Irina Li, one of our Asia destination specialists at Goway Travel, recently visited India on a luxury FAM trip with Oberoi Hotels. On her return, we asked her to answer some questions about her experience and to share insights about visiting India and selling it to your clients.
What was your favourite hotel stay and why?
Since I stayed in Oberoi Hotels in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, and Mumbai, it’s really difficult to choose only one favourite. They all are spectacular properties, but the Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra stands out to me because you can spot the Taj Mahal from every corner of the property, which was a highlight. In my opinion, this hotel is a must when going to Agra. Not only is it gorgeous with spacious and comfortable rooms, it also has impeccable service and meticulous attention to detail. You feel like royalty. The staff were always trying their very best to make sure my stay was unforgettable—and it certainly was!
The Oberoi Rajvillas in Jaipur also provided a unique experience. This hotel is truly magnificent. It’s built like a royal fort and you can totally imagine how maharajas (Indian princes) used to live there. The resort is spread over a huge area of 32 acres and it only has 71 rooms. Each room has a separate entrance and looks like your own little palace. The hotel grounds contain beautiful gardens and birds (including peacocks) and it feels like a destination in itself. It’s a very tranquil and relaxing property.
As a Goway Destination Specialist, and one that has travelled to Asia before, was there anything that surprised you?
I was surprised to learn how developed India was in the 16th and 17th centuries, already having architecture and scientific discoveries that were way ahead of its time such as the Jantar Mantar Observatory in Jaipur. I was also surprised to see how India combines modern society with traditional culture. For instance, you can use your credit cards everywhere, even at the local markets. Mumbai seems to be a very modern city but traditions are still respected.
What would be the perfect complement as an extension to this trip?
There are many options, depending on what your clients are interested in and the time of year. The Maldives is only a few hours away by flight and would be a nice beach extension. Sri Lanka is another option with great beaches and interesting historical and cultural sites. Or, perhaps a short stopover in Kathmandu in Nepal. Also, additional time could be spent in India to visit the Southern region or other destinations in Rajasthan. There is no shortage of things to see and do!
What would be your top 3 tips that agents should share with clients that you learned?
I have lots of tips to share:
1. Almost everywhere you can pay with credit card, so you don’t have to carry cash all the time.
2. Entry tickets to the Taj Mahal are only valid for 3 hours, but if you stay at the Oberoi Amarvillas you can enjoy the views of the Taj as much as you want. It is beautiful at any time of a day, but sunrise and sunset are absolutely magical.
3. When visiting temples wear modest clothing that covers your shoulders and knees; also it’s good to have small change for offerings in temples.
And here are two more for good measure!
4. When entering any airport in India, you have to show your paper tickets or e-tickets with your name on it. It is mandatory so make sure your clients keep these items in a handy place.
5. Get ready to go through security checks a lot. You will need to go through security checks at most tourist sights. They have separate security checks for men and women.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about India?
Some people might think India is a poor developing country, but I think India has changed a lot in the last 10 to 15 years. You can find very luxurious accommodations and modern technology along with rich ancient culture and traditions. Soon enough, I think the country will be very different, but I hope Indians will keep their culture for future generations to learn. Now is a good time to visit this wonderful country.
Food is always a highlight when we travel. Did you have a favourite local dish?
I really enjoyed chicken shahi korma curry, masala chai, and mango lassi (milkshakes).
We have some great India trip ideas to offer your clients including an 8-Day Luxury India Tour with Oberoi Hotels, which includes stays at Irina’s favourite Oberoi properties in Agra and Jaipur. We also have a 3-Day Udaipur Palace tour, which would be a great add-on and can be customized to include a stay at the Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur. For those who have a more moderate budget, we suggest the 12-Day Highlights of India from Delhi to Mumbai private tour. And of course, we also have our Goway escorted 17-Day Splendours of India Holiday of a Lifetime group tour.