|Subject: Re: India and Bhutan|
Whilst in Agra you must not only see the Taj Mahal - which is a must. To miss it is like missing the Eiffel Tower in Paris. But you know that. In addition, visit the Agra Fort. It is a fine example of Mughal Style architecture and is visible from the grounds of the Taj Mahal.
Additionally, if you are not spooked by being *really* close to monkeys also goto the "Baby Taj" which is around the corner from the Taj Mahal itself. A local guide will be able to point you in the right direction and provide some a guided tour for around 100 Rupees.
The "Baby Taj" and the Fort are often missed on visits to Agra which I view as a shame.
In Delhi, you should not miss a chance to do some shopping in Chandi Chowks, close by to the Red Fort. Chandi Chowks is a real experience of India and not often visited by "outsiders." I expect your tour will take you to the Red Fort, so I will not dwell on it other than to say on my last visit (November last year) security had been significantly tightened owing to recent attacks on the Parliament building. This was also true of other very-high and high-profile targets including India Gate. Additionally, I would recomend a visit to Qatar Minar (sp?). Take a guide - there are several on site - most of whome provide excellent information on the site.
If procuring the services of a guide on site, be sure to check their credentials. Credible guides, who have been approved by the government body (India Tourist Board or Ministry of Tourism, I think but I stand to be corrected) will display an identity badge on their shirt (green colour last time I was there) which will bear their Name, Photograph and Details of the Issuing Body. These are the reputable guides and charge the usual rates and are knowledgeable on their subject.
Whilst in India, be sure to take necessary health precautions and consult your doctor on any innoculations that you might need.
Gail, I wonder where you are staying in Jaipur? Here I can recomend the Samode Palace Hotel (which is actually outside Jaipur but is close by.) See www.samode.com. It is a Heritage Hotel and a wonderful example of Mughal/Rajput style architecture. Addtionally, the Lake Palace Hotel does *fantastic* meals, but be *sure* to book as soon as you arrive. It is also possible to visit "The Winter Palace" which is upon a hill overlooking Jaipur itself - you can see it from Lake Palace and from the grounds of the Oberoi certainly. Part way there (up a winding road) is an "art school" from where you can purchase typical Rajastani style of art - actually the work is very good and I have bought some myself.
For the film buffs amongst you, Octupussy (Roger Moore as James 007 Bond) was filmed in Jaipur and Delhi and some scenes where filmed in the Lake Palace Hotel.
Once I have completed this Jaunt around Spain, I will dig out some notes from India and post them to this list, if it would satisfy My Learn'd Friends. But these are my thought from memory on a fascinating country.
Gail, I have not been to the other destinations you mention in India and would very much appreciate your feedback on them as I hope to visit them in the near future.
I hope you enjoy your travels to Interesting India.
Mark Sukhija, in Valencia