Happy New Year’s my fellow wanderlusters! I would like to ring in the wee hours of 2017 with a top 3 list of destinations that should be on your list if you are planning to visit the Indian subcontinent. Each has their own charm and distinctive allure. I hope in these you discover the unknown, meet your next best friend and explore another dimension of your India experience gratis Belle Desi.
A favorite of European tourists and architectural fans, Chettinad is an intriguing province in the state of Tamil Nadu that was settled by the dynamic Chettiyar community, a vibrantly prosperous business community that chose to transform their architecture, food and customs based on their world travels to Burma, Indonesia and Belgium. The multi room mansions with distinctive tile work which is famous throughout India, spectacular woodwork and fanciful chandeliers makes for a delightful architectural pilgrimage for any avid traveller. The cuisine is also coveted around India for its exotic spice sensibility for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian delights. If you go, stay at the Bangla, a hotel which is owned and run by a relation of the royal Chettinad family and was used as a gentlemen’s club by their family. Trust me, between the old world charm, sumptuous Chettinad meals and prime location of the Bangla, you will be set for a true Tamil adventure. Please don’t forget to tell them that Belle Desi sent you there!
What can be said of one of the oldest living cities in the world. Prepare for an extreme sensory overload when visiting Varanasi as it is not only the destination of all worshippers, Hindu, Moslem, Christian or other, but also mecca for Hindustani musicians as well as being home to delectable sweet and savory treats. Don’t be surprised to hear a sitar concert, chanting from a yoga class over the loud speaker and funeral procession all at the same time. Be prepared for a raw, honest dose of India with its windy untidy lanes, and unending crowds pressing towards the Ghats where most funerals, religious processions and holy ceremonies take place. I stayed at the Taj Gateway which was central, amazing customer service as all Taj hotels offer, and next to the amazing Nadesar Palace, loaned by the royal family of Varanasi exclusively for the Taj Group to give guests a truly royal experience. A couple of days at Nadesar is doubtlessly on my bucket list and should be on yours!
Sure I am a tea lover, but who can resist the green velvety hills, spectacular views, winding miles of gorgeous green foliage of Munnar? This tea settlement located in the western Ghats was settled by the British in the Idduki district of Kerala, India. Being a 6 hour drive from my stomping ground, this holds a special place in my heart! Home to the Kannan Devan tea company owned by the Tata’s as well as a mecca for cardamom, coffee, and many other exotic spices, this is a definitely a must go South India hill station which is a mere 3 hour drive from Kochi which has both domestic and international flights. As far as staying, the only place I would consider is Club Mahindra Munnar, not only it is away from the hustle and bustle of Munnar town being about an hour further up the Ghats, but it is the crown jewel of the Club Mahindra time share group with sweeping views, impeccable service, and sumptuous buffets of Kerala, Gujarati and Punjabi cuisine.
Happy New Years from Belle Desi!