Vijay Wanchoo, Senior Vice President and General Manager, The Imperial Hotel, New Delhi is an avid traveller. He shares with hindustantimes.com some of his thoughts and experiences on travel. Which is the last holiday you took and what were the highlights of the trip?
The last holiday was a mix of a pilgrimage and a short vacation. I had gone to Amarnath Yatra and the entire experience has left me spellbound. To reach there, we had to first land in Srinagar and the next morning take a chopper to Baltal (a small hamlet) which is a 15-minute flight. We then headed up into the mountains on horseback which took us about four hours. We were cautioned to return by 3.30pm the same evening in order to catch the evening flight. Well this was not to be, since we got caught in inclement weather (rain) and got back only by 5.30pm. This was the last flight for the day and we had no choice but to stay an extra day. We were stuck in the plateau with no decent place to stay and had to spend the night in an 8x 8 feet tent which was on a slab of ice. The next morning we had to get in line for the chopper at 3.30 am. So, though the trip had its moments and was cumbersome but enchanting all the same.
We thoroughly enjoyed the trip as the next two days we were on a houseboat on the Dal Lake. Having been to Kashmir on several occasions we had never stayed in a houseboat and the experience was enriching. One of the best sunrise scenes I have seen was on the Dal Lake only matched by my experience many years ago seeing the sunrise behind the Kanchenjunga from my hotel balcony in Kausani, ahead of Ranikhet. When on vacation what do you like to do?
Head out to lesser known spots. What has been the most bizarre thing you have eaten when experimenting with food in a foreign location?
Being a vegetarian, it is quite difficult find your choice of food in many countries. During a trip to Bangkok a friend took me to a restaurant which served make believe non vegetarian food. The dishes served were vegetarian but they looked more perfect than real lamb chops, grilled chicken and what have you. I guess not so bizarre but an experience to remember. Which destination for you has the highest repeat value?
I have roots in Kashmir so for me Srinagar is heaven on earth. Also, having spent a better part of my growing up years in the mountains, I find that Shimla too has sufficient repeat value. My grandfather and father lived there for many years and I have fond memories of this very British hill station. Which place according to you is highly over rated?
Thailand. How do you plan your holiday?
Trawl the net, check out local references and go by friends' advice. Most embarrassing travel moment?
When I mixed up my red suitcase with somebody else's while taking the luggage from the conveyer belt at one the airports and found the person rushing towards me in a state of panic as I was just getting out of the exit door to get his suitcase back is funny when I think of it now but at that moment, I was completely foxed till I realised what I had done.
While on vacation what is most important to you?
Sight seeing alternated with spending some quiet time. Which place do you recommend for a weekend getaway in India?
There are a few good places around Delhi. If you are okay to fly, then I would always recommend Srinagar, Gulmarg or Pahalgam. The flight to Srinagar is only an hour, hence the quickest to any hill station. How do you think the travel scene has changed in India in recent times?
As incomes increase and as more and more Economy and budget airlines proliferate, the profile of air travellers has changed. Those people who went by train now frequently use airlines and thus what used to be a luxury has now become a requirement. Which are the five places that are there in your 'must visit' list?
Egypt, Venic, Athens, Interlaken in Switzerland and Cape Town.What are the things that really put you off when holidaying?
In certain places the language is an issue and in others the attitude of people can be quite a put off.
Any tips on how a young couple can make a vacation truly memorable?
Do not cut corners. Plan your trip in detail so that you are well prepared. A monument that you have seen and which has stayed most vividly in your memory