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6th Year Nr. 71 - Saturday, November 25th 2017.

Destinations

Carole DieltensIncredible India!
Indelible Rajasthan!



By Carole Dieltiëns - E&MM travel consultant HRG Belgium

 

Carole Dieltiëns - E&MM travel consultant HRG Belgium
Her studies in history and her passion for travel and foreign cultures have led Carole to the incentive travel industry. She works as travel consultant for the E&MM department of Hogg Robinson Group Belgium, a daughter company of HRG Worldwide. Thanks to its network in over 90 countries worldwide and its know-how based on 160 years of experience, HRG offers a wide range of tailor-made services and solutions to its clients.

 

Who has not dreamed of visiting India?! The mysterious and colourful destination had me curious for a very long time. The invitation by Cox & Kings, Jet Airways and Taj Hotels to discover Rajasthan was therefore enthusiastically accepted!

There are many reasons why India and more specifically Rajasthan, is and will always be a popular destination for watch our slideshowIncentive Travel:
  • Legendary hospitality - service seems to be an Indian invention
  • Total immersion in a fascinating foreign culture
  • Excellent quality/price ratio
  • Large selection of 4*, 5* & 5* deluxe hotels & converted palaces
  • Enormous selection of incentive oriented elements and activities
  • Excellent air transport connections
  • Relatively small time difference (3,5 hours) so no jetlag
  • Reasonable flying time (7 to 8 hours)

 

HISTORY
Rajasthan, the birthplace of one of the oldest civilizations, is today still full of stories of ancient heroes, courage, honour and bravery. Around the middle of the 6th century the Rajput warriors ruled supreme, and this was the start of a long and rich history resulting in the architectural beauty we still admire today. They transformed a barren desert into an enchanted land of fascinating beauty.

The independence of India in 1947 was also the end of the many small kingdoms and the states of Rajputana were restructured into the state of Rajasthan in the west of the Indian Republic. When the former rulers and maharajas lost their income, many of them became shrewd business men and developed their palaces into exclusive luxury hotels.

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RAJASTHAN
No other region in India is as rich in palaces and old forts as Rajasthan. The state measures 342 000 km² and is crossed by the Aravalli mountains and the Chambal river. It boasts a varied landscape, with the Thar desert in the west, a more temperate climate in the north, fertile planes to the east, and the lakes and green hills for which the south is known.

 

DMC: COX & KINGS
Cox & Kings is the world’s oldest travel agency and they are still innovative and ambitious! This year they celebrate the 250th birthday of their founding by Richard Cox, the British colonel who in 1758 helped India visitors to discover its treasures. The centuries-old experience of the agency guarantees a perfect and detailed knowledge of the destination in all its different facets. Definitely a reliable partner! Cox & Kings owns 14 offices in India, as well as offices in the UK, USA, Russia, Dubai and Japan and has representatives in UK, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Spain, South Africa, France & Italy.

The efficient and friendly staff give impeccable service and could answer even the most difficult request: Business and Corporate Travel, Destination Management for groups, individuals and incentive groups, Cruises and Charters, and all this both In- and Outbound. The agency has a specialized department for “Meetings, Incentives, Conventions & Conferences and Exhibitions & Trade Fairs”.

www.coxandkings.com

Contact: Angela Bailey, email: angela.bailey@coxandkings.com

 

THE BEST WAY TO GET THERE: JET AIRWAYS
The airline, started in 1993, has, in a couple of years, developed an impressive number of flights: 19 international destinations, and daily over 380 internal flights with 44 destinations within India. Since august 2007 Jet Airways also Bollywoodoffers from Brussels daily direct flights from Brussels to New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, but also to Toronto, New York and Newark.

All this makes Jet Airways the perfect partner for travellers from Belgium. The comfort and service in all different classes definitely also contribute. For Premiere and First Passengers the airport lounge in Zaventem is an absolute must with its contemporary design and interior.

Last but not least is a fun detail with the choice of entertainment from Hollywood or Bollywood.. a perfect introduction to India for a first time visitor!

www.jetairways.com/be
Contact: Michel van Caster, email: mvancaster@jetairways.com

 

MUMBAI
During our trip we only passed through Mumbai. After a late arrival in Mumbai and a warm welcome at the hotel (with drink, flower garland and tikka of course!) we had a first encounter with the splendour and first class service of Taj Hotels at the Taj Mahal Palace. Pure delight! The Mumbai visit was kept short: a quick tour of the town and lunch at the Taj Lands End hotel before taking an internal flight to Udaipur. 

Mumbai is the most dynamic, cosmopolitan and densely populated city of India with its 15 million inhabitants. The old name, Bombay supposedly came from the Portuguese “Bom Bahia”, meaning ‘good bay’. Mumbai, a thriving port, is also the financial capital of the country but is probably best known as the worlds most important cinema capital: the famous and also infamous Bollywood!

Today the city has gone back to its official name of Mumbai, named after the Goddess Mumba Devi who protected the first inhabitants of the region. When talking of Bombay today the inhabitants in fact talk about the old colonial quarters such as Malabar Hill, in contrast to the real popular parts of town that form the ‘real’ Mumbai.

Gateway of India
Victoria terminusDuring the British Raj this gate was the first thing travelers saw upon their arrival. The monument was erected in 1911 in honor of King Georges V and Queen Mary on their way to Delhi. The square in front of the gate is a popular place for merchants and inhabitants to gather.

Victoria Terminus
Imagine the surprise when this majestic building turned out to be not a palace but a railway station! The Victoria Terminus is not for nothing considered the most impressive example of Victorian architecture in India. It was finished in 1888 in honour of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and in 2004 became a UNESCO monument. Each day it sees more than 1000 trains and over 2 million travellers!

Malabar Hill
This hill was and still is the residential area of Mumbai. Beautiful old houses situated in luscious green but uncared for gardens now lie desolate next to the modern houses and apartments preferred by Mumbai’s more affluent classes.

The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower
This majestic hotel was built in 1903 for a rich Parsi industrialist after he was refused entrance to the Watsons Hotel, strictly reserved for westerners. The large cupola is as impressive from the inside as the outside. The hotel consists of the modern Taj Mahal Tower and the historical Taj Mahal Palace, and has a total of 565 rooms, 43 suites included.
The business centre is situated in the Tower, where one also finds 12 meeting rooms with a capacity from 25 to 500 people. The Palace is more geared towards the exclusive character of the building and houses the Taj Club and an extensive art collection, a real treat for its beauty and elegance!
The hotel is a member of “The Leading Hotels of the World”.

www.tajhotels.com
Contact: Sandra Evrard, email: sevrard@glahotels.com

Taj Lands End
This modern hotel is situated in the business district of town and offers following facilities: 368 rooms and suites with seaview, the Taj Club, a business centre, 7 meeting rooms with a capacity going from 25 to 650 people, five restaurants (one of which the gorgeous ‘Pure’ specialising in organic cuisine) and the Atrium Lounge bar.
The hotel is a member of “The Leading Hotels of the World”.

 

UDAIPUR
After a short inland flight from Mumbai to Udaipur, and excited by the thought of an overnight stay at the legendary LakePalace, the expectations were definitely met upon arrival at the Pichola Lake with a gorgeous sunset! What a dream image: the palace reflected in the water and the sun setting behind the hills for a backdrop...Very promising!

Udaipur

After a short boat ride from the private jetty to the hotel we landed at the idyllic Lake Palace of Jag Niwas. Very soon,  the tone for the trip was set: the incredible experience, again and again in each destination, of staying in beautiful and authentic palaces that are an integral part of Rajasthan culture and have a central place in the local history!

What followed during our stay in Udaipur had us more than once stunned into adoring silence: cocktails in Shiv Niwas, dinner with the Prince in Jag Mandir and the visit to the City Palace.

The apotheosis was definitely the enchanting evening on the lake (max capacity: 30 persons): the evening started with an aperitif whilst the traditional and comfortable boat with rowers in full ceremonial dress drifted slowly on the lake. A while later a floating platform containing the kitchen was attached to our boat and a long and delicious meal followed with commentary from the chef. The evening reached its climax with fireworks and with fire dances executed by traditional dancers in the galleries of the CityPalace. Emotional and magic goose bumps guaranteed!

Udaipur was founded in 1559 by Maharana Udai Singh and became the capital of Mewar.  Udaipur resembles a mirage in the middle of a desert with its lakes, green hills, gardens and forests.

City Palace
The impressive palace was built on the shores of Lake Pichola and is the largest in Rajasthan.  Today four distinctive parts can be distinguished from left to right: the City Palace museum (the oldest part, open to the public), the Shambhu Niwas (today’s residence of the Royal Family), the Fateh Prakash (hotel with a beautiful reception room, many portrets and a large collection of crystal) and the circular Shiv Niwas (also a hotel and perfect venue for privatized cocktails and dinners).
The different parts – with the exception of the royal Quarters – can be used for fairytale style functions from 20 to 2000 people.

Jag Mandir
This summer palace on the south shore of the lake was built by Rana Karan Singh in the 17th century. The translucent marble covered in precious stones, the kiosques, cupolas, courtyards and luscious gardens were supposedly the inspiration for Shah Jahan for the building of the Taj Mahal. The entrance to the palace is flanked by eight massive stone elephants.
The palace has a restaurant and a very large courtyard that can be used for the organisation of stunning outdoor events. Special arrangement can be made for the friendly Prince to greet your guests. 

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Jag Niwas
The other summer palace built on the lake between 1734 and 1751 by Prince Jagat Singh II, an impulsive reaction to being told by his father that he could not receive his friends at home in Jag Mandir. The result is an opulent and romantic palace that seems to be floating on water, with a royal atmosphere, manicured gardens, vast courtyards and rich interiors. This legendary and world famous palace has been used often as the décor for movies such as the James Bond movie “Octopussy”.

Taj Lake Palace
As mentioned before, the visitors of this ‘floating palace’ find themselves in another world and another era. The room where in the old days visitors waited to be received by the maharana is today the lobby of the hotel. The many corridors are decorated with works of art and lead via small gardens to the rooms, each decorated in its own style.
The hotel has 83 rooms including 17 suites, a spa with swimming pool, ‘Palace Service’, two restaurants, a bar and pontoons on the lake for romantic dinners.  
The hotel is a member of “The Leading Small Hotels of the World”.

roomDevi Garh Palace
This hotel is a great example of the contemporary and tasteful design incorporated in an old fort full of authentic elements. Each room of the hotel, from the bedrooms to the restaurant, exudes good taste and luxury.
The hotel is situated 45 minutes from Udaipur, surrounded by green fields and mountains with a view of the village of Delwara. The 37 suites each have a very distinctive style; the hotel also boasts one of the best spas in that part of the world, a great pool and a restaurant with a panoramic view.
The hotel is a member of “Preferred Hotels & Resorts”.

 

RANAKPUR
The trip then took us from Udaipur to Jodhpur (259 km, 6.5 hrs by coach). On the way we came by Ranakpur, a beautiful temple complex of the Jains. Do not forget to bring a pair of socks as you may not enter the temple with your shoes and the marble gets too hot under the sun to walk on bare feet.

The sublime Ranakpur can be found 90 km north of Udaipur, in a valley of the Aravalli Range. The temple complex with its main temple - the Adinath Temple, dates from the 15th century. It is one of the 5 most sacred places for Jains and is probably the most beautiful example of sacred architecture in the whole of West India.

The gigantic size, the architectural complexity, the breathtaking attention to detail in the white marble and the 1414 decorated pillars of the Adinath Temple will simply take your breath away, it is too beautiful for words ...

 

JODHPUR
The evening of our arrival in Jodhpur we were welcomed by a sudden and most impressive sand storm, followed later in the night by a summer storm that left most of us speechless! In the morning though the skies had cleared (perfect timing) and the temperature was cool when we breakfasted amongst the peacocks...

Jodhpur can be found in the Marwar or “land of the dead”, named because of the inhospitable Thar desert all around it.

The city grew to be a major commercial centre thanks to its strategic location on the caravan routes. The imposing JodhpurMehrangarh Fort stands guard high above the city and its colourful markets.

The city is known as the Sun City for the bright, sunny weather it enjoys all year. It is also referred as the BlueCity, due to the indigo tinge of the whitewashed houses. The blue houses were originally for Brahmins but non-Brahmins soon joined in, as the colour was said to deflect the heat and keep mosquitoes away.

Mehrangarh Fort
Built on a 42 m high plateau above the city, the Mehrangarh Fort is one of the most impressive and majestic forts of Rajasthan. Kipling described it as a “creation of angels, fairies and giants”. Here also you see the marked contrast between the rough outside and the intricate decorations inside. The fort can be privatised for special  functions (such as the recent wedding of actress Liz Hurley and Arun Nayar).

Umaid Bhawan Palace
It took 15 years to build this enormous palace. The initiative of the maharaja came after a long period of draught that brought total poverty to the city and this provided employment for his people. This a beautiful illustration of the way rulers took care of their people and explains immediately the great respect the inhabitants still have for the descendants of that ruler.

Umaid Bhawan Palace
The hotel is situated in a wing of the palace and is surrounded by magnificent gardens. The hotel has 64 rooms and suites, as well as an indoor and outdoor pool, a spa, a museum, 2 restaurants, a bar and  sports facilities. Two large and identical ballrooms, an amphitheatre and many salons are available for all sorts of grand events.
The hotel is a member of “The Leading Small Hotels of the World”.

Taj Hari Mahal
This beautiful hotel at the city limits but not too far from the centre has 93 rooms and suites. The rates here are lower than at the historical Umaid Bhawan Palace. The hotel has a business centre, 5 meeting rooms (with capacity for up to 700 people), 4 restaurants, 2 bars and a patisserie shop, as well as a pool, sports facilities and a beauty salon.

 

JAIPUR
After Jodhpur it was the turn of Jaipur (at a distance of 332 kms of 8 hrs by coach). And here as well we went from one surprise to another! It all started on arrival in Rambagh Palace where we were given a true royal welcome with elephants, horses, camels, dancers and a glass of lychee juice with rosewater!
That very evening we had an incredibly ‘romantic’ dinner in the gardens of the hotel: aperitif with music and dancing (in which we enthusiastically participated!) , followed by dinner at tables decorated with rose petals, under canopies of garlands of fresh jasmine and roses so that every little gust of wind filled the air with their beautiful smell.!

And as if we were not convinced enough, we were picked up the next evening by vintage cars to be taken to the JaiMahal Palace for ... a game of polo on elephants! A warm welcome by young girls in traditional costumes and the local band were of course part of the show.

JaipurThe pink town thanks its colour to the visit of the Prince of Wales back in 1876. Since India’s independence, Jaipur is the lively capital of Rajasthan. Today the city is a great mix of old and new. 

Hawa Mahal
This building, also called the ‘Palace of Winds’, is one of the most famous places in Jaipur. In fact it is not much more than a façade with 953 shuttered windows that let through the cooling winds, hence its name.
The Hawa Mahal was built so that the female members of the royal family could observe the life outside the palace without being seen themselves.

City Palace
The residence of the maharaja’s is situated in the heart of the town and actually takes over about 1/7th of the entire town. Part of the palace is open to visitors and contains beautiful collections of carpets, weapons, etc.
Worth seeing are the enormous solid silver pots made to transport holy water from the Ganges for a maharaja’s visit to London in 1902 – they are said to be the largest existing in the world.

Rambagh Palace
The palace was built in 1835 and had different destinies before it finally became a luxury hotel. It is a fitting illustration of the royal way of living.

The hotel is surrounded by large and beautifully kept gardens and is centrally located only 11 kms from the airport. The hotel has 90 rooms and suites, all tastefully decorated and is a true oasis of quiet. Other than the four restaurants and a bar the Rambagh Palace also has a spa, an in- and outdoor pool, sports facilities and shops. Four meeting rooms have a total capacity from 20 to 350 persons (or 650 persons for cocktails).
The hotel is a member of “The Leading Small Hotels of the World”.

Jai Mahal Palace
This beautiful hotel was the former residence of the prime minister of Jaipur and is only 14 kms away from the airport. The hotel has 100 beautiful rooms and suites, 3 restaurants and 2 bars, as well as a business centre, pool, spa, sports facilities, a meeting room with a capacity from 10 to 150 persons.

 

AMBER
india‘Last but certainly not least’ was Amber, the last stop on our trip, before taking the night flight out of Delhi for home (the distance between Jaipur and New Delhi is 258 kms or 5,5 hrs by coach).

Amber (11 kms from Jaipur) was the prestigious citadel of Kachwaha until the capital moved to Jaipur in 1727. The place is a sumptuous complex that follows the undulations of the mountain and the fort can be reached on a very steep road by jeeps.
In the Jas Mandir the maharaja would receive his invitees and it was decorated with thousands of little pieces of mirrored glass and precious stones so that in the evening by candlelight all would be magically reflected.

Le Meridien Jaipur
The hotel is situated 15 minutes from Amber Fort and 25 minutes from Jaipur in a large well tended garden. The hotel is classical yet modern and caters to both leisure and business clients. Le Meridien Jaipur has 2 restaurants, 2 bars, a disco, a cinema, a spa, fitness and 3660 m² of meeting space.

 

A few more handy tips:
  • Contrary to common belief the cuisine in the hotels and better restaurants is adapted to the palates of foreigners and therefore not exaggeratedly spicy.
  • An added bonus is that Rajasthan receives many local tourists as well as those from abroad so one therefore visits many of the palaces and temples amongst a very colourful local crowd.    
  • Many Indians visit Europe with a clear preference for Switzerland that is often used as a decor for the jolly Bollywood movies. It is a good thing to know for MICE agents who want to bring Indian groups to Europe that approximatively 70% of the Indians are vegetarians and have a marked preference for their own cuisine. Restrict Western meals therefore to one per day and if necessary provide an Indian cook to travel with the group.
  • Even if the transfers between the different cities are perfectly do-able by coach, the trips may seem very long to Belgian passengers. An advantage of transfers by coach is the amazing scenery on each trip.
    If the budget permits it, it is possible to include one or several internal flights in the program. 

The colourful inhabitants, the great contrasts and the mysterious culture of Rajasthan will stay with each visitor... and even if you do get completely immersed in a totally different culture, this will definitely not be an obstacle to organising a perfectly successful incentive trip!


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