By Karen Edel

We’d always wanted to go to India but knew next to nothing about it. The prospect of organizing a holiday with eye rolling teenagers in a limited time was daunting, so we turned to the internet and stumbled across the quirky named travel agency, ‘Incredible Tour to India’. The charming and patient CEO Ganpat Prajapat gave us excellent advice, booked everything and off we flew to India.

Delhi   Our driver met us at the airport and took us on an unbelievably breakneck bumper to bumper drive across Delhi, where the ring roads change from five lanes to one lane with no warning, and every driver is racing and beeping everyone else.

It was fantastic. Saturday is wedding night so we saw several spectacular wedding parties with grooms on white horses – all proceeding down the roads against the crazy traffic.

Cows grazing alongside all this mayhem, wedding fireworks exploding in the road, girls sitting side saddle on mopeds looking unconcerned by all the speeding and weaving around, food stalls and fruit shops all along the way. At one point the highway came to a stop and all the cars simultaneously U-turned and headed in the opposite direction, at the same speed. We were exhausted, but too terrified and agog to close our eyes.

 

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We met Ganpat who checked us into the delightful Lalit Hotel at Connaught Place and briefed us on the next two weeks. He seems lovely – and we can’t believe he drove all the way from Jaipur to welcome us to India!

We thought we’d venture out for a walk in the morning – Connaught Place is supposed to be an upmarket area with lots of old colonial buildings and avenues, so we hoped it would be less crazy out there – but no. The frenzy is at full pitch, with hopeful, desperate touts latching on to us every step of the way.

We trekked around, stepping over a zillion sleeping dogs on the footpaths (how they can sleep in the crush of humanity I don’t know). People everywhere trying to sell everything you can think of. One little girl sidled up to Lachlan and snuck her paw into his pocket.

A rickshaw ride was absolutely terrifying. This poor tiny little man valiantly cycled across five lanes of screaming, honking traffic while I clung on with white knuckles. At one point we passed a cow lying down, chewing its cud in the middle of all the cars whizzing past – the place is completely bonkers! For the privilege of nearly killing himself for a large whitey the man charged me less than 50 cents.

Kaziranga National Park, Assam

After a couple of days of touring the fascinating but overwhelming Delhi, we flew to Guwahati in Assam, north-eastern India, for a change of pace.

Our driver drove us four hours east to the Diphlu River Lodge in Kaziranga National Park, famous for its tigers and the Indian one-horned rhinoceros. The Lodge was surprisingly fabulous. We were greeted by eight staff with hot face towels and cold drinks, who swept up all our luggage and took us to our beautiful thatched bamboo-framed cottages on stilts. The Brahmaputra River floods spectacularly every year, hence the stilts.

 

Diphlu River Lodge

Diphlu River Lodge

 

The resort is right on the border of the national park, so the staff escort us to the dining room/bar in case of tigers or buffalo. The grounds are beautiful, and run on very sustainable principles with recycled grey water and home-grown vegetables.

There are no other white tourists here so we feel quite intrepid. After a couple of cocktails at the bar overlooking the river, a fascinating chat with our host, Ronesh, and a magnificent Indian feast we were escorted back to our cottages to bed – finding hot water bottles tucked in our sheets and shortbreads to snack on. Blissful!

The next morning we were up at dawn to take an elephant ride in the park – very comfortable. The elephants looked well cared for and happy and were accompanied by three or four baby elephants, who checked us all over for treats with their trunks.

 

We saw wild elephants, deer, wild boar and several massive rhinoceroses at close quarters – it was terrific. After that we had a picnic breakfast surrounded by goats and elephants who loved being hand fed bananas, and then we were taken on a jeep ride around the park, seeing loads more wildlife.

Over the following two days we had four more nature safaris, following fresh tiger prints and seeing rare giant squirrels, gibbons and rhesus monkeys, otters, brilliant bird life and lots of rhinos and elephants. At dusk on the last day we saw a magnificent male tiger. There are only about 100 in the park, so it was extremely lucky.

We were sorry to leave Kaziranga but after three nights (and a lovely outdoor feast and dancing with the traditional local villagers) we had to leave at 4am for the long drive back to Guwahati to fly to Varanasi via Kolkata, arriving a couple of hours late due to fog delays.

Varanasi

In the morning a local guide and driver took us on a riotous trip to the old town where buffalo, cows, monkeys, goats and dogs all share the roads with rickshaws, tuk-tuks, pedestrians, cars and scooters. Completely crazy.

Thousands of pilgrims were making their way to the Ganges, past food stalls and people selling flowers for the offerings and little copper pots of holy water. Once down at the Ganges, we took a little boat ride past kids flying kites and playing cricket, ashrams, pilgrims bathing in the river, people getting their heads shaved by priests and cremations (with goats, cows and dogs enjoying the fires and standing around with the deceased’s family).

 

Varanasi is such a riot of colour and history, with ancient royal palaces on the banks of the river, Mother Theresa’s old home, funny little guest houses for ganga-smoking hippies and stalls selling mats and oils for the corpses. Our guide took us through tiny narrow alleys all around the historic quarter (Varanasi is the oldest city in Asia he told us, with at least 3500 years of recorded habitation).

He pointed out Hindu temples plated in gold and ancient mosques but it was hard for me to stop gawking at all the animals – we had to squeeze past bulls and water buffalo blocking the paths every few minutes. They paid us no attention at all.

We bought some silk scarves at a weaving shop, doing the tea drinking and chatting with the owner routine for a while before turning to business.

 

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That night we took a stunning boat ride on the Ganges to see the funeral ceremonies and make wishes with floating candles and flowers.

We had a brilliant Agra Christmas at a lovely hotel, with a Christmas morning tour of the Agra Fort and Taj Mahal, plus a very tempting carpet house (in the end we didn’t buy but we really enjoyed watching the men hand weave rugs on traditional frames, their fingers knotting and cutting so fast, it was just a blur).

Christmas was a very lavish feast at the hotel with carol singers, live music on traditional instruments and a pottery man making things – we had a go at making bowls and cups before enjoying table tennis around the pool.

Ranthambore, Rajasthan

After a couple of days in Agra we drove six hours to Ranthambore in Rajasthan, North west India, with our lovely driver, Yuv Raj.

The driving is never boring with sometimes bizarre scenes of local life streaming past our windows. The kids swore they saw a goat dancing on its back legs, watched by a circle of other goats, through the open door of a home.

Holy men in orange turbans sharing a campfire with snoring dogs and goats in cardigans, pigs, cows and dogs eating rubbish in the street side by side, children riding elephants in the fields, men getting shaved by cutlass wielding barbers. In India, you see things you couldn’t even imagine anywhere else.

 

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In Ranthambore, the countryside is a little like Afghanistan – rocky and sparse greenery, with beautiful mountain outcrops. It’s almost desert country, quite different from lush, jungley Kaziranga.

We have our own safari guide and driver who pick us up in a little open jeep (called a gypsy) at 7am and drive us through the crazy, camel-pig-cow-goat-dog filled town to the national park. It is absolutely freezing – we are dressed in snow gear but by mid morning when the sun gets high it’s lovely.

The driver bounces us up vertical rock tracks to the top of the hills to look for tigers and leopards. We hang on in terror; it’s quite an extreme sport. There are spectacular views at the top.

We’ve seen tiger tracks and there are plenty of different species of deer, some with impressive antlers, around here; but no sightings of tigers or leopards. On the first morning we were delighted to see a sloth bear ambling along – about the size of a fat Rottweiler. Lots of pheasants and peacocks, little owls, wild boar – but no wild elephants or rhinos in this park.

We met a young cowherd in the park who had lost a cow to a tiger a couple of days before. Later we saw the skeleton, and a freshly killed buffalo, but the tiger stayed out of sight.

Jaipur

We left Ranthambore after three days and drove to Jaipur. On the first night we were invited to Ganpat’s home for dinner, which was really gorgeous. His whole extended family was there, standing around watching while we ate a delicious traditional meal.

 

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His lovely wife measured me up in about 5 seconds and an hour later produced a blouse and skirt that she’d knocked up for me – and then got me dressed up with a veil and jewellery, which was hilarious. Robert was given a huge turban to wear, which made us all fall about laughing.

Two weeks has flown past in this most amazing country and we promised Ganpat that we will be coming back soon. A huge success from beginning to end, with the teenagers conceding that they’ve never had a better holiday – and no eye rolling (even when their parents danced in public)!

Ganpat Prajapat, Incredible Tour To India

Email: info@incredibletourtoindia.com

Web http://incredibletourtoindia.com

Phone +91 99837 41818

 

Anna Ganeshan from USA Says

I recently did 10 day North India trip with Incredible India tours. Ganpatji was excellent in arranging our tours.rnrnThe timings, drivers, places were all what he had mentioned. Our driver Pratabji was excellent driver. My 2 boys enjoyed the Camel Ride in Jaisalmer, Elephant ride in Amber fort. If booking again, I would go again with this tour service

Lorain Kaye reed  from Sydney, Australia  Says:

We did a 14 day tour last year which we booked thru Ganpat. Everything was to perfection. What he promised in his itinerary, he delivered He is a very honest and genuine man. We would have no hesitation in booking a tour with him again (hopefully 2016) Ganpat was always available to speak with us (via Skype) during the planning.rnrnOur trip includedrnrnNew Delhi, Varanasi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, Cochin down to Verkala.rnrnweb: http://www.incredibletourtoindia.com

Bhupinder Jeet Singh from Malaysia Says:

We had planned a trip to India from mid March to mid April and thru the internet connected with Hello Travel, not realising they are a portal that sells contacts. A few agents subscribed to it and Incredible Tour to India was 1 of them. From the moment I wrote in to Hello Travel, Ganpat Prajapat of Incredible Tour of India was quick and 1st off the mark and he called me the same day. He followed up via skype and was very quick to respond and suggest a plan. With the skype facility we were communicating almost on a daily basis instead of exchanging emails. This gave him not only a head start but also made me very happy as we covered a lot of ground quickly. Didnt take long to nail the appointment. I also continued with other agents for comparison purposes and he was competitively priced – of course no 2 trip plans are identical due to attractions and hotels etc.rnrnWhen we arrived at Jaipur, he was at the airport to personally receive us with a bouquet for my wife and spent the 1st day with us, understanding us and making sure we were comfortable. We built up a relationship and we even visited his family village on our trip and that was a bonus – to see how the locals lived in a village.rnrnAll his suggestions were good, hotels were good and the car was comfortable for the 2 of us with an outstanding driver, Yuvraj, who was always on time, suggesting what to see which was not on the itinerary and advised/ warned us against touts and scams. That was good advise. The local guides at each town were English speaking (as per our requirement) and were equally good in their work.rnrnGanpat also helped us with making travel arrangements within India prior to our 13 days Rajasthan tour.rnrnI would give Ganpat of Incredible Tour of India full marks! 5 stars. He definitely will get my next trip to India.

Raja Ganapathy  from France Says:

My first organised tour in India, fortunately i happened to have choosed the right persone at the right time. Mr. Ganpat had so well arranged we did not find any difficulty at all in travelling and hotel staying timing and program (no vast of time and money). I must also mention the car driver Mr. Ajay Singh who helped so much, perfect timing and excellent driving. My wife, three children and me have decided our next visit to India next year will chose you (Mr. Ganpat from Jaipur) as our tour agent. Thanks for all, see you next year.

Payal Parera  from USA Says:

We just returned from a wonderful trip through Rajasthan (including udaipur, Chittorgarh, Pushkar, Jaipur, and Agra) with my family (parents, brother, myself and two children aged 4 and 7). I chose Incredible tour to India to help book our tour based on a recommendation from a good friend and I could not have been happier. Ganapat was an incredible travel agent who went over and beyond what I expected. He contacted me immediately and came up with several sample iteninaries based on our interests and allowed us to change/ customize anything we wanted to do. Even though we booked everything at the last minute, he was so patient and accommodating, even as I made changes up until the day we left! He picked great hotels (giving me the final choice), excellent English-speaking guides and the best driver! What sets Ganapat apart from any other tours or travel agents i have used is his incredible customer service! Ganpat always responded immediately to my emails and text messages, he personally made the hotel reservations, routinely asked for our feedback on our experience with hotels/guides/and restaurants and as an unexpected surprise he came all the way to Ahmedabad from Jaipur (which is 12 hours away) with his driver to pick us up and personally accompany us on part of the trip! He also invited us to dinner at his house in Jaipur, which he generally offers to all his clients coming through Jaipur. He is so genuine and very sincere and we are so happy that we got to know him during our trip. My kids were so fond of him too! We have often heard horror stories from friends who had booked through other agencies and did not have hotel rooms paid for, or shady drivers that would steal from their bags or corrupt guides that only take them to expensive tourist shops. I am pleased to say that none of this happened! Almost everything in the trip was included with the exception of entrance fees, lunch/dinner, and tips. The guides were all government approved guides and for the most part were excellent. Especially Jackie in Jaipur. Our Driver, Vikram, was excellent. I was quite apprehensive about having my children travelling through India without car seats, but Vikram was a very safe and trustworthy driver. He was always on time, drove cautiously, and found reasonable places for us to stop and use the restroom (which is not easily available in rural india!) We also felt very comfortable leaving our valuable things in the car with him while we were sightseeing.rnrnOur itinerary was a little ambitious with 2 little kids, but overall they enjoyed the trip very much. they especially loved the elephant ride to amber fort and the dinner at Choki Dani (excellent village dinner with lots of fun entertainment for the kids) in Jaipur.rnrnOur trip included – Udaipur – beautiful city with amazing palace.rnrnWe toured the city palace, took a boat tour on picchola lake (we were very disappointed when the included normal boat tours were suddenly cancelled due to a high profile wedding, but Ganpat and our guide saved the day and managed to find us a private boat tour during sunset which was beautiful). We stayed at the Raddison Blu, which was a nice property with a nice pool/spa and breakfast.rnrnThe next stop was Chittorgarh which was 2.5 hours away. The fort there was amazing. We would have liked to climb the victory tower, but did not have enough time. We probably could have spent more than the couple hours there. Our guide was wonderful too. Not much to the city though, and lunch spot outside the fort wasn’t very good and service was slow (would recommend ordering a thali and not sandwiches for faster service). We then drove to Pushkar as a midway point to Jaipur. The Pushkar Bhag resort was very nice. It is very peaceful and secluded on the top of a mountain. Unfortunately, we arrived late and left early morning, so didnt get to spend much time there. And we arrived too late for the camel safari. The brhama temple and ghats were ok the next morning. We didn’t spend much time in Pushkar and then drove to Jaipur.rnrnWe had a great time in Jaipur, stayed at ITC rajputana (which was excellent and had the most amazing breakfast) visited the birla temple (recommend seeing in the evening), Hawa Mahal ( am has best lighting), elephant ride to amber fort (only available before 11) , city palace, and jantar mantar (the largest sundial and incredible solar observatory) as well as dinner at the choki dani. Jacki was a wonderful guide as well. The only dinner we did not really enjoy was at Indiana (although my daughter did like the dances).rnrnThe next day drove to Agra and visited the bird sanctuary in bharatpur along the way. We arrived in Agra just a little to get into the Taj mahal for the sunset 🙁 but we saw it the next day. By then my kids were too tired to do anything else and we were anxious about catching our flight back from Delhi. So we skipped shopping and the Agra fort and left for Delhi. The express highway was great. would definitely request this route over the other one when going to the airport. We then flew out of Delhi back to Ahmadabad. Overall had a great time and would highly recommend Ganpat with Incredible tour to India.

charlie jayne  from Canada Says:

My wife and I completed a 31 day itinerary with Ganpat and Incredible Tour to India. During the planning phase we liked the reviews on Trip Advisor for Incredible Tour, so we contacted Ganpat who more than other agents was very quick to respond and provide a sample itinerary with costs. This looked good and to build our confidence in using Ganpat, he provided us with past client e-mails. We contacted many of them and even skyped with one client and so felt very comfortable using Ganpat. We then refined our itinerary very quickly as Ganpat responds on Skype at any hour. Our trip was very successful, good drivers, good hotel choices and great pickup at airport and train stations. The paper itinerary included the sights to see at each location and along with our guidebook made it easy to see all the highlights. We did have a few hiccups, but Ganpat was always accessible by phone through our drivers and hotel staff to quickly resolve the issue. Ganpat also invited us to overnight in his relatives village which turned out to be a trip highlight. Trust is a big issue when travelling in India and you can count on Ganpat to support you through your trip. We would definitely recommend his service.rnrnOur itinerary was Dehli-Hardiwar-Rishekesh-Bikaneer-Jaisalmer-Jodpur-Ranakpur-Udaipur-Bundi-Pushkar-village-Jaipur-Agra-Orcha-Khajuraho-Varanasi-Mumbai (we also did a week in Kerala, but did this on our own).

Arya Ghosh  from Kolkata, India Says:

Hello
Ganpatji,
We were very happy to see you when you came to receive us from Jaipur railway station at midnight , though we reached there two days ago from scheduled date.
You sent us a driver, named Vikram Singh Rathore was very kind hearted, helpful &dutiful.
Hotels, car, desert camp which you provided us was superb, we all are impressed.
Aah! The elephant ride at amer fort, taking Street food, Camel ride at the great Thar desert, staying in the camp overnight…. enjoyed alot.
Taking tea with your family was best gift to us. Those day, we never forget Mr Ganpat, thank you very much to give us a enjoyable tour, miss you bro..
Good luck.