Agents on the Spot: India
Cox and Kings took a group of agents on an educational to southern India in March. The group flew with Emirates to Bombay, via Dubai, and spent a day there before flying on to Madras where they explored the ancient, historic and cultural sights of the area. They flew on to Trichy and toured temples, towns and lush tropical landscapes dotted with plantations. Next stop was Cochin, dubbed The Venice of the East, where they explored the waterways by boat. We asked three agents for their impressions before and after the trip.
Before: I hadn't been to India before and like many people, I rather naively thought I would see a great deal of poverty. I also thought it would be smelly and extremely hot, dry, dusty and harsh. I really wanted to go but I was worried that I would be disappointed. I had sold a fair number of holidays to Goa but not many to the south of India and did not really know what to expect.
After: The south of India is a delight - my preconceptions were entirely wrong. There is very little poverty, the people are charming and happy and the dominating smell is that of the plants in the cardamom hills. The smiling children are incredible and everyone is very welcoming. The contrast between the hills, with their plants and tea and coffee plantations, and the kind of Venetian waterways area of Kerala's backwaters is amazing. The area is so beautiful and unusual - lush and green - something which clients just don't realise. I would definitely go back. I have a taste for India now and want to see more.
CHRISTINE THOMPSON, PARTNER, TRAVELTALK, HARROGATE, age: 46
Before: I had been to the north of India but never to the south. I had toured the Golden Triangle of Dehli, the Taj Mahal and its forts and palaces. I loved it and wanted to go back. I wasn't sure what to expect in the south but remembered the north was dry and dusty. A lot of the cities were not very clean and the people were poor but happy. I found them very philosophical about their poverty. I have sold quite a lot of holidays to Goa and some to the beaches of Kerala but my clients never do much touring.
After: The south of India is a total contrast to the north. It is much prettier and greener. There is much more to the south than I had expected. Beyond the beaches, the backwater cruises and trips into the hills are well worthwhile. There may not be the big monuments of the north but there is a lot to see. Some of the accommodation - the Coconut Lagoon and the Spice Village for example - is out of this world and, although the boats look like straw armadillos, they are actually converted rice barges and very luxurious and romantic. I am definitely recommending Kerala as the real India - it's an idyllic, relaxed settings and everything very reasonably priced.
SALLY CAMIES, TRAVEL CONSULTANT, TRAVEL COUNSELLORS, KENT, age: 33
Before: I had never been to India before and I was really rather apprehensive. I hadn't even been on an educational before and was worried about how I would get on, especially with the food. I thought of India as a Third-World country with a lot of poverty, and people had warned me not to take any jewellery and to be very careful where I went. I imagined the accommodation would be pretty basic. I had sold one Cox and Kings tour to India but didn't know much about the destination.
After: All the fears and apprehensions about India are totally unfounded and the warnings other people had given me were quite unnecessary. India is amazing - the diversity of the culture is fascinating and I can't wait to go back. I come from a working-class family and most people I know think tours of India are just for the rich but there is a choice of both luxury or budget tours and both ways are great. The people are lovely and their way of life is amazing and very peaceful - quite different from here. I certainly felt safe wherever I went. I love the place and haven't been able to stop talking about it since I got back. The trip has really changed my outlook.
CLAIRE STIMPSON, TRAVEL CONSULTANT, AIR MILES HOLIDAY HOTLINE, CRAWLEY, age: 21
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