India – a collage of cultures

Our trip was a great success. We saw wonders and enjoyed it immensely.  Big Five did a great job.  Please tell them so.  If they want a quote for their PR purposes I would be happy to provide one.  In sum, the itineraries worked, the drivers, guides and planes worked. And the people at hotels had obviously been told treat us well.  Of course Jai made a huge difference.  Having him with us made us feel safe at each logistical step.  We would recommend him to anyone doing an extensive India trip.  He is simply a good man with a keenly developed sense of responsibility to his guests.   

I suppose the most striking thing about this India trip and the last one too, is the warmth and diversity of the population.  India is not a culture but a collage of cultures.  And even the poorest people are more friendly than a tourist has a right to expect. One does not understand India by reading some books and taking two trips.  But maybe one understands that one does not understand and glories the more for the magic.  It is sad to see the Muslim population becoming more distinct and conservative.  Alas we too have our polarization in America.

Mumbai:  This vast, teeming metropolis is a shock to the senses.  The Ambani 27 story mansion is only a block or two from slums.  There are people everywhere rich, poor and in between.  For a traveler it is hard to judge the middle class.  Only on airplanes did we see how many people live relatively well.  The Taj Mahal Palace is a truly great hotel and the suite we were assigned was awesome.  While we were not ready for a 5:00 am start the fish market is worth it and then some.  Our local guide and driver were excellent.

Cochin:  This was a great place for Christmas.  Not only is there a significant Christian population but much of the town puts out lights for the holiday.  The mass at the old Church was moving with people of all hues in attendance.  We do not know what to say about the Brunton Boat House.  It is depressingly dated to check in, but the people try and the rooms work.  Perhaps the key would be to communicate the choice of this old building in a perfect location with a city hotel that was modern and more functional.  We enjoyed the house boat trip and walking around the forth area.  We had a fine local guide.

Mysore:  This was the least interesting spot.  The silk factory interesting and the musicians we had were nice.  The Radisson is a fine hotel.  Our guide was pleasant and competent.  I think we would skip this city on a trip.

Hampi:  This city was in some ways the highlight of the trip.  We had a great guide. Both the active and the ancient temples are very interesting.  The chariot and the carvings on the old temple are priceless.  The elephant and the monkeys in the active temple are good too.  It was a pleasure to find kids and parents flirting with us for pictures.  It was also very interesting to see the people working in the fields. Evolve Back is an elegant hotel with a fantastic staff.  Hari and Swathi made the stay very special.  This hotel tries to be an Aman but it does not quite make it.  Still the people are so nice that one cannot quibble.  Hampi was our best “Hindu” experience.

Hyderabad:  The Taj is a great hotel with a fine staff.  Some people go there just for the hotel.  We can understand that.  The fort is a good half hour, but it is huge and two hours becomes a lot.  The palaces are a bit disappointing.  But I think this city belongs on trip both as a modern commercial center and as the site of a great hotel.  Our special dinner on the Jade Terrace with the dancer was wonderful. She would be an addition to anyone’s trip whether a family or a group.  

The game camp:  The accommodations are even  little more primitive than we expected but the game drives were wonderful.  We had six viewings of two different tigers (our of the 23 in the reserve).  We did not know our odds but most people get to see a tiger here. Having the all day pass made a huge difference—long days but the chance to see the tigers without 10 jeeps sharing the space.  As you know we have done four African safaris.  This is likely our last safari because we have done it.  But what a way to end the trip.  We were on several occasions within 15 to 20 feet of the tigers, getting face to face and tap on views.  They are magnificent and complete our wild life experience.

Again we thank you for the trip,… for making everything work and Big Five for excellent arrangements.

J. & J.R. – Clients

January 14, 2020

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