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.
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.
Head out to lesser known spots.
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.
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.
Trawl the net, check out local references and go by friends' advice.
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.
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.
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.
Egypt, Venic, Athens, Interlaken in Switzerland and Cape Town.
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.