India – March 2015

Deccan Odyssey Luxury Rail Journey with Travel 2 and Cox & Kings

5 March 15
Jet Airways Business class flight – London to Delhi
We had a very comfortable flight with Jet Airways with very attentive service from the excellent cabin crew and a good choice of food and drinks which was of a good standard.

6 March 15
We arrived in Delhi and it is just how I imagined it to be with all types of vehicles including tuk tuks, cycles, motorbikes, cars and Lorries vying for their bit of the road! With the odd cow wandering across it to add to the mayhem.
We checked into the Picadilly Hotel – Delhi for our first night in India. The hotel is of a good standard and fine for an overnight stay, but a little too far out of the centre for easy exploration on foot.

7 March 15
Whoops!! Our alarm didn’t wake us and we woke up at 12 midday (7am in the UK and usual wake up time) to a call from Carla, our host from Travel 2, asking why she had not seen us at breakfast. We made it to reception to check out by 12.30 and join our 1 pm tour of Delhi. We spent the afternoon on a coach tour around the major sights of Delhi with stops en route, before heading to the railway station to join the Deccan Odyssey for our 7 night train journey to Mumbai. We were greeted by the train crew, who were serving tea, and traditional music and dancing while we awaited the arrival of our train and were all feeling very excited about our forthcoming Indian adventure.

Once on board we settled in to our very comfortable cabins, lacking in space, but well equipped with an ensuite shower and toilet and a very attentive service from our cabin steward. A delicious dinner served in one of the two restaurants followed. The waiters were also very attentive and the service was what you would normally expect on a cruise with fine dining cuisine, both international and Indian.

And so our journey began. Sleeping on a train, not a particularly smooth ride, was going to take some getting used to, along with the station announcements which can happen any time of the night.

8 March 15
We woke up at Rathambore, home of the Rathambore Tiger Reserve and after breakfast and a red carpet greeting from the locals we boarded our safari vehicle for our first safari of the day to try and spot the elusive tigers. Spotted plenty of monkeys, antelopes and crocodiles but no luck with tigers. Back to the train for some lunch before heading off on another route to try again in the afternoon. Still no luck with the tigers but we did spot a leopard which is very rare, still disappointed not to see a tiger though, especially as an American group on another trail did spot one and loudly boasted about it on our return to base.

Another delicious dinner on board our train followed by drinks in the bar as we set off for Agra.

9 March 15
Today we arrived in Agra and after breakfast and another red carpet greeting from the locals we set off to visit the iconic Taj Mahal. It didn’t disappoint and there was something very magical about the setting and the building itself, which is amazing. After putting on our not very flattering shoe covers we were able to go inside also. We all had our pictures taken at various points including the bench where Princess Diana was photographed, albeit she had the whole place to herself, we had to fight for a spot among the ever increasing crowd.

After lunch we had visits to the Itmud-ud-Daullah and the impressive Agra Fort before returning to our train for dinner and drinks before another night being fiercely rocked to sleep by the movement of the train as we travelled to Jaipur. By the way the sound of the train on the rails is at times quite loud, however you are provided with ear plugs which helped some get a better quality of sleep.

10 March 15
This morning we arrived at the historic capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur, often called the Pink City. After another red carpet greeting from the locals we headed into the city to visit the Palace complex, still home to the current Maharaja including its museum of the Maharajas’ lavish possessions.

After lunch we were taken to visit the magnificent palace of Amber Fort where we were to enjoy an al fresco dinner at sunset and enjoy the beautiful views from the top of the fort, magical!

11 March 15
This morning we reached Jodhpur, The Blue City. Another red carpet greeting and we were taken to enjoy a walking tour of the colourful Old Market. I loved this and it was a feast for the sight and senses. It made a lovely change from the palaces and forts and I would have liked to have spent more time than allowed just taking it all in. We were then taken by tuk tuk to Merherangarh Fort, a hair-raising experience once we were out on the road, but great fun. From the fort we had fantastic panoramic views of the city. After lunch on the train we were able to head back to the market place for more time to wander.

12 March 15
We woke up this morning in Udaipur and after breakfast and another colourful red carpet greeting from the locals, we were getting used to this by now, we set off for the famous City Palace followed by a walk through the quaint streets of the Old City. We then took a boat cruise on Lake Pichola to take in the views of the most picturesque city in Rajasthan and the Taj Lake Palace Hotel, set on an island in the middle of the lake. A very romantic city and an ideal honeymoon destination.

13 March 15
Today we arrived at the Royal city of Gaekwads, Vadodara. We visited the Pavagadh Archaelogical Park, a World Heritage site, the Jami Masjid and the Maharaja Feteh Singh Museum. We enjoyed a folk dance performance as we savoured a wide array of delicacies from the Royal kitchens at the Laxmi Vilas Palace.

On our return to the train we all found that saris had been delivered to our cabins in readiness for our final night on board the train. We were helped to dress in our Indian attire and headed to the cocktail party where everyone joined together to eat drink and dance, joined by the train crew who had looked after us so well. A lovely end to a fantastic journey with a great group of people.

14 March 15
We arrived in Mumbai and our transfer to the airport included a sightseeing tour of the city from the coach. Definitely a city of the haves and have nots, with nothing much in between. A modern city interspersed with huge slums, some right beside the runway. I also discovered that Mumbai has a beach.

Many thanks to our host Carla and Travel 2 for giving me this wonderful opportunity to Experience India, I loved it!