking is by right.. Logical isn't it ? except we are in India and traffic is anarchic. And more, animals are roaming everywhere.
The rule is .... that there is no rule ! Main roads have tolls and on separated lanes (as on motorways in Europe) many vehicles run on the wrong way. Even police!!! Very dangerous.
Trucks are mainly on the right lane or in middle lane. It's quite difficult overtaking these moving chicanes.
Max speed is common 80km/h. Less often higher. This was a major drawback because the driver wasn't allowed to drive faster and the route seemed endless (75km/h max real).
The congestion in the streets were upsetting. Watch my Youtube videos to get a survey. It 'd be suicidal to rent a car in this country as a foreigner.
Just seen a crash between a car and a motorcycle. Amazing not to seeing more.


The routes

Day 1 : Arrival in Delhi

In afternoon, welcoming by a staff member of agency Le Passage to India. Garland and bottle of water. Setting in Le Meridien 5* hotel in Delhi. Fabulous hotel. Food is excellent. Prices are at European level.

hotel Le Meridien Delhi

Day 2 : Delhi

Early in the morning, a french-speaking guide take us to visiting old Delhi and having a look at the ramparts of the red fort, 2.5km long and towers 18.5m high.
Then visiting the biggest mosque of India : Jama Masjid, built in red sandstone and white marble. The buiding began in 1644 by Shah Jehan and ended 14y later.
It's a real tourist con because you have to pay for EACH camera you own. So I just took one !
Next, going to Indian gate, a triumph arc 42m high, WW1 memorial, then passing through to just seeing presidential palace (no stop allowed). Fearing attacks are present and security checking is everywhere, even at hotel entrances.
Visit of Gandhi's memorial made of black marble.
We ended the day visiting an amazing site (13rd century) South Delhi : Qutb Minar. A minaret : 72.5m high, 14.32m basis diameter, 2.75m top diameter, masters the site. It's a mixing of persan and indian arts.
Back to hotel where I took the most of swimming-pool at 4th floor.

Day 3 : Delhi → Khandela (250km)

Delhi Khandela

Early in the morning getting to Khandela. 7h driving 250km because of the Delhi traffic flow.
What a coincidence (!!!), we stopped in a restaurant / souvenirs shop with tourist prices ! (drinks as expensive as in France).
Setting in Castle Khandela, a patrimony hotel mastering the city, owned by a rajah. He, as a doctor, treats inhabitants for free in his hospital in the castle.
A french-speaking guide comes to take us to walking in the old city with many stops in shops as, alas, all our visits.
Visit of a pottery workshop then setting in a cart drawn by a dromedary to go watching the amazing cenotaphs outside the city. The continuing to a farm to finding out a Baori, a very old tank from the middle-age.
Back to the hotel where the guide came to our room and was surprised for the tip we gave : 450RI (6€) for 2h (median salary 40€ a month). I found he has got a nerve to complain. I reported this behaviour to the travel agency at the end of the journey in Delhi.

Castle Khandela Rajasthan
cenotaphe Khandela Rajasthan

Day 4 : Khandela → Mandawa → Bikaner (280km)

Khandela Bikaner

Early in the morning, going to Mandawa where a french-speaking guide shows us the medieval fort always occupied by the rajah and the beautiful Shri Raghu Nath temple.

Shri Raghu Nath Mandawa

Then, driving to Bikaner and setting in the fabulous Narendra Bhawan hotel. A real palace looking as a museum. All is great. (Don't miss my pictures)

Narendra Bhawan Bikaner Rajasthan
Narendra Bhawan-Bikaner Rajasthan

A french-speaking guide takes us to visiting fort Junagarh started building in 1589 and ended in 1594 by Karan Chand PM of rajah Rai Singh.

fort Junagarh Bikaner

Visit of Banda Shah Jain temple, well-known for its mural paintings and works of art.
Late in the afternoon, tuk tuk riding in the old city, then back to the hotel where the staff took care of us. We spent much time to visiting this amazing palace.

Day 5 : Bikaner → Jaisalmer (335km)

Bikaner-Jaisalmer

All day in the car to get to the door of Thar desert in Jaisalmer. Setting in Marriot hotel (2 nights alas!) very disappointing with the bathroom supplies as in restaurant.
Speaking fluent English, I asked for no spicy meals, without success. As a result : we were sick all night long. Fortunately I had Smecta and arrow-root to treating the trouble.
My feeling is that it's low season and the hotel idles.
So, the morning after, I told the guide and it sound like he repeated my words to the management because I noticed some changes in the staff a while after. More helpful but without success with spicy meals
Unless it was because I left comments in guestbook hotel website (supposed to be 5* !!!) to complain....

Day 6 : Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer

Visit fort Sonar Quila in Jaisalmer, where 25% inhabitants live, built in 1156 (sandstone) with amazing changing glints during the day.
Walk along Gadi Sagar lake then visting a jain temple, havelis, and a material factory.
At noon, lunch in Sonaar haveli with remarkable welcome, delicious no spicy meals and soft prices, which appeased the disappointment of Marriot.
We finished up by a dromadery ride in the desert of Thar, 45km from Jaisalmer, in the sunset.

Thar Jaisalmer

Day 7 : Jaisalmer → Jodhpur (250km)

Jaisalmer Jodhpur

Driving to Jodhpur, the blue city, then setting in Indana Palace.
Visit of old city and Sardar market with Ghanta Ghar clock tower.
Visit fort Mehrangarh mastering the city.

Jodhpur

Visit Jaswant Thada mausoleum, then back to hotel.

Jaswant Thada Jodhpur

Day 8 : Jodhpur → Ranakpur → Udaipur (270km)

Jodhpur Udaipur

Driving to Ranakpur to visiting the jain Adinatha temple. You must know that camera, leather, water, food, pencils, .... are not allowed inside. So I stayed outside, wearing many of these items.
Then driving to Udaipur through beautiful landscapes meeting sapajou capuchin monkeys.
Setting in very big Ananta Resort built in pure japanese style I enjoyed very much. So big that we needed shuttles to get to our room. But we had to book up shuttle to get to restaurant and had to waited about 15min during rush hour.

Day 9 : Udaipur

City Palace Udaipur

A french-speaking guide shows us the old city, temples and the impressive City Palace.
At noon, riding on Pichola lake of Udaipur, with a 30min stop in an island to visit Jag Mandir palace.

Day 10 : Udaipur → Jaipur (410km)

Udaipur Jaipur

The most hard day, staying all day in car. 9h driving.
Setting in Holiday Inn hotel in Jaipur, which looks like a luxuous jail.

Day 11 : Jaipur

In the morning, we started an elephant ride to get to fort Amber.
Then back to visiting the old city, the observatory and City Palace.

Jaipur

Ending with a rickshaw ride in the old city.

Day 12 : Jaipur → Abhaneri → Agra (250km)

Jaipur Agra

"En route" to Agra with a first stop in Dausa to visiting a Krishna temple

temple Krishna Dausa

Second stop in Abhaneri to visiting 8th century ruins of Harshshat Mata temple.
In Agra, setting in hotel Double Tree by Hilton, then going to last floor swimming pool.

Day 12 : Agra → Delhi (250km)

At 6am getting to Taj Mahal before sunrise.

Taj Mahal Agra

Back to hotel to getting breakfast and closing luggages before returning to Delhi.

It's the end of the journey. Back to Delhi airport.

Agra Delhi


Personal thoughts

I must say frankly : tourist is a cashcow. Wherever you stop when driving, prices in restaurant are like in Europe, with poor quantity and quality.
As well in shops, you have to haddling very hard. So ask for 25% of initial price to get 33%, but beware of the quality stuff.
In market places, prices are very soft. So I conclude that they considered us as suckers in shops.
You have to give many tips everywhere : hotel, temple, tuk tuk, rickshaw, elephant and dromadery drivers, guides. So, foresee the budget, staying reasonable considering cost of life in India.
For instance, I gave $70 to our driver for 11d driving; well deserved considering the heat and the driving congestion.


Conclusion

I enjoyed very much this trip. Each city is so different of the others. 5* hotels were great, particularly I loved Narendra Bhawan in Bikaner and Meridien in Delhi. Welcome was great everywhere.
Of course heat was pretty tough but it was quietful to take pictures quite alone.
The french-speaking guides did a great job, although it was sometimes hard to understand because of their accent (even in English).
The driver was pretty good due to the hard conditions.
The agency "Le Passage to India" did a great job organizing this trip and attendance was always there, even when back in Delhi airport.
Congratulations to the staff.
I consider visiting South of India later (because of the one year visa available).


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