Note: Obviously I'm behind in posting our India trip. I am in the middle of planning a trip to Vietnam. We leave Sunday. In planning for India using a travel agency as much as I did was a mistake. I figured we'd pay a little more and avoid being scammed at the airport. In the end I felt like we paid a lot more and were also scammed by the people we'd already paid. The taxi drivers are known (as per Lonely Planet) to take you to the stores at which they get commission. It became a struggle to explain that we didn't want the products their store was selling. We had to be firm and yet we had to spend the rest of the day with this hired guide/driver. In one case we had gotten an auto-rickshaw in Delhi that took us way out of our way to a store with a similar name to the store we'd asked to go to even though we'd provided the street address. We ended up getting out and walking. Also, the tour company in some cases set us up at hotels that were not appropriate for tourists (in a business hotel in a business district - or worse in another case, didn't pay the hotel on time for our arrival so we waiting and fussed in the lobby while the girls were hungry, tired and soiled. It was only after a lot of complaining did they offer to "upgrade" our room to accomodate us (where formerly they said they had no room at all). The room was - needless to say - not upgraded. I could go on but I know this is a bore - the long and short of is that we agreed that we wouldn't use a travel agency again unless it came highly recommended. So now I'm planning this trip to Vietnam. I ended up having to go to an agency to get flights because nothing was available for a reasonable price. I agreed to let them propose some hotels for comparison purposes and nothing they came up with was inexpensive. I even asked them to call everything available in the Lonely Planet and they said that nothing was available. When pressed they said that either nothing was available or the hotel didn't want to deal with an agency. We're going to try out a few guesthouses and see how that goes. Currently our plans are to fly to Danang to go to Hoi An where we will have some tailored clothing made. Then we'll go to Hanoi and use that as our base to go on a two day junk boat trip in Halong Bay and then later to stay with some villagers in Mai Chau. We'll see how it turns out.
Tomorrow is a public holiday - Deepavali. We've been invited to join Chandrika & Kumari - my friends that I met at Ananda Bhavan.