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Bollywood’s calling!!! Mumbai

Bollywood’s calling!!! Mumbai, India the birthplace of Bollywood, is everything you imagine it should be. Exotic beauties with mysterious dark eyes, pearly white smiles and glossy hair, wearing vibrant coloured silks, drinking in upmarket bars that wouldn’t look out of place in New York. Grand colonial architecture, imposing and austere leading to magnificent courtyards and gardens. Men groomed to perfection, dripping in designer labels, winding down after a day’s work in one of the large city corporations.

Mumbai has all the colonial past times in abundance - for those who have the cash and the status to oblige there is the Royal Bombay Yacht Club, the Oval cricket ground and numerous members-only smoking lounges and bars. High tea is still all the rage for the Mumbai glitterati.

However, like the much revered Brahma, Mumbai has many faces and the Bollywood vibe is but one of them. The other side casts a shadow, the poverty, the roadside beggars and street urchins, the ramshackle shanty towns in the lower caste suburbs. The constant noise and the fine layer of dust that settles motionless on anything that stands still for longer than a second. The seedy red light district with ‘caged’ women. The train station that shifts thousands of people daily from one city to the next, a constant flow of exchanging places in the hope of something better along the way. The train porters carrying a family’s luggage on their head battling against a tidal flow of people, to the chorus of ‘Chai, chai’, ‘chai, chai’ from the tea boys carrying the biggest tea pot you ever did see.

The combination of Bollywood glamour and the harsh reality of lower caste living somehow grabs a hold of you and reaches right to your heart. The city has a pulse, there is no doubt about that. It also seems to have a song, the rhythm of daily life singing out in an infectious way with a melody that on the one hand leaves you exhuberant and on the other hand a little sad and reflective. A total fusion of east meets west, rich meets poor.
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Tickets to Jodhpur (Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi)

Jodhpur is situated in the extreme eastern part of the Desert Thar and is Rajasthan’s second largest city.

With the alias of ‘Sun City’, visitors flock to the city of Jodhpur annually in their thousands. It is not for the sun however (although you are virtually guaranteed that during all months save for the monsoon), it is for the vibe, the charisma of this city of ‘blue’.


Aesthetically Jodhpur is a heady mix of beautiful and chaotic. The blue houses for which Jodhpur is famed add a wash of colour to the cityscape that can only be matched by Jaipur’s rosy hues. Watching the sun traverse across the skyline at sunset changing the spectrum from deep peacock blue through to a muted pallor is visually stunning. Walking through the city by day you are constantly struck by the prettiness of the place where the blue walls contrast so vibrantly against the pinks, greens, yellows, reds, oranges of the heavily embellished saris that pass. Yet you are also acutely aware of the down at heel feel of some parts of the old city, where beggars are ten a penny and earning a living can be as tough in this city just as it is in some of the larger cities.

Standing sentinel over the city high up on a hill is the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort, attracting both tourists and Indians alike. The fort is actually a complex which also contains several temples, as well as the Maharaja’s Palace. It is a stunning sight, both inside and out, both from close up and afar. A trip to Jodhpur without visiting Mehrangarh Fort would be sacrilege.
Also worth visiting is Umaid Bhawan Palace, which is the current residence of the Maharaja of Jodhpur. Unbelievably, a part of it is also a luxury hotel open to visitors with deep pockets!

Jodhpur is a place where anyone handy with a camera will wish to hang out. The colours make for beautiful images and the city surrounds are also beautiful.
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Jaipur 2010

The capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur is known as ‘the pink city’ because so many of its houses are painted pink. The reason for this is said either to originate from the much admired reddy pink architecture from the Mughal cities, or because pink represents hospitality and hence much of the city was painted pink in anticipation of a visit by the Prince of Wales’ in 1876. Whatever the real reason, the coloured houses add a soft warm glow to the city and the skyline is particularly beautiful viewed from above at sunrise or sunset as it stretches out before your eyes in a haze of muted tones.

Like Delhi and Mumbai, Jaipur is a rather chaotic city on a slightly smaller scale. Noise, dust and pollution are par for the course, so if you are looking for some rest and relaxation this wouldn’t be the first city to spring to mind. However, Jaipur is a great introduction to Rajasthan, before moving on to the desert cities of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer.

Jaipur has a number of sights that compete with other big tourist attractions throughout India. For example there is the Amber Fort, the City Palace and numerous temples, all of which would be an afternoon well spent. There are also a number of gorgeous gardens to retire to should the noise and crowds become too much.

However, the real spirit of Jaipur is in its people. You will find some gems as you interact with the Rajasthani people, many of whom will be willing to introduce you to their way of life, often difficult days spent earning little money for a lot of work, but nevertheless there seems to be a certain spirit of determination and resilience that is not so readily noticeable in the larger cities.

Jaipur is also a great place for a shopping fix. You will have to haggle with the best of them in the markets, or if bartering is not your style you can head to the government run fixed price shops where you will find the pace much more relaxing and the products of a consistently good quality. Jaipur is particularly well known for a soft type of quilt known as Rajais, resplendent in the usual vibrant array of colours that India is well known for.

For yet another side to Rajasthan, pay a visit to one of the movie theatres. Rajasthanis’ take movies very seriously and at the same time with great humour. All the good Indian movies borrow plots from western blockbusters whilst at the same time adding in their own unique mix of humorous romance, religious satire, melancholy failings and colourful musical interludes. It is an eclectic combination that will have you laughing, crying and singing along with the rest of the movie going crowd!!
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Goa tickets 2010

If you’ve just travelled from one of India’s major cities, or even one of its smaller towns where crowds and noise and pollution are par for the course, Goa will appear like an oasis of calm, a magical haven of chilled out tranquillity. That is not to say that there aren’t crowds. There are, but this crowd is one of bikinis and kaftans, jingling ankle bracelets, beards, carefree braided hair, tanned and relaxed and a little like they communally swallowed a bottle of happy pills. That is to say, that anything goes and nobody really minds at all.

It is Goa where you are likely to walk down the beach past a cluster of dreadlocked men beating out a glorious rhythm on their bongos. Where chill out tunes float on the breeze from beachside cafes. Even the beach hawkers selling colourful sarongs and hats and toe rings casually chat and joke without any of the serious hard sell that you’d be subjected to in the cities. The pace is unhurried as this is a town distinctly at ease with itself.

The first thing you will notice about Goa is that western influence is strong. Jeans and t-shirts are the basic uniform of the locals, with all the usual labels you’d find in European shopping malls. It is the foreigners wearing the saris and salwar kameez, embracing the eastern culture in a place that has one foot firmly in western ideals. You are just as likely to find pancakes and eggs on the breakfast menu as you are to find dhal. You will even recognise the Indian dishes that you can find in the local curry house back home as tourism is Goa’s biggest trade and they do it well.

Whilst there are temples to see and markets to visit, Goa’s biggest attraction is its gorgeous beaches and lush countryside. Most of all, Goa attracts the crowds for its peaceful vibe. The atmosphere harks back to the fun loving hippy 60s scene and though times have moved on, the bohemian feel lives strong and word spreads quickly amongst backpackers and travellers that here they will find a community of like-minded laid back people.

Aside of lazing on the beach or in the cafes, undoubtedly the best way to see Goa is to hire a small scooter or motorcycle either solo or with a partner or group of friends and putter your way around the countryside stopping off to admire the views wherever takes your fancy. Be sure to try the mouth-watering fish, caught freshly every day, together with a fresh tropical fruit lassi - heaven. Or park up the scooter and hop on a river boat up the backwaters in search of crocodiles!

There are two faces to Goa, the town and the beach and a taste of both will offer you the best overall feel of the place. In the town you will find an interesting mix of churches, cathedral, temples, forts and even an art gallery. Being a former Portuguese colony the architecture still reflects the elegance of those times. Book your cheap tickets to India from London from CheapTicket
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Agra

Could Agra be one of the most romantic cities in the world? Perhaps not when you come face to face with the usual street touts and hawkers in their hundreds, all hassling you for a slice of your travel budget and promising the best tour money can buy. However, Agra is the home of a wonder of the world that probably represents the most romantic gesture ever made, the infamous and incomparable Taj Mahal. It would be a lie to suggest that tourists flock here for any other reason, but even so it is the best reason possible and no trip to India is complete without a trip to swoon over the Taj.

The palace was a labour of love for Emperor Shah Jahan who ordered it to be built in 1631 to act as a mausoleum after the death of his beloved wife. Seventeen years later the astonishing marble palace was finally complete, no doubt drawing sharp intakes of breath from all who cast eyes on it from then all the way up to the present day. The Taj Mahal has been described as “a teardrop on the cheek of eternity” by Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore.

Set in beautiful ornamental gardens complete with reflective ponds and fountains the Taj Mahal rises up out of the ground in imposing marble, with intricate inlaid stonework. Taking on a rosy pink hue at sunset only adds to the romance. It is worth remembering that there are beautiful views of the palace from behind, outside of the grounds. It is such a fine piece of architecture that it is deserving of at least a half day’s worth of viewing, with many travellers photographing the palace at dawn and dusk as well as during the peak hours of the day.

Aside of the Taj Mahal, Agra is also the site of Agra Fort, a better preserved fort than Delhi Fort and made of the same beautiful red sandstone. A peaceful place, although it will always be in the shadow of the Taj Mahal the fort is truly an impressive building. Furthermore, from the fort you can glimpse the Taj Mahal from yet another angle to add to your album.

As a town, Agra is no jewel in itself, its commerce being built mainly around the Taj Mahal and the Fort and travellers tend not to linger after seeing these sites, although there are other temples and gardens that are worth seeing.

Due to the sheer number of tourists passing through Agra to visit the Taj, the accommodation options are endless and varied, though perhaps with an emphasis on budget options to satisfy the constant stream of backpackers. There are also luxury options where you can wake up to a view of the Taj Mahal from your bedroom and it doesn’t get much better than that!
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Golden Triangle Trips - Delhi-Agra-Jaipur-Delhi ( 05 Nights/ 06 Days )

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Day 01 / Arrival Delhi 
Arrive Delhi, meet assist at the airport & transfer to hotel. Night stay in Delhi.
 
Day 02 / Delhi
After a leisurely breakfast sightseeing tour of New Delhi where ornate buildings recall the days when India was the Jewel in the crown of the British empire. Visit the 11th century Qutab Minar, India Gate and the grand government buildings, the President’s House, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial , Also visit Laxmi Narayan temple popularly known as Birla Temple. Night stay in Delhi.
 
Day 03 / Delhi- Agra( By road Approx 4 Hrs)
Early morning drive to the city of Taj- Agra , Arrive Agra in approx. 4 hours & transfer to hotel. Afternoon visit the Agra Fort - the rusty and majestic red-sandstone fort of Agra stands on the banks of the river Yamuna and the construction was started by Emperor Akbar in 1566. At the Diwan-I-Am (hall of public audience), a colonnaded hall of red-sandstone with a throne alcove of inlaid marble at the back, the Emperor heard public petitions. At the Diwan-I-Khas (hall of private audience) where marble pavilions with floral inlays lend an ethereal ambience, the Emperor sat on his gem-studded Peacock Throne and met foreign ambassadors and rulers of friendly kingdoms. Later at sunset visit the magnificent Taj Mahal - one of the seven wonders of the world surely the most extravagant expression of love ever created. 20,000 men laboured for over 17 years to build this memorial to Shah Jahan's beloved wife. Evening free to explore the Agra’s rich heritage of handicrafts in its markets. Night stay in Agra.
 
Day 04 / Agra- Jaipur
( By road Approx 5 Hrs) After breakfast drive to Jaipur- the fabled “pink city" of the desert named after Jai Singh, the former Maharaja of Jaipur. This is the only city in the world symbolizing the nine divisions of the universe through the nine rectangular sectors subdividing it. The palaces and forts of the yesteryears, which were witnesses to the royal processions and splendours are now living monuments enroute visiting Fatehpur Sikri-a perfectly preserved red sandstone “ghost town" which was the estranged capital of Mughal emperor Akbar, built in 1569 and deserted when its water supply failed. Arrive Jaipur in late evening & transfer to hotel. Night stay in Jaipur.
 
Day 05 / Jaipur 
After a leisurely breakfast , visit the majestic Amber Fort, is one that cannot be easily described. Ride up on Elephants to the former capital of the royals set against the backdrop of the wooded hills. Later visit the City Palace, Palace of Winds also known as Hawa Mahal, this elaborate building, now little more than a façade, is encrusted with delicate screen sand carved balconies from which the royal ladies, confined to their quarters, could sneak views of the outside world. Past, present and future merge at Jai Singh's observatory, where time has been accurately measured since the 17th century. Night stay in Jaipur.
 
Day 06 / Jaipur- Delhi ( By road Approx 5 Hrs)-
Departure After breakfast drive to Delhi , arrive Delhi in approx 05 Hours & transfer to airport for onward flight. Tour Ends
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Getting To India

By Air
India’s national airline is Air India.
Numerous other airlines operate flights from the UK to Delhi: direct flights to Delhi are available on Air India, Virgin Atlantic, and Jet Airways, and indirect flights on the following carriers: Austrian Airlines, Swiss, Gulf Air, Finnair, Kuwait Airways, Turkish Airlines, Eurofly, Etihad Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Qatar Airways, Sri Lankan Airlines, Emirates, Alitatlia, Royal Jordanian, Air France, China Eastern Airlines, Thai Airways, Air Mauritius, Singapore Airlines, and Cathay Pacific Airways. Journey time from London to Delhi is around 8 hours, and New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport is 14 miles south of the city, a journey that takes around 45 minutes by bus, coach or taxi.
 
Flights are also available to Mumbai as follows: direct flights on Air India, Virgin Atlantic and Jet Airways, and non direct flights on the following airlines: Austrian Airlines, Swiss, Gulf Air, Finnair, Kuwait Airways, Turkish Airlines, Etihad Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Qatar Airways, Yemenia Airlines, Sri Lankan Airlines, Emirates, Alitatlia, Royal Jordanian, Air France, Thai Airways, Air Mauritius, Singapore Airlines, and Cathay Pacific Airways. Journey time from London to Mumbai is around 8 hours and 30 minutes and Mumbai’s Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport is 22 miles north of the city, a journey that takes around an hour by taxi or bus.
 
Flights are also available to Kolkata (Calcutta) as follows: direct flights are only available on Air India, and non direct flights on the following airlines: Emirates, Jet Airways, Alitalia, and Thai Airways.. Journey time from London to Kolkata is around 9 hours and 45 minutes and Kolkata’s Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport is 13 miles north east of the city, a journey that takes around an hour by taxi or coach.
 
Flights are also available to Chennai (Madras) as follows: there are no direct flights from the UK to Chennai (Madras), but non direct flights are available on the following airlines: Qatar Airways, Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways, Air India, Sri Lankan Airlines, Jet Airways, Emirates, Alitalia, Air France, Thai Airways, Air Mauritius, and Singapore Airlines. Journey time from London to Chennai is around 11 hours, and Chennai’s Madras International Airport is around 9 miles south west of the city, a journey that takes around 20 minute by bus, train or taxi.
 
By Boat
There are several main ports in India, including Calicut, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Panaji (in Goa), and Rameswaram (usually the major departure port for ferries to Sri Lanka, but these are not currently operating). Several cruise liners also use Indian ports, but there are no regular passenger services operating to between India and South East Asia.
 
By Rail
There are rail connections between India and Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, though most international journeys will involve some road travel as well as train. The only place you can cross between India and Pakistan is at the international border point at Wagah. Attempting to cross at any other point could be dangerous. Travelling to Nepal by train is popular, taking the train to Raxaul and then on by bus to Kathmandu. There are no land borders between Indian and Myanmar or China.
 
By Road
It is possible to travel overland from Europe to India, with the most popular border crossings being at Sunauli (for travel to Delhi and north west parts of India), Kakarbhitta (for Darjeeling) or Birgani (for Calcutta and eastern parts of India). There is also a bus service operating between Lahore in Pakistan and New Delhi, which takes around 10 hours.
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Flying : here are some of the things you can do

When you taxi, you barely feel the plane move at all. At this point the cabin crew will tell you all you need to know about what to do in case of emergencies and such. They will do a demonstration or show a video of where the exits are, how to fasten your seatbelt, when portable electronics can and can't be used, etc. The captain will come on and give a little speech about the flight and what to expect - something about how long it will take until you take-off, what to expect weather wise in your destination city, and how long the flight should take.

When the plane prepares for liftoff, it starts to go really fast down the runway, and then within 45 seconds you are up in the air. Things may seem a little wobbly at first, but that's just because of moving through the different altitudes. Your ears will pop as you climb through the altitudes also. The best ways are to alleviate the pressure are to:

*chew gum
*drink something
*suck on a hard candy or mints
*yawn
*pinch the nostrils shut, take a deep breath in through the mouth, then force the air into the back of the nose as if trying to blow your nose
*Another trick that used mainly on babies and small children, but can be used on anyone, is to gently but with some pressure, rub your neck repeatedly from the chin to the base of the neck. This will cause a swallowing motion that will relieve pressure build-up in the ears.


Once you are in the air, things will feel smooth. You will hear the humm of the engines, but that's normal, nothing to worry about. I actually find it relaxing. If there is turbulence, you might feel the plane wobble a little bit (usually up and down) but remember, planes are designed to withstand this, so take a deep breath and try not to think about it. It might give you a few butterflies in your stomach though. After a few minutes, you will hear a ding. This is the captain letting the flight attendants know that the plane has reached 10,000 feet. At this point, the rate of ascent will decrease. You will also get an announcement that it's OK to use portable electronic devices at this time.


When you are approaching landing, your ears will pop as you descend through the altitudes (remember: chewing gum, drinking something, swallowing, yawning, etc will alleviate the pressure). You will feel the plane slow down and the cabin crew will prepare you for landing. As you get close to your destination, the captain will come back on and tell you how much longer until you land, and what the weather is like. When the plane touches down it kind of feels like a short jolt, and then you hear them cut the engines off and the plane slows down pretty fast.

From there, the plane will taxi to either the gate or the designation where a bus will pick you up. You wait for the plane to decompressurize a few moments before they start letting the passengers out. That was your flight.


To entertain yourself:
- Bring along a few book, magazines, puzzles (such as crosswords or Sodoku if you like those).
- Bring along an iPod, MP3 player, or CD player to listen to music.
- A laptop is good to have as you can play games on it, connect to the internet, and get any work done that you may have. (You have to have a WIFI card in your laptop and the airline will charge you to connect to the internet) or watch DVDs.
- Try talking to the people next to you. Sometime you will meet some really interesting people, and forge friendships.
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Delhi

With a population of over 10 million, Delhi is not for the faint hearted! Delhi is a city of contrasts, from poverty stricken suburbs to Bollywood glamour, India’s capital city is one of many faces.

Depending upon where you enter Delhi from will determine your initial impression, but there is little doubt that at some point you will be struck hard by the street beggars, the litter strewn townships, the red dust that settles over the city, the crowds of street hawkers, cows wandering freely along busy roads and the bedlam of traffic that seems to follow no rules. It is hot, smelly and crowded. However don’t let that put you off. Delhi’s brash personality has a very very likeable side that takes a little while to sink in. Yes it may be dirty and smelly, but the people here are very humble with a great sense of humour and a resilience and determination to better themselves in the face of adversity that has to be admired.


Like any capital city there are some down trodden suburbs and some very elegant suburbs and you can’t help but think that Delhi has the 2 in extreme form. Here it seems like people are either very rich or very poor. Alongside ramshackle houses will be a neighbouring suburb housing substantial mansions. Likewise, you can buy cheap goods for a song off a market stall, or the best quality tailoring from designer boutique shops aimed at those with full pockets. There are basic street side cafes and top end bars where you will only be allowed entry if you have the right look. There is food sizzling on grills by the side of the road and there are swanky 5 star restaurants.

Delhi has numerous attractions – temples, forts, parks and so much more, but the real attraction is the make up of the city itself, for it is a fascinating place that will have you gripped before you even realise it. A special place that has much to offer to those with eyes wide open and a very open mind.

Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games