Clean, Safe, Fair Priced and Unlike Anthony Bourdain … Some Reservations


Hotel Heritage Home
1603/4 Main Bazar, Pahar Ganj
Near RK Ashram Metro Station
New Delhi 110055, India 
Phone: +91-987-352-9223

Prices: $$$$$

New Delhi (Paharganj), India: I found Hotel Heritage Home on TripAdvisor and made my reservation on Booking.com after reading numerous good reviews. The hotel is just a few blocks from the Ramakrishna Ashram Marg Metro station (opposite end from the train station) on Main Bazaar and just around the corner from Café Festa. It was easy to spot because of the good signage in front. It has a clean, open, rustic feel with a long entry through automatic glass doors, a small reception along with a travel office, an elevator and a rooftop restaurant. The area around the station is seedy to say the least, but vibrant, energetic, and colorful although filthy as is the case around much of Delhi.

Arriving at 1:30 AM after a 30-hour journey, I decided to defer to the hotel to pick me up at the airport. My driver spoke little English, but was right where I was told he would be with my name on a sign. The drive took about 25 minutes with little traffic due to the early hour. The trip was quoted at 900 Rupees ($14.65), not unfair by American standards but 500 Rupees more than the “standard” (400 Rupee – $6.50) fare from the airport to Delhi. In fact, when I inquired about my return trip to the airport, I was quoted 400 Rupees, so maybe there was a “late arrival surcharge”, an not totally unreasonable assumption.

I booked a “standard” room (1200 Rupees/night – $19.50), but found out the next say I was upgraded to a “deluxe” (normally 1800 Rupees – $29.25). The room was basic with marble floors, a large king bed, flat screen TV and cable, a small wardrobe, mini-sofa and table, and a bathroom that also serves as a shower due to the lack of a curtain or door. The room was fortunately in the back away from the street with no windows, which is not a bad thing considering I am sensitive to light and noise when I sleep and Main Bazaar is extremely loud due to the crowds below and the incessant honking of horns that Delhi drivers seem to thrive on.

The hotel’s travel office is convenient and helpful, but based on the prices I was quoted you may be better off booking your (train/bus/hotel/sightseeing) reservations online or directly with the provider as travel agents (and most other businesses) in this area are notorious for overcharging tourists. I will defer my opinion until I can compare quoted charges with online/counter prices through the respective purveyors.

Their rooftop restaurant is “relatively” quiet and inviting with plants, three parakeet cages, and local furnishings with several tables sitting below their own canopy for shade from the warm Delhi sun. The waiters speak barely passable English, but are attentive, efficient, and friendly. The menu has few beverage options, including bottled water, coffees (30-35 rupees – 55 – 60 cents), teas, shakes and other local drinks as well as vegetarian breakfasts, appetizers, pastas, sandwiches, and several options from India. There is no Diet Coke or other low calorie soft drinks and the coffee adequate, seemingly instant and likely Nescafe. The offerings are cheap by American standards, but not great. In two visits, I tried the egg and potato breakfast (80 Rupees – $1.30), accompanied by two pieces of toast (butter and jam), and a coffee with milk (35 rupees). It was adequate, but an excellent value. For dinner I went with the butter chicken (170 rupees – $2.75 – normally, one of my favorites) and an order of garlic cheese naan (60 Rupees – $1.00). The butter chicken came in a tomato-based sauce that tasted like sweet spaghetti sauce, not the creamy, savory variety I have come to love in restaurants in the U.S. and England, and the naan was slathered in butter/oil, a bit too much for my taste.

My biggest disappointments were the unexplained airport surcharge mentioned earlier, the horrible and nearly non-existent internet, and the phantom (500 Rupee) SIM card charge for my iPhone. The internet seemed to work OK upon my arrival and I was fortunately able to Skype with my wife and let he know I was alive, but it was “down” the next two days (the manager said it was their service provider’s fault) and accessible the next two, but so slow that my browsers gave up trying to load. Google also locked me out of all my email accounts because they thought someone was trying to hack me from India, but I could not access my ten accounts to resolve the issue due to lack of internet. What fun! When I told the manager that I wanted to get a local SIM card for my phone, he gallantly offered to have a colleague help me out. I was quoted 500 Rupees ($8.15 for a SIM card) and 495 Rupees for 2GB of 3G data. The data is an excellent value compared to American standards, but when I went to the Vodaphone store in Connaught Palace the next day because I could only get 1G data service throughout Delhi, I was told that “SIM cards are free, you should not have been charged for one”. Oh well, live and learn!

There are much cheaper (and more expensive) options available in Delhi, but if you are looking for a reasonably priced hotel, centrally located near the Metro in an area not abundant with clean, modern facilities, then Hotel Heritage Home is a good option, but be careful about add-on services as they are likely highly inflated.

CombatCritic Gives Hotel Heritage Home 6 Bombs Out of 10 



… Would Have Been 8 If Not For the Airport Surcharge, Internet Fiasco, and Extraneous SIM Card Charge .. MORE BOMBS ARE BETTER!

Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title: Clean, Safe, Fair Priced and Unlike Anthony Bourdain … Some Reservations

Key Words: Hotel Heritage Home. hotel, heritage, home, New Delhi, new, Delhi, metro, train, Main Bazaar, main, bazaar, budget, travel, value, TravelValue, CombatCritic, TripAdvisor, trip, advisor

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DayTripQuip™: New Delhi to Agra … The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort


Taj Mahal and Agra Fort Day Trip

If you want to see the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, make a day trip out of it rather than staying overnight in Agra. Agra has few redeeming qualities other than these two extremely impressive landmarks in my opinion and spending even one night should be avoided. Let’s face it … Agra is a pit!


There are bus tours available or you can take a train from the main New Delhi station if on a budget, but I would not recommend the train unless you have confirmed reservations both coming and going. If planning a visit to Varanasi by bus, car, or train, another option is to visit Agra on the way as it lies between New Delhi and India’s holiest city. However, by the time you pay for two or more bus tour tickets, you could hire a private cab to take you to Agra, leaving New Delhi at 9AM, visiting both Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal, stopping for lunch and some shopping, and returning to New Delhi by 9PM.

Agra Fort Exterior

My wife and I hired a taxi for the day at our hotel near the New Delhi train station, charging us 7,500 rupees ($120.00) for the itinerary described earlier. We left around 9:30 AM on a Sunday morning, a good day to go to as traffic is quite a bit lighter in New Delhi on a Sunday morning. It took us about two-and-a-half hours to get to Agra Fort, including a pit stop, traveling on the toll road, which costs a little more than the toll-free route, but shaved an additional two hours off the journey … each way!


A foggy morning, we decided to visit Agra Fort first to let the clouds burn off a bit before we headed over to the nearby Taj Mahal. We picked up our “complimentary tour guide” who briefed us on safety/security details upon arrival where “hawkers” and “pickpockets” reportedly would be waiting for us when we exited the taxi. The hawkers were no worse than any other tourist attraction in India and pickpockets are not a problem as long as you use a little common sense and pay attention to your surroundings.

Agra Fort is beautiful, impressive, and crowded. Entry was 350 rupees ($5.70 each) and we spent about an hour walking through the grounds, snapping photos, and learning about its history from our guide. We may have very well missed something as we found out later that our guide was cutting corners and not totally truthful in order to move us along so we had time to go shopping at a marble factory he was “touting” (“receiving kickback from”, a common practice among taxi drivers and tour guides throughout India and elsewhere).


The Taj Mahal is open every day except Friday from sunrise to sunset, not “6am to 7pm” as advertised by About Travel’s “India Travel Expert” in her Taj Mahal Travel Guide: What to Know Before You Go. There are three gates, but we entered through the East Gate (described as the “VIP gate” by our guide), paying 750 rupees ($12.15) each for entry, jumping on a tram for the short ride to the entrance. The lines were short both to buy tickets and enter the grounds, so this may very well be the best available option.


Once inside, there is a large courtyard to traverse before entering through the “Royal Gate”, an ornate red sandstone arch where the enormous Taj Mahal looms in the background as you enter. Having seen countless photos and heard numerous stories about the Taj Mahal for many years, I was very interested in visiting, but until I actually saw it in person, I had no idea how impressive it actually is.


The long, narrow reflecting pond is cut in half by a raised terrace where “Princess Diana’s Bench” or “Lady Di’s Chair” is located, the location of a famous photo taken of the princess during a visit to the Taj Mahal in 1992. We were told, as were many other tourists apparently, that the bench closest to the “Royal Gate” (on the opposite side of the terrace from the Taj Mahal) was where the photo was actually taken. But I assumed it was actually the other bench (closest to the tomb and, oddly enough, ignored by most tourists even though it offers a much better photo opportunity) where it was taken, a hunch that was confirmed the next day when I checked the internet for the photo.

There is a small museum (free) on the West side of the grounds halfway between the Royal Gate and Taj Mahal that is well worth a visit. I knew it was there and as our guide tried to steer us toward the tomb I asked if we could visit, but he said “it’s closed for renovations”. I could see that people were entering and leaving the building, so I insisted on going over to check. “Oh, they must be letting a small number of people in, you are very lucky” he exclaimed as we walked up to the doorway. The museum has four small rooms with artifacts from the site and other interesting exhibits, so take 30 minutes and visit.

You can read about the Taj Mahal in many places, so I will not elaborate here. I will say that it is absolutely breathtaking and a MUST SEE in your lifetime, this coming from someone who has traveled to 51 countries and having seen many of the most beautiful and famous attractions in the World. Even though the tour guide lied to me about the museum, normally a deal breaker, he took 4+ hours out of his day to show us around Agra, so I gave him a 500 rupee tip ($8.20 – he probably would have gotten 1,000 rupees if he had not lied), a small price to pay for an experience of a lifetime.


CombatCritic Gives The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort 10 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!




Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title: DayTripQuip™: New Delhi to Agra … The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort


Key Words: Agra, New Delhi, new, delhi, Taj Mahal, taj, mahal, fort, taxi, bus, train, travel, tour, day, trip, quip, DayTripQuip, CombatCritic, value

Good Italian Food, Nice Decor, Excellent Service in Central New Dehli


Caffé Tonino
No-9, H Block
Plaza Cinema Building, Connaught Place
New Delhi, India
Prices: $$$$$

Mobile: +91-9871474753
Landline: 011-23320081

Connaught Place, a very large circle (roundabout) in central New Delhi (a series of concentric circles actually) just south of the main train station, is brimming with shops (shoes, clothes, electronics, you name it), a massive Metro station (Rajiv Chowk), street vendors, a large park, relentless hawkers, and restaurants of all varieties. The large white buildings occupy an entire city block and are labeled sequentially with letters (A-L), making businesses a little easier to find.

We spotted Caffé Tonino while strolling one evening, shopping for a Kindle for my newest family member, a Tibetan Buddhist monk named Sonam who had been my pupil in Dharamsala. The exterior looked more inviting than most and the menu was comprehensive and reasonably priced, so we entered.

The restaurant is nicely decorated in modern earthy tones and brick offset by more colorful and lively décor, giving it a clean and inviting feel. The large wood fire pizza oven sits prominently in the back with a pizzaiolo cloaked in white with his large stainless stell spatula at the ready. We were warmly greeted and seated, one of just three parties in a restaurant with 15 or so tables. We found out that they have only been open a few months and are awaiting a liquor license in order to serve wine and beer, a rarity in India.

The menu items, mostly Italian, are almost all spelled correctly, another oddity in India and a good sign, indicating that they have at least a reasonable understanding of the country and cuisine they represent. We started with the mixed vegetable antipasto, Antipasto della Tradizione con Verdure (440 rupees/$6.90), which came with grilled and/or marinated mushrooms, eggplant, onions, green peppers, and olives accompanied by two small crostini, one with a small slice of pecorino (goat) cheese. The menu claimed that it came with marinated artichokes with potatoes, sundried tomatoes, and tomato mozzarella basil, but we found none of these on the plate. The antipasto was accompanied by assorted breads, spicy diced tomatoes and an olive spread, nice additions, and was decnt, but a bit bland and a disappointment at $7.00, being nearly twice the price of an average meal in India. I also had the Bruschetta (95 rupees/$1.45), diced tomatoes on three slices of toasted garlic bread and sprinkled with fresh basil, which was very good and an excellent value.

For our primi (main courses) my wife ordered the Ravioli Ripieni di Pere e Pecorino con Salvia, Burro e Mandorle(ravioli stuffed with pear and goat cheese in a light butter, sage, and almond sauce – 380 rupees/$5.95). It was very tasty, light and savory, cooked al dente and a much better value than our more expensive vegetable appetizer.

I had the Fusilli Carbonara (also 380 rupees/$5.95), a strange pasta choice as carbonara is normally made with spaghetti or similar pasta, but while tasting good, the bacon and egg were barely noticeable. Being a vegetarian country for the most part, I asked specifically about the bacon and egg and was told that the bacon was “pork” and the eggs, chicken of course. In any event, not tasting like any carbonara I have had, it was still very good and not too heavy on the sauce as has been the case at most restaurants I have eaten pasta at in India.

In all, nice atmosphere, good food, decent prices (for Delhi), excellent service, and slightly above average value. The service was outstanding and the environment warm, clean and inviting. Their bathroom was the cleanest and best stocked we have seen in India in over two months here (Western toilet, clean, toilet paper, soap, hand towels). Hence, …







CombatCritic Gives Caffé Tonino 7 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!



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Key Words:Café Tonino, café, tonino, New Delhi, new, Delhi, India, Connaught Place, Connaught, Italian, restaurant, menu, review, CombatCritic, travel, value, TravelValue 

Dalai Lama … Here I Come: My Journey To Enlightenment


My journey began with a two hour flight delay in Kansas City, so I had to scramble to get a seat that would get me to Frankfurt in time to catch my connection to Delhi the next day. The United Airlines gate agents worked quickly and professionally and before I knew it, I was booked through Washington DC, arriving in Frankfurt three hours before my original departure time. Frankfurt being Frankfurt, that should have been enough time to make my connection.

I am staying in Delhi for four nights (three really because I arrive at the hotel around 2:30 AM (0230 hours), taking a flight to Dharamsala on November 1st for the beginning of my Journey to Enlightenment. I hope to get a feel for New Delhi (and Old Delhi) while there as we will be returning in a couple of months to to the “tourist” thing.

Once in Dharamsala, I will be volunteering with the Tibetan refugees teaching English, studying Buddhism and yoga, and working on forgiveness, a skill I have yet to acquire in close to six decades on this lonely planet.

I will be sharing my Journey to Enlightenment here on my blog, including stories, video, and photos, as well as my YouTube channel, CombatCritic TV. Please feel free to follow me on my journey where I hope to educate, inspire, and document the trip of a lifetime. FOLLOW ME to TravelValueTM.

Key Words: Dalai Lama, dalai, lama, India, Delhi, New Delhi, Dharamsala, Dharmsala, yoga, meditation, Buddhism, enlightenment, journey, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, guide, review