Friday, January 9, 2015

My Interview on 99Weblog

Here is my recently published interview on 99Weblog. I talk about my website The Hotel Explorer  , my favorite destinations in India and also share some travel tips in this interview. You can click here to read the interview.

In case you can't open the link here is the verbatim interview. Do share your thoughts in the comments section. 

99WebLog had pleasure to interview the Founder & Editor of  'The Hotel Explorer' , Vishakha Talreja who is also a Travel Blogger, Spa Addict and Fashion Lover from Delhi.

Tell us about

The Hotel Explorer is India’s first online hospitality magazine targeted at discerning travelers. It features reviews of hotels, inspiring trend stories, news that travelers can use, interviews and also handpicked hotel deals. We also review restaurants and spas located in hotels. When we say the website is all about hotels we mean not just the popular chains but also boutique properties, home stays, vacation homes, holiday villas and serviced apartments...wherever you choose to stay when traveling. On one hand we are your personal advisor helping you answer that important question ‘where to stay’ and on the other we give travel and hotel brands a platform where they can talk to travelers and explain about their product and services through us. We help travelers in making informed decisions. 

What is the best part of traveling in India?

It might sound cliched but actually its people and a rich culture that makes India a great destination. Indians are known for their hospitality and they will walk that extra mile to help you. There are so many festivals that our country has and even travelers enjoy celebrating them be it Holi in Vrindavan or Durga Puja in Kolkata. There is never a dull moment when you are visiting Incredible India provided you come with an open mind and heart. 

Tell us about your most memorable travel experience in India?

My most memorable travel experience was stay at The Leela Palace hotel in Udaipur (Rajasthan). I absolutely love hotels and my travel memories have more to do with the hotel than the destination! 

About three years back I met (Late) Captain Nair, founder of the Leela Hotels for one of the articles. When I met him he spoke dreamily about his Udaipur property and how Kokilaben Ambani had a great stay at his Udaipur hotel. She even sent him home-made theplas as a thank you gesture. That’s when I decided I wanted to visit and stay at the hotel. It truly was an awe-inspiring experience! I travelled with my husband to Udaipur. We were given a grand reception complete with folk dancers and aarti. Our expansive suite had a plunge pool and mesmerizing view of lake Pichola. A butler was at our service 24/7. In the evening we would go on a romantic boat ride and have dinner at lakeside restaurant. This was around three years back and I still have vivid memories of that place. I am glad I review hotels for a living!

Which is your absolute favorite place to visit in India? And why?

That’s a tough one. As a traveler it’s always difficult to choose one favorite destination. Each destination has something unique to offer. Besides instead of sticking to a favorite I love exploring new places. But if I have to pick one it will be Goa. I am a beach person and can spend hours just sitting at the beach side. Goa is a complete package as it offers the best in food, hotels, casinos and SPAs. 

Which are your top three destinations in India?

My top three destinations in India are Goa, Udaipur and Kashmir. Yes I am sure this sounds hackneyed but there is a reason why travelers love these destinations. Goa not only is home to beautiful beaches but also has some of the best restaurants in the country. Similarly Udaipur is not just romantic but its palace hotels give tourists a chance to live like a Maharaja (king). They really pamper you. Of course shopping is a bonus. 

No words can describe the beauty and breathtaking views of Kashmir. If you have visited the place you will know why its called ‘Heaven on Earth’. I feel Kashmiri hospitality is quite underrated in our country. If you go for a meal at a locals place in Kashmir you will be amazed how elaborate the meal will be that they serve you. Its people who make Kashmir a top destination for me and not just the scenic Gulmarg and Dal Lake.  

What was your most recent travel experience? And where do you want to go next?

I was recently invited by the Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa in Gulmarg to review their property for my website. The hotel is stunning and as I wrote in my review Kashmiri hospitality can give Rajasthani hospitality a run for its money. Gulmarg is beautiful and we were lucky that we experienced the snow. Khyber houses L’Occitane SPA and believe me its one of the best spas in the country. 

Next on my list is Glamping, that is glamorous camping, in India. So Oberoi’s Vanyavilas is where I would like to go or any wildlife destination that has luxury tents. Outside India I want to visit Amsterdam this summer.  

How does travel affect you as a person?

I think travel has helped me grow as a person. You meet so many different type of people and encounter new experiences that widens your perspective in life. If I have to summarize it in one word I would say travel has had a ‘positive’ effect on me. Your books and job can’t teach you what travel can. 

Any advice for those planning their dream trip to India?

India is a diverse country not just in terms of weather and landscape but also as far as culture is concerned. Therefore those who are planning their dream trip to India should do research specific to the place in India they are traveling to. For instance what’s acceptable in North India might not be socially acceptable in South India, similarly some cities might be safe when it comes to traveling during night while others might not be very safe. So do a state or city specific research rather than just looking at generic information on India.

Also as I said earlier that it’s the culture and people that make India a great destination. So try and do things in India that locals do like celebrating a festival or having a meal at a locals place, rather than going for a cookie-cutter itinerary. 

What do you always take with you when you are on a trip?

My iPhone ( iPhone 6) so that I can click pictures and post them on social media. Travel pictures go a long way in inspiring people to travel. Through social media I want to encourage as many people as possible to travel and explore new places. 

Any packing advice to first time travelers to India?

Weather in India can be harsh. Also yes we agree that our cities are polluted and dusty. So carry products that suit your skin- your daily face wash, sunscreen and moisturizer. You will need all of them to keep your skin healthy on your trip. 

Follow Vishakha on Twitter @vishakhatalreja

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