Itinerary Information

Day By Day Highlights and Hotel (links for contact)
 

Sept. 11 Wednesday   Depart Toronto  9:40pm Emirates EK242

Sept. 12 Thursday      Arrive Dubai     6:35pm
                                   Depart Dubai   10:10pm  Emirates EK512
Sept. 13 Friday           Arrive Delhi    02:45am   (day free)
                                    Imperial Hotel
Sept. 14 Saturday        Imperial Hotel, Delhi - Red Fort, Jama Masjid mosque, Chandri Chowk, Raj Ghat, Chor Bizarre, New Delhi, India Gate, Humayun's Tomb, Qutab Minar    Photos of the Day

Sept. 15 Sunday          ITC Mungai,  Agra (5hr drive) - Agra Fort, sunset Taj Mahal
                             All Photos of the Day

Sept. 16 Monday         ITC Rajputana Jaipur - sunrise Taj Mahal, (6hr drive) Fatehpu Sikri
                            All Photos of the Day

Sept. 17 Tuesday         ITC Rajputana Jaipur - Spice Market, Amber Fort, Palace of Winds (Hawa Mahal), City Palace, Jantar Mantar       All Photos of the Day

Sept. 18 Wednesday    ITC Rajputana Jaiput - Amber Fort (elephant ride), (Hot Air Balloon), (Birla Temple)                        Photos of the Day

Sept. 19 Thursday       (6hr drive) Depart Delhi 6:50pm UL 196
                                     Arrive Columbo 10:25pm
                                     Jetwing Lagoon Negombo Hotel    Photos of the Day

Sept. 20 Friday            Jetwing Lagoon Negombo Hotel (day free - group arrive 1:35/hotel ~3pm )
                                     7pm Outdoor Welcome Dinner

Sept. 21 Saturday         Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana
                                    All Photos of the Day

Sept. 22 Sunday            Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana - Anuradhapura, Sri Maha Bodhi, Brazen Palace, Ruwanweli Seya, Samadhi Buddha, Isurumuniya rock temple, Kuttam Pokuna, Thuparama, Ratnaprasada, Mahasena's Palace, Mihintale     All Photos of the Day

Sept. 23 Monday           Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana - Sigiriya: Rock Fortress, Water Gardens, Frescos of Maidens, Mirror Wall, Lion Platform, Lion Rock, Royal Citadel; Polonnaruwa (1hr20min): medieval kingdom, lying Buddha, National Museum     All Photos of the Day

Sept. 24 Tuesday           Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana - Ritigala Monastery, Elephant Transit home, Padikaramaduwa Vijaya Maha Vidyalaya rural school, Patikara Maduwa ancient rural village
                                       

Sept. 25 Wednesday       Cinnamon Citadel, Kandy - Dambulla Cave Temples, Matale/Spice Garden,

Sept. 26 Thursday          Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya - tour Kandy, Buddha tooth relic, Royal Botanical Gardens/Orchids

Sept. 27 Friday               Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya - Horton Plains National Park: World's End, Baker's Falls, (hiking); Option: Nuwara Eliya town tour

Sept. 28 Saturday           Jetwing Lighthouse, Galle - Pedro Tea Factory & Plantaton, St. Clair & Devon Falls (Br. on the River Kwai), Galle

Sept. 29 Sunday             Jetwing Lighthouse, Galle - Galle tour: Dutch Church, Gov. House, Spice Warehouses, Court Square, Kachcheri, Lighthouses, Ramparts, Marin Wickremasinghe Museum, Galle Fort; Handugugda Estate, Farewell Dinner Party

Sept. 30 Monday            Cinnamon Lakeside, Columbo -  (morning free) (2hr drive), (free time)

Oct. 01 Tuesday             Cinnamon Lakeside, Columbo - city tour, National Museum, Pettah local bazaar, Temples, Wolfendhal Church, Cinnamon Gardens, Sapumal Foundation

Oct. 02 Wednesday        Depart Columbo 10:50am Emirates EK651
                                       Arrive Dubai         1:25pm
                                       Jebel Ali Hotel, Dubai (free time)
Oct. 03 Thursday           Jebel Ali Hotel, Dubai - Merchant City tour: Jumeirah Mosque, Jumeirah
Road, Mercado, Royal Family Palace, Dubai Creek, Bastakiya, Al Fahidi Fort Museum; Gold Souq, Spice Souq, Textile Souq

Oct. 04 Friday                Jebel Ali Hotel, Dubai - (free or optional) Falconry or Beach

Oct. 05 Saturday            Jebel Ali Hotel, Dubai - (free or optional) Snorkling at Fujairah

Oct. 06 Sunday              Jebel Ali Hotel, Dubai - (free day) even Dune Dinner in desert

Oct. 07 Monday             Depart Dubai     9:55am Emirates EK 241
                                       Arrive Toronto  3:45pm

Wednesday/Thursday 12 September - Enroute



We were ready in plenty of time and watched a violent hailstorm out our back door while we waited. The limo was a bit early and as we drove to the airport the radio was all abuzz with storm warnings and flight delays. However, our flight was on time. We walked right up to a baggage check counter, but the security line was endless. Still, we had time for a light meal and waited awhile in the departure lounge. The airplane is massive (10 seats across, 2 levels) but nearly every seat was filled. When you’re travelling in economy, nearly all flights are the same. We did get cute little kits with eyeshades, toothbrushes and socks. At midnight we had dinner, and at the halfway point of the flight, sandwiches. Very early in the morning Toronto time we had breakfast. All OK as airline food goes. There were several children and babies near us but for the most part they were quiet. We both slept, or at least dozed, for much of the flight, and arrived in pretty good shape in Dubai shortly after 6pm local time, just as the sun set abruptly.

[Larry adds] I wondered: will someone really be here in Delhi to meet us.  Sure was, and had garlands put over our necks at 3am.  Hotel is a wonderful old luxurious British colonial style.  Everything is perfect.  Internet is good and fast but awkward signon required and these days at $20/day is an atrocious affront to modern travel.

Saturday 14 September - New Delhi

We both were awake around 3:30, so read until about 6:15 and went for breakfast.  What a great array of good things!  We tried to keep it light but so much temptation.
Our guide for the day, Amit Sharma, and our driver for the week, Sukhdev, picked us up at 9 for an amazing day of exploration and history.  We visited the sites in chronological order, beginning with Qutub Minar, an amazing stone tower,
 also the site of tombs and an iron pillar that has stood 1600 years without rusting or decomposing.  
While we were wandering through this complex, 2 different families asked if they could have their picturres taken with us.  Of course we complied. 

Next at Humayan's tomb, a red stone monument that was the inspiration for the Taj Mahal, we climbed steep steps to admire the views of gardens and the intricate designs on the structures.  It was so hot and humid that we were moving quite slowly.

A drive along the Rajpath gave us good views of the India Gate (memorial to 90,000 Indians who gave their lives in WW1)
 at one end and the Parliament/Secretariat, and the Presidential Palace.

Lunch was at Chor Bizarre whee Amit explained the various Indian dishes.  I am finding the food very spicy and my appetite very small, which is ok except it causes concern to servers and others [ Larry makes up for it ].
At the Masjid-I-Jahan-Numa, India's largest mosque, we had to leave our shoes outside, with no confidence they would still be there when we came out. 

 It is a huge place, and can accomodate something like 25,000 worshipers.  Today there were very few.  We could see the Red Fort but didn't visit it [as we were tired and would see a larger version in Agra].  The area in this part of Old Delhi is crowded, dirty and poor.  We got into terrible traffic jam - totally unbelievable by Canadian standards.  Sukhdev is unflappable, squeezing into and through tiny gaps between other cars, bikes, tuk-tuks and vendors stalls, to say nothing of pedestrians [ all with Amit hanging out the window calling out the micro-clearances].
We ended at Raj Ghat, where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated.  It is a pilgrimage site and we watched many people file past.


After a cool bath and rest, we were back in the car to go to the Lodi Gard Restaurant for dinner.  It was lovely to sit in the flickering candlelight under the trees and enjoying a good dinner.  We were tired and glad that service was fairly quick so we couled get back to the hotel and relax [ Larry is a bit under the weather with the travelers disease ]. 

Sunday September 15 - Delhi to Agra (missed entry)

Again we awoke early, but feeling a bit more rested. The hotel is lovely and we hate to leave. Sukhdev picked us up promptly at 9 and we left the city for Agra. We were soon on an expressway travelling through the large city of Noia where many huge apartment buildings and offices are under construction. Then out into countryside that resembles Southern Ontario if you don't look too closely at the vegetation. The air everywhere is very hazy. Thank goodness for this very comfortable, roomy, air-conditioned Toyota van! There is only light traffic, but lots of motorbikes carrying whole families. Usually the driver wears a helmet, but none of the passengers do. We passed an accident scene and saw several motorbikes stopped. Sukhdev said that the bike drivers weave in and out of traffic so he's not surprised. To our Canadian eyes all the traffic is chaotic, but it seems accidents are rare. As we approached Agra, the traffic became much more dense and chaotic, with all kinds of vehicles, motor- , animal- , and human-powered, as well as animals and people wandering or even lying on the streets. Sukhdev is skillful and threaded through all of it calmly and efficiently. The hotel, while not as luxurious as The Imperial, is very nice. The grounds are extensive and lush. We saw a large pool, but didn't use it. Our local rep met us, got us through the check-in process and made sure we had what we needed. Late in the afternoon, our guide, Guru, arrived and we had a sunset tour of Agra Fort. It is red sandstone but within the vast fort is a residential section with a harem area, audience areas and so on, all in white marble with beautiful inlays of semi-precious stones. 


There are wonderful views of the Taj Mahal. We also saw processions of singing & dancing crowds, celebrating the Festival of Ganesh, the Elephant god. Very colourful and joyous. Although our restaurant for dinner was just across from the hotel, Sukhdev insisted on driving us -- with good reason -- because the traffic is so heavy and the streets so crowded it would not be safe on foot. The meal at A Pinch of Spice was the most enjoyable we've had in India. It was mildly spiced with about 6 or 7 delicious dishes. 

It's a family restaurant so we enjoyed seeing kids having fun. We were ready to turn in as soon as we got back to the hotel, managing to fight off sleep only until about 10pm. 

All Photos of the Day

 

 

Monday 15 & 16 September Agra (Taj Mahal) & Jaipur

We were up and on our way to the Taj Mahal by 5:45am in order to enter at sunrise.  Like everywhere security is tight.  We're getting very accustomed to being patted down and having the car scanned by sensors everywhere.  
At the Taj, we had to park a long distance away and take a small tram to the site, where we had another walk to the Taj itself. It really is as astonishing as we had heard -- more beautiful than any building we've ever seen.  We chose not to have our photo taken on "Diana's bench" but our guide kindly shot pictures of us several other places.  He said some people want to sit where she was photographed, but most people prefer not too because she was an unhappy unlucky lady.
The Taj Mahal has been photographed and described very well so many times, I won't even try, but it is indeed breath-taking.


Back at the hotel at 7:30 we had an excellent breakfast, then packed up and met Guru and Sukhdev for the trip to Fatehpur Sikri.  This is another Mughal fort, an hour or so from Agra. Along the way we saw busy markets, more crazy traffic, sometimes tuk-tuks carrying 8 people; we found it crowded with 2 in Delhi.  The fort is a vast red sandstone structure with beautiful carvings.  The king had 3 wives: Muslim, Hindu and Christian.  Each wife had her own residence in the fort.  

Attached to the fort is a lovely mosque which we saw from a distance but did not visit.
Leaving the fort, we dropped Guru (guide) off to catch local transportation back to Agra, and proceeded on our way to Jaipur on a very good highway though similar agricultural country side with occasional villages and markets.
Coming into Jaipur was once again to be plunged into chaos, but Sukhdev is familiar with the city and navigated to the hotel easily.  Security is not so tight here, with a check of the car at the gate, a detector and scanner at the door, but no pat-down. [of course just down the hall from our room 2 soldiers with rifles sit opposite each other.  I waved last night and they jumped to their feet and saluted]
As usual, we were greeted by a very pleasant local rep who outlined our stay and saw us through the check-in.
The room here is far nicer than the one in Agra, with a desk for the computer, chairs and a nice view of the pool area.  Sukhdev picked us up at 7 to drive us to the very grand hotel for dinner. It was a very very nice dining experience with attentive staff and a conversation with the charming chef.  There were dancers performing outside in the garden and we had a good view from our table.  Unfortunately, by the time we got back to our own hotel Janice was hit with the dread traveller's illness.  We hope that, like Larry, she recovers quickly.  At least the timing was good. 
All Photos of the Day

Tuesday 17 September - Jaipur

I stayed at the hotel while Larry visited the museum and other sites; he has written it up him self below
[  We met our guide, Mahendra, together but Janice was not up to the morning tour.  We first had a photo-op at the Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds.  It was built as a viewing place for the sequestered ladies of the court to view the excitement of the city.

We then went on to the Jantar Mantar, an unbelievably large assortment of astronomical/astrological instruments which on a sundial basis allows calculation of planet movements, time of day down to seconds, latitude and longitude etc.  Marvelous collection but on a scale that defies imagination.


Then off to the City Palace, still the home of the royal family,  but now a museum of 19th century men's and ladies gowns and military weapons.

We visited an artist exhibit as well and with great resistance I sat for an explanation of the artist's techniques with natural dyes and a single hair brush.  He did a free sketch for Janice and I but unfortunately I was led to buy an excellent elephant painting and because I was the first customer of the day he threw in a second free drawing of an elephant on genuine 19th century rice paper legal documents which he bought in bulk at auction (really!)

Back to the hotel to see Janice. Skipped the lunch at the Spice Court Restaurant but Janice is feeling a bit better so we hope to make it back to the Rambagh Palace for dinner.
In the afternoon the hotel staff brought Janice 2 dozen roses to make her feel better.  I think it worked as we will make dinner tonight ]
In the evening we returned to the Rambaugh Palace for dinner, and again it was just great.  I didn't eat much, but what I had was delicious.  This time we sat outside on the terrace where we had an excellent of the dancers.
All Photos of the Day

Wednesday 18 September - Jaipur

We met Mahendra, our guide, and Sukhdev early for the trip to the Amber Fort.  As we got close, we stopped for a photo op with a young elephant, then joined the lineup for the elephant ride up the hill to the fort.  There were many vendors but they are not insistent or rude, so not a problem.  Eventually it was our turn and we sat on the seat on the elephant's back.  It was difficult to get balanced, and also to keep our feet from banging into the walls.  Not a comfortable ride, but an interesting experience. 

Once up the hill we climbed further into the fort and discovered a wow-wow-wow residential area, with beautiful carvings, mirrored mosaics, frescoes and architecture.  So beautiful!




From the fort we drove to a jewellery manufactory where we saw the process of cutting and polishing gems and their setting into silver, then many beautiful pieces of jewelery.  We resisted but it was hard.
From there, we continued to a textile operation.  I had fun block printing a piece of cloth and then we SHOPPED.
We didn't have the same resistance here and its clear we a capacity problem with our luggage.  What to do?  [Janice got a cotton/silk table cloth,  and Larry succumbed to the lure of 6 custom tailored shirts]
Our evening meal was in a private home, Sankotra Haveli, where we were hosted by the patriarch and his son and daughter-in-law.  They explained that their fore-fathers were feudal lords under a maharaja until that system was mostly done away with after the independence of India in 1948.  They retained this 200 year old large house in Jaipur and some acres in their home village, which they still have.  24 members of the extended family live together.
We were greeted with red dots on our foreheads and flower garlands around our necks.  the meal was varied and delicious, though once again I ate very little.  It was our first time eating goat, and we quite enjoyed it.  This couple's 9-year old son  is away at boarding school and apparently just starting to do better in most subjects except English.
After the meal we returned to our hotel where the tailor was patiently waiting with Larry's new shirts.