Many people discount India as a holiday destination. I’ve heard some say that it’s confusing, others think of it as threatening, and many fear the dreaded “Delhi Belly”. But, as John Boulding, CEO of Insight Vacations, tells us, this isn’t the India that should be experienced:
My latest trip blew me away. The launch of Insight Vacations 2012/13 brochures saw us introduce various new itineraries, including twelve to India, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Of course, this meant that I had to travel out there prior to finalisation to make sure that the usual exacting standards were being met.
I’ve been to India a couple of times before, on business, and I feel sheepish to have to admit that on both occasions I was pretty much ready to leave by the time the plane took off. This time was COMPLETELY different, primarily because everything was taken care of through superb tour planning. On my original visit I had found India to be a maelstrom of sights and sounds, sometimes fun but also occasionally threatening and confusing. Now I didn’t have to think about the day to day organisation and could relax and enjoy.
Our tour director was a wellspring of intricate local knowledge, nothing was too much and his personal insights opened my eyes to the magical and mystical, the colourful and the sublime. When strange things were introduced to us, they were explained in the context of each place, the religion, the social structure, and so on. India ceased to be a blur and became a truly wonderful, eye-opening experience. It really stretched my mind. Travel is a great leveller and, once you understand something on a local level, you really get to understand what makes the world go around.
My trip was a slightly truncated version of Insight Vacations’ Imperial Treasures of India tour and included Dehli, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur and Mumbai. I did, however, get to see all the hotels from each of the Insight tours that stay in these cities and was amazed at how incredible they are. For example, the beautiful Oberoi Amarvilas (Agra) where each room looks over the Taj Mahal – meaning you wake up and watch the sun’s rays bathing it in light. And the Taj Lake Palace Hotel (Udaipur) which is a stunning former Royal Prince’s Palace built from white marble on an island in the lake. The film buffs out there might recognise it as being from a Bond film. Can anyone tell me which one? There’s a small prize for the first person to leave the right answer in the comments section.
It would be impossible to tell you about all the fantastic experiences that our tours include, but here are a few of my favourites that I was lucky enough to do on my short trip.
- We took these specially adapted Jeeps up the winding roads to the Amber Fort at Jaipur – a truly amazing place to visit
- This ‘Bollywood’ style show is a landmark inclusion in Agra
- Lunch at the famous 1135 Restaurant within the walls of Jaipur Fort is a really special Insight experience on our Classical India tour.
- Enjoying an exclusive Gala Dinner in the private apartments of the Royal Palace in Jaipur dinner
The tour allowed me to get up close to remarkable monuments, exotic palaces, wonderful landscapes and incredible wildlife in a way I would never have achieved on my own. I experienced bustling and vibrant cities contrasted with ancient temples, and saw centuries old traditions living side-by-side with the modern world. Along the way I was introduced to warm, friendly and welcoming people who are proud to share their home and rich heritage with us. Dining was a feast for the senses and included authentic lunches and luxurious dinners of regional specialities. It is fair to say that there were flavours to suit every taste. Oh, and nobody, not one of us, was sick.
It is my experience that, no matter how wonderful you anticipate India to be, until you finally make the journey you will never fully realise just how personally rewarding and fulﬁlling your trip will be. It is at once thrilling, inspiring, amazing, mystifying and impressive. Like a great book, once taken up, the sub-continent will be hard to leave alone!