Our World | On 21, Mar 2013
I have a very difficult task ahead of me. Namely, how to sum up a 72 hour visit to India, my first to the country, in mere words.
I’m tempted to simply say that the best, indeed only way to learn about this amazing, mad place is to go there yourself.
However, on the basis that something more than a simple travel advisory is expected of me, I’ll do my best…
Our itinerary took in Delhi and Jaipur, two thirds of the famous Golden Triangle. The missing bit (which was a shame because it’s a biggie) was Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. Will just have to tick that off next time.
Let’s start with Delhi. A city of contrasts. An amazingly modern and efficient airport, well up there on the global scale. And only 8 hours from London – so very much in Chicago/Miami range.
In The Imperial, a simply beautiful oasis of a hotel, so calm and peaceful that you can’t imagine yourself to be in the chaotic capital of the world’s largest democracy. Fabulous service, great rooms, amazing spa, wonderful restaurants and bars, hints of empire everywhere.
And not a moment’s hesitation when I requested a very large gin and tonic to be served in a pewter tankard. Just a polite “certainly Sir” and there it was.
New Delhi was the surprising bit. Wide avenues and boulevards, imposing governmental buildings, plenty of greenery and an efficient if crowded metro system. While Old Delhi was everything you would expect it to be, bustling, noisy, dirty, frantic, unforgettable, especially from the back seat of a tri-shaw.
Jaipur, scarcely a 60 minute flight away, was totally different, feeling a bit more like the real India I imagined I’d find.
We stayed in the new Fairmont hotel which has the potential to take its place among the best. I can’t remember being so impressed by a standard hotel bathroom since my first visit to the Arts in Barcelona over 15 years ago.
As to the city itself, so many experiences including playing elephant polo (yes, really), a visit to the amazing Amber Fort, trumpet and rose petal welcomes, India cookery masterclasses and sharing the road with elephants, cows, camels, monkeys, funeral processions – all this on the main highway that eventually leads back to Delhi.
Imagine that lot on the M1. And the weirdest thing, there wasn’t a hint of road rage, despite the ample opportunity. It’s just normal, for the locals.
For me, however, the highlight by a distance was dressing in local garb (think long coloured silk tunics, not Gandhi pants) for cocktails in the Drawing Room of the Maharajah of Jaipur’s Palace. We didn’t disturb him – he’s only young and at school in England.
But there we were, gazing at photographs of other people who had been guests in that very same room – the Queen and Prince Phillip, Charles and Diana, Charles and Camilla, the Sultan of Brunei, Bill and Hillary Clinton. Not a bad guest list to join.
So, like I said at the outset, just go. It really is one of those very special places that everyone should try to get to at least once in a lifetime. Go with an open mind and simply enjoy an experience like few others.
- Why not check out the highlights video we created to launch a recent Indian incentive trip.