Our guest review from Stuart Tizzard gives a ‘first timers’ perspective on his journey through India!
We ‘d been thinking about going to India for years, but to be honest, were just not brave enough. Tessa, my wife, was always more keen than me but I’d always managed to offer good alternatives to deflect her!
The matter was decided at the end of a particularly heavy dinner party, when we decided and I agreed , to take the leap and spend two weeks there.
The next morning, as with many other next mornings, I awoke with vague memories of hazy promises, including our intended holiday to India. I was as keen to dispel these plans as I was to rid myself of my hang over but , whereas alka seltzer relieved my hangover, Tessa wouldn’t allow any further negotiations – so we were off to India!
We looked at all sorts of options and arrangements, offered by dozens of travel companies. This task differed from the norm, because whereas it’s a relatively easy choice of location with destinations such as the Maldives, India is rather more daunting with so many pit falls and concerns, from personal safety to personal health.
We’d heard about Geoff and Cherrie Whittle and their travel company TLC World born out of their seven years of living in India. We felt their personal experience of actually living there outweighed the educated guesses of well meaning “travel consultants.”
So we met with TLC World and our brief was simple. Whereas we were happy to visit and observe the spectrum of culture and country, we insisted that at the end of each day we would alight in some form of luxury accommodation that would ensure we could eat clean and reliable food and drink from a decent wine list……..and avail ourselves of a porcelain, purpose built, clean toilet! (this being the one non-negotiable).
We wanted to see as much of India as possible, but with the minimum of travel. The truth was, however, if we wanted to experience India, we would have to travel.
Geoff and Cherrie went to work and came up with an itinerary that gave us so many experiences but avoided a non stop trek; staying at luxury hotels for a couple of nights, or three, so we could actually decamp and enjoy each venue.
To be honest we didn’t know enough about India to be specific, so we literally put our trust in TLC along with our brief.
We first arrived in Delhi and were met at the airport, amid the chaos, by a welcome party that just whisked us off to the most superb hotel, which was comforting and reassuring as, beware, Delhi is a real culture shock!
The downside of metro India (or maybe, strangely, the upside) is the ever-present poverty and its resultant, non stop hassle and begging that assaults you whenever you venture into public places.
It’s so intense that if you were not in an organised party, you’d probably just stay in your hotel.
Our first outing was to a huge mosque, which was interesting, but then we decamped into rickshaws and taken through the narrow, congested and noisy streets of old Delhi.
This was a baptism of chaos and overcrowding but, because we were in our own transport, we survived both the traffic and our first immersion into Indian mainstream.
The nice thing is that we were then brought back to frosted champagne to discuss what we had seen. There is nowhere in the world that I can compare with Delhi, apart from maybe an anthill!
After a couple of enjoyable days in Delhi and hotel luxury it was back into being immersed in ‘real India’.
This time it was a five hour train journey, which just has to be experienced to be believed. On board we’re confronted with arm-less beggars and unusable toilets – enough said. We were, however, always under the close scrutiny and protection of our accompanying guide. Upon reaching our destination we board our air conditioned transport and in no time at all we’re deposited in a wonderful, classy peaceful tented hotel, where the food, ambiance and service were just unbelievable.
We then spent a couple of glorious days in comfortable jeeps searching for tigers in the jungle. We didn’t see a tiger, but we had an amazing experience when our guides recognised monkey alarm calls and we spotted and watched a leopard that was completely unaware of us.
This place was pure magic and I will forever remember our dining outside in the evening and a most enjoyable cigar and brandy (I don’t even smoke!)
Our next trip was aboard our comfortable transport and we spent the next few days staying in wonderfully different hotels and visiting amazing castles and palaces.
We like to think that we are a superior culture but these guys were civilised when we were still rock throwing in Blighty! I’ve never been in to palaces and places of worship but they were incredible. The palaces are just breath taking.
We then flew from Udaipur via Mumbai to Kerala where we rested up in a beautiful, tranquil bungalow hotel, with lovely rooms overlooking a huge inland lake. The bird life was incredible, the infinity pool overlooking the water, beautiful and the restaurants just first class.
Before we left we enjoyed a wonderful lunch on board a Keralan house boat, where we cruised the canals witnessing local lifestyles.
Finally we stayed in a stylish converted colonial boat house set alongside the entrance to the port of Kochin, enjoying views of huge visiting ships and overcrowded ferries that belched out diesel where ever they went.
Fort Kochi was where the New Marigold Hotel program was made and the area is still vibrant but a little more civilised than full-on Delhi.
We enjoyed going out to walk the streets, shopping and haggling. Don’t kid yourself that you’ll actually get a bargain; these guys are brilliant and all you’ll get is a percentage reduction from what was a stupidly high starting price.
Whatever, who cares, it’s great fun.
For the last day we fly back to Mumbai, seeing unbelievable slums just along the roadside (like a river of human traffic) almost alongside a one billion dollar apartment! Outside there are maimed beggars at traffic lights, babies and all sorts of horrors. But this is incredible India.
For us, it was our final night in the most incredible of hotels before returning home having experienced the unbelievable – and I think it’s true to say we returned home…..different.
One things for sure, don’t even contemplate doing this trip on your own. Whilst we were exposed to hugely diverse elements of India, we were constantly looked after and allowed to explore for ourselves, in the knowledge that should we need it, we’d be taken care of at any time.
Thanks to Geoff and Cherrie of TLC World for arranging such an amazing, tailor-made holiday. Because they actually lived there, on the ground, they know just how to expose you to India and whisk you away when you’ve had enough.
It wasn’t a cheap holiday, but that was not our prime objective. On balance we very much got what we paid for and had the most incredible two weeks ever.
Would we go back? Probably not at the moment, but I’ve got a sneaky feeling that, with the passing of time, we will grow to appreciate just what we did and miss many of the things we saw……..So never say never!
Why not download the TLC World guide brochure or give us a call today on 01202 030443, or simply click ‘enquire’ to submit your own personal itinerary request