- Trip Report
Exploring unfamiliar places, blending with locals abroad, backpacking through metropoles, deserts and snowy peaks, are spirits expressed by Damian Satya Wibowo, Punn Ouilapan and Warakorn Jetlohasiri. These KMITL Software Engineering students took a 21-day budget trip to India and Nepal, in 2018’s winter holiday.
Covering two countries, ten million meters and a span of over 4,100 meters of elevation, we managed to pack everything in a budget of 19,000 to 23,000 Baht (US$ 600 to 725) all-in, including all international, intercity and city transportation, accommodation (hostels and teahouses), all food and beverages, all tourist attraction fees, Jaisalmer desert camp safari tour, all scam costs, extra baggage fee, visas and all trekking equipment.
I, Damian, was the travel manager for this trip. I thoroughly researched about India and Nepal (in terms of attractions, transport, culture, language and money matters) built the itinerary, booked all transport and tours, etc. Punn focused on food and security matters, while Warakorn was assigned to be our trekking leader. The entire process took nine months, including frequent meetings and briefings with all members.
Note: On the departure date, 1 Indian Rupee (INR) = 0.46 Thai Baht; 1 Nepali Rupee (NPR) = 0.28 Thai Baht
Jaipur: Pink Capital
Jaipur was our starting and ending point. The Rajasthani capital offered a large selection of historical sites, e.g. hilltop Amer Fort, palaces (City Palace, Hawa Mahal) and Downtown Jaipur itself, which is called “The Pink City”. We consider Jaipur as the “most complete” city in our trip, because besides those sites, Jaipur’s general culinaire scored the top tier in our standards. One shop worth mentioning is Sahu Tea Stall, which apparently sells the best Indian tea throughout Rajasthan!
Figure 1. Jaipur’s Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds)
Yet, that does not mean Jaipur is perfect. We faced some respiratory problem when commuting through the Thar Desert part of Upper Jaipur, and at night it was challenging to get a taxi without them declining our request to go to our hostel, which was, in fact, hard to find.
Jaisalmer: Sandy Paradise
Twelve hours away by an overnight train, we moved to Jaisalmer where we took a private tour (including a car and a driver) for two days and a night. We started our tour to some Jaisalmeri ancient sites, before getting transported to a luxury desert camp in the middle of nowhere, near Sam Sand Dunes. In the evening, the real deal started: we hopped on camels and cruised through the sand dunes, then got on a bumpy jeep trip to another dune, watched the sun setting over the Thar Desert, round trip. The festivity did not stop there: the camp invited all guests to watch their Marwari cultural shows while handing out some snacks and drinks for free. The last thing for the day was a mid-desert big buffet dinner.
Figure 2. Camel Riding in Jaisalmer
We departed from the desert camp the next early morning for Jaisalmer Fort. In the middle of the trip, we were offered to have an accompanying guide to help us understand more about the history of the sites. Jaisalmer Fort itself is not merely a fort – it was and is a fort city, built as a royal residence in around 13th century. Until now, passed over generations, people are still living inside the fort. In this occasion, we visited Jain Temples and the Havelis – which were the mansions of important people in the past. Now, they function as museums which tell stories about kingdom life back then.
Figure 3. Between Two Havelis, Patwon ki Haveli, Jaisalmer Fort
Jaisalmer, so far, becomes our second most favorite place in the trip. We were really satisfied with the tour and their guides, and most importantly, the activities! By 4PM, we got on our train for Jodhpur.
Jodhpur: Oasis of the Thar
Jodhpur, known as the blue city, reflected on its houses’ fresh blue walls, didn’t fail to amuse us. It houses Rajasthan’s grandest fort: the hilltop Mehrangarh Fort. To get there, we took a rough 3-kilometer hike from the city center through compounds of blue residences. Mehrangarh Fort was built as a royal palace in the Indian Kingdoms’ Era, common for its time. This ‘million-room’ castle, not only it is gorgeous, has a 360-degree view of Jodhpur’s carpet of blue buildings. The 600-INR entrance was worth it.
Figure 4. Mehrangarh Fort from Jodhpur City Center
Due to fatigue, after visiting Mehrangarh Fort, we chose to go relax at our hostel until the time to go to Agra. This time, the train was not as comfortable as before because we ran out of sleeper berths, despite booking almost four months early!
Agra: Heaven and Hell
And of course, we visited the most famous icon of India: Taj Mahal in Agra. After a 10-hour ‘no sleeper’ train ride, we arrived at 7AM in a foggy, empty Agra. We took a taxi to Sadar Bazar – a supposedly popular market. All we found was no one but stray dogs and furious monkeys ruling over the alleys, with zero establishments running their business. Without any doubt we escaped the area, moving to Taj Mahal area.
The Taj was, not only overcrowded with humans from all over the world, but also covered in smog. Upon entrance, our big-sized belongings were left in a locker outside of the complex, and still, our other bags and we ourselves were heavily searched by Indian Army personnel for security measures. Afterwards, we entered Taj complex and got amazed to see the architectural details of this 380-year mausoleum by a Mughal Emperor: Shah Jahan. Taj complex is massive, comprised of outer terrace, inner terrace (where the main palace and fountain gardens are located at), Mehmanhana (guests’ rest house), mosque and the popular, marble palace building itself. We spent around four hours inside, before heading out for some meal just outside the complex.