Rajasthan... a land of contrasts
What better way to see such a large area of India on a first visit than by train?
The luxurious Deccan Odyssey train with its beautifully furnished cabins, dining cars, bars and spa provides a wonderful base for a week’s sightseeing. If you don’t mind a little jolting at night as you speed between destinations, then the joy of unpacking just once is worth the slight inconvenience. We chose the Indian Odyssey tour of Rajasthan – including the Golden Triangle – which took us from Delhi to Mumbai with a hotel stay at each end.
The staff on the train were exceptionally friendly, helpful and efficient, especially the train’s customer services manager and our personal butler – what a luxury! Not to mention the restaurant staff and chef, and there was always someone in attendance to smooth the way when we were touring during the day. We soon forgot the unavoidable two hour delay at the start as we boarded and enjoyed our first meal with fellow guests.
The journey was full of contrasts and colour. The Lutyens-designed government buildings and wide roads of New Delhi gave way to noisy crowded roads, teeming markets and Old Delhi’s fascinating monuments; the impressive Jama Masjid Mosque, Emperor Humayun’s tomb and distinctive Red Fort in particular.
A warm welcome at the train station
The huge, open air laundry in Mumbai and the makeshift homes along the railway at the end of our trip were a far cry from Sir George Gilbert Scott’s elegant University Library and Clock Tower. The modern high-rise buildings that dominate Mumbai’s skyline reputedly include the world’s most expensive 27-storey home. A must for everyone to see, we were told. There was also an unexpected mixture of the two cultures when you suddenly come upon the two now-painted-and-flaking fountains, designed by Rudyard Kipling’s father, now almost totally surrounded and obscured by market produce.
The Tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah
Our route took us to Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Vadodara with their fine mosques, palaces, forts and mausoleums. The gleaming white marble of the Taj Mahal and the lesser-known ‘Baby Taj’– the Tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah, the red sandstone of Agra Fort, the ‘pink’ city of Jaipur, the distinctive Amber Fort, Jaipur’s lavish City Palace – home of the Maharaja of Jaipur – opposite the amazing Jantar Mantar Observatory and the Laxmi Vilas Palace near Vadodara, where we were treated to delicious snacks and entertainment in the ornate Durbar Hall, were all impressive in their own ways. The colourful internal courtyards and incredibly skilful decorative work wherever we went were magnificent. Our visit to the huge Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur ended with a surprise dinner in a rooftop courtyard. From here we could see the distinctive blue-painted houses below, giving Jodhpur its name of ‘blue city’, the colour slowly giving way to orange as the sun set.
A fascinating day safari at the beginning of our tour provided a totally different experience. Home to over forty tigers, the Ranthambore National Park was a very special and peaceful place. It is pot luck as to whether you see the elusive tigers. Unfortunately we didn’t, but our fellow travellers in another vehicle were luckier. Nevertheless, we were able to enjoy the deer, birds, a mongoose, crocodiles and even the monkey which stole my husband’s hat! Most of all, we loved the atmosphere of the place. On another day, the optional tour of a pottery and a weaving village near Jodhpur was a highlight. It gave us the opportunity to see more of the countryside and speak to the wonderful communities we met there. We supported them by buying their produce.
Due to the flexibility of the itinerary and the helpfulness of our tour manager and driver, we were able to make a personal visit to the Jaipur foot and limb centre. It is one of a number of centres making simple prosthetic limbs for amputees, totally free of charge to those in the most need, and whose beneficiaries total over 1.4 million. As a member of Rotary that supports this amazing project, I appreciated the opportunity to visit. So thank you Cox & King for a well-run and inspiring journey.
Shepherds in rural village
Anne & Jeff McCormack travelled on Cox & Kings’ Indian Odyssey – A Luxury Train Journey. Cox & Kings arranges escorted group tours and tailor-made private travel throughout India. To visit many of the stunning sights described in this article, options include our Golden Triangle & Ranthambore group tour, or Classic Rajasthan. Alternatively, find out more about all our holidays to India here.Share: [Sassy_Social_Share]
- Tags: Adventure, Art & Architecture, Cox & Kings Clients, Culture & History, India, Indian Subcontinent, Train Journeys, Wildlife