MAHARAJA MAGIC by Mike Fredman

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We’d talked about going to India for twenty years. Now we were on our way to Mumbai and the Indian Maharaja Train.

The seven day trip up to Delhi stopped at, Aurangabad, Udaipur, Ranthambore National Park, Jaipur and Agra. The trip, and India, was everything we’d dreamed of.
The Train

The train was inspired by the luxury trains once used by India’s royal families. We had a suite: a bedroom with a double bed, a lounge and two shower rooms with loos. And a butler!
There were two restaurants cars, offering the same Indian and Continental cuisine. A bar, library, beauty saloon, business centre and a small gym made up the rest of the train. Twenty-two carriages in all – one kilometre long.
The Food
Simply delicious. The menus changed every day. ‘The Indian Experience’, a thali made up of seven dishes, and a ‘Continental’ menu with a choice of two dishes including a vegetarian option.
We’d arranged for a tour of the city on our way from the airport to the train. It was our first taste of India. And we both instantly fell in love. The first thing we noticed was that the traffic in India is horrendous. You share the road with cows, camels, pigs, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, heavy lorries, cars and carts all honking their horns and driving at speed.
Perhaps the most charming of Mumbai sights was the public laundry where the half-naked dhobi-wallahs, (laundry men), stand ankle deep in soaps suds washing clothes on stone slabs and then hanging them up to dry in the sun. Later they are starched and ironed by the women before being delivered to clients.
At four o’clock we board the train at Chatrapati Shivaji Terminal after a charming ceremony where we are presented with garlands and showered with rose petals.
Day Two
Over night we have travelled 388 kilometres to the Ellora caves, a series of ancient temples and monasteries hewn out of the mountain side. Started in the 7th century they took five hundred years to complete. My favourite is a Buddhist temple with an arched roof, made quite unbelievably with just hammer and chisel! Our guide chanted a Buddhist prayer which filled the huge chamber, such were the acoustics.
Day Three
The nearby Ajanta Caves, were discovered by a party of British army officers on a tiger hunt. Carved by Buddhist monks the complex was lived in from 200BC to about 650AD. The prayer halls with their paintings were particularly moving. Evidently there are 333 million gods in Indian mythology! That’s quite a lot of praying.
Day Four
Our guide says Udaipur is his favourite city and we’ll love it. Marble palaces, beautiful gardens and Lake Pichola. We start at the City Palace. It is white, and towers over the lake and distant hills. It is now a museum, but the current Maharana of Medwar still lives in part of it.
The clothes and the jewels are dazzling. So too are the rooms, beautifully decorated with mirror work, coloured glass and frescoes.
Later we take a boat to the beautiful Lake Palace where Shah Jahan sought refuge from his father.
In the evening there is a Gala dinner at the Devi Garh Palace. We eat on a terrace under a starry sky, warmed by braziers.
Day Five
A bone rattling trip to the Rathambore National Park. We didn’t see any tigers but others did.
Day Six
Jaipur. By eight o’clock we’re making our way up to the Amber Fort – on an elephant - followed by a horde of hawkers shouting their wares. The armoury and the collection of royal possessions are fantastic. But then the whole fort defies belief! And description.
We follow this with a trip round Jantar Mantar, an outdoor observatory built in 1728. It is curiously modern looking and has a huge sundial that claims to be accurate to 2 seconds!!
Later we tour the back streets of the city in a rickshaw. The bicycle is ridden by a man who has to be in his seventies!
Day Seven
Agra and the Taj Mahal. Nothing quite prepares you for your first sight of this magical monument. It is impossible not to be moved by the huge white marble edifice in its spectacular setting.
We move on to the Red Fort – our last stop on a magical trip. It does not disappoint. The mirror palace and the white marble octagonal tower where Shah Jahan was imprisoned create a huge impression on me.
Day Eight
We leave the train in the morning and make for the Taj Palace hotel in Delhi. We spend the day visiting the markets and buying a few last mementoes. The prices are too low to ignore! It’s been a wonderful holiday. Probably the best we’ve had. India we will be back!
For More Information

We flew BA to Mumbai and booked the train through Thomas Cook (who run it with Taj Hotels).