| Delhi, Agra, Rajahstan
from Part 2
Mahadev Palace Hotel, Jaisalmer
Weather: sunny, no clouds. Fresh in
morning, warm/hot in the
afternoon. Clean air.
We get up late and are ready for the sightseeing only at 11am.
Yesterday we agreed with the driver to leave at 2pm for Khuri - that
means that by 2pm we must finish the sightseeing and the lunch. Since
it's already 11am, time is a bit short.
After breakfast we take a riksha to the town (30 Rs), then start
exploring Jaisalmer. We first head towards the fort, then spend
almost 45 minutes in the Maharaja Mahal palace. At 12:30pm we hire a
riksha for one hour to see the lake and the Salam Singh and the
We first drop by the lake, which right now looks like a
waste dump with green water full of algae. The next stop is the Salam
Singh haveli, which we only see briefly from the outside. Lastly we
visit the Patwonki haveli - a very impressive piece of architecture.
Time is actually too short and at 1:40pm we start our lunch. We are
back at the hotel at 2:20pm, where we agree with the driver to leave
for Khuri at 3:15pm.
In Khuri there should be an interesting village and 80 metres high sand
dunes according to the Footprint guide. The 45 km drive takes 50
minutes. In Khuri there are several guesthouses which also organise
dromedar safaris. The driver initially brings us to a camel owner, who
asks 750 Rs for a two hours camel ride followed by a dinner and a
Rajahstani dance performance. So we ask how much only the dromedar ride
is - 300 Rs. But the Footprint guide says that camel rides cost 50
Rs/hour, and since we are only two hours away, 300 Rs seem overpriced.
We ask if he can reduce the price, but the lowest he is willing to go
is Rs 800 for three dromedars (= 267 Rs/person). He even insists that
this is the union price (are all camel riders unionised now?) which
applies to all camel owners.
After some discussion we simply walk away to the next camel owner, who
now offers the two hours ride for 150 Rs/person. So we take this offer.
The camel ride turns out to be a pretty short one, and only lasts for
about 30 minutes to the top of the dunes near the Khuri village.
dunes are only 10 metres high (just guessing here), so we wonder where
the high ones are. They tell us that the big ones quite far away
(several days to get there). Maybe...
At 6:40pm we drive back to Jaisalmer, after having heard the offer of
the camel owner (dinner + Rajahstani dance performance for 300 Rs,
later reduced to 200 Rs). We could have had dinner in Khuri, but
we prefer eating something in a restaurant à la carte. In
Jaisalmer we have dinner at the Trio restaurant (we had dinner there
already yesterday - nice view of the fort from the restaurant on thr
rooftop at night).
18.12: Jaisalmer ->
Sagar Hotel, Bikaner. 1200 Rs for a
900 for a single. Dark
rooms with old-style furniture, TV, fridge, telephone, A/C, fan, bath
with shower, hot water 24h/day from a centralised system. The hotel has
a decent restaurant and offers Internet access. Everything is ok,
although the Footprint guide wrote that this is a modern building, but
judging from the poor state of everything, this can't be the case.
Helpful staff and in the evening Rajahstan music and dance performance
in the inner court (noisy, but only until 10pm).
Weather: sunny and dry the whole day;
cloud in the sky. Fresh in the
early morning and evening/night, but it gets really hot in the car
during the day and we have to use the A/C - I didn't book a car with
A/C, because I thought it would not be necessary in December in
Today we get up at 7:30am and are ready to leave the hotel at 9:15am
after the breakfast. I ask the driver if he can bring us to 'sunset
point', from where you have a nice view of the town - but only at
sunset unfortunately. So after a while I suggest to go to another
point, more to the east, from which there should be a good view of the
town. I don't know what the driver does - he keeps asking several
the street for directions, then in the end brings us to a spot on the
road to Bikaner, probably 10km or more away from Jaisalmer - not the
place I was talking about.
So we continue driving and now it's suddently 11am. At 11:20am we reach
Pokaran, where we have a look at the Pokaran fort (50 Rs/person, 50 Rs
camera permit). Not impressive at all, and in fact a disappointment. At
11:45am we leave the fort and continue the journey to Bikaner. We reach
Bikaner (332 km from Jaisalmer) at 2:50pm - a good time. The road
conditions renge from good to very good and there is little traffic, so
the ride proceeds smoothly without accidents.
In Bikaner we have some food at the restaurant of the Bhairon Vilas
hotel, which should be a good place according to the Footprint guide.
Service is so-so - we have to wait forever for the food (people are
unbelievably slow there). The hotel itself is not very good (a pretty
weird place actually).
Bikaner is not much of a town (in terms of sights). The only
interesting thing is the fort, which however closes at 4:30pm. We try
to get to the Kote gate, from where you can take a walk around Bikaner.
We cancel that idea pretty soon, because the entire old town is in a
huge mess. Dirt and dirt everywhere, tons of traffic everywhere. We
simply walk back to the car and then drive to the hotel (see above).
19.12: Bikaner -> Shekhawati ->
Hotel Tiger Den, Sariska. 990/890 Rs
double/single room, dirty,
with basic furniture, but with TV, telephone and (powerful) electrical
heater. The room is big enough, bright enough. The toilet comes with a
water boiler (25 litres, 2KW, enough for a shower). But overall the
room is overpriced at
990 Rs (also the nearby Sariska Palace is overpriced at US $ 110 per
night). By the way, it appears that after 10:30pm they cut off the
electricity for the water boiler.
Weather: sunny, dry, no clouds the
day. Fresh in the morning in
Bikaner, warm the whole day, hot in the car (A/C stopped working
yesterday a few hours after we paid the driver 960 Rs for the privilege
to use the A/C...). Quite cool in the evening in the Sariska NP.
We are ready at 9:15am after a not so special breakfast at the Sagar
hotel, then check out and drive to the Junagarh fort. This however only
opens at 10am (?!?), so we simply take some photos from outside. Then I
get some cash from an ATM.
At 10am we finally leave Bikaner and drive towards the Shekawati
region. While driving I check the guidebook and decide to spend the
night not in Mandawa, but in the Sariska Tiger Reserve, because I'm
tired of so many towns. After some discussion with the driver he agrees
with me about the new plan and even says it's a good idea, because
Sariska is a very nice place.
The drive starts, but around 1pm we are only in Fatehpur. We reach the
planned lunch break point (Nawalgarh, a town along the way) at 2pm,
after passing by Sikar. Then, somehow the driver loses the enthusiasm
for driving until Sariska and suggests that we spend the night in
Nawalgarh. After a talk with the locals about the way, he even says
that there is no road connecting Nawalgarh with Shahpura (a town on the
way to Sariska), even if the Footprint guide shows one on the map.
In Nawalgarh we make a stop at the Roop Niwas Palace hotel, where we
have a very basic lunch with snacks, since the main restaurant is
already closed. Then more discussion follows and the driver says now
that to get to Sariska we need to drive for five hours. He also says
that Nawalgarh has many interesting havelis to visit. I don't really
believe too much in these five hours, as it could be that the hotel
reception of the Roop Niwas hotel (who passed this information) passed
inaccurate information, hoping that we stay in their hotel. In any case
it's quite obvious that the driver heavily prefers that we stay in
Nawalgarh and doesn't want to drive to Sariska. But having to choose
between the Sariska National Park and Nawalgarh with its havelis, I
definitely prefer Sariska, as we've already seen too much architecture
in these 10 days.
After the lunch I tell the driver that we will drive to Sariska NP
(never mind if we arrive at 8pm, since now it's already 3pm). Then the
driver drives back across Nawalgarh (20 minutes to get out of town
across the maze of narrow roads - the havelis indeed look
interesting, because they are painted). Then we drive for a while along
the wrong direction and finally the driver starts driving in the right
direction. All in all we've probably lost one hour or more by driving
in a not optimised manner and on the wrong way.
The drive to the Sariska NP crosses the entire Shekawati region, a
rural region with more water than the Thar desert and therefore more
densely cultivated. We finally reach Sariska after dark at 6:40pm and
check in at the hotel (see above). The road is mostly in good
conditions, although for long parts it consists of just one lane.
Hotel Fifty Five (H-55), Connaught
New Delhi. 1463 Rs for a
small single room with no windows. Attached bath with electric water
boiler (big), small TV, telephone, furniture. Fan, no A/C. The room is
not bad, except that it's only good for the winter, because in summer
it will be too hot here without A/C. It's overpriced at 1462 Rs because
it is so small and has no A/C and no window, but it might be difficult
finding better priced accomodation in central Delhi. The room is clean.
Weather: foggy in the morning and
afternoon, and for the first time
since I'm in India the sky is overcast with a thin layer of clouds
which grows thicker in the afternoon (and the sun shines through as a
pale white disk). Cold in the morning and not much warmer during the
day - winter is approaching.
At 7am we wake up and are ready at 7:20am for the safari trip. It takes
some walking around to find the park headquarter which actually is very
close to the Tiger Den hotel. There there are lots of off-road vehicles
(uncovered - a tiger could in theory jump inside) and we take one. We
pay 700 Rs for a petrol vehicle + driver (would be 600 for a diesel
vehicle), 125 Rs entry fee for the vehicle and 200 Rs each to enter the
park (Indians pay only 20 Rs each). At 7:40am the trip begins.
For the next two and a half hours, until 11:15am, the driver slowly
drives in the park, first on the paved road, then on the track in the
forest and jungle. It appears that we get one of the better drivers,
because we hear later that other people got drivers which drove very
fast across the park or which didn't leave the paved road. We see
different species of deer (spotted, normal (?) and Sambal deer),
antelopes, different species of monkeys (macaques and langurs), wild
boars, many peacocks and other birds - no tigers or leopards, as these
are very difficult to spot, because there are only 25 tigers and 60
leopards in the park according to the driver. Overall most animals are
not afraid of the off-road vehicles, and simply don't care. Only the
spotted deers are a bit more reserved and keep a larger distance.
Overall the two and a half hours trip is quite interesting and
certainly worth the trip to the Sariska NP. At one station inside the
park there is a (malnourished) baby deer/antelope who is being
raised by the rangers, because its mother was killed by a tiger (as we
At 11:15am we are back in the hotel where we take a shower and have
breakfast. At 12:30pm we check out and drive back to Delhi. On the way,
at 3:40pm we make a stop in a highway McDonald restaurant, where I have
a Maharaja McChicken sandwich - tastes very bad, and one hour later I
still feel the bad taste in my mouth. The chicken meat is kind of a
weird round disk of pinkish-orange colour - something artificial,
definitely not chicken fillet.
At 4:45pm Shirley and Sarah want to do some shopping, so we stop at a
shopping complex a bit out of Delhi. This is not too big, if compared
with shopping complexes elsewhere in Asia, but is clean, elegant and
quite high-level. They have international brands and high quality
At 5:05pm I spot a waffle stall and ask for an apple waffle. They tell
me to have a seat and wait. At 5:10pm they still haven't started baking
the waffle, but an Indian family shows up and orders stuff - probably
also a waffle. It seems that the woman is quite pushy and is trying to
get her waffle done soon (even before mine). I get the feeling that I
should intervene and protect my place in the queue (I'm first), but I'm
not going to start a dispute over a waffle. Besides I'm not 100% sure
that she is really trying to push her way through the queue. In any
case my time is running out, as I have to meet Shirley on the ground
5:15pm and I wonder if I should cancel the waffle. Finally at 5:12pm
they start baking the waffle and at 5:15pm it's ready and I'm stand up
to get it. Well no, it turns out these people baked the waffle for the
Indian lady - not for me. They say, "Sir, please, just a minute, your
waffle is ready soon bla bla bla...". But the fact is that I have been
waiting for 10 minutes and have to leave. So I cancel the
Needless to say I'm pretty fed up. I get the impression that Indians
have no manners, because they are unable to queue up. I had a similar
situation in Bangkok airport at the Air India counter, where I was
queueing up. Several Indians were just not willing to queue up and were
trying to push their way through (had to remind twice the people that
there was a queue). In the plane an Indian guy was sitting on my
seat. The impression you get from
all this is that Indians don't like to queue up and follow rules.
After the shopping complex we drive to the Radisson hotel, where we
have dinner. At 7:30pm we drive to the airport where I leave Shirley
and Sarah who have their flight back to Kuala Lumpur at 9:40pm.
After this the driver tells me that he and this car are booked tomorrow
for another trip. Great - I had booked it until tomorrow, December
Some talking on the phone with Sanjay - he insists that I only booked a
car until December 20th, which is not true and I can easil prove with
the email exchange we had. Anyway, he has a smaller car and a different
driver ready for me for tomorrow. Not clear if we had a
misunderstanding or if Sanjay simply decided to put me on a different
car (actually there is no need for a huge car like a Qualis for one
After that I check my emails in an Internet cafe and then check in at
the Hotel 55 (the Yatri house is fully booked).
Rama Gardens hotel, 9/9 Vibhhavadi
Road Laksi, Bangkok 10210,
www.ramagardenshotel.com. 1883 THB for the room + 324 THB for the
breakfast. Room is nice, good furniture, TV, fridge, phone, A/C, very
comfortable bed, bath with shower (good shower with plenty of hot
water). Everything ok, the only thing to note is that the
infrastructure is a bit old - you can see it in the bathroom for
instance - but the room is nevertheless very comfortable. A bit
overpriced, but it is close to the airport (15 minutes by taxi, about
Weather: cold in the morning in Delhi
still fresh in the afternoon.
Fog in Delhi in the morning and still overcast in the afternoon when I
leave; the sun shines through in the afternoon as a pale white disk.
According to the driver the weather in Delhi is always like this
between November and February. Tropical weather in Bangkok.
I get up at 7am and am ready at 8:40am for the tour of Delhi. Sanjay
called at 8am and asked me to give the remaining balance of 2500 Rs to
him personally (not to the driver), because the driver doesn't work for
him. Our first stop is at Connaught place, which is very close to the
hotel. Weather conditions this morning are very bad for photography, as
the sky is overcast and there is fog in the city.
We then drive to the Jama masjid mosque, which is kind of
interesting, but the poor weather spoils all photos. There is a 150 Rs
charge for the camera, otherwise the entry is free. It is not possible
to enter into the mosque.
At 9:50 am the driver organises a riksha for me to drive me around the
Chandni Chowk road for about 20 minutes. Asking price is 100
Rs for one hour, driver waits for me at the Red Fort, but I decide to
skip the red fort, because with such impossible weather conditions all
photos would turn out bad anyway. We settle on 50 Rs for 20 minutes and
I then give the driver 70 Rs, because the bicycle ride takes half an
hour. The ride is interesting, but the town is very dirty. After that,
at 10:20am we drive to the Rajghat, the Mahatma Gandhi memorial. There
is not much to see there, and the place is mostly of symbolical value
for the Indians.
At 11:00am the driver drives to the Yatrihouse guesthouse, where I meet
Sanjay for the payment. We have a brief chat and I suggest to put a
road map of India into all his cars (Sanjay has five), because the
problem with Mukesh, our driver, was that he always had to ask the way
to people (Mukesh is 22 and quite new to the job; I guess that even a
more experienced driver
doesn't know all roads in India, and the roads are poorly marked
At 11:45am we drive to an Internet cafe on Connaught place (20 Rs for
30 minutes, 30 Rs for an hour; reasonably fast connection), where I
check the emails for about 45 minutes. After a lunch at a nearby cafe
we drive to the National Museum, which we reach at 1:55pm. Entry is 150
Rs + 300 Rs camera fee (almost nothing instead if you are an
The National Museum is very interesting, but it is much smaller than
the Egyptian National Museum in Cairo. Interesting, although there is a
limited display of Indus valley civilisation in Harappa and Mohenjo
Daro artifacts. My visit of the museum finishes at 3:10pm.
After that it's too late to drive to the Qutb Al Minar complex. Drive
time would be about 30-40 minutes and from there another 30-40 minutes
airport according to the driver, so there would be no time left to do
the sightseeing (takes one hour, given the size of the complex).
Besides, weather conditions are too bad for photography. So we simply
drive to the India gate, which however is unimpressive and only of
At 3:40pm we drive to the airport and manage to be there around 4:10pm.
The checkin proceeds smoothly, but the Air India flight only takes off
at 7:07pm, approx. 20 minutes later than the scheduled departure
(actually the departure time is 6:30pm, but the effective take-off time
is always a bit later than that).
We land in Bangkok airport about 20 minutes late, at midnight local
that my idea would be to spend the night in a hotel of the transfer
the airport, and so save time and the airport tax. But when I reach the
transfer counter of Singapore airlines, nobody is there and I don't
feel comfortable leaving my backpack unattended the whole night with
possibly nobody taking care of it (even though the other lady says
ground staff will automatically take care of it).
So I go through immigration, get my bag (this time there is almost no
waiting time) and start looking for a hotel. Not so good news - at the
hotel reservation counters in the arrivals they tell me the cheapest I
can find is in the 2000 Baht range, and I was hoping to find something
for less than 1000 Baht. Even the (neutral) information counter says
that all hotels near the airport are expensive. Strange, I remember
having read somewhere of below-1000-THB hotels near the airport, but
never mind I'll stay in a better place.