Our first visit to India and what a trip. We had originally envisaged a small group tour but as we tried to customize our trip it soon became evident that we would be better off with a private tour. We booked ourselves a flight to Delhi with Virgin Atlantic having previously e mailed our flight details to Gopal. His driver Vinod was waiting for us in the airport , welcomed us with flower garlands and took us on an introductory tour of Delhi. We were to spend much of the next week with Vinod and we found this quiet unassuming man to be brilliant. He was like a waiter in an expensive restaurant, ever present, ever watchful but never intrusive. His driving in crazy Indian traffic,his punctuality and manners never failed.
Next day we were shown around Delhi by tour guide Shiva who was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, but allowing us to dictate the pace......a great day out.
We had made our own decision to go off piste at this point deciding we would take the train from Delhi to Agra,just for the experience. Vinod took us to the station and helped us find the office where tourists can buy train tickets for the next day. He drove us back to our hotel and took our baggage in the car to Agra. The next morning was fun ,our train was cancelled and we spent the next couple of hours going to a tourist office to change our ticket for a later train. This train happened to leave from a different station and the eight mile drive across Delhi in a tuk tuk can only be described as one of India's most memorable experiences. We sent a text to Vinod and after our one hour forty minutes on the Gatimaan Express he was there, waiting for us on the platform at Agra.
A wonderful day in Agra with guide Amir Khan, a witty and informative guide who is also handy with a camera ( no need to pay the official photographers). The Taj Mahal doesn't need any description it simply surpasses anything you expect.
A lovely, quieter day with Vinod on the long drive from Delhi to Ranthambore. A number of stops ( at our discretion ) for sights and food. The road trip itself is just a great window on rural India.
Two nights in Ranthambore ( wonderful hotel), two safari trips and four tigers seen close up. We became minor celebrities as virtually nobody gets that lucky.
On to Jaipur, nice road trip with various stops, (at our discretion) Full day with guide Vipin, again , well informed and entertaining. A good guide makes such a difference to your experience and he was good.
We had booked our own internal flight from Jaipur to Varanasi with the wonderfully named Spicejet.. I was concerned that our flight left Jaipur at 6:00 A,M. and so I had asked Gopal if getting there that early would be a problem. Of course not, he said your driver will take you. So our last ride with Vinod to the airport at 4:00 A.M. By now we had a good insight into his family life, his standard of living ,and his aspirations ( he would like to own a Royal Enfield ). Goodbye Vinod and thanks for being such a great part of our trip.... you are very good at what you do.
We arrived at Varanasi expecting to be met by tour guide Ravi. We were actually met by an assistant of his, Janak and were driven around by an amazing young driver ( 18 or 19 year old) called Arjun.
Two days packed with Varanasi and The Ganges, very close up This was fast and intense and Janak rather set the pace here. Gopal had booked us a quite splendid stay in The Ramada Plaza which gave us the space to recuperate. An amazing couple of days.
Next morning our driver met us, again rather early, for our flight back to Delhi.
Gopal lives in Jaipur and he came to meet us at our hotel there. He asked some quite searching questions about our experiences with his driver and guides. He has a hands on approach to running his business, takes customer feedback very seriously and has built a well deserved reputation for running a very tight ship. For this reason he doesn't arrange internal flights or train tickets. As we found in Delhi , such things can go wrong and he quite reasonably would not want to be responsible for things over which he had no control. However he could teach our holiday companies a thing or two and we have no hesitation in recommending him for any trip you want to make in Northern India.
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