Etched in the memory... The India experience
Suzanne and Richard Cosgrave travelled to India with Cox & Kings earlier this year; their knowledgeable guide, some Bollywood filming and a stay at the Ramgarh Lodge hotel were among some of their highlights.
We had planned to visit India in 2009, but got cold feet when the Mumbai bombing happened and instead travelled with Cox & Kings to China – a fabulous trip, but that’s another subject.
Our experience of the China tour in 2009 had been so good that Cox & Kings was the definite front-runner for the India trip when we looked again at a visit. We wanted a smallish tour group, good hotels and knowledgeable guides, so the Cox & Kings Indian Experience tour fitted the specification perfectly. We were travelling as a threesome – all in our mid 50s – and we had some apprehension about the bus journeys, but trusted Cox & Kings on that.
What made the trip as good as it was? Our guide, Arvind. We could see what he meant when he said on more than one occasion: “It isn’t organised”. Living in the UK, perhaps we don’t notice just how many things are ‘organised’. It seemed clear that life for everyone in India involves some organisational battle every single day – Arvind’s ability to deliver a faultlessly organised tour for 22 of us was truly amazing. He thought of everything – his attention to detail was superb, ensuring we were as prepared as we could be and that the tour would go well. The experience of travelling by 4x4 up and down to Amber Fort seemed just another of those Indian experiences we had every day. As before, it all worked – we all got into a vehicle, got delivered to the right place, had an excellent tour of the fort and then returned to our bus – it was only afterwards that Arvind confessed that as he saw his party of 22 disappearing off in five Jeeps that his confidence left him momentarily, as he saw us all going off in different directions.
His knowledge of English culture was accurate and his insights of the relative challenges for India thought provoking. We know he couldn’t do more than scratch the surface, but his passion for his country and frankness about the reality of life for many people brought the tour to life. We were so grateful for the openness with which he addressed subjects such as caste, corruption, education, politics, the British in India and the religious tensions – and, in fact, any subject we cared to ask him about always received a considered answer.
The group gelled well. We spent some long bus journeys together, but also had enough time for meals by ourselves and space to relax.
The highlight? So many in just nine days – of course the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri – such an evocative site, the charm of Qutb Minar, seeing a Bollywood film being made at Humayun’s tomb, the enchanting eight-year-old child who came on to the coach and performed magic tricks. The complete luxury of the Ramgarh Lodge hotel near Jaipur provided the ultimate contrast after the crowds in the cities. India is a culture shock – everyone said it would be – and there is just no other way of describing it. We felt we really had an honest introduction to the Indian experience and will certainly want to go back to see more of this extraordinary country.
View Cox & Kings' holidays to India.