18 APR 2016: No matter where or how you travel in the world’s largest democracy, expect the unexpected. From the maddening traffic brought screeching to a halt by a lazy lone standing sacred cow that has decided to rest in the middle of the road, to a funeral procession of mourners filling the jammed streets in Old Delhi, India will shake your senses.

And when you finally do arrive to your temporary home in a land far away, the fabulous interludes, those magical and humorous moments of humanity are what will define India and will begin.

I travelled recently with Insight Vacations on its new Luxury Gold India itinerary. Your clients can expect a welcome party like no other and that’s only the start. Besides the garlands of marigolds, sweetly fragrant teas, and delectable treats that await hotel guests upon arrival there are plenty other amenities and India touches that will make anyone sleep, like a modern day Maharajah.

Four hotels where you will want to stay longer

Delhi: Oberoi Gurgaon

Outside Delhi in commercial-rich Gurgaon which is often nicknamed the Millennium City for its vertical surge of skyscrapers stands this 202-room property. Spread over nine acres this urban sanctuary is beautifully offset by its collection of eco touches.

Arguably home to the largest hotel green wall in the world overlooking a reflection pool, other haute features include the city’s first 24-hour spa, a cigar lounge, an onsite art gallery, and private airport transfers via the hotel’s Rolls Royce or BMW 7 Series limousine.

My Big Surprise(s): The wall of green and sculptor Valay Shende’s provocative bronze statue of the Punctual Dabbawala (a dabbawalla is someone who carries lunch boxes) by the Piano Bar and Cigar Lounge. The other surprise: a butler is available around the clock. Just hit the royal red button beside your bed for service.

Claim to fame: Awarded a World’s Leading Luxury Hotel by the World Travel Awards for the third consecutive year. Canadian Connection: Yes - the concierge to the business tycoons, Mr. Stephen Fernandez, has family living in Scarborough so he knows the ins and outs both there and in Delhi. Thirty-four years in the biz, he is the past president of the Les Clefs d’Or Concierge Association of India.

http://www.oberoihotels.com/hotels-in-gurgaon/


Delhi: Hyatt Regency

In the cacophony of Ring Road in south Delhi by the commercial hub of Bhikaiji Cama Place lies this 507-room property. The hotel, which opened during the Commonwealth Summit in 1983, has hosted many dignitaries, business icons and today acts as the crew hotel for major airlines. The big plus is the hospitality. In a competitive hotel industry, service counts and this hotel has it in spades.

Inspired by the Golden Age of the Gupta period the seven-story sandstone design has the ambiance of Old India peppered with international flair. Staged by acclaimed hotel designer, Bilkey Llinas, the rooms are modern with wooden floors from Malaysia and locally sourced accessories.

For dining, try one of the four restaurants. TK’S Oriental Grill is considered one of the best Asian restos in Delhi, and is known for its teppanyaki grill and a decor reminiscent of an Iron Chef television show with a lively atmosphere of egg tossing, knife wielding cooks firing up the grill.

My Big Surprise: The personalized service. How did they know I love double chocolate mousse cake? (pictured below) And better still it’s the fancy monogrammed butter icing on top. 

Claim to fame: Reputed among the best business hotels in Delhi, it’s also considered one of the oldest international hotel brands in the country.

Canadian Connection: Yes – I saw this newlywed couple (pictured below), the chap hails from Woodbridge, Ontario and his new wife from Sweden. India fuels romance for sure.

http://delhi.regency.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html

 

Agra: ITC Mughal

It was market day on the day of my arrival to this ancient former capital. The streets of Agra became an outdoor market of commerce as vendors selling fresh vegetables and wagons of pyramid piled high pomegranates were being inspected by the monkeys hovering atop stone walls. Children oblivious to the pesky bystanders played tag on the roadside and all the while locals waved at our tour bus. It was smiles all around on both sides.

We drove further passing signs that announced the home of the legendary Taj Mahal. I was beside myself. It got even better. A fine Indian silk blanket held by a troop of staff fluttered above me in a regal canopy as I entered the ITC Mughal.

Amid 35 acres of manicured gardens this unique palatial property recreates the ambiance of the great Mughal dynasties. The property, which is part of the Starwood Preferred Guest Programme, boasts too many accolades to list as it continues to host a cast of world leaders and dignitaries enroute to the magical Taj.

My Big Surprise(s): My personal butler who learned I had yet to see the Taj Mahal escorted me through a labyrinth of gardens and fountains toward an onsite observatory tower. On the horizon there stood the Taj Mahal. It took my breath away.

The following morning, by a pomegranate tree I did a sun salutation toward the Taj Mahal in my sunrise yoga class that has topped my yoga dreams!

Claim to fame: The winner of the first Aga Khan Award for Architectural Excellence in Asia the ITC Mughal is the only Indian hotel to have won this international recognition. The spa hotel is part of the greenest luxury hotel chain in India and received a LEED Platinum award for its sustainable business efforts.

Canadian Connection: Yes - David Rocco, the culinary hunk hung out with lovely Bindu Panicker, ITC Hotels corporate communications manager during the taping of his stellar #DolceIndia spice show.

Watch the show https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlhSHHy3osc

http://www.itchotels.in/hotels/itcmughal.aspx

 

Hotel Nahargarh Ranthambore

It’s time to prepare for another world. One that has a Maharajah-worthy palace where the walls are draped in vintage photos of the British Victorian Raj and the courtyard echoes from the travelling balladeers playing the Ravanahatha (an ancient Indian stringed musical instrument) as guests venture out for unbeatable safari excursions.

Nestled on the doorstep to India’s famous Bengal tiger reserve along the foothills of the Aravalli mountain range comes this luxury spa hotel that is sure to tantalize the imagination of those discerning clients seeking otherworldly experiences.

The preferred arrival to this small farming village Sawai Madhopur is by train. Forget a drive along the bumpy highway and book a first class seat in one of the passenger trains. While it’s a long haul from Delhi staying in the cramped cabin quarters will definitely have its rewards as you reach the final destination: the heart of Rajasthan.

My Big Surprise: This independent luxury hotel is run by the last nobleman from Alsisar, Gaj Singh Alsisar, who has turned the former Mughal days into a successful tourism concept. Singh has hotels dotting India’s countryside in other alluring settings. The other big surprise: a choice of two pools, the newest of which is bookended by majestic elephant statues magnificently carved from stone.

Claim to fame: “You will always have a tiger sighting staying at my hotel,” said Singh when asked about the tiger viewing success rate. He was right. I saw a rare elusive Bengal tiger on my first morning safari.

Canadian Connection: Yes - Your clients who book the Insight Luxury Gold Collection will be pampered like a modern day Maharajah.

http://www.nahargarh.com/

 

 

INDIA
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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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