This web page covers our December 2007 family trip to India. It was the first trip there for Craig, Nick, and Alex while Sai, of course, was born there and was last back in 1999. We started the trip with a 7-day tour of the "Golden Triangle" (Delhi, Jaipur and Agra) along with a visit to the Sariska Nature Reserve. Sai's parents Ramamurthy and Usha Alam accompanied us and worried how well the "first-timers" would handle India. This picture of the six of us was taken on the "back porch" of the Taj Mahal on our next-to-last day of touring.
Our trip started well enough. We loaded up two minivan cabs with people and luggage and headed to Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport. There we boarded an eight hour Air France flight for Paris. That aircraft had individual screens in the seat in front of you where you could watch movies, play games or even look at the view from an external camera on the plane. Those things kept everyone pretty well occupied. After a quick 1.5 hour layover in Paris we boarded a 9.5 hour flight for Delhi. That aircraft did not have individual screens but Nick and Alex spent a lot of time playing their Nintendo DS and Leapster games respectively. Arriving in Delhi we breezed through immigration, collected our luggage (fortunately we had bought new bright green luggage tags to put on each of our bags so they were relatively easy to find - and Craig had written a list of exactly how many pieces of luggage (16 in all) there were) and zipped through customs (there wasn't any). Then we found our tour contact, loaded our luggage in a Tempo Traveller 10 person minibus and headed to our hotel (the Silver Ferns). It was about 11 PM Delhi time and we all tried to sleep with varying degrees of success.
The next morning we woke up and tried taking a shower. One bedroom had no hot water while the other did. Hot water and whether or not the bathroom flooded when you took a shower was an ongoing source of amusement for us. It also made us quite glad that we chose to go the "four star" hotel route as we wondered what conditions would have been like at the three-star level. We met our driver, Dinesh, in the hotel lobby and headed out for a day of seeing the monuments around Delhi. We started at the Qutb Minar complex - click on the Qutb Minar picture on the right for more details about that area. We could have spent a lot more time exploring the complex and there are things we didn't see but the tour crammed so much in such a short time that it stressed quantity of sights over quality time spent exploring them.
Due to heightened security we drove by and took pictures of a number of attractions including the Red Fort and the India Gate that we could not go into and weren't supposed to stop at. We also visited the Ghandi memorial. For more pictures of these places click on the Red Fort picture on the left.
In India dinner is a late event - usually 8PM or later. That didn't work very well for us with our children used to eating much earlier and all of us being jet lagged. Our "welcome dinner" in Delhi that night was a bit of a letdown with everyone being worn out, particularly 3-year old Alex. The next day was a travel day as we headed from Delhi to Jaipur. Delhi to Jaipur is a pretty major route and the highway is in good condition. Road usage and driving in India is something else. Lane markers are ignored and the largest vehicle has the right-of-way. Trucks and busses go pretty much where they want when they want and everyone else (cars, motorcycles, bicycles, bicycle rickshaws, autorickshaws, scooters, pedestrians, camel carts, donkey carts) defers to them. The lone exception are the cows roaming free. Our driver referred to them as mobile speed breakers (speedbumps) as traffic accomodated them.
One big thrill when we got to Jaipur was seeing elephants in the streets. They did all seem to be for tourism (we rode elephants up to the Amber fort the next day) as opposed to the camels, oxen, buffalo, donkeys and horses we saw that were working animals. For some pictures of our hotel in Jaipur (the Holiday Inn) and the Jal Mahal (lake palace) click on the picture of the elephant in the street to the left. The lake palace was another place we couldn't go into but just view from afar.
The next day we picked up our Jaipur guide and saw the City Palace (a quick stop for a picture) then headed for the Amber Fort. There we got an elephant ride up to the fort and then toured it. There was a lot of beautiful detail work there. After that we saw the palace of the current Maharaja of Jaipur - part of it is open to the public with a couple of museums and another part of it is his personal residence. We then walked a block or two to the observatory. Click on the picture of the Amber fort on right for lots of detailed pictures of the things we saw in Jaipur.
While in Jaipur we finally determined where we were going next. When we booked the tour we were supposed to head to Ranthambore national park where we would have a chance to see tigers. However there was a case before the Indian supreme court over Ranthambore not allowing larger tour busses into the park. Because the case was before the court the park was closed. We hoped for a decision in the case before we were due to go there but that was not to be. Our tour company provided a couple of options and we chose to head to Sariska national park where we would be able to take jeep safaris (like we were scheduled for in Ranthambore) but would not have an opportunity to see tigers as there aren't any in Sariska any more.
We spend two days/nights at the Sariska palace hotel (impressive to look at, not as impressive to stay in) and did two jeep tours of the park. While we didn't see tigers we did see Sambar deer, spotted deer, crocodiles, wild boar, jackals, antelope, parrakeets, monkeys, wild birds and many, many peacocks. Click on the rusted sign to the left for more pictures of Sariska.
After our time in Sariska was over we loaded back in the Tempo Traveller and headed for Agra. Clicking on the camels on the right will show some pictures we took "on the road" to show some of what the countryside we were travelling through looked like. Sariska was off the beaten path and the roads to get there were much rougher and less travelled than the highways between Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. While the main routes were crowded and busy the rural areas were not nearly as crowded but much less developed.
On the way to Agra we picked up our Agra guide and stopped at Fatehpur Sikri. It was an impressive complex including a fort and the white tomb. It was built, used and then abandoned (for lack of water) in just a fifteen year span. For more pictures of Fatehpur Sikri click on the picture of its gate to the left.
At Fatehpur Sikri we felt the heat and could understand how a lack of water could lead to its abandonment. We then motored on to Agra. We were a bit late after the travel from Sariska and had to choose whether to rush through the Taj Mahal and then see the Agra fort or give up seeing the fort and take our time at the Taj. We chose to take our time and enjoy the Taj. That was an excellent choice. For lots of pictures of the Taj click on the picture of it to the right.
After seeing the Taj we headed off to Delhi the next day (with a quick stop to take a picture of Sikandra, Akbar's tomb). We boarded a Spice Jet flight to Hyderabad and spent the next two weeks visiting Sai's family in Hyderabad, Guntur (we took a train from Hyderabad to Guntur) and Vijayawada. We have all the pictures from the family visits in a Flickr photo album. Our return was a little more exciting than we wanted as our flight from Hyderbad to Delhi was delayed over 3 hours and we barely made the transfer from the domestic to the international airport and were the very last passengers checked in for the Air France flights back to Houston.
We did make it home and it was a wonderful trip. Our relatives there all wanted to know when we were coming back and we hope it's not too long before we can visit again. Click on the picture of traffic below for a few miscellaneous pictures.
All the pictures in this web page are also in a Flickr Photo Album but not in particularly high resolution. If you want to print a picture let me know and I can send you the high resolution original image.