have you been to India?

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TimF
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Re: have you been to India?

#1 Post by TimF » November 14th, 2011, 5:17 pm

When are you going? I haven't been yet. I'm scheduled to spend 6 weeks in Pune starting in Feb (unless my place of business changes before then). I'm going to make a weekend trip to Kerala when I'm there.
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Re: have you been to India?

#2 Post by Peter Metzger » November 14th, 2011, 7:38 pm

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Re: have you been to India?

#3 Post by Patrick Friel » November 15th, 2011, 10:33 am

I spent about half my time traveling around India on business 1996-99, did some vacation travel too, but haven't been back since 2002 so my info is somewhat dated.

I see from the CT thread you've chosen to visit the Moghul and Rajastani areas. That's the grandest architecture. It was a good idea to pick one general region for a single trip. The country is huge (I never made it to Rajastan) and once you get out of the major metros travel becomes slower and more erratic.

Just so you're prepared, Serge. India is not China. Relatively speaking, China is more orderly and the income disparity is not as dramatic. There's lots of very new tourist infrastructure in China and hygiene levels are higher and more consistent. Having said that, I loved spending so much time in India and looked at my trips to China as just work.

The best, timeless advice I can offer is that if you don't already love Indian food, learn to before you go. Biggest mistake foreigners make is eating Western food because the local food intimidates them. Not only is it tasty and diverse, it is also the safest option. They cook the hell out of everything and all those spices are there for good reasons.

And one restaurant recommendation - Dum Pukht in the Maurya Sheraton in Delhi. Most people go to Bukhara, the famous tandoori restaurant there, but Dum Pukht is the thing. It's my favorite restaurant in the world. It's specialty is Nawabi cuisine. The best biryani I've had anywhere. My favorite dish is the de-boned, marinated leg of lamb stuffed with chenna (what paneer is before you press it into a block), spices, nuts, and dried fruit. They roast it in a low oven, wrap it in dough (same dough they use for naan I believe), and stick it back in the oven to finish it off. When they cut open the crust at the table the aromas are incredible.

If you need a break from Indian food, try desi Chinese. It is very local. Most Chinese would only vaguely recognize it as being Chinese food, but it is very tasty.

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Re: have you been to India?

#4 Post by Patrick Friel » November 15th, 2011, 11:05 am

TimF wrote:When are you going? I haven't been yet. I'm scheduled to spend 6 weeks in Pune starting in Feb (unless my place of business changes before then). I'm going to make a weekend trip to Kerala when I'm there.
Tim,

Kerala is one of my favorite places in India and our trip there was one of the best we've taken anywhere. A weekend is not much time but if you're looking for a cool place to stay that doesn't have to be 5-star, these guys have a great collection of hotels in renovated historic buildings and others that are new and just beautifully and thoughtfully designed. We've stayed in a few and found them to be incredibly relaxing hotel environments.
http://www.cghearth.com/index.php

It is a great pity you'll leave Pune before alphonso mango season starts. They are amazing. My Indian boss and I scheduled visits to our factory there during mango season.

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Re: have you been to India?

#5 Post by Peter Metzger » November 15th, 2011, 11:11 am

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Re: have you been to India?

#6 Post by Matthew Brown » November 15th, 2011, 12:53 pm

I just got back from being in China for almost 2 weeks (which isn't part of your question), and many in the group had been on a similarly organized trip to India about two years ago. To a person, everyone commented on how much safer they felt venturing out on their own in China vs India in the big cities. They did enjoy spending their time more on a few day's side trip towards Nepal as a reprieve from the congestion; can't recall which cities exactly, but I could get some specifics from my father if you would like. There was definitely an unexpectedly distinct culture difference from the 'traditional' Indian here as well, mingling Tibetan and even Chineese influences, just as there are Indian and Muslim influences in China where cities are along the old spice trade routes. Lots of beautiful, remote monasteries.
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Re: have you been to India?

#7 Post by Matthew Brown » November 15th, 2011, 3:35 pm

Serge Birbrair wrote:Matthew, we felt pretty safe in China, very true. Even in Tibet with soldiers carrying machine guns on every corner. We'll play by ear in India, Delhi being only one really big town on our journey. What places did you go visit in China?
Beijing, Xi'An and Shanghai. Not a pure pleasure trip, as it was in association with an education group organized with some school and corporate money and agendas, and we were only in each city for a few days, so there wasn't much free roaming. But was we did see was spectacular (Forbidden City, Great Wall, Terra Cotta Army, etc.), we got to spend some time in a few elementary and high school environments that were very interesting, and we were all very well taken care of. The guides did a great job of being very open and honest about a lot of the political and social situations of China. There seems to be a rising culture of open political dissent among the 30-somethings that are the first wave of the "One Child Per Family" policy, in that they are starting to feel more ability to express their individuality (Did you get to visit the 798 district in Beijing? It's like their SoHo or Haight district with funky art studios and book stores). For those that had been to India, they had not been allowed any real access to anything but the schools they were shown and the sights on the itinerary, but China seemed more multilayered and accessible.

Don't want to hijack this, but wouldn't mind trading more China stories in a PM if interested.
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Re: have you been to India?

#8 Post by TimF » November 15th, 2011, 6:15 pm

Patrick Friel wrote:
TimF wrote:When are you going? I haven't been yet. I'm scheduled to spend 6 weeks in Pune starting in Feb (unless my place of business changes before then). I'm going to make a weekend trip to Kerala when I'm there.
Tim,

Kerala is one of my favorite places in India and our trip there was one of the best we've taken anywhere. A weekend is not much time but if you're looking for a cool place to stay that doesn't have to be 5-star, these guys have a great collection of hotels in renovated historic buildings and others that are new and just beautifully and thoughtfully designed. We've stayed in a few and found them to be incredibly relaxing hotel environments.
http://www.cghearth.com/index.php

It is a great pity you'll leave Pune before alphonso mango season starts. They are amazing. My Indian boss and I scheduled visits to our factory there during mango season.
If I do make it to Kerala -- I'm staying on a boat -- screw the hotel. Yeah, too bad about mango season. A friend of mine's family owns a farm in Hyderabad.
Tim F@itsch

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Re: have you been to India?

#9 Post by Matthew Brown » November 16th, 2011, 6:37 pm

Serge Birbrair wrote: Matthew, I don't believe in hijacking of threads, information must flow free...something, I hope, they do in China as well! :)
I put my impression of China and pictures here:
http://nocomments.com/2/China/ and will be interesting to compare notes.

When in China, I couldn't access facebook, yahoo and other western news sources, THAT ios what I call real hijacking!
;)

Our guides on the most parts were young girls, members of the Communist party and while Beijing guide knew about Tianamen square protest, she didn't know about the famous picture taken there, the guy stopping the column of tanks.

She also had to consult a driver about the events in 1969 at Damanski Island and confrontation with USSR where 46 people been killed. It was interesting to hear the Chinese version which appears to be more accurate than the Soviet one (according to Wiki, I checked! :) )

Xi'an was very impressive, no questions about it. I hope to live long enough to visit Emperor's tomb one day when and IF they ever excavate it!
I reviewed your pics of Xi'an and the terra cotta army before I left to get an idea of what to expect; they didn't do it justice, though no photo assembly ever could. One of our guides had a friend that was a head archaeologist and had been in among the ruins, and had great details about some of the newer dig sites. He also told one of the more chilling and honest tales of the trip. His grandfather had been an electrical engineer before the start of the Cultural Revolution. When our guide's father joined the Red Army, he had to turn in the grandfather for being an intellectual, and was forced to clan toilets for several years as punishment.
We were very lucky to have intelligent, educated guides that discussed Tianamen Square at some length; most of them were too young to know what was going on- one honestly admitted he remembered it most as a day of from grade school- and most Chinese feel a sense of shame about it, but in most ways we as Westerners probably have a better grasp of what happened than they do. Their society is starting to open up, but we're still less than a generation removed from a time when the farmers that first discovered the terra cotta army were punished by the government for being too ambitious.
We got a great spread of foods and got to see lots of cultural variation (Islamic, Muslim, Thai, Mongolian), but if I never drink another Tsingtao of Janjing beer it will be too soon!
My favorite pic so far, though I'll be assembling more somewhere soon:
China 403.jpg
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Re: have you been to India?

#10 Post by Patrick Friel » November 16th, 2011, 7:58 pm

TimF wrote:
Patrick Friel wrote:
TimF wrote:When are you going? I haven't been yet. I'm scheduled to spend 6 weeks in Pune starting in Feb (unless my place of business changes before then). I'm going to make a weekend trip to Kerala when I'm there.
Tim,

Kerala is one of my favorite places in India and our trip there was one of the best we've taken anywhere. A weekend is not much time but if you're looking for a cool place to stay that doesn't have to be 5-star, these guys have a great collection of hotels in renovated historic buildings and others that are new and just beautifully and thoughtfully designed. We've stayed in a few and found them to be incredibly relaxing hotel environments.
http://www.cghearth.com/index.php

It is a great pity you'll leave Pune before alphonso mango season starts. They are amazing. My Indian boss and I scheduled visits to our factory there during mango season.
If I do make it to Kerala -- I'm staying on a boat -- screw the hotel. Yeah, too bad about mango season. A friend of mine's family owns a farm in Hyderabad.
They do boats too.

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Re: have you been to India?

#11 Post by Matthew Brown » November 24th, 2011, 3:35 pm

Serge Birbrair wrote:Matthew, great shot and I even know the place where it was taken! :)
Got my father's itinerary from India:

Khajuraho temples
Varanasi (along the Ganges River; many on the tour proclaimed this the dirtiest city they had been to, and where one of the sights of the tour was the crematorium as well as the cannibalistic religious sect that scavenged the river)
Darjeeling
Gangtok
Kalimpong
Bagdogra- these are along the Bhutan/Nepal border.
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Re: have you been to India?

#12 Post by Peter Kleban » November 25th, 2011, 1:39 pm

Sergele, we went 3 or 4 years ago. EasyToursofIndia is who we used. They were expensive, but great, everything was taken care of (trying to arrange things yourself over there is pretty difficult and time consuming--but maybe not so much for you :-) ). We did 2 weeks individual tour with guides and a driver. Delhi, Varanasi (yes very dirty but very beautiful. Be sure to get on the water to see it properly), Kajuraho (do YOU really need to see that? :-) ), Taj Mahal (be sure to go at dawn and stay several hours--you've never seen anything like it), Jaipur , Udaipur and a few less well known places--Gwalior, Fatepur Sikri (if I've got it right--the abandoned palace), Bharatpur (the bird sanctuary. This was a high point, mostly because of the guide), Pushkar. All these places were great. Only at the end we got tired of temples and palaces and asked them to take us to a local village. Very interesting, we were invited into a sort of multi-roomed hut; before long we had an entourage of about 20 children (it was school holiday), etc.

The poverty is in your face like nowhere else, according to people who've been all over. We were very careful about the food, it can be very toxic, and had no problems at all. Basically, we didn't eat anything uncooked except fruit we peeled ourselves.

An unforgettable trip.

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Re: have you been to India?

#13 Post by Peter Kleban » November 27th, 2011, 11:01 am

Serge Birbrair wrote:Peter, with exception to Varnasi, we'll be visiting the same places. We booked the trip already, less than $5000 for two, including two internal flights and train ride.

Question:

what vaccination, if any, did you get before going there?


As for poverty, the most I've seen was in Cambodia. No electricity 2 miles from the city and people gather at cafes to watch B&W TV run off generator. Lots of amputees, due the the mines which explode to this day. $50 tip we gave to our guide was enough for a year of private school for his daughter.
Yes, it's a pretty standard N. India route. A train ride is a good idea, they are well-run. I think the rail Co. is the biggest employer in the country, and once you get a job there it is usually for life. Hope you get good guides/drivers, they make a big difference. Some are much better than others. We had one driver for about 10 days who was great, he became almost like a family member.

I you want contact info for our guide at the bird sanctuary, email or PM and I'll send it. He was just fantastic.

Re poverty: Almost every time you stop at a red light, even out in the country, you will have beggars, often small children, come up. We carried small things to give them like hotel soaps or candy. But you need to do that at the last moment, otherwise you'll get a dozen. There is now a big middle class in India (about the same size as here), but also many people in dire poverty. In Delhi, in the big market, there was a guy calmly standing atop a pile of rubble, with a long pole, connecting a wire to a power line to get some electricity without paying. Nobody payed any attention. The train stations tend to have homeless encampments. In winter, they burn tires or whatever to get a little heat at night (it can be pretty cold in N. India). Small tips are expected for many things (like watching your shoes while you are in a temple). I used to carry a wad of small (say 10 rupee) bills for that. There are also all kinds of kickbacks, etc. going on--like which merchant they take you to, etc. But you'll notice that better than me, I'm sure. There is a lot of junk for sale, but also some good stuff--the trick is finding it (our tour guys were pretty good about that, almost too good--ie they didn't like us to browse because they were afraid we'd buy some overpriced shlock and then complain, I think).

Re vaccinations I think we got (some of this I already had) diptheria, Typhoid, hepatitis A. My card also says "IPU", but I don't recall what that was--maybe a tetanus booster?

Have a great time, it really is a fantastic place.

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Re: have you been to India?

#14 Post by ryancurry » November 27th, 2011, 11:06 am

Poverty in India is worse than in cambodia. I think population density plays a big role in why that is.

Varanasi is definitely worth a look for your next trip.

While in udaipur you might consider a side trip to mt Abu. It is a neat hill station town with beautiful temples.

Have fun.
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Re: have you been to India?

#15 Post by David McCracken » November 27th, 2011, 11:27 am

On the wine front, there is a lot of curiosity amount the younger folks in cities like Mumbai/Bangalore and a few attempts at homegrown wines. It is still a pretty rare sight, though, outside of western and/or newer establishments.

A few years ago, I went to a friend's wedding in North India (a couple hours NE of Delhi) and we stayed in local Indian hotels. We got wine twice, once as a gift from the groom and once at a local "English Wine Shop". In both cases, the hotel had no bottle openers, though they were quite excited to try and figure out a way to open the bottles. The first basically pushed the cork in with a screwdriver. Worked, but not very optimal. The second guy was actually able to rig up an ah-so using two awls and pull the cork out cleanly. He got a much bigger tip. [cheers.gif]
"It's bad luck to have empty glasses." - Ray Walker on No Reservations w/ Anthony Bourdain, Burgundy Episode

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Re: have you been to India?

#16 Post by Peter Kleban » November 27th, 2011, 12:21 pm

We had some Indian wines that I'd call "reasonable", eg Sula Merlot. Nothing memorable, but definitely drinkable. That was 4 years ago, so they may have improved by now, the wine business was expanding there. They were also very expensive. Alcohol is forbidden to strict Hindus IIRC, as a result the taxes are very high.

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Re: have you been to India?

#17 Post by Matthew Brown » March 25th, 2012, 7:13 am

Serge Birbrair wrote:and so did " Kama sutra" temples
My father took a LOT of pictures here. Almost unnaturally so, come to think of it...
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Re: have you been to India?

#18 Post by David Lobe » March 29th, 2012, 5:24 am

Benares/Veranasi is a must. Best city to visit in India in my mind. I grew up there and have been all over.

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Re: have you been to India?

#19 Post by Rick Smith » August 13th, 2018, 6:51 pm

Any recent Delhi experiences? I may have an extra night on a business trip and looking for any restaurant recommendations for a solo diner.

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Re: have you been to India?

#20 Post by jbray23 » September 29th, 2018, 4:02 pm

I traveled India for a month back in 00’, so my info may be a bit dated as well..

While we were there we took a week side trip to Sri Lanka. I loved India but the cleanliness and beauty of Sri Lanka was a nice break, the smog is nowhere near what it is in Bombay...
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Re: have you been to India?

#21 Post by Rick Smith » January 13th, 2019, 2:35 am

Rick Smith wrote:
August 13th, 2018, 6:51 pm
Any recent Delhi experiences? I may have an extra night on a business trip and looking for any restaurant recommendations for a solo diner.
Had a great dinner at Indian Accent. A steal at INR 3900. The premium wine pairing was worth the INR 1600 upcharge.

Sister restaurants in NYC and London.

http://indianaccent.com/newdelhi/

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