Saturday, May 03, 2008

May 2-3, 2008: Agra

Clarks Shiraz Rating: Average
This hotel was average compared to the Clark’s Amer. The room had a nice view of the Fort and Taj which I assume was what made it a deluxe room although it seemed pretty standard. Although we anticipated that the Taj Mahal would be the highlight of the trip, overall this was an anticlimactic end to the fourteen day trip. The drive to the Taj and the walk to the actual buildings proved more than a little distracting as there were way too many beggars and hawkers. This of course is no reflection on TCI but could certainly be suggested to the mayor of Agra that given the sheer number of visitors each year, cleanliness of the area surrounding the Taj could be vastly improved.

Guide: Adil Ali Rating: Good
He was knowledgeable about the Taj and the fort and provided the necessary comments about the tour. He did seem a bit rushed at times but did find a locker for some items that we were not allowed to take into the Taj complex. He also bought and offered us bottled water without our requesting it. That was a nice thing to do. In consideration of my father’s health and the intense heat, he chose the cooler garden route to the Taj. He offered to take us to the fort and craft stores but we declined since we had seen several in our 14 day tour. On our way to Delhi, we decided not to do any more sightseeing so the guides that were arranged were informed that their services were not needed.

Friday, May 02, 2008

April 30-May 2, 2008: Jaipur

Clarks Amer Rating: Excellent
This was a fabulous hotel with a very helpful staff. The breakfast (included) was very good. The wait staff on the first breakfast was quite rude but after talking to the dining room manager, the service at lunch (not included) was impeccable. The manager apologized and offered to prepare a special breakfast the next morning which we gratefully declined. That was a very nice thing to do.

Guide: Bhopal Singh Rating: Excellent
The palace with the mirrored room was very special. We were a bit disappointed that the elephant ride was not possible; however we understand the circumstances. Bhopal was quite jovial, joking about street life and did not mind pointing out the underbelly of India which no other guide had done to that point. It allowed us to ask some questions about life in India that we were not able to do prior to his guiding. Several of them said India is a land of contrasts but none seemed willing to talk about anything but castles and forts. This was a welcome change. He took us to the Astronomy tour and that was quite different and very interesting. We had an opportunity to calculate and calibrate our watches to the sundial. That was impressive.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April 29-30, 2008: Ajmer

Mansingh Palace Rating: Good
Upon check-in, we were given two standard rooms and when I mentioned that we had deluxe room as per itinerary, we were moved to one standard room and one deluxe. Not sure why we were not given two deluxe rooms in the first place. The deluxe room was quite spacious. The standard room was “standard” at best .

Guide: Nandu Sharma Rating: Good
We did not want to do the activity so we thanked the guide and gave him a generous tip for taking the time to come to the hotel.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

April 27-29. 2008: Udiapur

Hilltop Palace Hotel Rating: Average
The most palatial thing about this hotel was the view which was very pleasant but did not make up for the quality of the room. The variety of breakfast selection was good and the staff were very helpful. The garden and pool area were well kept but the same cannot be said for the interior of the hotel or the rooms. The hotel itself can best be described as “shabby” and could certainly use some upgrading.

Guide: Sheikh Rating: excellent
Sheikh was an excellent guide. He was knowledgeable on all aspects of Udiapur and surroundings. He could answer every question we asked and was willing to provide as much detail as we needed. All our questions were answered to our satisfaction. He showed some obvious pride when he explained the details of the castle as well as the temples. He offered bottled water for my father when he needed it. He was by far the best guide on our trip, professional in every way.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

April 26-27, 2008: Jodhpur

The Ummeid Rating: Excellent.
This was by far the best hotel on the tour so far although the hotel at Mandawa was a close second. The staff and facilities were superb and the breakfast as well as the wait staff was very professional. It’s too bad that it was only a one night stay.

Guide: Pradeep Singh Rating: Excellent
Pradeep was very humble and he certainly knew the history and details of the tour. He was accommodating especially as it was an incredibly hot day and my father was having some difficulty with some of the stairs as well as the heat. We cut short the tour because of the heat (no fault of the guide). He called the next morning to wish us well for the rest of our journey. That was a nice thing to do.