“India – you’ll either love it or hate it.” This is a refrain we have heard time and time again. It is why we’ve postponed traveling India until the time was right, until we saw a sign. Basically, it was our excuse to put off an India trip time and time again.
We’ve dreamed of going to India for years. We first applied for an Indian visa in 2009 in Kuala Lumpur, but the timing was not right. And, I was not approved. Well, I wasn’t denied either, I just wasn’t approved in a timely manner. So, for our 2009 trip, we gave up.
We applied again for an India visa in Washington, DC, before leaving the States in 2012. We were granted a ten year visa (they approved me this time), that’s been sitting in our passports untouched. It’s been valid for well over three years as we’ve struggled with a constant pull of should we, or shouldn’t we.
Part of it was not wanting the hassle of planning a trip to such a challenging country. As a result, we’ve talked about doing an easy trip, just heading straight to the beaches of Goa. See India. Leave. But, it felt strange to plan a trip to India without seeing the major cities, without seeing the Taj Mahal.
When I’ve read travel blogs about India they all focus on the hardship, with a side dish of beauty. Bloggers are usually on a budget when traveling India. They might not stay at the cheapest places in India (think $5 a night), but might stay at places that are $15 a night. This might involve a fan room with no air con, a semi-functioning toilet, an uncomfortable bed. Or, worse. I have no interest in traveling India on $30 a day.
The other India travel blogs I’ve read seem to focus on the Rickshaw Run experiences. Travelers ride a tricked out tuk tuk across India to raise money for charity. Adventure ensues. Noble cause. There is something appealing about this style of adventure. I’ve heard amazing stores about the experience. I’ve also heard horror stories.
I’ve also heard about the amazing parts of traveling India. The people. The colors. The food. The beauty. I want a trip that focuses on the beauty, and as much as possible avoids the hardships. Is that so bad? Does that make me a bad traveler?
I am just not the traveler I used to be. I used to be a bit more adventurous. I used to be okay staying somewhere crappy for a few nights. I used to consider myself more of a backpacker. The thing is, now, I am nowhere near a backpacker.
When traveling India, I want to enjoy myself and the experiences as much as possible. I want to enjoy India. I don’t want to be one of those people who flees India, and never returns again. I want to start a love affair with India, where we return over and over to explore more. For me to do that, I am not traveling India as a backpacker.
Looking for Signs – Should We Travel to India At All?
As a result of all of this, of all the reading and research, of all the stress over not wanting to plan a trip to India, we had almost given up. Almost.
When in Seoul earlier this year, while staying at the JW Marriott, the general manager, Matthew, was fairly appalled that in all our travels, we had yet to experience India. He worked there for years and loves the country. He suggested that we go. Well, he sort of insisted that we go. And, that he would introduce us to all the right people. Now, this peaked our interest.
In the taxi ride to the Seoul airport, Eric and I tried to figure out exactly what Matthew meant. What did this mean? But, in the end we knew this was a sign. If we were ever going to travel India, this was our shot.
As bloggers we could’ve put together a plan to travel India independently. To do it on the cheap. Instead, we drafted a pretty aggressive pitch to Marriott in India. We offered to stay in Marriotts across the country, to promote a different way of traveling India. One that did not involve crappy hotels and budget travel. They were interested. A partnership ensued.
For those of you who read the next few posts thinking we are lucky that we are traveling India with Marriott, it’s not luck at all. We’ve worked with Marriott before, and they like the work we’ve done. We’ve been rewarded with opportunities for new work. This is a business, it’s not luck. That said, I am pretty darn excited about this trip.
Luxury Travel to India
Our pitch to Marriott in India was to demonstrate that there is more to traveling India than backpackers and hardship. On the other end, there is more to traveling India than blowing $10,000 a person on an Abercrombie & Kent luxury vacation. Although there’s something to be said for a luxury train ride through India.
There has to be a happy medium. A trip that involves a combination of comfort and ease, with great experiences along the way.
This is how we created #IndiaByMarriott. We will be traveling India by staying in four Marriott properties, in Mumbai, New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. What I loved about this concept is that this trip is all about luxury, but achievable luxury. The Marriott properties we are staying at can be booked for as little as $100 a night. They are perfect for people who want to travel India comfortably, and reliably.
We also were a little more hesitant to explore India once we arrived more independently. Frankly, we know we will be tired when we arrive after several weeks of constant on the go and a few press trips in Europe. I simply did not want to put the time and effort into figuring out what to see and how to get around. Enter: Viator Travel.
We are working with Viator on five different experiences while traveling India. Some of what we are doing is pretty cool, and can all be booked through their website, a la carte. Rather than booking a full tour from the beginning to end of our trip, we were able to work with Viator to choose the activities that we wanted to do, allowing us plenty of free time in between. And, we are doing some pretty cool stuff.
While staying at the JW Marriott Sahar Mumbai, we are taking a night street food tour in Mumbai and cooking and eating with a local family in Delhi. While staying at the JW Marriott New Delhi, we will be learning about the unique process of how Mumbai’s dabbawallas deliver food across the city. At the Courtyard by Marriott in Agra, we will experience a private Taj Mahal tour, which includes afternoon tea with a view of the Taj. And, most exciting for us, while at the Jaipur Marriott, we will take our first hot air balloon ride over the pink city of Jaipur!! It is such a relief to have all of these activities planned and booked before we even arrive in India.
To add to the luxury feel of this trip, we are flying in and out of India in style. And, in this case, it did not break the bank. We are staying at a new Marriott brand called Moxy at the Milan airport before our morning flight to India. We booked our Qatar Air flight from Milan to Mumbai using American Airlines miles, and it only cost 30,000 miles a person, for business class! We booked our flight from Jaipur to Bangkok, via New Delhi, on Air India’s Dreamliner. It was $200 one way to fly economy, and only $450 one way to book the Dreamliner business class…what do you think we chose?
Needless to say, we are so incredibly excited about this trip, from the Moxy hotel, to Qatar Air and Air India business class, to all of our Marriott stays, and our work with Viator Travel. We would love for you to follow along with us.
Photos courtesy of Anne Lowrey from Part Time Traveler.
For more information about India, see our India Travel Guide, for information on accommodations, what to eat, and tours to book.