Honeymooning in Mauritius

There are few people in life who make exotic travels their # 1 priority.  We’ve found that these rare travel gems are often physically fit and funny, with a broad sparkling smile that allows them to make friends with the locals where ever they go. We’re happy to say, Victoria Korosis, is just that sort of a passionate travel bunny.  An integral part of the Jaunt Magazine fold, this week she’s writing about her trip to Mauritius and her stay at the luxe Oberoi.

For a traveler reluctant to redefine her interpretation of luxury, ie) that it can exist in forms other than a hostel in Russia with running water, arriving at the Oberoi resort in Mauritius was an indulgence hard to deny.  Nestled along the lush coast of the deceivingly populated island north of Madagascar, the Oberoi exists as a sumptuous enclave even for the most lavished traveler.

We were greeted at our car (arranged by the resort in our pre -arrival questionnaire) by our first names and sweet smelling towelettes to refresh after our trek from Dubai. A cool drink of fresh mint and cane syrup (think mojito sans rum) was served as we were guided to a pavilion overlooking the sprawling grounds. Our gracious host pointed out the various points of interest in our field of view as our wedding weary bodies sunk into the plush couches. Soon after, we were greeted by Singh and guided to one of their 75 luxury bungalows. Our bags already placed in our closet (which was roughly the size of my first apt in NYC), we opened the bottle of complimentary wine, cut into fresh kiwis and took in the spectacular view from our porch.

Now working in the hospitality industry, I am particularly appreciative of the little touches and special amenities that make a hotel stay personal, not just relaxing;  laundry delivered same day in a fragrant wicker box adored with local flowers, a turn down service also including a thorough freshing of the room and crisp folded towels (as noted by the obsessive compulsive organizer in me), the bowl of artfully arranged flowers floating below the headrest of my massage table and the maitre d’ who greeted us at the path from our bungalow to personally escort us to our private candlelit table on the beach for dinner.  As the week went on the special perks continued – as did our game of counting how many other honeymooning couples we encountered on the resort (the French tipped nails always the give away…she says looking down at her own)

Aside from the personal service, the hotel itself is one to be admired. Member of the exclusive Small Luxury Hotels of the World, a group widely revered and personally my benchmark for luxurious unique travel, the Oberoi does not disappoint.  Each room boasts a shower with a second door leading to a private outdoor jungle – that the shower head still reaches – customized pillows, a large Jacuzzi built deep into the marble floor of the bathroom, as well as personal outdoor lounging and dining area (and private pool in some pavilions) completely unseen from neighbors (though not the local exotic birds). On the resort grounds, other highlights include two infinity pools more spectacular than that at the Four Seasons in Hong Kong as well as a variety of water sports and local outings (or so I hear…)

Just beyond each pool is the picturesque white sand beach onto which laps the perfectly clear waters of the Indian Ocean. Add in the full spa, a friendly staff (at a ratio of two to every one guest), and a seared scallop appetizer worthy of re-ordering every night, the luxuries here somehow seem endless.

And if you are really looking to indulge while at the Oberoi, go for the ultimate in extravagance and stay at one of the resort’s two Royal Pavilions. With separate living and sleeping pavilions, a private pool, secluded lounging and entertaining area, and a thatched roof deck perfect for dining, the Royal Pavilion is the ultimate when it comes to decadence. And at upwards of 5,000Euro a night during peak season it should be! It covers an area of over 650 square meters, and can also interconnect to two other luxury bungalows (roughly 70 squ meters each) making it perfect for family getaways. Famous residents to stay here include Sonia Gandhi and the President of Madagascar.

As we left this island paradise to take our honeymoon into Lebanese territory, we were overwhelmingly touched by not just the beauty of our surroundings but also the warmth of the people who made our stay truly memorable.

Next stop…Beirut!

The Oberoi, Mauritius

Baie aux Tortues, Pointe aux Piments, Mauritius

www.oberoihotels.com

RATES: 2009/2010

Luxury Pavilion: 770Euro – 1600Euro

Luxury Villa with Garden: 1020Euro – 2200Euro

Luxury Villa with Private Pool: 1350Euro – 3300Euro

Royal Villa with Private Pool: 2400Euro – 5000Euro

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India in Luxury: From Mumbai to Jaipur


Oberoi Udaipur, India

This week, Guest Blogger and Jaunt Contributor, Jordan Zucker, takes us to the colorful world of India. An actress and native New Yorker, Zucker is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Mathematics who moved to LA ‘to satisfy her thirst for seaside sunsets and avocados.’ With a hearty appetite for adventure and a good dose of gypsy blood, currently, she can be found on syndicated reruns of [Scrubs] as “Lisa,” the intern.

PS. Jordan loves water chestnuts, but despises cilantro. “I mean, don’t even put us in the same room,” she (half) jokes.

India in Luxury: From Mumbai to Jaipur
By Jordan Zucker

So I went to Northern India for two weeks with the folks and here’s what I gathered for Jaunt. The places we went (in order) were: Delhi, Agra, Ranthambore, Jaipur, Udaipur, and Mumbai. India is a large country so keep that in mind. We visited the North (Rajasthan) and what would be considered only one state out of 35 states and union territories. States were formed on a linguistic basis and, as Wikipedia notes, “India is home to two major linguistic families: Indo-Aryan (74%) and Dravidian (24%). Other languages spoken come from the Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman linguistic families. Hindi, with the largest number of speakers, is the official language. English, which is used extensively in business, has the status of a ‘subsidiary official language. The constitution also recognizes in particular 21 other languages that are either abundantly spoken or have classical status.”

That should give you some idea of the rich -and ancient – cultural influences still present in India today. The country consists of historic trade routes, the Hindu people of the Indus Valley, Aryan-speaking tribal descendants, the tribes of Genghis Kahn, and, of course, a history of British rule. Religions are varied with Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, and Christian being the main four, and Jianism and Sikhism also originating from here. As the fastest growing and largest world democracy, with the second largest population in the world, India shares it’s borders with China, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma. It goes without saying that it’s important territory from both a social and political framework. Somewhere between past and present, poverty and promise.

We saw a part of this awesome land on a two-week Sita Tour called ‘India in Luxury.’ Sita Tours offer organized travel for the ‘discerning’ guest. In this case, that meant staying at almost every 5-star Oberoi Hotel & Resort in India. My parents finished off the trip with a jaunt to Goa in the south, so I’ve included some pointers from there, as well.

Here are the pros and cons:

Pros: A great tour guide, fab hotels, and I didn’t get sick from street food. A few notes: you must bring money to use public bathrooms. Delhi isn’t as dirty as I had expected and Mumbai is like the NY of India. It is by far the most cosmopolitan, the most urban, the hippest. Delhi was large in geography but more flat and residential than I would have imagined. Traffic is crazy in Delhi. Apparently, there are multiple pedestrian deaths a day from people being hit by cars while crossing the street. Agra is just a tiny village in comparison, with streetfront box shops just as you’d picture Indian countryside. Also, most of the cities I saw were in Rajasthan. If I had continued to travel to the south – or to the Himalayas- like my folks did, I would have noticed a more drastic difference in culture between the areas, I’m sure. Something I found interesting was that the locals were not opposed to calling the cities by their British rule names (Madras, Calcutta, Bombay). We thought it would offend them but they sometimes prefer the old names.

Delhi, India

When people talk about India, they often reference the poverty, the smells, the grit… Well, I have to say, the country didn’t smell half as bad as I’d anticipated. Yes, it was dirty, but it smelled more of jasmine than feces. There are far cleaner places that smell worse (ie. trash in NJ, BO in Istanbul, the cows at Harris Ranch halfway between LA and SF), but yes, you see TONS of starving people, you see 9 year-olds carrying infants to get pity money for their families, you see all of the poor. It is also common to see people just squatting on the curb and taking a dump. You actually see if fall to the ground like a dog’s would. I recommend carrying around a box of EO lavender hand sanitizers. I get them at Whole Foods.

Cons: Because we traveled in luxury, I felt the experience was a little ‘watered down.’ I felt like a tourist. I like to get a local view and really experience what life is like – authentically – where ever I am. Perhaps it was safer to see the country being shielded slightly from the culture, but if I had my choice…

I also felt that everything was too expensive where we went. Because we could afford to stay in the nicest hotels, the locals on the tour took advantage of that a little too much.


INDIA’S HOTELS

We stayed at the Oberoi’s in each city. As incredible as I find the Oberoi properties, I wouldn’t recommend the Oberoi in the big cities (ie. Delhi and Mumbai). There are better places there. In Mumbai, the place to stay is The Taj Hotel, built by renowned architect W. A. Stevens. The Taj ‘embodies Jamsetji Tata’s vision of a luxurious hotel’ and was the first property with electricity and modern sanitation. It’s an architectural gem with a panoramic view of the Arabian Sea. We’re talking vaulted alabaster ceilings, Indian archways, crystal chandeliers, a stunning art collection and cantilever stairway. You can’t go wrong. It was also counted among the “1,000 places to see before you die” by the New York Times Best Seller and voted in Conde Nast Traveler’s “Best Places to Stay”.

I also heard that The Taj is good in Delhi too, but the Imperial is supposed to be the best. Known as a museum hotel, it’s been a property for artists for over 70 years and displays an impressive collection of the ‘British Art on India.’

http://www.theimperialindia.com

That said, along the countryside, opt for the Oberoi Hotels. They’re fabulous when it comes to design and service. Here are my favs:

1) Oberoi Vanyavilas – Ranthambore – worth the trip just to go here.

And check out the Tiger Safari!

2) Oberoi Amarvilas – Agra – I could see the Taj Mahal from my balcony and had the best India moment out there – all senses on India overload!

3) Oberoi Udaivilas – Udaipur – This property had stunning grounds where you can dine on a patio overlooking the lake.

Special note: The Banyan Tree Spas at all of the Oberois are GORGEOUS!

INDIA’S RESTAURANTS
Again, I felt a little limited in this department as we were always guided to eat at the hotels, but at least I didn’t get sick, right?

1) Bukhara – Delhi – Great Chicken Tikki, Family Naan, etc.

2) Trishna – Mumbai – Best seafood place in the city!!! Favorite of the locals as well!

3) Dome – Mumbai – This is the place to go for an evening cocktail to see the sunset

ACTIVITIES/SHOPPING

1) Mumbai, India – Bombay Electric – Great women’s clothing store

2) Jaipur, India – Elephant Ride. Do NOT take the elephant ride up the fort – the wait in line is hours. Take a jeep up, then get an elephant ride directly from the stable in town – no wait.

3) Delhi, India – Chandni Chowk (market). Pick out your own fabric, make a clothing item.

4) Goa, India – Ingo’s saturday night market is a must to go. Bring cash. Here you’ll get the best buys in everything you can imagine. Favorite shopping spot in Goa: Janota shoes # 64, yellow lane Arpora, Goa.

5) Arpora, Goa – Seasonal store “The Haystack.”
For info call Angela @ 9881773053 or go to http://www.janotagoa.com

GOA HOTELS
My parents stayed at The Taj, but Jaunt editors found these two sites for boutique hotels in Goa.

http://www.directoryofhotels.com/asia/hotels_india_goa.asp

http://www.chiangdao.com/hotels4/asiahotels/indiahotels/goahotels/goahotels.htm

For the upper-crust artsy crowd, Jaunt recommend sites like Tablet Hotels and Design Hotels for finding boutique digs that excel in design and service.

PHRASES TO LEARN

Shukria = thank you

Chalo = go away

Chordo = leave me alone. This is administered with a dismissive flick of the hand (the street vendors are relentless!)

Tuk tuks (mini taxis) = The rate that appears on the meter is the rate code, NOT the fare. You need to ask the driver for the rate card and pay what corresponds to the code! (ie. if the meter reads 350, you do not pay 350 rupees (about $8.50) you look on the card and see what rate 350 costs (probably around 32 rupees which is a little over a dollar)

Always check your bill! They’re notorious for overcharging in hopes that the tourists won’t check. As soon as you point out the ‘error’ they will apologize and remove the excess charges. Don’t take it personally – it’s just their culture.

When asked if I would go back, I’ll say this. There is only one place in the world I have been to that I didn’t like (Morocco) so saying I’d go back to India isn’t a big endorsement. That said, I am also the type of person that wouldn’t go back to a place for the mere reason that I’ve already been and there are far too many new places I need to conquer before I start repeating things.

Do I think it’s worth seeing? Definitely.

The first day we were there we went to a temple in Delhi and there were about 12 school trips there, so it was us and thousands of kids ages 6-14. They ALL wanted to shake our hand and say ‘Hi, how are you!!’ kind of to show off their english speaking skills. They were so excited to see ‘westerners’ and a group of the boys even asked for my autograph (just because I was something new they’d seen, not because of TV)

The people in India were lovely. I felt safer than in Morocco (SKETCHY! I didn’t even trust our tour guide), though they will be overly aggressive if they want you to buy something. Hindu and religion is their highest purpose. They’ll build a 40 year temple in 8 years but will never quite finish fixing the roads – just not as important or worthy a cause for them. There’s something to be said for that.

So I’ll close with my favorite highway sign:

MOTORCYCLES, SCOOTERS, DIPLOMATS, AND CAMELS – PLEASE STAY TO THE LEFT OF THE TOLL PLAZA!

Now Chalo!

14 Day Itinerary
INR 445,000 (US$ 11,125*)

http://www.sitatours.com/Asia/India/india_indiainluxury_14days.html

http://www.oberoihotels.com/specialOffers/india-in-luxury_itineraries1.asp