Serene Journeys is 5…

Namaste!

It’s been five serene years since Serene Journeys began to provide bespoke travel services to India. Since that time we’ve met old friends and made new ones along the way.  We’ve flown, floated, and driven.  We’ve wined, dined and danced.  We’ve explored horizons afar and those within ourselves.

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We’ve visited so many wonderful places, met so many interesting people, seen amazing sights, encountered nature at its most intimate moments.  At times we’ve been spiritual.  At times creative, even artistic.

During this time we’ve expanded our reach into Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and even China.  We continue to work with a clientele as diverse as the world we live in.  So Namaste, but also Sawadee and Ni Hao.

None of this would have been possible without the trust and support of our guests, travelers, and travel partners.  Thanks to you…

The Journey Serene continues.

We travel on!

With Love, From Robin, Mark & Steve

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For reservation query, please email us at robin@serenejourneys.co
steve@serenejourneys.co (for UK and Ireland ONLY)
mark@serenejourneys.co (for US ONLY)

Robin is the founder of Serene Journeys, a bespoke travel to India & Southeast Asia and a freelance travel photographer, amateur birder and rural explorer.  Follow us on Instagram @ serenejourneys or Facebook @ Serene Journeys or  tweet @serenejourneys1

Goa & the Magical Monsoon

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Sunset at Uttorda Beach

Goa is known as the most popular beachfront state in India lying along the Arabian Sea bounded by Maharashtra to the north and Karnataka to the east and south. Its biggest draw is undoubtedly its virtually uninterrupted string of white-sand beaches each beach having its own personality from tropical retreat to backpacker haven to hippie bliss.

Over 450 years of Portuguese rule and the influence of the Portuguese culture presents visitors to Goa a cultural environment that is not found elsewhere in India. Goa is often described as a fusion between Eastern and Western culture with Portuguese culture having a dominant position in the state be it in its architectural, cultural or social settings.

Goa is visited by large numbers of international and domestic tourists each winter season given its top world ranking nightlife and beaches. But I chose to visit Goa in the monsoon season (July through September) when the foliage turns lush green from the rains. Beauty abounds while the tourist population recedes.

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I stayed for four wonderful days at the new Planet Hollywood. Well-appointed and comfortable along clean and quiet Utorda Beach with a most welcoming and hospitable staff. So many surprises awaited from day one, including a beautiful and very tasty greeting cake, an upgraded luxurious suite room and a handwritten personal welcome note from the GM. Each room is individually designed according to a Hollywood theme featuring creature comforts like massage chair, mood lighting, goose down pillows, plush towels, satin sheets, and designer toiletries. Rooms either overlook the Arabian Sea or feature a lush garden view.

As to meals while in residence, I was offered a menu but instead asked that the chef select all my meals choosing from local favorites like pork vindaloo, chicken xacuti, balchão, pomfret curry… all prepared to my taste using a mouth-watering array of Goan spices. I was never disappointed.  What a fantastic culinary experience!

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Welcome assortment and brownie topped with Serene Journeys

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Welcome note from GM Anand jee

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one of the walls at the lounge bar

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executive suite

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Prawn Kismur

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Pork Vindaloo

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Pomfret Recheado

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MargaFeni – Feni Margarita

The second day I enjoyed a bicycle breakfast picnic to Three Kings Church, a famous ‘haunted church’ once attended by three Portuguese kings… one poisoned the other two and then committed suicide. Dicey heritage, cool place for enjoying a picturesque view in a most serene setting. I dined on fresh fruit, fresh baked breads and muffins, an omelet, some Indian delicacies and of course all washed down with delightful local coffee and tea.

On the way back, we detoured through local rice fields, small villages and took a long photo-stop, as I was excitedly prepared to ‘shoot’ every unique beauty coming my way from ruined churches among the coconut trees, to the farmers in the field and the butterflies. I spent the day at leisure along the beach watching beachgoers and cricket matches along the Sea as fisherman brought in their ‘treasures of the deep’.  My day ended still at the beach embraced by the patina of a golden sunset through the clouds and into the Arabian Sea.

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Wallance & I getting ready for the adventure

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the road to three kings church

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the spots decided

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we have a picnic butler 🙂

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under the tree on a beautiful morning

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beautiful moth

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this tree is beautifully creepy LOL!

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The ruins at Three Kings Church

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Picturesque view from Three Kings Church

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Three Kings Church

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The caretaker makes sure this fire does not go off

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another abandoned church on the way back

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The third day we toured many of Goa’s famous historical religious sites. Goa has a rich spiritual history where east meet west, Hindu meets Christianity.  First stop was the Basilica de Bom Jesus housing the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier, a UNESCO world heritage site. Dating to 1605, the basilica is an outstanding example of baroque architecture… one of the most important destinations for Christian pilgrims from all over the world. Then on to the Se Cathedral which is the cathedral of the Latin Rite Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Goa and Daman as well as the seat of the Patriarch of the East Indies. Next, I visited the church of St. Francis of Assisi built in 1660 by the Portuguese as a chapel later gaining status as a church. Then on to the church of St. Augustine completed in 1602 and now a famous ruin with the only remaining structure being a 46-meter bell tower constructed of laterite.   Last but not least on the list was Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church built in 1541 and featuring the second largest bell in Goa. I enjoyed a fish fry thali for lunch at the famous Ritz Classic.

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Basilica de Bom Jesus

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the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier

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Se Cathedral

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The ruin around the church of St. Francis of Assisi

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The ruin around the church of St. Francis of Assisi

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the church of St. Augustine

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the church of St. Augustine

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the church of St. Augustine

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the church of St. Augustine

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Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church

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View from Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church

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Blue building is Singbal’s Book House, Church Square

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Given my diverse religious background (a prodigy of both Hinduism and Chritianity) I visited several Hindu temples each surrounded by flower vendors stringing garlands and making beautiful floral arrangements to place in the temples. I visited Shantadurga Temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess who served as a messenger between Shiva and Vishnu. Formerly a small laterite mud shrine with a small idol during Portuguese times it is now converted into a beautiful full-scale place of spiritual enlightenment featuring a blend of Indian and Portuguese design. Next was the 400-year-old Mangeshi Temple founded during 16thcentury dedicated to Bhagavan Manguesh a incarnation of Lord Shiva.

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Shantadurga Temple

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Wallance & Chauffeur Rakesh ended up doing their own little shopping

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the 400-year-old Mangeshi Temple

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Stay tuned for Part 2 of ‘Serene Journey’s Excellent Goa Adventure with Planet Hollywood

 

Robindro Saikhom
robin@serenejourneys.co
www.serenejourneys.co

Robin is the founder of Serene Journeys, a gay travel company based in Delhi and a freelance travel photographer, exploring the beauty of India, Nepal, Bhutan and Southeast Asia.
Check us out on Instagram Facebook Twitter Youtube 

Water Colours in the Air

An introduction to Holi celebration, the Indian way

16Nights|17Days touring
Group size: 2-6 travellers, guaranteed departure 

DELHI – AGRA – JAIPUR – RANTHAMBORE – BUNDI – CHITTAURGARH – UDAIPUR – KUMBHALGARH – NARLAI – ROHET – JODHPUR – DELHI

 

27th Feb        Delhi arrival

Kindly take the flight which arrive Delhi by 1600hrs or earlier.

Upon arrival, our representative will receive you at the airport and transfer you to the hotel. VIP welcome, kindly look out for ‘Serene Journeys Placard with your name on it’ as you walk out aerobridge.

With our compliments, indulge in a 60MIN complete relaxation and rejuvenation massage treatment and ease stressed muscles from your travels, by a male therapist.

Overnight at hotel.

8

Taj Mahal, Agra

28th Feb        Delhi – Agra

After breakfast, around 8AM we drive to Agra. Upon arrival, check in to the hotel and brief rest.

Around 2pm, we start our guided sightseeing of the impressive Agra Fort, built of red sandstone and marble, Agra Fort presents a formidable exterior and a graceful interior. Visit Itmad-ud-Daulah, nicknamed the Baby Taj, the exquisite tomb of Mizra Ghiyas Beg.

Then pay your first visit to the masterpiece this sunset, when the rising sun lends a warm orange tint to its marble face. Flawless in its proportions and breathtaking in its beauty, the Taj Mahal looks as though it were painted onto the sky itself — a vision of unrivalled magnificence.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

1st Mar          Agra – Jaipur via Fatehpur Sikri

Leisurely breakfast and around 9.30AM we drive to Jaipur en-route visiting Fatehpur Sikri. Built by Emperor Akbar as his palace in the 16th century and then later abandoned, “ruined” Fatehpur Sikri is a fairy-tale ghost city of delicately carved red sandstone.

Later continue to drive to Jaipur. Upon arrival, check in to your hotel.

Later in the evening, witness the ritual of people light bonfire to mark the occasion of evil spirits in a ritual called Holika Dahan. Prahlad, a young follower of Lord Vishnu was forcefully taken into the burning fire but escaped the fire which proved to be a miracle. This was thus regarded as the triumph over evil.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

9

Holi Festival

2nd Mar         Jaipur

This morning, celebrate the victory with vibrant colors, singing, dancing, eating delicacies and celebrate the joyous moment of life by socializing with everyone. People dance to the beats of drums, sing, play games, drink bhanng and enjoy the festival in full energy and spirit.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

3rd Mar          Jaipur – Ranthambore NP

After breakfast around 8AM, check out and we go on a guided sightseeing of Jaipur.

We will visit Amber Fort, the former capital of royal Jaipur. Set on the dry wrinkled Aravali Hills and surrounded by fortified battlements, the palace straddles two sepia-hued tundra hills overlooking Maota Lake and its sprawling crenellated walls lattice the surrounding hills. We shall visit the Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds, a five-storied structure of pink sandstone with semi-octagonal and delicately honeycombed windows overlooking the main street of the old city. Also, we visit the Solar Observatory – an astronomical treasure house.

We then drive to Ranthambore National Park, a vast wildlife reserve which was a former royal hunting ground and home to tigers, leopards and marsh crocodiles.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast & Dinner)

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Tiger at Ranthambore NP

4th Mar          Ranthambore NP

Early morning go on a tiger safari on an open jeep, sharing.  Later come back for breakfast.

Later in the afternoon, go for another jeep safari.

Overnight at hotel (all meals)

6

Bundi Fort

5th Mar          Ranthambore NP – Bundi

Leisurely breakfast and we drive to Bundi, a captivating town with narrow lanes of Brahmin-blue houses, lakes, hills, bazaars, and a temple at every turn, Bundi is dominated by a fantastical palace of faded parchment cupolas and loggias rising from the hillside above the town.

Upon arrival check in to the hotel and freshen up.

Later go on a guided visit to Bundi Palace. This extraordinary, partly decaying edifice – described by Rudyard Kipling as ‘the work of goblins rather than of men’ – almost seems to grow out of the rock of the hillside it stands on. The Taragarh Fort crowns the crest of a steep hill overlooking the town, while the Garh Palace spills picturesquely down the hillside. This palace is Bundi’s – and Rajasthan’s – jewel.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

6th Mar          Bundi – Udaipur via Chittaurgarh

After breakfast, around 9AM, we drive to Udaipur en-route visiting Chittaurgarh fort. Chittorgarh (the fort, garh, at Chittor) is the largest fort complex in India, and a fascinating place to explore. It rises from the plains like a huge rock island, nearly 6km long and surrounded on all sides by 150m-plus cliffs. Its history epitomises Rajput romanticism, chivalry and tragedy, and it holds a special place in the hearts of many Rajputs.

Later continue to drive to Udaipur. Upon arrival, check in to the hotel.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

5

Udaipur City Palace view from Lake Pichola

7th Mar          Udaipur

After breakfast, around 9AM visit the City Palace, a marble complex of palaces and galleries that offers unforgettable views of the lake and its surroundings.

Take a private tour of the Crystal Gallery in Fateh Prakesh Palace, and stroll through Sahelion Ki Bari (Garden of the Maids of Honor). Also visit the Vintage and classic car collection museum. Later come back to the hotel for brief rest.

Late afternoon, enjoy a private sunset boat cruise on Lake Pichola.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

8th Mar          Udaipur – Narlai via Kumbhalgarh

After breakfast, around 9AM we drive to Narlai en-route visiting Kumbhalgarh. One of the many forts built by Rana Kumbha (r 1433–68), under whom Mewar reached its greatest extents, this isolated fort is perched 1100m above sea level, with endless views melting into blue distance. The journey to the fort, along twisting roads through the Aravalli Hills, is a highlight in itself.

Later continue to drive to Narlai. Upon arrival check in to the hotel.

Hidden away in the heart of Aravalli Hills, at the foot of a mammoth granite rock, surrounded by forested hills and rocky outcrops, Rawla Narlai is a beautifully maintained heritage resort, which was once a hunting lodge of Jodhpur’s Royal family. Still owned by members of the Jodhpur family, the resort is now transformed from a mere hunting lodge into a stunning, stylish boutique hotel albeit with all its original character and structure retained.

Evening we go for dinner at the step well. Taste the flavor of true Rajasthani royal hospitality at the 16th Century old Baori (Step-well) of Rawla Narlai. The journey that begins when you gather at the courtyard, sip a welcome drink with the resident royal who will regale you with stories & history of the locals while you get adorned with the turbans & scarf and transportation by bullock carts are arranged for you. Guided by a local into the dusk, swaying to the movement of the cart, watching the village slowly going to sleep and the starlit sky unfolding above you, passing the yogi who meditates by the blazing fire, you reach your destination that is lit by hundreds of lamps. Following this experience is the culinary journey that ignites your taste buds with elaborate fare offered over the next couple of hours while being entertained by the local jogi singing the devotional folk songs in his rich melodious voice. This culinary experience ends with the return to the hotel courtyard by our jeeps and a welcome cup of calming herbal tea.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast & Dinner)

9th Mar          Narlai

OPTIONAL: Morning go on a village walk with one of the locals and visit to cave temple.

Enjoy a half day trip on the meter gauge train that still runs through beautiful countryside, especially after the rain as the waterfalls can be experienced. A journey by the train along with local villagers and then pick up at the end station by car / jeep followed by a drive back to Hotel. It is the best way to enjoy the rugged and beautiful countryside!!!

Evening tea by lake side.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

10th Mar        Narlai – Rohet via Jodhpur

Leisurely breakfast, and around 10AM we drive to Rohet en-route visiting Jodhpur.

We go on a guided sightseeing of Mehrangarh Fort, the massive fort which in olden days must have been impregnable since its rocky base is scraped straight down making it nearly impossible to ascend. Once inside, royal palaces abound with fascinating history and priceless jewels. We then proceed to the armoury and Jaswant Thada – the Royal Crematorium.  Visit the clock tower and walk around the town.

Later continue to drive to Rohet. Upon arrival, check in to the hotel.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

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Jeep safari to Bishnoi Village near Jodhpur

11th Mar        Rohet

Leisurely breakfast and around 11AM we go on a village jeep safari visiting the Bishnoi tribes, the Brahmins and the potters. Also try your hand on the opium tea.

Rest of the day is at leisure / indulge with several activities available at the hotel.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

12th Mar        Rohet – Jodhpur – Delhi 

By Jet Airways 2552, departure Jodhpur @11.35hrs, arrival Delhi @13.15hrs

After breakfast and around we drive to Jodhpur airport to board your flight to Delhi.

Upon arrival, we receive you at the airport and transfer you to the hotel.

Brief rest and around 3PM, we go on a guided sightseeing of Old Delhi. Visit the great Jama Masjid, the most important mosque in India. Then set off on an exciting rickshaw ride through Chandni Chowk, inching your way through a maze of ox carts, cars and the occasional wandering cow, explore the spice markets, jewellery market & the clothes market.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

13th Mar        Delhi

After breakfast around 10.00AM, we go on a guided visit to Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, the most prominent Sikh house of worship in Delhi, visit Gandhi Smriti (Birla House). Later on to ISCKON temple, Bahai’s temple and Humayun’s Tomb, a Mughal complex that prefigured the Taj Mahal. Visit Qutub Minar, the second tallest minar in India.

At 5PM, with our compliments, indulge in a 60MIN complete relaxation and rejuvenation massage treatment and ease stressed muscles from your travels, by a male therapist.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

14th Mar        Delhi departure 

Kindly advise your flight details

Today we transfer you to the airport to board your onward flight.

 

Hotels envisaged / similar

*Rooms are based on standard rooms

City HOTELS
DELHI The Park
AGRA DOUBLE TREE BY HILTON
JAIPUR KANDELA HAVELI
RANTHAMBORE NAHARGARH FORT
BUNDI THE HADOTI PALACE
UDAIPUR THE TRIDENT
NARLAI RAWLA NARLAI
ROHET ROHETGARH
DELHI THE CLARIDGES

 

TOUR QUOTE & VALIDITY:

Number of person Cost per person
Minimum 02 Paying Pax INR 332,764 per person

(US $5199 approx)

SGL Room Supplement INR 78,136 per single

(US $1220 approx)

 

INCLUSIONS:

  • 15 nights hotel accommodation. Stay in hotels on room & breakfast basis unless specified in the itinerary.
  • Arrival & departure assistance at airport.
  • VIP welcome on arrival in Delhi as you walk out the aerobridge
  • Transportation using an air conditioned AC Innova car (SUV type)
  • Services of English speaking local guides as per the program
  • Services of a full time tour leader
  • Entrance fee to the monuments as per the program (01 time visit)
  • A relaxing massage treatment in Delhi with our compliments twice
  • Visit to Taj Mahal at Sunset
  • Celebrate Holi eve, lighting of fire in Jaipur
  • Holi celebration in Jaipur
  • Private boat cruise to Jag Mandir on Lake Pichola
  • Romantic step well dinner in Rawla Narlai
  • Half day trip on metre gauge train experience with the locals
  • Evening tea by lake side, watch the sunset in Narlai
  • Morning village walk / cave temple visit (optional)
  • Domestic flight tickets for the sector Jodhpur – Delhi
  • All presently applicable taxes

 

EXCLUSIONS:

  • Any International Airfare | travel insurance | visa fees
  • Any item of personal nature such as table drinks, laundry, telephone calls, mineral water etc.
  • Any other meals (except those mentioned above).
  • Camera fee at the monuments
  • Tipping, etc.

 

Cancellation & Refund Policy:

We advise all customers to purchase traveller’s insurance in case of interruption, accidents, illness, or anything else that may come up.

Unless stated differently on the tour, cancellations received 120 days prior to departure date will be refunded in full less a 10% handling fee. Thereafter, cancellation fees are as follows: 

  • 119 to 90 days prior to departure = 25% of tour cost
  • 89 to 60 days prior to departure = 50% of tour cost
  • 59 to 30 days prior to departure = 75% of tour cost
  • 29 days prior to departure forfeits full tour price, including no shows. 

If the tour is cancelled by Serene Journeys, a full refund of all deposits and/or payments will be given. 

PRECAUTIONS DURING YOUR TRAVEL IN INDIA

We advise all customers to purchase traveller’s insurance in case of interruption, accidents or illness

Here is a list of precautions which will help you to enjoy your holidays in India fully. You need to be very attentive and careful about your documents, luggage and health during your India travel.

  • On streets keep all money in zipped pockets.
  • Keep all your important documents like passport, health certificate and international driving permit with you always.
  • Most of the diseases in India are water born there for always keep a flask of boiled water with you and never eat anything from shops or stalls which serve uncovered eatables.
  • Always keep a medical kit with you when you travel to India and stock up on aspirins, diarrhea tablets, insect cream, salt tablets and other first-aid essentials.
  • Always buy beverages and juices of good brand and check the seal and expiry date before buying.
  • Always peel your own fruit and vegetables, stay clear of raw vegetables salads, raw sugarcane or (a big cause of amoebic dysentery) iced cane-juice.
  • While traveling in dry climate you need to have a lots of fluids and to soak up all the excess liquid you might want to pick some solid eatables like biscuit, bread etc.
  • While traveling in dry places like Rajasthan have lots of water in-store with u.
  • If you wish to over stay, you are advised to contact the nearest Foreigner’s Regional Registration Office.
  • For personal side trips in the city, try to use pre-paid taxis/auto-rickshaws or pay by meter or ask for fare chart when you travel within India. Lots of reliable app based taxis like Uber, Ola etc are available as well.

 

The Hidden Sanctuary of Northern Kerala

The Refuge of Peace

To most travellers, a trip to Kerala conjures an image of an idyllic cruise on the backwaters of Alappuzha. Indeed, there are now over 500 houseboats on the backwaters of Alappuzha alone. But there is much more to South India’s most serenely beautiful State than cruising in the increasingly busy backwaters.

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Theyyam dance make-up

In search for serenity, I headed to Northern Kerala and arrived at Neeleshwar Hermitage, a cloistered tropical paradise set in a secluded palm grove beside the Arabian Sea. I was overwhelmed by this boutique sanctuary: it took my breath away and could truly be described as a haven of perfection. Eighteen beautiful cottages, each named after a traditional yogic virtue, come with a garden or pool view and private pool. The beach is just 20 steps away from the retreat where you can enjoy breakfast to the sound of the waves watching the fishermen returning from the sea.

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Isn’t it rare to see a crowdless beach?

After a wonderful 3-night stay at this refuge of peace and tranquillity, we drove to a small jetty a ten minute drive south from Neeleshwar Hermitage situated on the banks of the Tejaswini river. I boarded The Lotus, a two bedroom rice barge offering total comfort in tasteful style and elegance.

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The Lotus Houseboat

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The cruise covers about 25kms of the Valiyaparamba backwater, a large inland lake several miles due east of the Hermitage. As you sail further south, the only sound is the lapping of water or the occasional jumping of huge red snappers. The cruise also takes you on a short walk through the sleepy village to the monkey island. A taxi ride to Shri Mutthappan temple, a highly atmospheric shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva in his form as a local tribal hunter offers the opportunity to witness the evening ritual involving the priest acting as a trance-medium for Shiva and serving as an oracle for worshippers.

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Where the river & sea meets

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A perfect sunset from the deck

To appreciate the joys of this part of ‘God’s Own Country’ aim to spend at least 4 days and enjoy the remote peacefulness where days can easily and slowly turn into weeks.

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Sunset and wine goes quite well together

Nearest Airport: Calicut or Mangalore

Need help? Write to us at robin@serenejourneys.co or steve@serenejourneys.co (For UK & Ireland)
Visit our website at Serene Journeys

Robindro Saikhom (Robin)
Founder, Serene Journeys

Robin is the owner of Serene Journeys, a bespoke travel specialist for LGBT & communities based in New Delhi and a freelance travel photographer.  Follow him on Instagram @serenejourneys or Facebook @Serene Journeys.

 

The Festival of Lights

The Festival of Lights
End of  fall and ultimate pampering

 

28th Oct                     Jodhpur – Rohet (30-45mins drive)

Suggested Flight: AI 475 departure Delhi @12.40hrs, arrival Jodhpur @ 14.00hrs

Today, we will receive you at Jodhpur airport and drive you to a magical fort.

Built in 2009 AD….MIHIR GARH…. or ‘The Fort of the Sun’ is an indulgent initiative from the House of Rohet. Mihir Garh is a 5 star Heritage hotel in Rajasthan, Jodhpur, India. Manifesting out of the golden sands of Marwar, it stands majestically to embrace the discerning traveler and shower upon him the legendary hospitality and the diverse flavors of the land.

Rest of the day is at leisure; watch the beautiful sunset sipping your favorite cocktail from the infinity pool or your own private plunge pool.

Live music entertainment, desert song

Overnight at Mihirgarh.

29th Oct                     Rohet – Jodhpur – Rohet

After breakfast at 8AM, we start our day trip to Jodhpur visiting Mehrangarh Fort, Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jaswant Thada, Ghanta Ghar.

Later we continue to go on a zeep safari to Bishnoi village and witness the opium tea ceremony.  Taste the opium tea if you are adventurous 🙂

Later come back to the hotel.

Live music entertainment, desert song

Overnight at Mihirgarh (Breakfast)

30th Oct                     Rohet 

HAPPY DIPAWALITHE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

Leisurely breakfast and enjoy the magical fort.

Later we will take you through the unique experience of culinary demonstrations and workshops. The recipes come from Late Thakurani Sahbia Jayenda Kumari’s books (owner’s mother) on traditional Rajasthani food.  You can experiment with your own favorite recipes until you are confident that they can re-create the same taste at their homes. Else, you can remain mere spectators of the fine art of cooking – and later enjoy the delicacies at a special dinner.

This evening we shall celebrate it with style, say no to fire crackers instead release lots and lots of sky lanterns and lit the sky.

Overnight at Mihirgarh (Breakfast & Dinner)

31st Oct                     Rohet – Jodhpur departure 

Suggested Flight: AI 476. departure Jodhpur @14.35hrs, arrival Delhi @15.50hrs

After breakfast, we will transfer you to Jodhpur airport to board your onward flight.

 

HOTELS:(28 Oct – 31st Oct’16)

CITY HOTEL
Rohet Mihirgarh (Suite)

TOUR QUOTE:

Number of pax Rates
02 pax in twin sharing INR 95,280/- per person on twin sharing

(inclusive all taxes)

Single supplement INR 48,620/- Per Single

INCLUSIONS:

  • 03 nights hotel accommodation.  Stay in hotels on room & breakfast basis unless specified
  • Arrival and departure assistance
  • Transportation using an air conditioned vehicle (INNOVA (03 PAX)/TT (07 Max.PAX)
  • Services of English speaking local guides as per the program
  • Entrance fee to the monuments as per the program (01 time visit)
  • Village jeep safari in Rohet
  • Cooking class in Rohet
  • Diwali celebration in Rohet with sky lanterns
  • Strike a pose – photographer onsite, a bottle of Indian wine with our compliments in your room
  • All presently applicable taxes

EXCLUSIONS:

  • Any Airfare | travel insurance | visa fees
  • Any item of personal nature such as table drinks, laundry, telephone calls, mineral water etc.
  • Any other meals (except those mentioned above).
  • Camera fee at the monuments
  • Tipping, etc.

Cancellation & Refund Policy:

We advise all customers to purchase traveller’s insurance in case of interruption, accidents, illness, or anything else that may come up.

Unless stated differently on the tour, cancellations received 120 days prior to departure date will be refunded in full less a 10% handling fee. Thereafter, cancellation fees are as follows: 

  • 119 to 90 days prior to departure = 25% of tour cost
  • 89 to 60 days prior to departure = 50% of tour cost
  • 59 to 30 days prior to departure = 75% of tour cost
  • 29 days prior to departure forfeits full tour price, including no shows. 

If the tour is cancelled by Serene Journeys, a full refund of all deposits and/or payments will be given. 

PRECAUTIONS DURING YOUR TRAVEL IN INDIA

Here is a list of precautions which will help you to enjoy your holidays in India fully. You need to be very attentive and careful about your documents, luggage and health during your India travel.

  • On streets keep all money in zipped pockets.
  • Keep all your important documents like passport, health certificate and international driving permit with you always.
  • Most of the diseases in India are water born there for always keep a flask of boiled water with you and never eat anything from shops or stalls which serve uncovered eatables.
  • Always keep a medical kit with you when you travel to India and stock up on aspirins, diarrhea tablets, insect cream, salt tablets and other first-aid essentials.
  • Always buy beverages and juices of good brand and check the seal and expiry date before buying.
  • Always peel your own fruit and vegetables, stay clear of raw vegetables salads, raw sugarcane or (a big cause of amoebic dysentery) iced cane-juice.
  • While traveling in dry climate you need to have a lots of fluids and to soak up all the excess liquid you might want to pick some solid eatables like biscuit, bread etc.
  • While traveling in dry places like Rajasthan have lots of water in-store with u.
  • If you wish to over stay, you are advised to contact the nearest Foreigner’s Regional Registration Office.
  • For personal side trips in the city, try to use pre-paid taxis/auto-rickshaws or pay by meter or ask for fare chart when you travel within India. Lots of reliable app based taxis like Uber, Ola etc are available as well.

 

The Wonders of Rajasthan: Past & Present

The Wonders of Rajasthan: Past & Present

An exclusive journey rich in culture & palaces – A treasure trove for photography enthusiasts
18 Days / 17 Nights touring

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Delhi – Udaipur – Khempur – Ranakpur – Rohet – Jodhpur – Shahpura – Bhainsrorgarh – Ranthambore National Park – Jaipur – Agra – Delhi

 

24th Oct                     Delhi arrival

(Please book your flights accordingly & advise your flight details, Check-in time is 14.00hrs)

Upon arrival, our representative will greet you at the airport with flower garlands and transfer you to the hotel with our compliments.

Overnight at The Claridges / The Oberoi Maiden.

25th Oct                     Delhi

After breakfast around 9AM, visit the great Jama Masjid, the most important mosque in India.  Also a quick stop at Agrasen Ki Baoli. Then set off on an exciting rickshaw ride through Chandni Chowk, inching your way through a maze of bicycles, cars and the occasional wandering cow. Stop for lunch & visit Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, the most prominent Sikh house of worship in Delhi, then on to Humayun’s Tomb, a Mughal complex that prefigured the Taj Mahal. Visit Qutub Minar, the second tallest minar in India.

Evening around 7.30PM, welcome dinner at a north Indian cuisine restaurant with our representative at Veda.

Overnight at The Claridges / The Oberoi Maiden (Breakfast & Dinner)

26th Oct                     Delhi – Udaipur by flight – Khempur 

By Air India departure Delhi at 1.30pm, arrival Udaipur at 2.45pm.

Leisurely breakfast and around 10.30AM we transfer you to the airport to board your flight to Udaipur.  Upon arrival, we receive you at the airport drive to Khempur, a village in Udaipur district, Rajasthan noted for its Ravla Khempur, an equestrian hotel which was originally the palace of a tribal chieftain. It featured as the hotel in the 2012 film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Do carry your swim brief, the pool is the new edition at The Marigold Hotel.

Later go on a guided village sightseeing on an ox cart or a camel cart followed by sundowner by the lake if time permits else next day.

Rest of the evening is at leisure.

Overnight at Ravla Khempur (Breakfast & Dinner)

27th Oct                     Khempur – Udaipur – Khempur

After breakfast, we start our day trip at 8.00AM to Udaipur visiting the magnificent city palace, monsoon palace, Jagdish temple; enjoy a boat ride on Lake Pichola.  Also visit Eklingji.

Later drive back to the hotel.

Overnight at Ravla Khempur (Breakfast & Dinner)

28th Oct                     Khempur – Rohet (4-5hrs)

After breakfast at 9AM, drive to Rohet situated on the edge of the Thar Desert.  Upon arrival check in to the hotel.

Built in 2009 AD….MIHIR GARH…. or ‘The Fort of the Sun’ is an indulgent initiative from the House of Rohet. Mihir Garh is a 5 star Heritage hotel in Rajasthan, Jodhpur, India. Manifesting out of the golden sands of Marwar, it stands majestically to embrace the discerning traveler and shower upon him the legendary hospitality and the diverse flavors of the land.

Rest of the day is at leisure; watch the beautiful sunset sipping your favorite cocktail from the infinity pool.

Overnight at Mihirgarh (Breakfast)

29th Oct                     Rohet – Jodhpur – Rohet

After breakfast at 8AM, we start our day trip to Jodhpur visiting Mehrangarh Fort, Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jaswant Thada, Ghanta Ghar.

Later we continue to go on a zeep safari to Bishnoi village and witness the opium tea ceremony.  Taste the opium tea if you are adventurous 🙂

Later come back to the hotel.

Overnight at Mihirgarh (Breakfast)

30th Oct                     Rohet 

HAPPY DIPAWALI – THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

Leisurely breakfast and enjoy the magical fort.

Later we will take you through the unique experience of culinary demonstrations and workshops. The recipes come from Late Thakurani Sahbia Jayenda Kumari’s books (owner’s mother) on traditional Rajasthani food.  You can experiment with your own favorite recipes until you are confident that they can re-create the same taste at their homes. Else, you can remain mere spectators of the fine art of cooking – and later enjoy the delicacies at a special dinner.

This evening we shall celebrate it with style, say no to fire crackers instead release lots and lots of sky lanterns and lit the sky.

Overnight at Mihirgarh (Breakfast & Dinner)

31st Oct                     Rohet – Shahpura (5hrs)

After breakfast at 9AM, we drive to Shahpura.  Upon arrival, check in to the hotel.

Late afternoon, we visit the Dikhola village, a quaint and rustic village where time has stood still.  Explore the village and the fort and sundowner.

Overnight at Shahpura Bagh (Breakfast & Dinner)

1st Nov                      Shahpura

Morning go on a birdwatching nature trail at the hotel, enjoy a boat ride at the lake if the water level is up.

After breakfast we go on an excursion at the farm.

Rest of the day is at leisure / free to explore on your own

Overnight at Shahpura Bagh (All meals)

2nd Nov                     Shahpura – Bhainsrorgarh (3-4hrs) 

After breakfast, drive to Bhainrorgarh, perched dramatically atop a 200 feet slate ridge over the shimmering Chambal river with views that surpass the imagination.

Brief rest, and we go on a sunset safari. A ride through the country side in an open four-by-four takes you through farms of wheat and mustard, typical villages under local governance and a tribal village which continue to live without electricity. The drive that takes you over half an hour from the fort finally ends near the village of Balapura that rests by the edge of a reservoir. Ideally timed before sunset, tea and snacks are organized for guests while they take in the beauty and tranquility of a sunset in the country – birds settling down to the end of the day, stealthy jungle cats getting ready for their nocturnal prowls, village sounds of temple bells and the hustle of evening chores.

Evening is at leisure.

Overnight at Bhainsrorgarh Fort (Breakfast & Dinner)

3rd Nov                      Bhainsrorgarh 

After breakfast, visit the Badoli Temples, a work of architectural brilliance, built in the 9th century by the Hun Rulers followed by picnic lunch on the river island where one can see the elusive Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), a highly endangered species of crocodile found mainly in the Yamuna and Chambal Rivers.  In the mood for some fun, we will carry fishing rods and see if we get lucky to catch some big fish 🙂

Rest of the day is at leisure / free to explore on your own

Overnight at Bhainsrorgarh Fort (All meals) 

4th Nov                      Bhainsrorgarh – Ranthambore NP enroute Bundi (6hrs)

After breakfast, we drive to Ranthambore National park, en-route visiting Bundi.

Bundi is a beautiful town surrounded by the Aravalli hills on the three sides and is circumscribed by a massive wall with four gateways.  We will visit Taragarh fort, the 14th century old and one of the most impressive and in days gone by, impregnable forts in Rajasthan.

It has four enormous water reservoirs which were built to cater to the water requirements of the fort.

Later continue to drive to Ranthambore.  Upon arrival, check in to the hotel.

Rest of the day is at leisure / free to explore on your own

Overnight at Nahargarh / The Tigress (Breakfast & Dinner)

5th Nov                      Ranthambore NP

Early morning go on a tiger safari on an open jeep, sharing.  Later come back for breakfast.

Later in the afternoon, go for another jeep safari.

Overnight at Nahargarh / The Tigress (All meals)

6th Nov                      Ranthambore – Jaipur (4-5hrs)

After breakfast, we drive to Jaipur. Upon arrival, check in to the hotel.

Overnight at Fairmont / ITC Rajputana (Breakfast)

7th Nov                      Jaipur

Early breakfast and visit the Amber Fort on an elephant back.  Visit city place, Hawa mahal, Jantar Mantar and explore the local market.

Rest of the day is at leisure / free to explore on your own

Overnight at Fairmont / ITC Rajputana (Breakfast)

8th Nov                      Jaipur – Agra (4/5hrs)

After breakfast, we drive to Agra.  Upon arrival, check in to the hotel.

Rest of the day is at leisure.

Late afternoon, visit our secret spot for the ultimate view of Taj Mahal at sunset.

Overnight at Courtyard by Marriott (Breakfast) 

9th Nov                      Agra – Delhi

Early morning visit to the Taj Mahal, watch the white marble glow when the first ray of sunlight falls on this stunning monument. (Closed on Fridays)

Later come back for breakfast and brief rest.

Check out and we drive back to Delhi. Upon arrival, check in to the hotel.

Rest of the day is at leisure / free to explore on your own.

Overnight at The Park (Breakfast)

10th Nov                    Delhi departure

(Please book your flights accordingly & advise your flight details)

Today we transfer you to the airport to board your onward flight.

(Extended tours are available on request to Kerala / Goa / Amritsar / Kolkata / Andaman)

HOTELS:

CITY HOTEL
Delhi The Claridges / Oberoi Maidens
Khempur Ravla Khempur
Rohet Mihirgarh
Shahpura Shahpura Bagh
Bhainsrorgarh Bhainsrorgarh Fort
Ranthambore NP Nahargarh Fort / The Tigress
Jaipur Fairmont / ITC Rajputana
Agra Courtyard by Marriott
Delhi The Park
  • Tour is priced @ INR 327,645/- per person on twin sharing (Approx US $4910).
  • Single room supplement @ INR 171,806/- (Approx $2580)
  • Group Size: 10-14 pax
  • Tour dates: 24th Oct 2016 to 10th Nov 2016
  • Please read our cancellation & refund policy below carefully.

INCLUSIONS:

  • 17 nights hotel accommodation. Stay in hotels on room & breakfast basis unless as specified in the itnerary.
  • Transportation using AC tempo traveller
  • Services of English speaking local guides as per the program
  • Entrance fee to the monuments as per the program (01 time visit)
  • Welcome Dinner at Veda restaurant in Delhi (Beverages not included)
  • Village sightseeing on an ox cart or a camel cart followed by sundowner by the lake in Khempur
  • Boat ride on Lake Pichola in Udaipur
  • Bishnoi Village jeep safari in Rohet
  • Cooking class in Rohet
  • Diwali celebration in Rohet
  • Excursion to Fort and sundowner in Shahpura
  • Sunset Safari in Bhainsrorgarh
  • Picnic lunch on the river island in Bhainsrorgarh
  • 2 tiger safari in Ranthambore in jeep sharing basis
  • One way elephant ride/jeep at Amber Fort in Jaipur
  • Domestic flights for sector Delhi – Udaipur by Air India (Baggage allowance 25kg)
  • All presently applicable taxes

EXCLUSIONS:

  • International Airfare | travel insurance | visa fees
  • Any item of personal nature such as table drinks, laundry, telephone calls, mineral water etc.
  • Any other meals (except those mentioned above).
  • Camera fee at the monuments
  • Tipping, etc.

For reservation query, please email us at
robin@serenejourneys.co
steve@serenejourneys.co (enquiries from UK and Ireland)

Robin is the founder of Serene Journeys, a boutique travel company in India and a freelance travel photographer, birder and rural explorer.  Follow him on Instagram @ serenejourneys or Facebook @ Serene Journeys or tweet @serenejourneys1

Steve is Director (UK & Ireland) with Serene Journeys and a freelance travel writer and photographer.

 Cancellation & Refund Policy:

We advise all customers to purchase traveller’s insurance in case of interruption, accidents, illness, or anything else that may come up.

Unless stated differently on the tour, cancellations received 120 days prior to departure date will be refunded in full less a 10% handling fee. Thereafter, cancellation fees are as follows: 

  • 119 to 90 days prior to departure = 25% of tour cost
  • 89 to 60 days prior to departure = 50% of tour cost
  • 59 to 30 days prior to departure = 75% of tour cost
  • 29 days prior to departure forfeits full tour price, including no shows. 

If the tour is cancelled by Serene Journeys, a full refund of all deposits and/or payments will be given. 

PRECAUTIONS DURING YOUR TRAVEL IN INDIA

Here is a list of precautions which will help you to enjoy your holidays in India fully. You need to be very attentive and careful about your documents, luggage and health during your India travel.

  • On streets keep all money in zipped pockets.
  • Keep all your important documents like passport, health certificate and international driving permit with you always.
  • Most of the diseases in India are water born there for always keep a flask of boiled water with you and never eat anything from shops or stalls which serve uncovered eatables.
  • Always keep a medical kit with you when you travel to India and stock up on aspirins, diarrhea tablets, insect cream, salt tablets and other first-aid essentials.
  • Always buy beverages and juices of good brand and check the seal and expiry date before buying.
  • Always peel your own fruit and vegetables, stay clear of raw vegetables salads, raw sugarcane or (a big cause of amoebic dysentery) iced cane-juice.
  • While traveling in dry climate you need to have a lots of fluids and to soak up all the excess liquid you might want to pick some solid eatables like biscuit, bread etc.
  • While traveling in dry places like Rajasthan have lots of water in-store with u.
  • If you wish to over stay, you are advised to contact the nearest Foreigner’s Regional Registration Office.
  • For personal side trips in the city, try to use pre-paid taxis/auto-rickshaws or pay by meter or ask for fare chart when you travel within India. Lots of reliable app based taxis like Uber, Ola etc are available as well.

ITC Grand Bharat, Gurgaon

A luxury retreat for discerning guests

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Have you ever wanted a weekend retreat from Delhi or to celebrate a special occasion without having to travel too far?  Then look no further than the luxurious ITC Grand Bharat at the foothills of the Aravallis overlooking beautiful landscaped gardens in the shade of the mountains.

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Located in Mewat region approximately 45 km from center of Delhi towards Gurgaon, this property boasts 100 deluxe suites with semi-private pools or terraces offering magnificent views of the picturesque surroundings. The retreat also features 4 Presidential Villas offering unrivaled luxury with butler services provided by a dedicated retreat host. Each of the Presidential Villas reflects a particular era of India’s rich and fascinating history and their decor draws inspiration from the Maurya, Chola, Mughal and Maratha dynasties.

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The retreat is a perfect place to relax, connect with nature or indulge in more adventurous activities including hiking, cycling, rock climbing or mountain-biking The hotel is also a haven for golf enthusiasts featuring a 27-hole, championship golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus.

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When I arrived at the hotel, I was received by friendly, smiling staff dressed in traditional attire, in a huge lobby area with palatial seating and a very impressive chandelier hanging atop. Guests staying in the Presidential Suites can choose to drive in directly to the arrival court, to a ceremonial welcome, without having to go to ‘The Palace’ or the main block to check-in.

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The hotel houses four restaurants, each offering its own unique culinary experience. You can choose to dine al fresco, poolside, in the opulent Aravali Pavilion or take a journey through India’s colonial past in the India Room offering European dishes from Greece, Portugal, Holland, France and Britain. The property also features the Peacock Bar, inspired by India’s national bird and serving classic cocktails and premium spirits. Relax with your favourite cocktail prepared by Zac Abbott, the master mixologist whilst enjoying some mild jazz.

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India is the birthplace of Yoga, ayurveda and meditation and ITC Grand Bharat offers you the ultimate experience in wellbeing and health services with therapeutic and aromatic massages at Kaya Kalp – The Royal Spa or experience magical togetherness at the Yoga Pavilion. Take the opportunity to revitalise your senses in this island of tranquility.

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Picture Courtesy ITC Grand Bharat

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Picture Courtesy ITC Grand Bharat

Paying tribute to the glory of India, ITC Grand Bharat is a unique retreat for anyone living in Delhi, passing through on a stop-over before or returning from Agra or Jaipur. The staff are gracious and helpful and a warm welcome is extended to all guests.

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Robindro Saikhom & Steve O’Donnell
www.serenejourneys.co
Email: robin@serenejourneys.co
steve@serenejourneys.co (enquiries from UK and Ireland)

Robin is the founder of Serene Journeys, a gay travel company in India and a freelance travel photographer.  Follow him on Instagram @ serenejourneys or Facebook @ Serene Journeys.
Steve is Director (UK & Ireland) with Serene Journeys and a freelance travel writer and photographer.

Vana Belle, a luxury collection resort, Koh Samui

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Vana Belle is a luxury resort situated on Koh Samui’s Chaweng Noi Beach with breathtaking views over the Gulf of Siam. Offering tastefully furnished and modern luxurious suites and villas, the property is, as stated on their website “more than just a resort”

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Bruce Humphry is the general manager of the property, a charming man who offered me a warm welcome and was happy to show me round the property. I was struck by his personal approach and attention to detail which I am sure is extended by all the staff to guests and visitors.

The resort comprises 73  suites andDSC_0748 7 villas.  Each suite and villa provides total privacy and is designed to indulge and spoil you with a private pool surrounded by tropical gardens.  Spacious in design and exquisite in decor, each suite has a different style reflecting Thailand’s culture and artistic heritage. Some of the villas have convenient access to the soft white sands of Chaweng Noi Beach.

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Although only 4 kilometers from the markets and vibrant nightlife of Chaweng Town, the resort offers a serene getaway to discerning visitors. If you are looking for a luxurious escape on one of Koh Samui’s most beautiful beaches, Vana Belle will not let you down.

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The resort also offers culinary delights guiding you on an epicurean journey of Southern Thai and Italian flavors. The signature restaurant, Kiree serves Thai and international dishes for breakfast and dinner while Italian cuisine is served in Panali, the beach-side restaurant.  Guests can enjoy drinks with an ocean view at the Pool Bar. The helpful concierge service can also recommend local restaurants as well as arranging sightseeing tours and providing a wealth of helpful local information.

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As I continue my tour of the property with Bruce, we visit the Vana Spa, comprising 4 double treatment rooms, 2 of them with a steam room and jacuzzi. The spa offers a truly pampering experience in exotic surroundings, promising to transport you to a realm of healing and revitalization after your day of sightseeing or soaking up the sun.

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Although our tour of the property is almost at an end, I am in no hurry to leave the Lobby Lounge enjoying Panoramic views of the Gulf of Siam while the soothing breeze cools us down. I chat to Bruce about the experience LGBTQ travelers might expect at the resort. He reassures me that many lesbian and gay travelers have thoroughly enjoyed their stays at Vana Belle and with a strong commitment to equality, LGBTQ travelers are always very welcome.

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If you are planning for a trip to Thailand, do not miss the delights of Koh Samui and a stay at this haven of peace and tranquility.   You will be amazed.

By Robindro Saikhom (Robin) with Steve O’Donnell
Serene Journeys
Email: robin@serenejourneys.co
The author, Robin, is the owner of Serene Journeys, a gay travel agent in India and a freelance travel photographer.  Follow him on Instagram @ serenejourneys or Facebook @ Serene Journeys.
The co-author, Steve, is a freelance travel writer and photographer and UK Consultant with Serene Journeys.

Vana Belle