We had an awesome vacation in India! It was the first time ever for the kids, and the first time in more than 10 years for me and my wife. So many changes! This was the first time, in a very long while, that I’ve spent time completely disconnected from the Grid, and it was a very liberating and wonderful experience!
Currently it is between the end of the rainy season and the beginning of the hot season, so although it was a bit humid, it was still a great time to visit. We spent the majority of our time at the family house. The house is L shaped with one section of the L the “new” section, and the other the older section of the house. New in this case is rather relative as that section of the house was built in my grandfather’s time. A rather interesting experience for me was explaining to my kids that the older section of the house was more than 200 years old! Given their ages, they were finding that length of time rather difficult to grasp, so my Dad’s comment to them, which they immediately got, was “It’s older than America”
We also took the opportunity to spend some time up in the Hill Range ( ~ 4500 ft above sea level), to visit one of my cousin’s who is the manger of a Tea Estate that was originally set up by the British. While the temperature at the family house was hot, we actually had to use blankets at night while we were visiting the Tea Estate. Had some of the most amazing tea while we were up there and when we enquired about it, was informed that the entire estate has been certified to grow organic tea (no pesticides etc.). Yes, we did bring back some of that tea!
Given that my cousin is the manager of the Estate, we got a personal tour, via a 4 wheel drive vehicle, of some of the more scenic parts of the estate. And there is no way to get to some of these remote areas without a 4 wheel drive vehicle or by horse! The scenery and the climate were just about spectacular.
On the way back from India, we made a point of stopping over in Delhi and driving to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. It is a four hour drive from Delhi to Agra and two of those hours are spent just getting out of Delhi! The traffic in Delhi, where cars, buses, auto-rickshaws, motorcycles, bicycles, people and animals all share the same road has to be experienced to be believed!
It was very hot in Agra but it was just an amazing experience for all of us! I, for one, had never seen the Taj before and was just amazed by the sheer size and the incredible symmetry of the place. We also had a very good guide that explained in great detail a lot of the architectural and historic details of the Taj Mahal.
We also had some truly pleasant service experiences on the trip. Two that were memorable were our experience with Kingfisher Airlines, which is the domestic airline that we used in India, and with the Radisson Hotel in Delhi where we stayed while in Delhi.
Flying with Kingfisher was just about the best flying experience that we’ve had. As soon as we reached the airport, folks in Kingfisher’s livery came to meet us at the car and accompanied us and transported our luggage through the security checkpoints all the way through to check-in. During the flight, we were pretty much pampered with bottled water, little gifts for the kids and a full service meal. We also had great leg room in the seat and individual entertainment centers with a variety of music and entertainment programs. Once we landed, folks in Kingfisher livery again pulled our luggage off the belt, took it to our waiting transportation, and loaded it onto our vehicle. Oh, did I mention that I was traveling COACH!!!! I don’t think I’ll fly with another airline in India ever again!
As to Radisson Delhi, by default you got the superb service that you can expect from a 5 star hotel. But what impressed us more than anything were two things. The first was that given that my son has food allergies, their kitchen was very willing to prepare special meals for him. Secondly, we were scheduled to leave the day after the London Terror threat story broke, so there were extremely long delays and a lot of confusion at the Delhi airport. When the concierge at the Radisson found out that we were flying out that day, he actually came with us to the airport and basically guided and helped us through the checkpoints, the multiple luggage checks and stayed with us until our bags were completely checked and we were ready to go through security! Just an amazing experience.
All in all, we had a wonderful and memorable time. If interested, I have posted some additional pictures for your viewing pleasure. I most definitely have some more experiences to relate, but I’ll save those for another post.