Favorite holiday destination for leisure: Southeastern Rajasthan post monsoon. September is ideal. Its a shoulder period, so great hotel rates too. Everything is lush and green and the water bodies are full. This part of Rajasthan which is yet to be overun by the hordes of tourists, has some superbly comfortable heritage properties lovingly restored by its owners who are great hosts and serves excellent homestyle cooked food. Take the train from Delhi to the 17th century Ramathra Fort with its unspoilt loction between Ranthambore and Keoladeo National Parks for a couple of nights and from there continue to the charming medieval town of Bundi. If it is September, chances are that you may be able to visit a local festival in and around Bundi which is small, intimate and non-touristy. From Bundi head to 18th century Bhainsrorgarh Fort with its stunning location by the Chambal River for a couple of nights and from there to Shahpura Bagh with its unhurried vibe before heading to Udaipur to end your trip by the Lake Pichola. Do expect intermittent rains but definitely not the holiday spoiler types.
Favorite holiday destination for culture: Indian culture is a misonomer. There are so many "Indias" that quietly co-exist and each one so different in their cultural practices that they may as well be different countries. While it is blasphemous for a North Indian Hindu to eat beef, the Hindus of Kerala eat Beef without any fuss. While Islam for North India meant numerous invasions, plunder and loot; Islam came to South India much earlier and in peace to trade with the locals. And Christianity came to South India much before it went to Europe and the first converts were high-caste Hindus whose predecessors still retains some of the unique cultural practices of the religion their ancestors converted from. While Hinduism in India is often associated with the 33 million Gods and Godesseses and all kinds of rituals, the Vaishanvite Hindus of Assam shuns all rituals and idol worship and instead looks at the Bhagwad Gita; a 700 verse scripture, for spiritual and religious inspiration; pretty much like the Sikhs who consider Guru Granth Sahib, their Holy Book as a Living Master. If you have a first-timer visiting India do offer the Golden Triangle (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur) and Varanasi. But also combine it with, I would recommend, a week long sailing on the River Brahmaputra in Assam for an insight into how it is impossible to pin India down into one homegenous culture.
Favorite holiday destination for gastronomy: India's West Coast. And it is still off the tourist map as everyone goes to Rajasthan on a gastronomy tour. From the Konkan region easily accessible from Mumbai by train then onto Goa which is not too far away from here to Udupi in Karnataka and then Kerala. Best part being you can experience the flavours of this amazing belt by travelling on the Train - sort of chugging and eating away in India's West Coast. Start your journey from Mumbai where a friend of the Destination Knowledge Centre will introduce you to the various cuisines of India's West Coast. From Mumbai head by the train to the Konkan region for a slice of Malvani cuisine dominated by fish. Women here are known for their ability to cook the most delicious fare in a jiffy including excellent vegetarian dishes. Continue to Goa for your fill of Goan cuisine influenced by its Hindu origins and 400 years of Portuguese rule and from here to Udupi in Karnataka for its dishes made primarily from grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits. North Kerala's Malabari Muslims and their cuisine is still distinctly influenced by their Arab ancestors which makes it so very interesting. And as you move inland into South Kerala and its backwaters with its drenched greens and coconut palms, the Syrian Christians, the predecessors of the first converts will tell you that their contribution to the Kerala cuisine has been manifold and the most noted are the hoppers, duck roast, meen vevichathu (red fish curry) and the isthew (stew).
Favorite holiday destination for nature: Kanha National Park. It is a shame that people go there only for game drives to spot the Royal Bengal Tiger. It is one of the most prettiest space in India with gorgeous nooks, corners and bends waiting to be noticed and admired. Special mention to the tall Sal trees of the Park which has an uncanny ability to look beautiful even in the summers when everything else is tinder dry. With our friends in Kanha we offer several such oppurtunities where you can admire Kanha's nature and connect with yourself; from silent walks to yoga and meditation to cooking local cuisine with the tribals by the riverside.
Favorite music: It changes all the time. Currently enjoying and discovering the melodies of Japanese American bands/artists of the USA's West Coast. Notably Hiroshima and June Kuramoto.
Favorite book/s: Twilight in Delhi by Ahmed Ali, Shogun by James Clavell.
Favorite drink: Wasabi Martini.
Favorite dish: Kerala Beef Curry and Rice.
If I were to be reborn I would………. It would be somewhere in the Himalayas where I would have nothing to do with the extreme climate of Delhi. It is so annoying.
I often dream of……. Starting a finishing school for youngsters studying tourism imparting practical knowledge and sharing the best kept secrets of the travel business in India. What they currently learn in tourism institutes of India spending their parent’s hard-earned money is absolutely theoretical and is of no use to the travel business. And yes working for our office in Myanmar.
Insider tips: If you are a first timer to India go easy on the Indian food upon arrival. Too much too soon may lead to the spices reacting with all the pre-departure jabs you have taken and may cause an upset tummy.