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Second generation, family-owned, New Delhi-based Indebo Tours (www.indebo.com) has created a series of new culinary itineraries. One-week immersions focus on either Indian Coffee in Northern Kerala or Tea in Northeast Darjeeling. Emphasis is on comparative tastings, pick-your own with a guide, the refining process, and comfortable on-property bungalow-stays. They have also created a 12-day North-South culinary and yoga experience that hits Mumbai, Cochin, Kumarakom, Jodhpur, Delhi and Amritsar. The yoga helps participants maintain a balanced metabolism, as the tour intersperses hands-on cooking lessons with visits to a wheat farm (the source for roti), other organic farms and fishing villages. Stays include Taj properties and a camel camp.  
Indebo’s culinary adventures will soon stretch farther a field into the burgeoning Nashik wine country, about 400 miles northwest of Mumbai. Here, they are crafting luxury FIT cycling excursions that include such wineries as Sula Vineyards, renowned for its Chenin Blanc and sparkling wine. Sula, which recently hosted the Miss India 2010 contestants, opened India’s first tasting room in 2005, added a modern three-bedroom guest house called “Beyond” two years ago and began firing up the tandoor ovens at its new fine dining Indian restaurant, Kareem’s @ Sula, in late 2009. Sula plans to open a 20-room eco-resort and spa this fall. Other area wineries include York Vineyards and the new Chateau Dori, which started with 100 acres at the base of the twin hills of Nhera-Ori but has another 300 acres just ready this year, along with a three-bedroom guest farmhouse with private Jacuzzi and swimming pool! The area might be reminiscent of the Napa Valley, save the workers wearing saris and the superb Indian cuisine.

Published in October
Tuesday, 19 February 2013 14:35

Awestruck in India

Oscar de la Renta, the fashion designer from the colorful, tropical Dominican Republic, took a trip to India a couple of decades ago and was so blown away by the visual inspiration he found there that his collections for many seasons afterwards reflected more of India than the D.R.
We, as de la Renta, did not expect to be as enchanted by India as we were. Arriving in Delhi from the airport, the exotic sights, sounds and smells of the city give the traveler a startling sensory overload. Driving through Old Delhi on the way to our hotel, we felt as if we were on the set of a very exotic movie with the snaking lanes and smoke-filled air; bazaars and markets selling eggplant, spices and silver jewelry; doctors’ offices set next door to cobblers; rickshaw-style lorries driven by ancient men in Sikh turbans and long white beards; a plethora of people of every shape and size and color moving in no logically patterned way. A tourist to India should be able to move calmly through chaos, enjoy visiting historic sites and value the opportunity for cultural immersion over the ability to spread out on a beach—at least in Northern India.
New Delhi, built beside Old Delhi by the British in the 1920’s, has larger and more ordered streets but does not lack the lavish colors that can only be found here. How can they make a beautiful neon pink so strong we thought, watching a woman in a sari of that color, that it seems you almost have to close your eyes so it doesn’t blind you?
Other surprises awaited us at the hotel. We were in India in January when the weather permits outdoor celebrations, and there were several weddings taking place at our hotel in New Delhi. A wedding in India is a loud, festive, colorful outdoor celebration with jangling jewelry and horse-drawn carriages emblazoned with flowers. I remember the sound of a marching band passing under my window in the middle of the night when public celebrations are deliberately scheduled; because that’s the only time the streets are empty enough to allow marching bands and floats to parade down them.

Published in October
Tuesday, 19 February 2013 14:35

Awestruck in India

Oscar de la Renta, the fashion designer from the colorful, tropical Dominican Republic, took a trip to India a couple of decades ago and was so blown away by the visual inspiration he found there that his collections for many seasons afterwards reflected more of India than the D.R.
We, as de la Renta, did not expect to be as enchanted by India as we were. Arriving in Delhi from the airport, the exotic sights, sounds and smells of the city give the traveler a startling sensory overload. Driving through Old Delhi on the way to our hotel, we felt as if we were on the set of a very exotic movie with the snaking lanes and smoke-filled air; bazaars and markets selling eggplant, spices and silver jewelry; doctors’ offices set next door to cobblers; rickshaw-style lorries driven by ancient men in Sikh turbans and long white beards; a plethora of people of every shape and size and color moving in no logically patterned way. A tourist to India should be able to move calmly through chaos, enjoy visiting historic sites and value the opportunity for cultural immersion over the ability to spread out on a beach—at least in Northern India.
New Delhi, built beside Old Delhi by the British in the 1920’s, has larger and more ordered streets but does not lack the lavish colors that can only be found here. How can they make a beautiful neon pink so strong we thought, watching a woman in a sari of that color, that it seems you almost have to close your eyes so it doesn’t blind you?
Other surprises awaited us at the hotel. We were in India in January when the weather permits outdoor celebrations, and there were several weddings taking place at our hotel in New Delhi. A wedding in India is a loud, festive, colorful outdoor celebration with jangling jewelry and horse-drawn carriages emblazoned with flowers. I remember the sound of a marching band passing under my window in the middle of the night when public celebrations are deliberately scheduled; because that’s the only time the streets are empty enough to allow marching bands and floats to parade down them.

Published in October
Tuesday, 19 February 2013 14:12

India – A Bright Future

Since the terrorist attacks on the Oberoi Mumbai (www.oberoihotels.com) and the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower (www.tajhotels.com) two of Mumbai’s most elegant, international hotels two years ago, there has been a clear passage back to India since the hotels’ reopening in May.

Published in October
Tuesday, 19 February 2013 14:10

South India Rail Odyssey

Japan’s Shinkansen “bullet train” might break speed records, but India—with 40,000 miles of track and more than 6,000 stations—has Asia’s largest rail network. For passengers aboard any one of India’s half-dozen luxury trains, the pace is leisurely—all the better for taking in centuries of cultural heritage sites while being coddled in a style once reserved for Maharajas.
The Golden Chariot is the first and only luxury train to explore India’s south. Its popular 8-day, 7-night “Pride of the South” itinerary visits culturally and geographically diverse Karnataka. Flanked by the peaks of the Eastern and Western Ghats, the state has 200 miles of gold sand beaches along the Arabian Sea as well as extensive jungle tracts replete with elephants, tigers and exotic birds. Karnataka is also a cultural treasure trove. In this “Cradle of Stone Architecture” are hundreds of elaborately carved Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples and monuments, many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 
Agents can book seats on the Golden Chariot directly. But in India—a developing country with a reputation for bureaucracy—it’s helpful to work with a knowledgeable tour operator like Pallavi Shah, energetic founder and CEO of Our Personal Guest. Educated at Bombay University, she worked for 22 years at Air India, where she became Director of Specialty Marketing. In 1989, Shah launched Our Personal Guest. Agents booking trips through OPG earn a 10 percent commission, usually about $100 a day. That can really add up, says Shah, since most trips to India last 14-21 days.

Published in March
Tuesday, 19 February 2013 13:44

Selling Strategies from India Specialists

Because of its enormity and the diversity of its terrain, infrastructure and culture, travel to India can be an immensely rewarding experience for travelers, and a daunting one for travel planners. Despite its massive appeal, this is not a destination that most travelers are likely to tackle on their own, which means it gives travel agents an incredible opportunity to offer value to their clients, in return for planning fees and commissions on hotels and tours, travelers’ insurance and even domestic and international air.

Published in April
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