Apart from a quick delve into Delhi and a trot around the Taj Mahal (all en route to Bhutan), it’s been 20 years since I’ve really travelled in India. Then, as a fresh faced 21 year old straight out of University, I spent months lugging my ever burgeoning rucksack around the country.
At the time I’d travelled as much as any young person of my generation, as far as Spain, so India was certainly an eye opener for inexperienced me. However, it didn’t take me long to be seduced by the charm of the people and the vibrancy of the cities - even the hustle and bustle became an endearing feature of daily life.
I’d always vowed to return, but the last 20 years have been spent searching out new places in other far flung continents. But as the map of undiscovered places narrows for the Hubby and me, it’s time to rekindle my love affair with places I visited many moons ago and this year it’s going to be India, which will be the Hubby’s first proper foray into the country.
My return anywhere will always be in more style, luxury and comfort than during my days as a student traveller and I’ll definitely not be indulging in any of that ethnic garb I wore way back when. You know the type of thing? It looks so good and makes you fit right in? But back in the UK it doesn’t quite look so appealing! Please remind me of this in January if you see me roaming around the streets of Manchester in anything tie dyed, tasselled or made of hessian!
The Hubby and I decided to take our trip in December when we’ll have the added bonus of bank holidays to bolster the length of our trip, a quieter time at work and three whole weeks away. Although this seems like a long time, with a country as big as India and huge distances to cover, there’s a limit to what you can actually see in three weeks and it’s difficult to know which part of the country to tackle.
We knew that we definitely wanted to end the trip with some R&R on the beach and therefore plumped for the less developed Kerala over Goa. The rest of the trip was decided on by the Hubby. As a keen photographer and great follower of the photojournalist Steve McCurry, the Hubby plucked for the temples and cities of Rajasthan, which feature heavily in McCurry’s photography. Despite having travelled extensively around this region I was happy with the choice as Rajasthan is magical and romantic and offers something new to discover each time you go. As you can imagine, I also know some wonderful hotels to try from chic tents in the desert, to ultra modern cubes amidst the blue doors of Jodhpur, magical places in the middle of lakes, crumbling forts and palaces still occupied by the Maharajahs.
There are so many wonderful places to visit in Rajasthan, but we like to spend enough time in each location to really do it justice; to understand it, see everything at a leisurely pace and relax into local life. We’re not ones for cramming in as many sights as possible in a whirlwind tour. Therefore, the stops have been limited to the key cities, some time in the desert, Ranthambore for (hopefully) tiger spotting and then the beach in Kerala. Between each location it really is a combination of trains, planes and automobiles, picking up drivers as and when we need them.
I’ve planned and arranged the trip myself. For us there are no guides or tours. We’re free spirits and want to experience India at our own pace, uncovering our own gems with the use of guide books and friends on the ground.
The itinerary goes like this:
Fly into Delhi (1 night) Take the train to Ranthambore (2 nights, including daily game drives) Drive to Jaipur (3 nights) Drive to Jodhpur (3 nights) Drive out into the desert to stay in a luxe tented camp (2 nights) Drive on to Udaipur via the Jain ruins at Ranakpur (3 nights) On Christmas day fly down to Kerala (via Mumbai) Chill out on Marari Beach (4 nights) Cochin (2 nights) Back to Manchester hopefully in time to bring in 2012 with a bottle of fizz
I'll be writing about our experiences in the New Year, but if can't wait and want to hear about our travels live then please follow me on Twitter.
Also, if you have any recommendations on things to see and do whilst we're in India then please leave a comment below. Or, if you've never been to India and would love to indulge your senses then please get in touch and I can make suggestions and design a bespoke and truly special itinerary for you.