I was invited to India by a local Destination Management Company partner to spend two weeks getting to know the destination and its venues. My first taste of this exotic country was in route to the hotel around 2:00 a.m. when I saw my first elephant walking down the road. That was the first of many interesting wildlife encounters on the roads of India.
Our itinerary included many of the top tourist destinations in the largest of India’s twenty-nine states, Rajasthan. During our time there, we saw the beautiful Taj Mahal, the Red Fort, Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, Humayun's Tomb, Temple of the Wind and the Amber Fort in Jaipur and more. Each day was packed with adventures from riding elephants and camels, rickshaw rides in Old Delhi, going to markets and touring historical sites. For the “business” side of things we did some high-end hotel inspections, which were spectacular on all fronts.
The part of the trip that really left a lasting impression on me was the time we spent in the village of Samode, located about 3 hours from Jaipur. Our accommodations were at the 475 year-old Samode Palace, which was in complete darkness when we arrived at night. Initially, I thought the power was out as is common occurrence in many parts of the country. Once we stepped through the gates, the entire palace light up. Our grand reception included the throwing of rose petals, music and traditional dancers, and having necklaces of jasmine placed around our necks as we climbed the stairs. What an entrance!
The next day we did a village jeep tour. Our first stop was an elementary school, and when we arrived, we were greeted by what seemed like the entire town and its mayor – and, of course, goats. The humble school building was open air and had dirt floors, and inside the children were learning advanced math and English. The kids were so excited to practice their English, and they were fascinated by our smart phones and cameras.