“I would rather travel across the world, than visit the same country twice”, was the script of the mail that was very tastefully written by Mr. Maben (name changed), explaining his dreamy expectations to us. My team has been in correspondence with him over 6 months now, while he was taking time to arrive at a tour itinerary that was being designed to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary (and yet he was still a year ahead from the date of travel). The entire team could see through his emails, as to how inclined he was to make his wife’s dream to visit The Taj Mahal, an ‘I can’t believe this is happening’, kind of experience.
India is the 7th largest country in size and it is not something you can cover in 10 days. So the exchange of emails had become a regular affair over the last 6 months, where the team was trying to align to his requirements, without making it really tiring for them. While writing the email today, he couldn’t hold back his feeling and wrote what he had to write.
What looked like a simple expression of his feeling, started a great deal of struggle inside my head and I took to analyzing all the possible facts that I was exposed to, considering lats & longs of India that I have covered and also the world. Being a part of this industry a professional picks the knack of evaluating offerings a place has. According to me, a tour is not just about offering an experience but it is about, being able to make a tourist a part of the storyline, which transitions from one place to another. This is what has converted most of our guests in to story tellers.
By the evening this struggle in my head, had transformed in to a war and I started asking myself, “It has taken me more than 45 trips to cover the expanse of India over a period of 5 years, can a traveler be given a tour of entire India in 7, 10 or even 25 days?” The most beautiful part about India is that each of its 29 states has its own languages, traditions, cultures, festivals, dress code and even lifestyle and to explore it in its entirety takes time. To add to it, you are visiting the oldest living civilization in the world, which means you have millions of stories to explore and live.
A week of recalling these experiences of traveling throughout India, against my experiences traveling across the world. I decided to compare offerings that countries have against what India has to offer. Over a period of a couple of weeks, I was able to clearly identify all the aspects that has made India, what I felt is a Blue Print of the World.
*My comparison has no intention to undermine the uniqueness that each country has to offer. It is purely my paradigm of looking at it*
1) Wonders of the World:
While each of the six countries that are proud owners of a Wonder of the world each, a few of them have only this wonder that forms their prime attraction. When I compared the similarities of China with India, besides the wonder of the world, I could relate to its own heritage and ancient culture which has its own significance. The country is also known for following the peaceful messages of Buddhism, its art of meditation and its Martial Arts. I also realized that the subcontinent was the original place of birth of Buddhism, with Lord Buddha delivering its first sermon in Sarnath, Varanasi after attaining enlightenment in Bodhgaya. The art of meditation was also found by Indian saints that dates more than 10,000 years ago. Now, while these facts are most commonly known most people may not be aware the ancient art of Kung Fu, was also a gift of India. This art was derived out of the Indian Art of War, ‘Kalaripayattu’.
Similarly, Peru, Jordan, Mexico and Italy may proudly host their amazing Wonders of the world, but the supplementary attractions are limited.
Luxury is one the most relative term in the world of travel. A bag packer may feel a 3 star hotel is as good as a luxury hotel. Conceptually, India has been eyed as a third world nation and a poor country. Unfortunately, this perception has clouded the fact that historically, it was the richest country in the world. It was only post the departure of British Empire did we realize that the country was drained of its wealth, culture and even its history. Another reference is Lord Macaulay’s speech while addressing the British Parliament in 1935. Though, the wealth of the country was taken, pushing the country back to the era of Stone Age, India still is originally the birth place of luxury. You will find some of the grandest palaces across the country, many of which have been taken over by some of the best chain of hotels like Taj and Oberoi.
To keep this royal experience alive for the tourists, these hotel chains offer accommodation in these authentic palaces that was once inhabited by the kings. This experience is something that most countries do not offer.
My thought crossed over beaches. With India being a peninsular nation there is a long coastal belt covering the Arabian Sea, The Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, which hosts one of the most famous beaches in the world. Goa is the one state that attracts most tourist from Northern Europe considering the sun and golden sands with almost 100% guarantee of no rains. This is where I started comparing it with the beaches of Los Angeles and Florida to only figure out that Goa has also a well-defined historic significance. The smallest state of India was once ruled by the Portuguese which got it the look and feel the state still has. Wandering off from Goa, I felt the real magic of turquoise waters and white sand which are truly the luxury destinations of the world… The Maldives, The Hawaii, Tahiti, and the Balis of the world was incomparable. But, wait a minute… India has an awe inspiring set of islands itself, at both sides of the peninsular area, The Lakshadweep and The Andaman and Nicobar Islands which are just as exotic as Seychelles or Mauritius, only easier to reach.
4) Snow Cladded Mountains:
It is a rare sight to have a country hosting sunny beaches as well as snow cladded mountainous region, unless you travel 3 times the length on India. But when it comes to India, its northern belt is in complete contrast to its southern peninsular and tropical region. The gigantic Himalayan ranges run through its northern border, making the states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and also Jammu & Kashmir, no less than ‘Heaven on Earth’. Since it snows heavily it is widely a ski destination for tourist and for the once with an adventurous bent of mind, scaling the Himalayan bases is a challenge they can’t get enough of. I know of tourist going to the French Alps to encounter lesser challenges, but then that is where it ends. France is a romantic experience with its enthralling vineyards and romantic metros and then, to get another experience, you might as well have to leave the country. But with India, it is just another feature of its geographical diversity.
5) Culinary Experiences:
I have travelled across the world and have experienced various cuisines and at best, there are 3 types of cuisines that I had experienced in a particular country. With India, it is a different story. All of its state has a different set of cuisines, as if it is a different country in itself with most of them serving at least 2 types of cuisines. This makes travel throughout this nation, a treat for a food lover. In a month long tour, you can wake up each day and have a different cuisine all 3 times of the day. Now that’s unique.
It is an extremely majestic experience to travel to a desert region. People flock to Dubai to try their hand at the desert safari in an SUV, many try to go on a walking expedition through the deserts of Sahara and Arizona. Well, with India it is The Great Thar desert of Rajasthan that not just offers all these attractions to its tourist but also provide a royal lifestyle. Rajasthan is known for its kings and is still termed as a Royal State. Talk about Pushkar Camel Fair where thousands of camels are brought in, a place that bears the sole temple of Bramha in the world, or talk about the forts of Amber, Mehrangad, and Suryagad. Wish for a stay in a heritage palace or wish to join a camel ride in the convoy and head in to the sun set. Fulfill your dream to stay in tents in the middle of the desert or fulfill your dream to grab a hot air balloon ride over the great Amber fort. Rajasthan has all you can ask for.
What is the first name that comes to your mind when you think of seeing the big cat? Africa? Well yes, a great venue to see the African elephants, cheetahs and Lions up close. But what you don’t get to see there is possibly the most ferocious cat of the lot, A Tiger. India is home to 80% of the Tigers that are now alive across the world. There are 48 Tiger Reserves in India and when you are on a Safari you are most likely to catch a glimpse of this ferocious predator in India, than anywhere else in the world. I, once had the opportunity to visit the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in an open jeep (that’s how it is done) and what was stalking us for full size tigress. The stalking lasted for precisely 2 minutes, but I still can’t forget the look in its eyes, during a 2 second’s eye contact. No wonder why it is called ‘The Royal Bengal Tiger’. With Tiger being the main attractions you also get to see a whole lot more like 1314 species of birds, Snow leopards and Himalayan wolves which are only found in the Himalayan ranges. There is a whole lot more, for when you visit India you will be surprised to find.
8) Ancient Civilization:
Many archeologist have submitted their theories that The Indus Valley Civilization was amongst the first to have existed more than 10000 years ago, amongst the most amazing similar civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Chinese. However, India still boast about hosting the oldest living civilization of the world – Varanasi along the banks of the Ganges.
It is believed that life takes a full circle along the banks of Ganges, while you start your cruise going down the river, you will be able to see the ghats being allotted for different walks of life. At one end it is a tradition to have a new born’s head shaved to the other end where the mortal remains are cremated. Ganges has been a life giving source of water with abnormally high content of Oxygen and alkalinity, owing to the highly fertile river bed. The city is home to many extremely knowledgeable saints in the art of yoga and other ancient arts of healing. There is certainly no other match for Varanasi, across the world.
9) Other amazingly unique aspects of India:
29 states, 122 major and 1599 other languages, 28 different traditional costumes, 27 different cuisines, 37 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 10000 years old culture, Geographical diversities cover everything one can travel for: Beaches, Snow, Desert, Rain forest, mountain ranges and a lot more.
b) Birth place of Yoga:
Indian culture that dates back more than 10,000 years has given the world, the practice of Yoga and also meditation. Lord Buddha attained enlightenment in Bodhgaya & delivered his first sermon at Sarnath, Varanasi. Hrishikesh, a sacred place for the Hindus, is a knowledge center for all Yogic and Meditational practices. Some of the most learned saints reside in this town. A visit to this town itself is a spiritual experience.
c) Birth place of Ayurveda:
Where there is good there is bad, similarly where there is pain there is also a cure for it. God has created us with a body that itself has answers to all its health concerns. However, if these concerns turn chronic, we don’t have to look anywhere else but naturally available resources. This is exactly what Ayurveda does. Medicines made out of herbs and trees with Zero side effects. Apparently, Ayurveda is a recognized means of treatment in India and also has numerous hospitals treating chronic diseases.
I have discovered a whole lot of other reasons, why I feel that India has everything that the entire world has to offer. No matter what the purpose of travel, India will fit right in. I have listed down all major aspects right from Desert to Snow, Luxury to Local lifestyle, Culinary to Leisure, Culture to Traditions, India is the one country in the world that has it all.
It has been 5 years since Mr. Maben wrote his point of view and 4 years since he first landed in India. He is in touch with us again to help him plan his 5th visit to India in the year 2016. He states that every time he comes to India, it is a new experience. Mr. Maben so far has covered Northern, Western, Eastern and Southern India. This time, he intends to visit the North Eastern states. I guess, you can never explain a traveler, all these reasons and comparison. He just will have to come and see it for himself…Who knows, what started with a 10 days itinerary will go on over a period of the next 10 years….
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