We just concluded our tour of New Delhi, Agra, Ranthambore National Park and Jaipur. Pacific Classic Tours (PCT) exceeded our expectations by a mile. The level of attention to detail and service that our guide (Mahesh) provided was above and beyond anything I have ever experienced on any of my travels. We were a party of seven from Chicago and our group spanned three generations including my parents and my children. Mahesh ensured all three generations were engaged and entertained throughout the tour. We never felt rushed and he ensured that we received the best possible experience we could possibly have.
Our private van was clean, modern and better than any mode of travel I have ever experienced in India. Our driver, Rajinder, was skilled at navigating the Indian roads and made sure that we were safe and comfortable throughout our journey. The van had a cellular hot spot so I was able to connect and work while we were on the road when needed. I know that I'm on vacation but it was wonderful to know that I could effectively connect with the outside world for business from the van.
This was the first time we took our children to India and out of all of the destinations that they have been to, they have both proclaimed that India is their favorite destination. Much of the credit goes to Mahesh and PCT. The hotels that were arranged were clean, beautiful and provided top-notch amenities and service. Our favorites were the The Leela in New Delhi and The Tigress near Ranthambore National Park. The food at every hotel was excellent as well as the restaurants that Mahesh chose as we traveled from one place to another.
Both of our children have treenut allergies and we have had anxiety about this ever since we started planning the trip. Mahesh was incredibly protective of them and spoke to the chef or manager at every restaurant to ensure we knew what foods the kids should avoid. Also, every restaurant that Mahesh selected on the road seemed to have experience with western travellers so they were well-versed with food allergies in general. This put us at ease immediately and we are thankful for that.
At every stop, Mahesh took his time to explain the history and the importance of what we were seeing and he is a master of making history informative and entertaining at the same time and that is no small feat. I have been to New Delhi several times and I saw a side of Delhi that I have never seen.
We started our trip by staying at The Leela Hotel in Gurgaon. The Leela is one of the most beautiful hotels I have stayed at. We flew in from Chicago and we were famished when we checked in at 2AM. The restaurant was still open and the late night menu was available. If you find yourself in this situation, get the aloo paratha. It comes with
a salad and dal makhani that is out of this world. Trust me.... you'll thank me later.The next evening, we went to the Ambiance Mall next door because we were trying get over our jet lag. We had dinner at Daryaganj restaurant. Boy oh boy, this may have been one of the best Indian meals I have ever had. The next morning, we had breakfast at The Leela and it was fantastic. There were plenty of Indian and westiern breakfast items to choose form.
We headed out to Qutab Minar and it is a must see and I am happy we had Manesh as our tour guide because we would have missed so much meaning that was hidden in plain sight. All of the intricacies make this site special and it takes someone who is passionate about India's history to make it come alive and Mahesh did just that.
After Qutab Minar, we traveled to Agra and we stayed in JayPee Palace which is a vibrant and beautiful hotel. The next morning, we went to the Taj Mahal at sunrise. I highly recommend seeing the Taj Mahal at this time because you have an opportunity to see this magnificent structure transform as the morning sun rises in the sky. Also, you don't have to deal with the crowds. This is where we discovered Mahesh's photography skills. Most of the photos he took are professional quality and our family will cherish them for years to come. The Taj is magical and any photo you have ever seen does not do it justice.
We then went to Agra Fort and this is where you start to understand the complex lives that the Mughal kings lived. Agra Fort is a must see if you want to fully understand the complicated love story behind the Taj Mahal.
We then travelled to the area near Ranthambore National Park and stayed at The Tigress Hotel. This is high-quality boutique hotel that is picturesque and provides excellent service. The staff is attentive and the rooms are clean and well-appointed. The food was great as well. We went on two safaris at Ranthambore. Not only did we see a tiger... we saw four tigers. We saw a tiger stalk a herd of spotted deer and then watched as he caught one. It was amazing to watch this magnificent animal in its prime. On our second safari, we saw two lions mate and finally, a guide thought he saw a tiger enter a patch of tall grass 10 feet in front of us. We sat 10 feet away from that patch of grass (from the safety of our vehicle) for over 20 minutes and saw nothing. I thought the guide may be mistaken but just as were about to leave, out steps a tiger and walks right past us. It was exhilarating to say the least. We also saw well over a hundred other animals including Sambar Deer, Langur monkeys, crocodiles, Nilgai, kingfishers and numerous other bird species. Our day at Ranthambore will be a day my children will never forget and they will tell their children about the time they stood ten feet away form a wild tiger!
We finished our tour in Jaipur. We drove through the busy streets of Jaipur and my kids were able to see how an Indian city has one foot in its rich history as it moves towards a more modern India. Here we saw two forts. The more impressive fort was Amber Palace. The sheer size of the place is staggering. The beauty is stunning and the history oozes from its walls. Mahesh told us stories about the kings, queens and staff that made this palace run. His narrations took us back in time. We concluded our time in Jaipur by visiting Elephant Village where my sons were able to ride, feed and interact with elephants. This was the first time that they were near an elephant and it is a memory that they will never forget. The animals seemed well cared for and the employees seemed to genuinely care for the elephants. My parents enjoyed seeing their grandkids on the elephants so they took an elephant ride themselves.
Thank you to PCT and a special thanks to Mahesh and Rajinder for helping my family create memories that will last a lifetime!!!