Else & Paul with Rattan, March 2013

We went to India for the second time in 4 years via the website Devarosa. The best option to get there was through the Emirates and we arrived in Delhi in the early morning. The magnificent airport had been completely renovated. We saw the rebuilding going on 4 years ago, including the camels bringing in the cement.

This time the holidays started different from usual because Rob told us that our driver and our prop and stay Rattan had had a guestroom for visitors since then, in a real Indian quarter. We stayed there on our way out for 2 nights and again on our way back for 1 night.

So immediately after our arrival we took a shower and hit the sack for a long time, in a spacious bed and a quiet and cool room. The room was on the ground floor and had an en suite bathroom. Of course it was no Hilton, but in proper order.

The family lives on the first floor and has a roof garden on the second floor. That was ideal! It was nice to be in a real Indian family. Rattan’s wife is an excellent cook and the breakfast on the upstairs terrace measured up to a hotel’s. Therefore, this is highly recommended!

This time we went south of Delhi. We treated ourselves to first-class hotels, which gave this holiday a certain added value.

The first stop through Deeg (old palace equipped for visitors) was Bharatpur where a bird sanctuary is situated. Then we went to Gwalior and stayed in a Taj hotel with a super beautiful garden and swimming pool; not a room but ballroom and almost an apartment with hallway and a very large bathroom.

The Maharaja’s Palace (almost across the street) was equipped for visitors (museum). Make sure to visit it when you are there! We feasted our eyes; so many nice and beautiful things to see. Here were among others two of the biggest chandeliers in the world. Gigantic! You can also visit a fort and a complex of temples. Go early when it is still nice and quiet.

After this we went to Orchha along a terrible bad road under construction; potholes, rocks, sand and mud (you shouldn’t put your car through this).

It was a most rewarding visit. Orchha is situated on a river and has a lot of temples and forts. An old Sikhs in a Sikh temple even spoke some Dutch; he has friends in Rotterdam.

Good hotel with nice swimming pool and beautifully tended gardens. The people are really nice. They were even more curious about us than we were to them! They can make themselves understood with hand gestures quite easily.

Then we went to what afterwards appeared to be one of the highlights of the tour (Ranthambhore) National Tiger Park, where you can see a tiger if you are lucky. And guess what: we saw one! Fine hotel and our driver and jack-of-all-trades Rattan arranged good prices for hotels everywhere and even for the tiger trail.

Next we ended up in a recently beautifully renovated fort (the renovation started in 2006 and it is still in progress), the Dhadhikar fort. Rattan had heard of it through another driver. It is fairly remote and very quiet. Through the open windows with insect screens birds can be heard singing and pigeons cooing in the background. The view is gorgeous, the real Indian countryside; mountains with green-yellow farmlands on the forefront and the occasional orange sari or turban in the distance.

The kitchen is 100 % vegetarian; not even an egg at breakfast… In the evening dinner is served on the upstairs terrace in a bower of glass with candlelight! In short; very relaxed. Within 1-2 years there will be a swimming pool as well. Then you don’t want to leave at all! There are some villages to be visited that looked probably the same as they did 100 years ago. But we did see some men with mobile phones! There as well modern times have come.

Next we went to Hotel Kesroli Hill Fort of the Neemrana group. I can be very brief about this. Skip it; it’s a waste of rupees! I simply can’t imagine that this fort hotel belongs to the Neemrana group that has a reputation to live up to. And there is nothing to see or do in the area.

After this disappointment we arrived at Hotel Pataudi Palace, an hour’s drive from Delhi, Neemrana as well. Great hotel, which has a beautiful garden with peacocks, a nice swimming pool and delicious food.

It has only got 15 rooms, which are almost small apartments rather than rooms. This hotel seems to belong to one of Bollywood’s most famous movie star families. The family’s guests stay there regularly. Their private home is nearby. Into the bargain were 2 bicycles we could use. We were not denying ourselves this pleasure, Dutch as we are, so we went to check out the neighbourhood by bike! The Indians had not seen that very often! We attracted a lot of attention.

Unfortunately, this was the end of our holiday. Rattan kept a final surprise for us in store: to drink tea in the Imperial Hotel in Delhi. Everyone should do this some time! Such luxury and such fun! Spending the night there costs a fortune, but tea and pastry is quite affordable, 8 euros per person. You have never been through anything like it; a 5* cruise is nothing compared to this (and I should know!) The whole entourage is just like a film from the 1930’s.

After that we went home with Rattan. His wife had cooked a great vegetarian meal again and it was served on the terrace by candlelight. We had a quick few hours of sleep before we were brought to the airport.

On the way there we were almost in shock; we saw a street cleaning machine going through the streets of Delhi in the middle of the night… It’s too crazy for words! That brings me to remarking that we find India a lot cleaner now than it was 4, 7, 8 and 11 years ago. The government policy is clearly getting them somewhere!

We haven’t been ill for a day, since we kept strictly to vegetarian meals; no milk or yoghurt either!
India is addictive; we will be back in 4 years to see another part of India is what we promised Rattan. And we keep our promises!

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