HEART OF INDIA March 11-April 2 This was our second OAT trip. We didnt expect that any experience could measure up to our 2014 OAT trip to Southern Africa but we were pleasantly surprised. Heart of India is wisely named as it is an experience which speaks to your heart and spirit. Our trip leader, Prabhu was professional, knowledgeable and personable but most importantly he was a man whose informative insights were heartfelt. India is amazing and overwhelming, a country of contrasts. It is hard to find words that describe the sights, sounds, smells: the cows, the traffic, the horns, the temples, the Ganges at sunset and sunrise, the marigolds, the brightly colored jeweled saris, the rickshaw ride through Old Delhi, riding the crowded metro in Delhi, making naan with the locals in a soup kitchen in a Sikh temple which feeds 15000 daily, enjoying a home hosted dinner in Jaipur and learning how to make Indian appetizers, trying to cross a street, the ornately carved ancient temples in Khajuraho, seeing the Taj Mahal at sunset and again bathed in the early morning light, the modern buildings and new construction in Mumbai alongside the slums, the tropical landscape of Kerala and serene fishing villages of the backwaters, the pink city of Jaipur, the snake charmer, spending the morning with a family of tigers while on safari in Ranthambore National Park, learning how to put on a sari and dressing in one for our farewell dinner, hoisting the old Chinese fishing nets in Cochin, visiting Ghandi's memorial in Delhi and his museum in Mumbai, visiting the President's botanical gardens, traveling on the train to Jhansi and discussing 'snow' with an Indian family who were so excited about seeing photos of this year's snowfall in Boston. Prabhu"s discussion each day with us while traveling on the bus gave us insights into every aspect of the cultural, historical, political and social life of Mother India. Learning about arranged marriages and reading the related 'want ads' in the newspaper was a highlight.. It will take us months to digest all that we saw and all that we learned. Our Heart of India experience has bombarded our senses and carved a place in our mind and heart forever. Experiencing India, its culture and history requires some early morning travel days; it requires a sense of humor and an adventurous spirit. Having said that OAT has this trip down to a science. Prabhu, our trip leader arranged all aspects like clockwork. He provided our group with so many extra experiences not mentioned in the itinerary. All went smoothly. Hotels were modern, some palatial. Transportation comfortable and reliable. Before we left on our trip many friends and relatives questioned : Why India.? Our response is that all who truly wish to be enriched by world travel must consider seeing this incredible country as soon as possible as we suspect that "progress" and modernization may compromise some of its uniqueness and culture. Which hotel offered free wifi, which restaurant was better than the next is irrelevant when you consider the total picture. I believe that all things considered Oat is the best value for the base trip, the best way to go when visiting India. The security of having a guide with you all the time smooths some of the rough spots inherent in travel to this interesting country. The small group experience allowed us to experience so many impromptu activities such as visiting a potter, walking through remote villages, stopping along the roadside to feed the cows and dropping in on a Hindu temple celebration replete with a 20plus piece band, fireworks and elephants decked out in regalia. The stay at the Oat Camp was filled with cooking lessons, cricket lessons and dancing lessons around an open fire. The men in our group learned how to put on a turban and dhoti .The visit to the school was eye opening. A few of us prepared activites for the children. Our group enjoyed the songs we prepared and requested the 'Hokey Pokey' . Some things transcend the miles and cultures. The morning of our visit the school had just received sorely needed desks and chairs from the OAT foundation. The principal and his helpers were busy assembling and painting the desks. We had our photo taken with the new furniture. Several in our group experienced mild Delhi Belly for a day. Bring along some pepto bismol and imodium. We had no problem with the water or a particular food. It seems that mixing many different spicy foods at the buffets does not sit well with our American digestive limitations. ATMs were readily available. All hotels exchanged money at a decent rate. Other than souvenirs and a few lunches and dinners all was included. Prabhu conducted a bus bazaar after most tours. This made it easy to shop. Value for the money: We did not take international air through OAT as we were able to find the same international flight they recommended for about $400 pp less. We arranged OAT transfers. They were well worth the fees. All in all the main trip was excellent value. Based on your comfort level consider doing the post trip on your own as language is not a barrier especially in Southern India and private guides are readily available. Would recommend only one night on the backwaters and spend at least a second night in Mumbai. In summary, book this trip and India will enrich your mind and spirit forever,
✔ Yes, I recommend this trip.