Knowledge Centre

 

TCI’s product line, Explore features “Out of the ordinary tours for everyone,” giving individuals and small groups an authentic and sustainable travel experience. Travellers will experience the great outdoors, local customs and charming hospitality, flavourful traditional cooking, stimulating art and music and intriguing architecture in a unique yet easily accessible manner. Driving this initiative at TCI is its Destination Knowledge Centre which travels all over the Indian subcontinent in search of compelling stories to inspire destination travel and to ensure that your clients are in the know.

 

TCI’s Destination Knowledge Centre realises that no matter how good or wise we are, locals always know the best kept secrets that will bring long-term success to a particular destination. So it has been and will be our constant endeavour to listen to locals, initiate partnerships, engage them and determine mutually beneficial alignments. We have made several friends in the process, the very best in what they do; ready to help your clients absorb the destination like a local. Our friends love their mythology, history and folklore and brilliantly weave them into their narratives, the end result being a true local experience.

Come Explore with us.

Lovleen Sagar loves to discover small things on her travels and how cultures across the world are somehow connected; how we have influenced each other over centuries of history. She is a self- proclaimed Queen of Trivia on the subject! She is also the conscience keeper at DKC. She keeps us on track and from wandering off; roads and budget included.

Favourite holiday destination for leisure: Goa. There is so much unexplored and pristine despite the influx of tourists. Every time I go there, I find something refreshing and new. It’s an interesting mix of rural India with western sensibilities. I would even recommend our jungle lodges in Kanha or Bandhavgarh for a leisure holiday.

Favourite holiday destination for culture: It has to be rural India, you get a true sense of our roots. Just anywhere is good. For first timers Kerala is a gentler introduction to our composite culture, followed by rural Rajasthan.

Favourite holiday destination for gastronomy: North Kerala coast going right up to Goa. I simply love the Portuguese influence on our western coastal food. The variety of influences and cuisines you find in this area is amazing to the palate. Typical Udupi Brahmin vegetarian food to the Mopla middle-eastern influenced cuisine of North Kerala and contrasting with the Manglorian and Goan food! Mumbai is an ideal melting pot where these cultures & cuisines come together. Do add a Food tour in Mumbai on your visit to enjoy all of these cuisines and more.

Favourite holiday destination for nature: Upper Hills of Kumaon. Great weather for most of the year, serene surroundings with lovely views of the Himalayas, walks in the forest, fresh air, simple folk, the smell of burning wood coming from faraway village homes, Shepard flute playing somewhere…very romantic! If you are lucky, you may even encounter a wild leopard; see rare migratory birds and lots of butterflies.

Favorite music: Semi Classical India Music and who can resist Jazz.

Favorite book/s: Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar for its intensity and my all-time favourite Indian authors are Amitava Ghosh and Arundhati Roy.

Favorite drink: Nimbu paani with masala!

Favorite dish: Kori-Gassi from Mangalore and the home made Yellow dal (lentil) with Rice.

If I were to be reborn: I would probably be an artist of some sort or even a nomad wandering away to where the heart fancies.

I often dream of: Flying.

Insider tips: when you are travelling to India, relax…just go with the flow of things here and bring along your sense of humour.

Jean Noel Esteve travels all over the Indian sub-continent to keep us abreast of the latest; including hotels and his take on the infrastructure of the various destinations.

Favorite holiday destination for leisure: Mahabalipuram for its location, culture and sea food. It is a very relevant first stop in a Tamil Nadu itinerary in order to relax and recuperate after an international flight, while discovering the vestiges of what used to be the main harbour of the ancient Pallava dynasty. A seafood dinner on the beach and you will definitely fall in love with its charm ! I can stay here for a week.

Favorite holiday destination for culture: Madurai with its Sree Meenakshi Temple, the most spectacular one that I have ever seen in India. Sree Meenakshi Temple has been a center of learning and pilgrimage for centuries and for me the symbol of how spirituality and religion is a way of life in India. What I like to do is to sit inside the temple and contemplate…just contemplate and immerse myself in the atmosphere.

Favorite holiday destination for gastronomy: I do not have enough knowledgeable about Indian food as yet. But I love Butter Chicken, Chicken Massala, Chicken curry…spicy of course and accompanied with rice and a butter nan… a delight !

Favorite holiday destination for nature: Ladakh for its astonishing landscapes. There is so much to do here. From the Nubra Valley, till Tso Moriri and Tso Kar, passing through many ancient monasteries. Furthermore Ladakh is an excellent place to trek.

Favorite music: Definitely Rock music…from Elvis Presley to Metallica.

Favorite book/s: I like to read books about history. History is so rich and exciting. For me one of the most interesting period of world history is the decline of Roman Empire and the Barbarian invasions.

Favorite drink: Beer and Red Wine.

Favorite dish: “Steak au poivre, patates sautées à la graisse de canard”….you have figured it out…. this is a french dish ! Beef with pepper cream sauce, accompanied with potatoes sauté cooked with duck grease. I am already hungry.

If I were to be reborn I would: A professional rugby player. Rugby is my favourite sport. The idea of earning money by playing my favourite game while travelling all over the world and making new friends just sounds too good.

I often dream of: Living in what the French call “The Thirty Glorious Years” (1945 and 1975). It was after the Second World War and people just wanted to live life to the fullest. France was at its creative best, the economy did well and the youth were untroubled.

Insider tips: When you ask someone something in the streets of India the answer is most likely to be YES all the time. You will rarely hear a NO. This is because people in India are very nice and don’t want to offend a foreigner by saying NO. So don’t ask – “is the railway station this way?” Instead ask “where is the railway station”

Kuntil Baruwa travels all over the Indian sub-continent to make friends with locals and use their recommendations to design unique experiences for the inquisitive savvy traveler. He is also the Editor of our newsletters and Team Leader of our Summer CSR Project.

Favorite holiday destination for leisure: Southeastern Rajasthan post monsoon. September is ideal. Its a shoulder period, so great hotel rates too. Everything is lush and green and the water bodies are full. This part of Rajasthan which is yet to be overun by the hordes of tourists, has some superbly comfortable heritage properties lovingly restored by its owners who are great hosts and serves excellent homestyle cooked food. Take the train from Delhi to the 17th century Ramathra Fort with its unspoilt loction between Ranthambore and Keoladeo National Parks for a couple of nights and from there continue to the charming medieval town of Bundi. If it is September, chances are that you may be able to visit a local festival in and around Bundi which is small, intimate and non-touristy. From Bundi head to 18th century Bhainsrorgarh Fort with its stunning location by the Chambal River for a couple of nights and from there to Shahpura Bagh with its unhurried vibe before heading to Udaipur to end your trip by the Lake Pichola. Do expect intermittent rains but definitely not the holiday spoiler types.

Favorite holiday destination for culture: Indian culture is a misonomer. There are so many “Indias” that quietly co-exist and each one so different in their cultural practices that they may as well be different countries. While it is blasphemous for a North Indian Hindu to eat beef, the Hindus of Kerala eat Beef without any fuss. While Islam for North India meant numerous invasions, plunder and loot; Islam came to South India much earlier and in peace to trade with the locals. And Christianity came to South India much before it went to Europe and the first converts were high-caste Hindus whose predecessors still retains some of the unique cultural practices of the religion their ancestors converted from. While Hinduism in India is often associated with the 33 million Gods and Godesseses and all kinds of rituals, the Vaishanvite Hindus of Assam shuns all rituals and idol worship and instead looks at the Bhagwad Gita; a 700 verse scripture, for spiritual and religious inspiration; pretty much like the Sikhs who consider Guru Granth Sahib, their Holy Book as a Living Master. If you have a first-timer visiting India do offer the Golden Triangle (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur) and Varanasi. But also combine it with, I would recommend, a week long sailing on the River Brahmaputra in Assam for an insight into how it is impossible to pin India down into one homegenous culture.

Favorite holiday destination for gastronomy: India’s West Coast. And it is still off the tourist map as everyone goes to Rajasthan on a gastronomy tour. From the Konkan region easily accessible from Mumbai by train then onto Goa which is not too far away from here to Udupi in Karnataka and then Kerala. Best part being you can experience the flavours of this amazing belt by travelling on the Train – sort of chugging and eating away in India’s West Coast. Start your journey from Mumbai where a friend of the Destination Knowledge Centre will introduce you to the various cuisines of India’s West Coast. From Mumbai head by the train to the Konkan region for a slice of Malvani cuisine dominated by fish. Women here are known for their ability to cook the most delicious fare in a jiffy including excellent vegetarian dishes. Continue to Goa for your fill of Goan cuisine influenced by its Hindu origins and 400 years of Portuguese rule and from here to Udupi in Karnataka for its dishes made primarily from grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits. North Kerala’s Malabari Muslims and their cuisine is still distinctly influenced by their Arab ancestors which makes it so very interesting. And as you move inland into South Kerala and its backwaters with its drenched greens and coconut palms, the Syrian Christians, the predecessors of the first converts will tell you that their contribution to the Kerala cuisine has been manifold and the most noted are the hoppers, duck roast, meen vevichathu (red fish curry) and the isthew (stew).

Favorite holiday destination for nature: Kanha National Park. It is a shame that people go there only for game drives to spot the Royal Bengal Tiger. It is one of the most prettiest space in India with gorgeous nooks, corners and bends waiting to be noticed and admired. Special mention to the tall Sal trees of the Park which has an uncanny ability to look beautiful even in the summers when everything else is tinder dry. With our friends in Kanha we offer several such oppurtunities where you can admire Kanha’s nature and connect with yourself; from silent walks to yoga and meditation to cooking local cuisine with the tribals by the riverside.

Favorite music: It changes all the time. Currently enjoying and discovering the melodies of Japanese American bands/artists of the USA’s West Coast. Notably Hiroshima and June Kuramoto.

Favorite book/s: Twilight in Delhi by Ahmed Ali, Shogun by James Clavell.

Favorite drink: Wasabi Martini.

Favorite dish: Kerala Beef Curry and Rice.

If I were to be reborn I would………. It would be somewhere in the Himalayas where I would have nothing to do with the extreme climate of Delhi. It is so annoying.

I often dream of… Starting a finishing school for youngsters studying tourism imparting practical knowledge and sharing the best kept secrets of the travel business in India. What they currently learn in tourism institutes of India spending their parent’s hard-earned money is absolutely theoretical and is of no use to the travel business. And yes working for our office in Myanmar.

Insider tips: If you are a first timer to India go easy on the Indian food upon arrival. Too much too soon may lead to the spices reacting with all the pre-departure jabs you have taken and may cause an upset tummy.

Inderjeet Rathod stiches all our findings together into beautiful itineraries, prepare reference documents for operations and design special interest products on demand.

Favorite holiday destination for leisure: Udaipur with its beautiful lakes, shimmering white palaces and hills in the background. One of India’s most romantic destinations.

Favorite holiday destination for culture: Varanasi which is often referred to as the oldest living city in the world. It has been an important centre since time immemorial for education, religion, music, dance, textiles et al. Each time I take a boat ride on the Ganga. I am mesmerised by the buzz around the ghats, the people and their reverence for the river. Varanasi truly is India in motion.

Favorite holiday destination for gastronomy: Mumbai which is a fine melting pot of so many communities from India – Marathi, Gujarati, Sindhi, Punjabi, Marwari, Parsi, Muslim, Tamil, Malyayli and so on. All these communities have had some of their own dishes modified to suit the local taste resulting in unique gastronomical delights typical of Mumbai.

Favorite holiday destination for nature: Kodaikanal, the ‘Princess of Hill stations’. Often the gentle clouds descend upon you and light drizzle moistens your face. It’s just so refreshing and rejuvenating.

Favorite music: Ananda Shankar, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia.

Favorite book/s: “Himalayan Blunder – The curtain raiser to the Sino Indian War of 1962″. Brig. J P Dalvi’s account of the Sino – Indian War is by far the most remarkable and authentic. He was present in the theatre of war throughout, commanded a brigade and was even held captive by the Chinese for 7 months.

Favorite drink: Fruit Punch.

Favorite dish: Kadai Paneer.

If I were to be reborn I would: be a follower of a Sufi saint, wandering from one place to another, singing devotional songs.

I often dream of: myself as a platoon soldier fighting in the forests or up in the hills.

Insider tips – Spirituality is the core value of Indian culture. People of all sections of the society here have a belief in something or the other. There is a unifying spirit of peaceful co-existence in the general masses. To understand the Indian culture it is foremost to understand that Indians give importance to spiritual values over and above the material ones.

Urvashi Walia maintains our Digital Photo Library and assists the team with content writing.

Favorite holiday destination for leisure: Jaipur. Love the forts, palaces & markets.

Favorite holiday destination for culture: Golden Temple, Amritsar. The place is pure heaven. You feel content with everything.

Favorite holiday destination for gastronomy: Old Delhi. It’s a bliss for foodies. Start your journey right from the community kitchen in Sis Ganj Sahib Gurudwara and end with Amritsari Lassi at Ghanta Ghar if there is any space left in your tummy. Don’t miss the Faluda at Gyanni, near the Fatehpuri Mosque.

Favorite holiday destination for nature: Hills, anywhere in India. Jammu, Manali, Mussoorie, Shimla, Kasauli, Dinapani, all provide a relaxing break from the daily routine. I just love looking at the mountains with a chilled kingfisher.

Favorite music: Bollywood Songs, Michael Bolton, George Michael & Whitney Houston.

Favorite book/s: Thousand Splendid Suns by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini.

Favorite drink: Cocktails. Love to taste new ones.

Favorite dish: Rajmah Chawal.

If I were to be reborn I would: Either be a bird or a very rich person so that I can be free to do as I want

I often dream of: Driving in F1.

Insider tips: Let me explore some more and know India better.

Tejashri is our explorer based in Bangalore. She travels across South of India in search of unique experiences for you.

Favorite holiday destination for leisure: Gokarna is a haven for me with its lazy shacks, a tinge of religion, pristine beaches and minimalistic crowd.

Favorite holiday destination for culture: Hampi is a town that has stood still in time and everything is so archaic like one has teleported back to the grand era of the Vijayanagara Empire.

Favorite holiday destination for gastronomy: Goa! It has amazing cafes and food places, cheap liquor and a laid back vibe.

Favorite holiday destination for nature: Uttarakhand – Picture perfect landscapes and breathtaking views.

Favorite music: Chill out Psychedelic trance.

Favorite book/s: The final question by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.

Favorite drink: Bira Beer.

Favorite dish: Bisibelebhat and Rajma Chawal alike.

If I could choose who I wanted to be in the next life, I would like to be a wealthy adventurous no-mad travelling across the world in an RV doing odd jobs for experience.

I often dream of: being back in the mountains of Uttarakhand.

Insider tips: India is different, just different. The country can cater to anyone and everyone as a holiday destination; from the adventurous backpackers, to romancing couples, families or even the one off hardcore spiritual wanderer. You can go at it alone or with a companion, there is as much or as little to do as you can let your imagination soar.

Saurabh Rai is the in-house Video Editor.  He assists our Explorers in driving our audio – visual initiative – India Handheld: Raw and Extempore, which is a collection of no fuss, no sauce hand-held videos shot during their travels. This audio-visual project is aimed at educating both internal and external customers about Destination India and beyond.

Favorite holiday destination for leisure:Jaisalmer – where both the sunrise and sunset are as pure as 24 carat glittering gold.

Favorite holiday destination for culture: Varanasi – A center for heritage and learning. Evening Aarti at the bank of the Ganga, the early morning sunrise , the Sadhus, and million things to mesmerise our soul.

Favorite holiday destination for gastronomy: Bihar – The rich aroma that arises out of every household kitchen in that region, specially when they cook litti chokha (wheat balls with vegetables), and daal poori (deep fried Indian bread with lentils).

Favorite holiday destination for nature: Whole of the North Eastern India. Hills, Forests and Indigenous communities whose lifestyle is so close to mother nature.

Favorite music: Celtic and Instrumental.

Favorite book/s: I rely more on experiences rather than on books.

Favorite drink: Wine, but nothing is above Nimbu-Paani (Lemonade)

Favorite dish: Hard to choose between million Indian dishes, but anything with lots of sugar and jaggery.

If I were to be reborn I would: Love to be born as a Whale somewhere deep in the ocean. Eat, drink, live, sleep and play in the water all the time.

I often dream of: White Water Rafting in Teesta River, the lifeline of Sikkim. I love the sound of the rapids.

Insider tips: To truly enjoy India include at least one homestay in your itinerary. This way you’ll not just get the real taste of local food but also the culture and history of India.