Sunday, November 25, 2012

NEVER GET OUT OF THE BOAT! India 2012 part 2

Mural at the City Palace, Udaipur

So, how do you prepare for a trip like this? You start with your shots. All 9 of them! 

2 Hepatitis B shots ($80.00), 1 Hepatitis A shot ($80.00), 1 Tdap ($40.00), 1 Typhoid ($80.00), 1 Influenza ($40.00), 1 Polio ($80.00) and 2 Japanese Encephalitis shots ($240.00!!). So far, I've spent almost $1,000.00 on shots (not to mention the 2 more Hepatitis A shots I need to take after I get back from the trip) and I haven't even left the country! I was feeling pretty invincible at this point and was contemplating getting a tattoo, drinking sewer water and eating raw meat to try out all of the new vaccines coursing through my body. Thankfully I was able to space out the shots over the course of the a few months and not get them all at once. Those Japanese Encephalitis shots did sting like a mother though! 

I think even more painful was getting the Indian visa. We started the process early. I'm glad we did as it took my mom three tries before getting her visa approved. Address discrepancies were the cause of her delay, and resulted in my mom having to get a brand new California identification card. Whew! These guys were tough! I got the call from the passport service that were all good and it was an easy ride from there. OK, now, what to wear!

We picked a good time to visit India. Rajasthan gets hot! Fahrenheit temperatures can reach up to 118 in some places. November was the perfect time as this is when the area starts to cool down. I packed relatively light, a few t-shirts, shorts, windbreaker, black hoodie and a couple pairs of pants. In hindsight, I packed way too much. I could have cut the amount of clothing in half (even for a 15 day trip) and would have been OK. Next time, I'll also use a backpack and not a piece of luggage. Our luggage would be a slight problem in the trip. More on that later. 

We started the process of our India trip in July. Time went by so fast, the next thing you know, it's the day before the flight. This would be the longest flight I've ever been on. It would take roughly 10 hours to get from Los Angeles to Amsterdam and another 8 hours from Amsterdam to Delhi. We joked with friends about staying a few extra days in Amsterdam to get "refreshed", but alas, we only had a few hours before our transfer. 

I packed many things to keep me occupied on the flight. iPad, check! Books, check! Magazines, check! Drum machine, check! Synthesizer, check! Honestly, I  didn't use any of them, other than then the iPad, which I used to write in my trip journal. The majority of the plane ride was spent sleeping, eating and trying to watch movies. Our airline gave out free booze, so the ride to India was pretty great!

On this trip, I wanted to bring something to the people of India. I brought my electric ukulele. I had a small Smokey Amp and was ready to rock! Unfortunately, I forgot to buy a spare 9 volt battery that wound up costing me $10.00 in Jaipur!! Well, live and learn! 

After a slight mishap regarding our tickets (Expedia changed our itinerary twice during the course of two months. Our airline, the Dutch KLM, still had us on an old itinerary and said that we couldn't board our flight, basically stating that we missed our flight. We finally got it worked out, although it was maddening trying to sort it out, we ultimately received an upgrade) and an agonizing goodbye with my family, we were off. 

I still had no idea what to expect once we arrived in India. All of the tour guide books had the information, but the pictures were so dry and flat. Here's what our trip looked like. We would arrive in Delhi a few extra hours before our first group meeting. Regarding the group. Intrepid Travel's policy is too have small groups per trip. No more than 12 people on the trip including my mom and I. Our group would include people from all over the world. We had no idea who they were until the group meeting that night in Delhi. OK, so we would arrive in Delhi at 1:00 AM, grab a ride to the hotel, check in and get some rest before the group meeting at 6:00 PM that night. We would spend an extra day in Delhi before taking a train to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. From there we would bus, jeep, mini-van, tuk tuk our way across India. 

That was the beauty of the trip; we would be constantly moving. We never spent more than 2 days in one specific area. Sometimes, even two days would be too long. But our guide made the travel smooth, even when things got difficult. And sometimes, things got difficult! 

Artwork on the 2nd floor of the Hotel Kishan Palace in Pushkar

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