Somewhere between Delhi and Munich, I caught a cold. The stabbed-in-the-throat, feels-like-I-burned my-tongue, nose slammed shut kind of cold. And if you’ve flown Luftwaffe Airlines, you know how serious they are about security. So I thought they might not let me back on the plane sick.
No worries - being tall and blond, they thought I lived there. All they security people spoke to me in German, and I looked them in the eye and nodded gravely. No smiles. No english. Arms up for the pat down, no snuffling. Made it home. Just in time, for I hate being sick anywhere but my own bed.
Houston, We Have Contact:
Absolutely first rate, from our wonderful guide Vivek Anand who shepherded us through three weeks of airports and security lines, temples and transfers, and never lost his sense of humor. Our most ridiculous demands never cracked his cool. He made sure we saw all the best things in India at the most beautiful, least crowded time of day. He made us feel a part of this wonderful country (and remember me? I did not want to go to India). He even (and this is above and beyond the call) managed to find time for sone shopping, and found us the best places, got us the best deals.
And he has great jokes.
The city guides were fantastic. Especially Jai in Varanassi, Jasmine in Mumbai and the fabulous, hysterically funny Rekha in Delhi.
And oh those hotels! Check them out for yourself. Because it’s good to be king...or Maharajah.
The Taj Majal Palace Mumbai. Stay in the old Palace part, the new part is a modern tower. You’ll need to retreat to the lap of luxury if you’re starting your trip in Mumbai. Especially if it's your first trip. Best location in Mumbai; they got there first.
The Taj Lake Palace Udaipur. Romantic white wedding cake of a hotel in the most magical place, smack in the middle of a lake. Get up early, watch the light move across the lake. Stay up late, eat on the roof.
The Taj Rambagh Palace Jaipur. Goes on and on, each courtyard more beautiful than the last. Don’t miss the ride thru the grounds in the 1937 Plymouth. Priceless.
The Oberoi in Agra has a great pool and a spectacular site, with a view of the Taj Mahal out each guest room window, but the rooms pale next to the Taj Palace Hotels...but what wouldn't? It’s modern, and the soundproofing leaves something to be desired. Hope your neighbor doesn’t snore. Or watch TV late.
The Taj Safai Lodge at Pashan Garh - Best. Service. Ever. Exquisite luxury and complete privacy in the middle of the teak forest. And you’re gonna need some fresh air and sunshine in the middle of your trip: India can be a sensory assault. Restorative, relaxing and exciting (did I mention the leopards? and the monkeys? and the fabulous staff?)
There are no great hotels in Varanassi yet...the Taj there is a business hotel.
The Taj Palace Hotel New Delhi. By now you’re spoiled rotten, used to being treated like a maharajah (or Maharani if you’re a girl) and this is a modern hotel, not a former palace. But it’s still lovely. It has a bit of that big city bustle, lots of comings and goings. But what did you expect in a city of 15 million?
Last words: Go. Now.