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G Adventures Delhi to Kathmandu

G Adventures has basic, standard, and comfort level tours. This was a standard tour.

I really enjoyed this trip, but it was hard travel during the India portion – 118F/45C degrees, dirty and chaotic cities, Delhi belly, and the bumpiest, craziest van and tuk-tuk rides of my life (even though I’ve traveled extensively through Asia). Yet, there was something really great and memorable about each city: the temples and Red Fort in Old Delhi, the markets and amber palace in Jaipur, the Taj Mahal in Agra, a hindu blessing in Orchha, and the ceremonies on the Ganges in Varanasi. I’m glad I experienced all of that even though I do not have a desire to return.

On the other hand, I absolutely loved Nepal! It was still hot and more humid than India, but it was bearable. Chitwan National Park and Pokhara were beautiful and full of really wonderful outdoors activities: jeep safari, jungle walk, canoe, boat, hike, etc. I would definitely go back to Nepal.

Tour manager: our tour manager was good. He was especially funny when teaching us how to bollywood dance! My only complaint is that in the beginning, he did not set the expectation that we would go long periods with out an opportunity for food. It was common to go 8-9 hours without a proper meal. I am not the type to fill up on cookies and chips (ok, I do love the Pringles), so this was difficult. I would strongly recommend to G Adventures to break for lunch in between the Amber Palace and City Palace in Jaipur. 5-6 hours in the oven like outdoors without a break is too much. I didn’t get to enjoy the second palace at all.

After a few days, I started buying bananas for the long trips and I also had a box of Larabars (all natural fruit and nut bars) that I wouldn’t have survived comfortably without! So bring some substantial trail mix type food!

Length of stay: If you can arrive a day early to explore Delhi and leave a day later to explore Kathmandu, I would highly recommend it. We hired a private city guide in Old Delhi upon arrival and it was well worth it! The private guide was helpful and enjoyable because it would have been difficult to navigate Delhi on our own, and we got a good history of the places we visited without the inconvenience of a large tour group. Also, If I had stayed an extra day (or left in the evening) at the end in Kathmandu, I would have been able to take a plane ride around Mount Everest.

Accommodations: the hotels were basic, but perfectly adequate. Delhi and Kathmandu were a bit dingy but clean – and the rest were really good with comfortable beds (a few roaches and spiders, but that’s to be expected).

Remember, this is a budget tour that’s relatively inexpensive for 14 nights of accommodations. Each place had a restaurant with a decent selection. The staff was incredibly friendly at most places. This is the only tour I’ve ever taken where breakfast was not included, so keep that in mind. Still, the hotels had breakfast for no more than 4-5 USD/person.

Packing advice: bring antibiotics, pepto/Imodium, and electrolytes for the Delhi belly – I’d say 80-90% chance you will need it. Also, visit a travel clinic before departure to get malaria pills and vaccinations. Bring sunscreen, deet, and Lysol for your shoes and make sure you have a bag to separate your shoes from your clothes in your luggage. you sort of have to embrace the germs – you can’t avoid them! Also, bring a universal adapter – different settings worked at different hotels – it wasn’t consistent.

A carry-on size roller bag is ok, but a backpack is better. I only had a few times when it was awkward to have a roller bag – getting on and off the overnight train and getting to the hotel in Kathmandu – but not a big deal – I did have to have someone carry my bag up the stairs at the train station in Varanasi.

Tour demographics: This trip of 15 travelers was a very mixed group with an age range of early 20’s to early 60’s. It was mostly female, which is typical for tours, but there were three males. Countries represented: England, America, and Denmark. Everyone was friendly and got along well. We all had a really good time together!

Overall: We had a wonderful, although exhausting, experience. What I really like about G Adventures is that you have the convenience of a tour with a guide, accommodations, safety and companionship in the group, and mishaps taken care of for you, but it doesn’t have a typical touristy feel to it – no tourist traps or hokey “authentic experiences” forced on you!

I would not recommend this as a first trip to Asia – try Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam first! But if you are an adventure seeker and interested in culture, customs, and world religions – and don’t mind sacrificing some comfort to have an immersed experience on a budget – then this trip is for you!

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Like a Rolling Stone

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The best thing about being a wanderer, or at times being consumed by wanderlust, is the stories you collect. In addition to collecting my own stories, I like to hear about other people’s adventures.

I had a 7 hour delay at the Kathmandu airport – which worked out well because I wound up on a direct flight to Bangkok on the very posh Thai Airways flight that would have cost me $900 if I booked it directly.

While sitting there at the airport, I met a really cool chick from the U.S. who just spent a month hiking in the Himalayas. What a story! In addition to telling me about treacherous, life threatening pathways, being soaking wet in the frigid great outdoors, and appearing in newspapers after a theft at the campsite, she also told me about leeches. She showed me her battle scars and described the leeches as if they were featured in a horror flick. Continue reading

Rhinos and Tigers and Bears!

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Crossing the border from India to Nepal was like finding relief on a lush deserted island in a sea of humanity. Immediately, the streets were cleaner, the people were fewer, and the scenery was greener. Cows munching garbage were replaced by goats feasting on fresh grass. Aridity was replaced with humidity, and the smog gave way to bluer skies.

After a visit to Gautama Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini, we headed to Chitwan National Park for a few days. The lodge was wonderful, with gorgeous views, excellent food, and plenty of activities to arrange.

During our stay, we canoed past crocodiles and monkeys, spotted a rhinoceros and an eagle on a jeep safari, crossed paths with deer and wild boar on a hike through the jungle, and rode an elephant. It was amazing to be surrounded by nature and wildlife!

I admit, I was starting to regret my decision to take the jungle walk as we were listening to instructions on how to react to a charging elephant or rhinoceros, but it was too late to turn back, and quite fortunately, we didn’t run into any rhinos and tigers and bears…even though they all shared the woods with us!

Chitwan National Park, Nepal

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The holy city of Varanasi was incredibly moving. This is what I wanted to experience more than anything on this trip. We watched as men oversaw the cremation ceremonies for their fathers and devotees sat on the steps or in boats on the Ganges as they placed their candle lit wishes into to sacred water.

I am always moved by the energy humans tap into when they look upon something with great reverence. It does not matter what their religion – or lack thereof – or if they draw on that energy in a temple, church, mosque, or simply by gazing at the stars and feeling at one with the universe – that pure, beautiful energy has so many names and is found through such varying vehicles, but it’s essence is the same.

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Orchha, India

Orchha, India

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After a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra, we made our way to the town of Orchha. While it was still hot, arid, and dusty, it was smaller and less crowded than the larger cities of Delhi and Jaipur. It reminded me much more of Southeast Asia.

There were six beautiful palaces in Orchha, as well as a number of temples. We went to a Hindu temple (Ram Raja, I believe) and observed a ceremony/blessing. It is interesting to see how much religions have in common with one another. This blessing, in which the priest blessed sweets brought by the followers, reminded me very much of catholic communion. Hinduism also has the trinity of Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma.

After the ceremony, we participated in a cooking class, where we learned to make curries and various other dishes. I literally wrote “I give up” on my recipe notes after too many complicated steps! We all know, cooking is not a talent of mine, although, I certainly enjoyed eating the results! I think I’ll work on fine tuning my toaster oven skills before I tackle curry!

~ LiAnn

A Passage to India

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Arriving in Delhi was a shock to to senses. The air was hot, thick, and smelled of burning wood. The streets were bustling with cars, tuk-tuks, pedestrians, cows, and trucks overflowing with unidentifiable cargo. The electrical wiring hung twisted and dangerous over the walkways. Chickens lay ill and stacked in their cages, and merchants sold spoiled meat in the 105 degree heat.

Intertwined with this madness was an indescribable beauty. Women clad in brightly colored saris walked arm-in-arm down the streets; an overjoyed man shouted praise to Shiva in a Hindu temple; the smell of spices permeated the air as locals shared a samosa prepared on the street in front of us.

Here, I am an obvious foreigner. My strangely pale skin and red hair attract many stares and more than a few requests to pose with local tourists for photos – which I gladly do! Just as we grew up with tales of a far away and exotic India – here, I am a peculiar stranger from a far away western land.

Our second stop, Jaipur, was equally chaotic, but had its own individual personality and charm. Glorious palaces were set between street upon street of markets. The smell of urine, burning garbage, cow, and elephant was interspersed with pepper, ginger, fried potatoes, and roasting melons in the hot sun.

At one point, we stumbled across a wedding ceremony – and we foreigners were fascinated by the tradition. As we watched, the locals watched us too, and we all started taking pictures of each other and then posed together for photos. It was great!

My favorite part was when a little girl rode up to me on her bicycle and very slowly and determinedly said, “Hellloo. How are yooou?” I replied, “I’m good! How are you?” And she covered her mouth, giggling, and ran away!

I have travelled to approximately 40 countries, and I can truly say that I’ve never experienced anything quite like India.

~ LiAnn, 2013