Wonderfully Engulfed in India
A Travel Notebook
Our World Magazine - April 2000

The only way to travel to Jaipur's Amber Fort is traditionally atop the gaily-festooned elephants.India, a massive country, is not a region that most travelers would want to visit alone or on a budget.  Realizing this, I wanted to assure my clients that they, would experience the splendors of the country: an adventure revealing bustling Bombay, opulent palaces, the imposing desert fortresses of Rajasthan, pristine bird and tiger sanctuaries, and the magnificent Taj Mahal.  Traveling by train, air and road provides a chance to experience the ever-changing countryside, the entire itinerary having been engineered to provide easy, short transit times.  DavidTours [DavidTravel] is about traveling on a "designed" holiday, created to be refined and culturally enriching, yet casual and fun.

A word about travel in India.  My friends, Jon and Ed, tell tales of their independent travels throughout the country.  Much of their time was spent waiting on endless lines, struggling with the masses of humanity at railway stations, unsuccessfully fighting to get a hotel room they had dreamed of staying in (and for which they had a written confirmation), and dining in some low budget eateries and "wrong" expensive restaurants resulting in the infamous "Delhi Belly."

Meeting locals is part of every DavidTravel trip as noted here when a guide invites the group to meet his family.
Each property utilized knows that DavidTours [DavidTravel] designs, luxury tours for the gay and lesbian community, and has actively sought our business.  Our Indian colleagues are well known, respected and send large volumes of business to each hotel, restaurant and tour director used on our trips.  Even written confirmations can be worthless in India, who you are and who you know are vital.  For example, before we arrive at a hotel, our Indian agents are on sight to ensure a smooth check in, go over every detail and are always available on mobile phones, leaving nothing to chance.

Our Indian tours are scheduled for 14 nights; and scheduled when the weather is most likely to be perfect.  Participants stay in the finest, air-conditioned hotels and are assisted by top-notch, English speaking Indian guides throughout the tour.  Whenever possible, we seek to introduce our clients to local friends who will join us for dinners at excellent restaurants.  To us, meeting successful and interesting gay, bisexual and straight locals greatly enriches any travel experience and helps to make the world a friendlier place.

Bombay's venerable Taj Mahal Hotel, one of DavidTravel's selections, offers all services in a grand setting.
Highlights of the tour include: The Taj Mahal Hotels in New Delhi and Mumbai, members of Leading Hotels of the World; sunset and sunrise at the Taj Mahal, an awe-inspiring experience; lodging at a Maharajah's former palace, providing guests with quality, historic accommodations while exploring bird and tiger sanctuaries.  You'll be pampered with a 3-night ultra-luxurious stay at the new Rajvilas Hotel & Spa in Jaipur, with an included spa treatment.  Additionally, participants will experience a 4-night stay at one of the most magical properties in the world --- The Lake Place Hotel ---- former summer palace of the Maharana of Udaipur.  Our clients will enjoy premium room, all facing the lake.  And, modem Mumbai will dazzle you as you are pampered at the renovated old colonial Taj Mahal Hotel.

On arrival in New Delhi our English speaking Indian colleagues meet each client and provide you with a custom transfer to The Taj Mahal Hotel & Spa.  Touring "Old" Delhi, the itinerary will include the Jama Masjid, one of India's largest and most magnificent mosques, and the Red Fort, a testimony of Moghul grandeur and the largest of Old Delhi's monuments.  Soak up the atmosphere of the bazaars and contrast this with a visit to the peaceful setting Raj Ghant, the cremation ground of Mahatma Gandhi.  After lunch, you'll tour South Delhi, including the magnificent buildings designed by English architect, Edwin Lutyens, and other historic sites.  Dinner in the evening will include meeting local friends.

The incomparable Taj Mahal, visited twice on DavidTravels tours to achieve the full effect of lighting by day and evening.
Day four we journey by express train (first class) to Agra, home of The Taj Mahal.  We check into The Taj View Hotel, each person's room including a view of the Taj Mahal.  Sightseeing includes the Red Fort, with its magnificent marble apartments, and the Baby Taj, the mausoleum of a Mughal prime minister.  The high point will be the legendary Taj Mahal, one of the world's greatest monuments.  The white marble shimmers in the afternoon before turning a golden yellow as the sun sets.  And next morning our group will savor the spiritual experience of arriving again at the Taj Mahal, before sunrise, when it is particularly mystical and moon lit.  The change from moonlight to sunlight will take your breath away.

Leaving Agra, we'll visit a nearby treasure, the deserted imperial capital of Fatephur Sikri, built 1569-1585 by the Emperor Akbar.  Our adventure then leads to our hotel, The Laxrni Vilas Palace, former home of the Bharatpur Royal Family.  At nearby Keoladeo National Bird Sanctuary you'll explore with a naturalist by boat and jeep some of the world's most magnificent bird life, landscapes and waterscapes.

Sawai Madhopur, formerly a Maharajah's hunting lodge, by the Ranthambore National Park Tiger Sanctuary.Day six begins with a journey to Ranthambore National Park Tiger Sanctuary, in the heart of Rajasthan.  Checking into the historic Sawai Madhopur, a former Maharajah's hunting lodge, complete with private baths and air conditioning, we depart in open jeeps (maximum 5 clients per jeep with driver and a naturalist) for the wildlife sanctuary to view gazelle, sambar, jackals, panthers, jungle cats, leopards, and, of course, tigers.  Ranthambore is a center of India's Tiger Project and our group will enjoy two game drives at Ranthambore, unique with its tenth-century Chauhan fort, quaint pavilions and palaces that provide movie-perfect backdrops to the wildlife.

On the seventh day we travel to the "Pink City" of Jaipur, a flamboyant showcase of Rajasthani architecture and a wonderful place to shop for carpets, silks and precious stones.  We stay at the palatial Rajvilas Hotel and Spa, set in 32 acres of orchids, gardens, and decorative pools, where our group unwinds, luxuriating with a special 90-minute spa treatment.
The colorful Jain Temple in Mumbdi preaches peace and harmony as evidenced on its walls.

Sightseeing includes the Amber Fort, original capital of the Jaipur Royal Family, containing several palaces, each designed for a different season of the year.  We ascend to the fort by gaily-caparisoned elephants.  Other visits take us to The City Palace, still home to the Maharajah of Jaipur, as well as The Palace of The Winds and the 18th-century astrological observatory.

With three days to enjoy Jaipur, many clients decide to spend one day relaxing at The Rajvilas, a fully equipped holiday destination.  Your tour director will be available to coordinate visits to museums and shopping bazaars.  And you may wish to include a visit outside the city to the Museum of Indology, which has the largest collection of erotic tantric art in the world.  In late afternoon, we depart for The Rambagh Palace for pre-dinner drinks in the famous Polo Bar, featuring a complete photo collection of the royal family.  Dining at The Rambagh Palace's Suvama Mahal Restaurant, sample Continental or Rajasthan specialties under an ornate vaulted ceiling.

On day 10 we fly to Udaipur, home to the Maharanas of Mewar.  Our hotel is the incomparable Lake Palace.  While some travelers struggle to get just one night at this world class hotel, we have secured four days.  The former summer residence of the Maharana of Udaipur, His Highness still owns The Lake Palace, while the exceptional Taj Mahal Hotel Group operates the property with their signature service.

Another DavidTravel pick, the distinctive Rajvillas Hotel and Spa at Jaipur, at the disposal of David's guests.We arrive at the hotel by water-taxi, making the lodging appear to float on the shimmering waters of Lake Pichola like a magnificent ship.  After check-in, you have time to relax and luxuriate in the opulence of your island retreat.  The marble pool area is a perfect place to sun and enjoy the view of picturesque Udaipur.  In the afternoon, we'll tour the royal burial grounds and Jain Temples at Nagda and Eklingji.  On our return to Udaipur, we visit a local craft market set up by the government to enable artists to sell their work directly to the public without the commissions added at the bazaar.  We encourage our guests to explore this calm, gracious city on their own.

Udaipur dates back to 568 AD and the present Maharana is the 76th in an unbroken line.  We take the water-taxi to the City Palace, where our tour reveals the grand lifestyle of the Maharanas of Mewar, who are reputed to be direct descendants of the Sun God.  Following our tour we lunch in the inner courtyard of the nearby Shiv Niwas Palace.   Our sightseeing ends with a stroll through the medieval streets of the old town where we explore the silver markets.  Dinner is at The Lake Palace Hotel.

An excursion on day 12 takes us through the rural scenes of the Aravafli Hills to the magnificent fort of Kumbhalgarh, built in the fifteenth century.  The crumbling temples among the reservoirs and gardens within are believed to have been erected in the second century.  Lunch will be at the Aoudhi Retreat, now a Premier Heritage Hotel.  Several stops are made during our trip back to Udaipur to enjoy the landscapes and photograph the colorful country life.  Dinner this evening is on our hotel's open air Mewar Terrace, overlooking both the lake and the courtyard lily pond, enjoying a display of traditional Rajasthani folk dancing.

The Lily Pond at the Sublime Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur, once the Summer Palace of the Maharanas of Mewar.Today is a day of leisure and Udaipur and The Lake Palace Hotel are completely at your disposal.  This is an excellent time for additional shopping.  Or you could have the hotel book you a massage.  Later, take yourself back to the days of the British Raj with a traditional English cream tea and scones on the terrace of The Fatah Pakash Palace.

On day 14 we fly to Mumbai.  Our hotel is the carefully restored Taj Mahal.  Our rooms are, as usual, premium location in the Old Colonial Wing.  On our afternoon city tour we view many styles of architecture: Victorian, Gothic, Baroque and Oriental.  We take in the Victoria Terminus, Crawford Market, and, traveling along Marine Drive, we visit the Jain Temple, Hanging Gardens Park, and the celebrated Prince of Wales Museum of Western India (this distinctive Raj-era building houses a superb collection of paintings and sculpture).   Local friends will join us for our farewell dinner, during which they will shed light on Indian life and being gay in Bombay.

Participants are the center of attention as young Indian soldiers love being photographed with foreign travelers.The next morning our group takes the one-hour boat ride to Elephanta Island, famous for the impressive excavated 8th century caves with its fine examples of Hindu architecture, including the massive Trimurti (3 faced) Shiva sculpture.  We recommend a relaxing afternoon by the hotel pool or an exploration of the nearby Jehangir Art Gallery, Bombay's best known venue for contemporary art (most exhibits offer works for sale).  Most departing flights leave at midnight and escorted airport transfers to coordinate with your flight, with check in assistance, is included.

DavidTours [DavidTravel] offers a 5-night extension to the exciting beach resort of Goa.  This tropical vacation includes accommodations at the new Taj Exotica, the only area hotel on the sea offering ocean views from every room.  DavidTours [DavidTravel] has arranged rooms for their clients where you may even enjoy ocean vistas from your private bathroom jacuzzi.

Each India tour is for 14 days with complete handling of every detail including 5-star hotels, professional guides, fine restaurants, unique sightseeing, and all those little extras that makes a trip particularly enjoyable.  Included are 13 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 7 dinners.