Trip Report Northern India & Nepal (December 2023) Part 1

This was a wonderful, adventure-filled trip!

My holiday starts the moment I leave my home for the airport. My journey to/from on Qatar Airways was great. I will always opt to fly in those Q-Suites whenever possible – even if the routing is longer. They are just so comfortable; the service is top-notch, and the lounges are great. I prefer the longer layovers just to have time to walk through the Doha airport which in itself is a tourist attraction. On the front end of the tour, I had the opportunity to visit the new Louis Vuitton lounge that is only open to Qatar Platinum & Gold Members. It is located next to the Al Mourjan Business Lounge – The Garden (which is very nice and much quieter than the Qatar Business lounge in terminal C). The LV lounge is beautiful, comfortable, elegantly, and discreetly over-the top (just my cup of tea). I was invited to go inside as I headed to the Al Mourjan Business Lounge. I’ve decided during my next tour, I may opt for the Doha stopover and spend a day touring Doha.

This was a great tour! Tauck planned it perfectly and the Tour Director, Mr. Sidd, executed it flawlessly!

Our tour was a small group (12) and there were no group dynamic issues. There was a family of 5 consisting of three wonderful college age young men who were so much fun to travel with. Everyone in the group had experience traveling with Tauck and there were only 2 mild cases of Delhi-Belly (lasting less than 12 hours). Everyone knew the routine and had meds to share.

The TD (Sidd) was FANTASTIC. He was the best tour director I’ve had on all my Tauck tours. I know many of you have spoken highly of Sidd on this forum. I let him know he was highly thought of. He genuinely appreciated all the positive comments. He was delightful. For those of you taking the next 2 India/Nepal and the Portrait of India tour immediately following – you will have the wonderful opportunity of having Mr. Sidd as your TD. Sidd also leads the Singapore-Bali and K&T tours. BTW, the TDs are only given assignments 45 days out. Sidd is extra special as he is a native of Udaipur, so he really has great institutional knowledge of India. He spoke nonstop about India for four hours during one of our coach drives. He was great. I cannot say enough positive things about Sidd.

I previously took the Portrait of India tour in December 2018. I scheduled this trip understanding it would be a repeat of a few places but wanted the opportunity to visit Agra to see the Taj Mahal again (such a magnificent sight) and the opportunity to visit Nepal (mainly to have the flyover of Mt. Everest and the chance to see the elusive Bengal Tiger.) Sidd advised neither Nepal activity was a guarantee, as the flyover was weather dependent, and the tiger is well…elusive--some may see it, others may not.

Fortunately for our group, the weather was PERECT for the flyover and we had four Bengal Tiger sightings, a Bison and leopard sighting. We had 5 safari drives starting with an evening drive on the day we arrived—we didn’t see anything but the beautiful landscape and of course lots of spotted deer, a few Sambar deer and lots of playful macaque (monkeys). The 1st and 2nd tiger sightings were on the 1st morning drive of the second day; the 3rd tiger sighting was on the evening drive of the second day. The last morning drive there was so much fog that you could barely see in front of you. We managed to see a Gaur (Bison)--he was massive. The scene was so eerie as he was standing between the trees surrounded by fog. It was a beautiful sight. The last tiger sighting was on the last evening drive. He was in his element. He was alone (as they are solitary creatures) and relaxing. He turned his head a few times to view the environment, he then began licking his paws. The naturalist told us this was a sign he was preparing to rise. The naturalist was tight—the tiger slowly rose and walked backed into the bush. Everyone was delighted to have seen the elusive tiger! We did get a chance to see the one-horn rhino on our first boat safari in Chitwan National Park.

Regarding picture taking in the National Parks-- I used both my Canon DSLR with zoom lens and the iPhone 15Pro. I only carried the DSLR during the National Park tours. To be honest, the iPhone captured great photos. One of the guests used a Samsung and got beautiful photos. I’ve decided the DSLR has probably had her last exotic vacation. I remember my tour to Greece last year and how I felt so much unencumbered not carrying it around and the amazing photos I captured with the iPhone. Same as this year. Most of you know I only carry the one Briggs & Riley International carry-on bag and the camera bag for my travels. Next trip – I will only be using the B&R carry-on.

Happy New Year & Happy Travels--Robin

Part 2 - next post (exceeded character limit)

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