In 2004 I made my maiden voyage to India. 40 hours to get to Mumbai, endless customs, absolute mayhem at 2am outside baggage collection with 300 screaming cab drivers, a goat tied outside my hotel room, a breakfast buffet with nothing resembling breakfast, stolen electronics, shocking hotels, extreme poverty facing extreme wealth, the heat, delhi belly.
Mentally, physically, emotionally exhausting. Exhilarating. I could not recommend the trip to everyone. God I was happy to be home. Relieved. Freaked out.
9 years and 12 visit later, I am astounded with the transformation.
It started with cash injections into the country off the back of the IT and automotive booms. Business travelers wanted better hotels, better spoken English, western diets and the country obliged. It’s been leaps and bounds since then.
Now flying into Mumbai is pleasant. There’s no 3rd degree in customs and 30minutes from hitting the ground you are outside with your bags serviced by polite and courteous, but not over bearing staff. The same goes for Bangalore airport which is world class, receiving flights from Australia via KL. Slick,modern, high class, comfortable and efficient.
The hotels represent an amazing revolution in service and quality. This trip I stayed at the Marriot in Pune; 15 or so floors of world class perfection in a hotel to rival the very best across Asia. Walking through security, wonderful and massive atrium feel in the main lobby.
The staff saw I was absolutely knackered, sweaty, jetlagged and looking rank. My bags were taken, a new desk was opened and I was efficiently processed and sent to my room for rest. What a room; comfortable, clean, big bath, waterfall shower. Sanctuary, safety. Back downstairs though in 15 minutes for the first meeting (partners like to meet).
The food - amazing, from in room service to a massive breakfast buffet. Full western through to a myriad of amazing local food. Some days I just want comfort food, they obliged.
Order the omelet, head to your table and delivered within 10 minutes. Juice bar, international buffet, cheese, fresh meats, good filter coffee, excellent tea. The roof top bar looking over the city served a range of beers and excellent local bar snacks, spicy enough to want more to drink, but not enough to have you burning from inside out.
Awesome gymnasium and pool with attentive staff and quick service, whether it was another drink, a wifi password or a fresh towel and some assistance on stretching.
I edit and submit this article from ITC Bangalore. Astounding. Responsible Luxury.
All over, excellent service.
But because it’s India, you only have to head 100 metres down the road to engage in the madness, 1 km for a real feel of the local life, 5 km to get to the villages and tap into all things old India.
It’s the perfect combination of luxury, comfort and safety but with the real world I come to see unblemished by the march of prosperity and westernization.
The end result is that now I can say to my more conservative friends, family and travel agents that India is accessible, easier and very, very doable. Yes, its bloody hot, dusty, sometimes overbearing and all so different from home.
But isn’t that why we travel anyway?
So if you have those customers who would love to sample the sub continent but typically find Noosa enough of a culture shock, India is now a real option.