Saturday November 13

The new Airport at Delhi is really nice but unfortunately having just opened was a chaos.

Our flight was AI 127 777-300-ER.

All AI flights delayed by 2+ hours at Delhi. Our flight is 4 hours late as of now.

Eventually left at 7:30 am, 5 hours and 50 mins late. AI had no staff to explain the delay, no food or water, basically zero service.

Arrived 11:35am at O'Hare, took Coach USA to Racine stop where son met and picked us up and brought us home.

Sudip's luggage did not come for a week after we landed and nobody knew or would give us any information on tracking it. Everyone that I contacted in NY or Chicago denied any responsibility with "it is not my department".

One man in Chicago asked me "couldn't you afford a better airline, then you wouldn't have such problems".

The luggage arrived by UPS, a week later uninsured, which was - yes a relief.

No very happy with the ground staff.

The trip overall was wonderful as always.

Thursday November 11 and Friday November 12

Thu Nov 11 - Kolkata - Mumbai
Jet Airways 9w203, Boeing 737-800; flight late by 1hr, 25 mins.
Landed at 7:45 pm, spectacular lightning enroute.
Dinner at Tinku's.

Fri Nov 12 - Mumbai- N. Delhi
Kaku & Suprito in Mumbai.
Couldn't connect to supposed free WiFi at CST, disappointing.
AI 101 777-300-ER


Wednesday November 3 - Wednesday November 10

Wed Nov 3
18/1 , Bashi Pishi.
Lunch at Zaranj (Food A-. Service A-)
Sari - Savera
Dinner Purnima.

Thu Nov 4
Tres Loudan - Saris
Lunch - Marco Polo (Service B+. Food B+)
Baro Kakima, Jethima

Fri Nov 5 - Kalipuja
Baruipur - all day.

Sat Nov 6
Dipti Pishi
Puja Bhoj in Fern Road - A
Ujaan's birthday - pm
Dinner - Bhajo hari manna

Sun Nov 7
Bhaiphota with Mithu and Tooblu.
Mamata - Dinner

Mon Nov 8
Air India Office
Cousin Rita and gang, 1:30, South City Mall.

Tue Nov 9
Lekha Kakima.
Rita and family at Tapas Bar
Bachhu Dada
Lokhhu Pishi

Wed Nov 10
Bashi Pishi
Oh! Calcutta
Affidavit & Power of attorney.

Tuesday November 2

Pug Marks Resort
Food A
Service A+
Cleanliness A.

Left the resort 11:15 am for Jaipur airport. This is a distance Of 114 kms to be covered in 4 hrs by car.

Arrived Jaipur airport at 2:45 pm. The resort had packed us boxed lunches which included - 2 cheese sandwiches, 2 boiled eggs, and Slice. The cheese sandwich may not have been good, the warm temperature in the car contributed to it. F

Jaipur International airport is the only international airport in the state of Rajasthan.

The new domestic terminal building at Jaipur Airport was inaugurated on 1 July 2009. The new terminal has an area of 22,950 sqm, is made of glass and steel structure having modern passenger friendly facilities such as central heating system, central air conditioning, inline x-ray baggage inspection system integrated with the departure conveyor system, inclined arrival baggage claim carousels, escalators, public address system, flight information display system (FIDS), CCTV for surveillance, airport check-in counters with Common Use Terminal Equipment (CUTE), car parking, etc.

The entrance gate, made of sandstone and Dholpur stones along with Rajasthani paintings on the walls, give tourists a glimpse of the Rajasthani culture. Two fountains on both sides of the terminal, dotted with palm trees, maintain normal temperature within the airport premises. The transparent side walls of the building have adjustable shades that control the passage of sunlight into the airport premises, thereby cutting down heavily on electricity bills.

We had a very long wait at the Jaipur airport but the airport was very comfortable and time passed by quickly. During our wait Kuldip called us to thank us for what he referred to as "generous tip", and also to make sure everything went fine. The manager of the Jaipur office also called us, nice touch.

The personnel at the airport were all helpful and polite and the scan of my suitcase showed that I didn't misplace my used batteries. Very good service through security and boarding.

We were on Spicejet, which is considered a budget airlines, it provided good clean service with dinner available (for purchase). I had the biriyani of course and though a bit more spicy than I like, it was very good.

Fell asleep and woke up with landing announcements, landed shortly at my home town Kolkata, I felt the familiar sense of exhilaration and nostalgia that I have always felt, even after all these years.


Monday November 1

Same routine as yesterday morning except made the trip by Canter, which holds 21 people. So basically a group Safari vs a private safari. The advantage of a Canter is that it sits high and thus better viewing but its not worth it to do a group safari, it is too noisy.

We saw sambar, nilgai, chinkara, crocodile, sloth bear pair, red crested woodpecker.

In the afternoon we went by car to the Ranthambore Fort. It is an old rambling fort covering a very large area, including several water source in the form of large ponds inside the walls. It is mostly in dilapidated condition but certainly worth the trip.

For dinner the chef prepared a special dinner for us, the service at this resort is really wonderful and the facilities clean and well maintained.

A few of the staff worth mentioning are:
Site Manager -
Chef -
Food Manager -
Waiter/Bartender -- Ramswarup.
17 yr old Bangali waiter - Ganesh Pal, who appointment himself as our personal server.

Sunday October 31

Had coffee with cracker and got picked up at resort at 6:30 am. It was a 6 passenger jeep. There are 6 sectors and a computerized systems assigns the sectors. Our driver Tanvir Khan was excellent and we had a great tiger sighting.

The tigress, referred to as "T17" wasvgorgeous and is around 4 years old. She is the offspring of Machhli who was well known for her wandering nature.

Interestingly of her 22 cubs T17 is the only wanderer.

We also saw Chittal, Sambhar, and assorted vultures an eagle. Also mongoose.

Came back to the resort around 10:00 am and had a scrumptious breakfast. After a short rest and shower we had lunch, another great meal.

Spent the early afternoon sitting on the porch reading, this was such a treat for me to be surrounded by greenery and no allergy problems.

Started our afternoon Safari at around 3:30 pm we had been assigned sector 6. Mostly saw deer, a fully antlered nilgai, signs of tiger and leopard with lots of alarm calls from a troop of langurs but no sightings.

Saturday October 30

Breakfast at the hotel, the food was very tasty but rather limited in choice.

Food C+
Service B+
Left the hotel at 8:15 for Ranthambore by road. A distance of 450 kms to be covered in 8 – 9 hrs.

We arrived Jaipur 1:00 pm to stop for lunch. The restaurant was Indiana, it was extremely crowded as it was the peak lunch time.

Service B
Food B.

There was another American couple at the next table and their guide was telling them that the Bengalis were the smartest people in all of India and had the highest IQ. We couldn't resist telling them that we were both from Calcutta.

We got to talking and it turned out that the guide had studied at the Presidency College in Calcutta and the couple were from Lincoln NE. What a small world it is.

We arrived by 6:00 pm at Pug Marks, our home for the next three days. Here we were greeted by the friendly and helpful staff and met our contact/guide Azad Meena.

This was a resort laid out in the shape of a horseshoe, we checked into our room # 31 and went to the open air bar.

We munched on some great spiced nuts, split a beer between the two of us and watched a musical performance until it was dinner time. The weather was just perfect for sitting outside and enjoying the evening.

We had a separate table reserved for us and found the staff very friendly and helpful. The dinner was buffet style but the staff had specially prepared some dishes more suited to our taste.

Everything was excellent.
We went back to our cottage, as we have an early morning game drive tomorrow.

Friday October 29

Breakfast Hotel,
Food B.
Service B

Left for Bikanir by road, the road goes via Pokaran. It is distance 333 kms in to be covered in 6 hrs
Arrived 1:15 pm and had lunch at Gallups

Food B+
Service B+

After lunch we met with Guide Anand Kumar to take us to The Junagargh Fort. The Fort was originally called Chintamani and was renamed Junagarh or "Old Fort" in the early 20th century when the ruling family moved to Lalgarh Palace outside the fort limits. It is one of the few major forts in Rajasthan which is not built on a hilltop and never fought a battle.

This fort is gorgeous, more a palace than a fort. All the rooms are beautifully decorated, well maintained and a must see.

Painter Raju Swami, recognized by UNICEF and Smithsonian, is the artist responsible for Fort renovations. We went and visited his studio/house and met him. He is a very humble man and gave us a peek into his talented handling of a paint brush. He operates a school with 6 students from there.

We checked into our hotel for the, The Maharaja GangaMahal Hotel.

This was built in 1886, as a guest house for the Royal Family. It started Operating as hotel since 9/22/2009 and changed ownership 6 months back.
We were in room 201, an enormous upstairs suite. Dinner was served on the terrace and included a dance performance.

The hotel/restaurant personnel were wonderful, they fetched a special dessert (রসগোল্লা) for us Bengalis as compliments of the House
Service A+
Food A+

A truly class operation and I wish them all the success.

Retired early, have 9-11 hour drive to Ranthambore tomorrow.

Thursday October 28

Breakfast at the hotel
Food - B
Service - A

We left the hotel to visit the Jaisalmir Fort also known as Sonargarh (Golden Fort). The fort stands amidst the golden stretches of the Great Thar Desert, on Trikuta Hill, and has been the scene of many battles. Its massive yellow sandstone walls are a tawny lion color during the day, fading to honey-gold as the sun sets, thereby camouflaging the fort in the yellow desert. For this reason, it is known as the "Golden Fort".

The fort is a wonderful example of a medieval "working" fort with it's magnificent architecture but it is ruined by the life style and callousness of the residents. It is also extremely overcrowded, and continues toward further decay and eventual demise, particularly by the present use of "piped in" water and the waste run off. It is still a must see.

Our guide's family was originally from the fort but his grandfather left with the Maharaja, when he left for new palace outside the fort in the city.

Within the fort walls there are many Havelis. Haveli is the term used for a private mansion in India and Pakistan. The word haveli is derived from Persian meaning "an enclosed place". They share similar features with other mansions derived from Islamic Architecture such as the traditional mansions in Morocco called Riads.

Visited three of the most impressive Havelis, outside the fort.
1. Salim Singh Ki Haveli - The family still lives here and no visitors are allowed.
2. Patwan Ji Ki Haveli - thus is the most important and the largest haveli, as it was the very first erected in Jaisalmer. It is not a single haveli but a cluster of 5 small havelis. The first one in the row is also the most popular one and is also known as Kothari's Patwa Haveli. It was commissioned and constructed in the year 1805 by Guman Chand Patwa, then a rich trader of jewellery and fine brocades, and is the biggest and the most ostentatious. This is the only one open for visitors.

Numbers 2 and 3 are boarded up, family lives in number 4 and the Government owns 1 & 5
Nathmal Ki Haveli - 2 sectioned architecture. Tazia Tower - from a distance.

Lunch - Trio, Food B+, Service B+, Bengali waiter.

After lunch we went to a jewelry store that specialized in old silver. It was an intriguing experience in that the shop was in the basement of his house. I bought some jewelry which he adjusted the size of and also willingly fixed my watch band.

Went back to the hotel and our guide left for the day.

We got picked up by Kuldip to go watch the sunset at the dunes in the Thar Dessert and have an open air dinner at the Prince Desert Camp. The dunes were almost 45 minutes away. We got out of the car and rode a camel to go over the dunes. The Thar plays a big role in Indian history and also in fiction, beyond it lies today's Pakistan.

The camel was teenage female named Michael Jordan for her long legs, per the camel's young owner Ali. He got the camel up and started and tossed the reins to me. Umm okay, fortunately one of us knew what was expected.

I have always wanted to see TheThar and the sand dunes and sunset camel ride, and Ali, all a neat experience. I did suffer the next couple of days from the camel ride but it I enjoyed and would do it again if the opportunity rose.

Went in to have dinner, had a drink while watching with dance performance.

Since it was Thursday, a no meat day we were given a Vegetarian Thali, with profuse apologies from the management.

Food - B
Service - B

Went back to the hotel and retired for the night all tired but happy.

Wednesday October 27

Breakfast at the hotel.
The manager from the local agency came to see us off and make sure everything had gone well.

Left for Jaisalmir by road, a distance of 298 kms to be covered in 5 hrs.
On the way we passed Lake Kaylana and the water filtration plant.

Saw Demoiselle cranes near the town of Lowan, they had just arrived from Siberia.

Stopped at the Pokaran Fort, it is rather small not worth a detour.

Lunch - Pokaran Desert Resort
Service - B
Food - B

As we were leaving our server stopped us and asked if we were Bengali. It turned out that he is a Bengali as well from Siliguri, has been there since age 17, and was going back in two months for good. We wished him success in his next venture.

Arrived Jaisalmir at 1:45 pm and met Jitendra our guide for this city at the Gorband Palace Hotel, which was going to be our home for tonight and tomorrow. It is hard to give him any more than a C, he lacked Ragu's energy and interest. He wanted us to finish the paperwork before we had a chance to go to our rooms, so he could go back sooner.

After about and hour, Jitendra met us to show us the sights.
Godi Sagar Lake - Interesting history, nice monuments, water and surrounding very dirty.

Proceeded on to Barabagh Hills where the Royal Chattris are. A very interesting experience which could not be marred by the an idiot guide escorting another tour group.

We went to the Himmatgarh Hotel's terrace to watch the sunset. It was too hazy for sunset viewing but it was a peaceful and enjoyable vista. Viyas Chattri and Fort were in view. I had a great fresh lime soda while enjoying the tranquility.

Jitendra escorted us to Hotel Narayan Nivas Palace for dinner and left for home. The dinner was served on the terrace and the view was a definite B+. I had Sula a Indian Red wine, that was decent. The food and service did not meet our expectation or come close to what we have received so far.

Food - D
Service - D.
After dinner Kuldeep drove us back to the Gorband Palace Hotel( # 131) to retire for the night.


Tuesday October 26

Breakfast at the Hotel
Service B+
Food B-

Went siteseeing by car, some of the highlights are:
Guda Lake
Bishonoi Village area
We saw Black buck, Indian Antelope, and cranes.
Went to Mogra village which is famous of handmade dhuris. A husband and wife gave us a demonstration on how they are woven. The were all beautiful and Sudip couldn't resist buying one.

The next was Bishnoi Village where we saw a demonstration of opium ceremony and quite a ceremony it is.

The next was Salvas village, which was an all Muslim famous for pottery, where we got an idea of the skill required to make these simple items.

For lunch we came back to Jodhpurs and decided on On the rocks. The service was slow and the salty lassi bland but otherwise the food was reasonably good

Service - B
Food - B.

Next on the agenda was the main attraction of Jodhpur, Mehrangpur Fort.
This fort was built in 1459 and is one of the largest in India. It sits 400 feet (122 m) above the city and is enclosed by imposing thick walls and winding road leads to and from the city below.

The imprints of cannonball hits by attacking armies of Jaipur can still be seen on the second gate. There are seven gates, which include Jayapol (meaning 'victory'), built by Maharaja Man Singh to commemorate his victories over Jaipur and Bikaner armies. Fattehpol (also meaning 'victory') gate was built by Maharaja Ajit Singh to mark the defeat of the Mughals. The palm imprints marking the "sati" committed, still attract much attention even today.

Today it is possible go the first 120 feet by elevator then the stairs.

This is by far my favorite fort on this trip, it is the picture perfect fort from Bengali literature, specially Tagore's "Hungry Stone".

There was informal local music in the Fort, it had a haunting melody and we stopped and listened for a while.

We then proceeded on to Jaswant Thada which wasBuilt in 1899.

Dinner was compliments of Compass, and was at Pal Haveli. This restaurant was a terrace set high above the city with a view of the Fort. We were hoping that the fort would be lit but unfortunately it was not. The ambience was wonderful none the less.

Service - A
Food - A
Ambience - A

We took our time enjoying our meal and after we were finished Raghu turned up like clockwork and accompanied us back to our hotel.

A very enjoyable day for sure.

Monday October 25

Left early for the airport to catch our Mumbai – Jodhpur flight.
Aircraft: ATR 72-500

While waiting to board I got a text from Trish and the Sports Network that the Packers beat the Vikings, "priceless" considering all the heckling I got from my Viking fan James.

The flight took off on time but had an unscheduled stop at Udaipur due to a medical emergency on board.

The passenger was taken off, we were told she was going to be all right, however we had to wait for all the paperwork to be completed.

We finally took off and landed in Jodhpur an hour and half late.
The driver Minnu (Kuldeep Singh) and the guide Raghu came to receive us. Kuldeep and his Toyota Innova will be with us until we leave for Kolkata

We visited the Umaid Bhavan Palace, which had taken 14 years to build. The Royal family still lives in one section that is closed to public. The Prince was getting married the next month and various preparations were going on on the grounds, including practicing the horse drawn royal carriage.

Proceeded on to go Shopping at Rajasthali and then checked in Hotel Rannabanka (Room 922)where we were going to be staying 2 nights We had been upgraded to a larger room with a spacious veranda overlooking the gardens.

Facility B
Service B
Reasonably priced WiFi available in all rooms.

Dinner was at a nearby restaurant - On the Rocks. It was open air dinning and the weather was perfect
Food B+
Service B

Our guide stayed with us until we went back to the hotel for the night. He is informative, responsible and with a pleasant personality. A definite B+.

Sunday October 24

Went to meet Kaku at Bombay Gymkhana Club, visited for a while and had lunch there.

I had Indian white wine Four Seasons, which the waiter suggested and didn't much care for it. There are many much better ones.
The day was very pleasant, spending time with Kaku is always a pleasure. He is so full of energy and life at 80+ and brings joy to those around him.
Everyone, including us love him and enjoy his company. Sudip felt bad that he came by train all the way from Pune just to spend the day with us but that is so Kaku and that is why he is so well loved by all.
In the afternoon went shopping at Pantaloons, R Mall, with my two fashion consultants.
Stopped by for dinner at Dinner at Urban Tadka, located in the mall itself.

Food. A-
Service B+

Saturday October 23

Sat October 23
Went shopping at Lifestyle, R Mall, quite a neat experience going shopping with twin fashionable teenagers.

Dinner at Oriental Spice with Tinku and family.
Food. B+
Service D


Thursday October 21, Friday October 22.

Thursday Oct 21
Chicago to Mumbai via Frankfurt on Air India
Aircraft - 777-300 ER.

The aircraft was quite new, however my video terminal did not work and showed signs of poor t bad maintenance There was as much leg space as can be expected in Economy Class. The food and service was quite good, the flight was smooth and took off on and landed on time at Frankfürt.

The Frankfürt airport was very busy, it had paid wireless that was quite expensive. At the security check on boarding, I got stopped for an unopened bottle of Keopectate and hubby's camera flash in my carryon, both of which had made it in from Chicago without any incident in my carry on.

After testing for residues on the camera flash and figuring out that the Keopectate was a medicine in a factory sealed bottle I was allowed to proceed.

Friday October 22
The flight landed on time in Mumbai. The service and the food was good on this leg of the trip as well.

It took almost 2 hours to get our luggage and would have taken even longer had it not been for some helpful passenger escalating it up. They found that one container of luggage was left on the tarmack and had not even been opened.

Mousum and Tinku, had been waiting a long time and we finally went to their flat in Thane. I saw the twins after 10 years and they are still as lovely and sweet as I remember them.

After a sumptuous home cooked dinner, we retired for the night.