Our Golden Experience Giveaway was a tremendous success! A warm thank you to all who entered to win a private tour of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. After conducting an official drawing, the winner is…
Cheryl Bemiss of Eugene, Oregon!
After calling Cheryl to announce the good news, I asked her a few questions about the upcoming trip:
Congratulations! How do you feel about winning the private tour of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur?
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m still in shock, but I’ve finally stopped weeping tears of joy. First off, thanks for your patience as you listen to me cry tears of joy over the phone. I’m beyond excited that I won the Golden Experience Giveaway! A dream come true.
Why do you want to visit India?
I can’t wait to experience the local culture and the sights, sounds, smells, and food. I’m a vegetarian whose favorite animal is a cow, so I figure that I’ll fit right in. I’ve watched so many movies about India, but I didn’t think I’d ever get to see this beautiful country in person.
As this trip is for two guests, do you know who will be your travel companion?
My husband Sean and I are perpetual travel buddies. I’m traveling solo to Scotland on a study abroad program next month and poor Sean is so jealous. Winning this contest and taking him to India should smooth things over nicely.
What are you most looking forward to experiencing in India?
That’s hard to narrow down, but the opportunity to eat with a local family, the elephant ride to Amber Fort, and the sunset visit to the Taj Mahal are at the top of my list. Thank you, Sodha Travel, for making one of my biggest dreams come true!
We are so excited for you, Cheryl, and look forward to hosting your enchanting Indian experience! Remember, Sodha Travel is giving away three more trips in the next year, including Kerala and Nepal, so be sure to stay connected and follow us on social media! YOU could be the next winner!
Are you ready to ride an elephant to Amber Fort? Or view the majestic Taj Mahal at sunset? Sodha Travel is excited to announce our Golden Experience Giveaway! You and a guest can win a private 6 day/5 night tour of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur that includes deluxe hotel accommodations, private vehicle and driver, comprehensive touring, entrance fees, airport transfers, and much more!
Start your tour in Delhi, India’s capital and the illustration of heritage. Delhi is a bustling metropolis that incorporates the ancient with the modern. Amidst the skyscrapers, the monuments stand as a silent reminder to India’s legacy. Driving from the airport, you will be impressed with the tree-lined streets and garden parks. After an evening at leisure, enjoy a full day tour that starts in Old Delhi: Red Fort, a marvel of red sandstone; Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India; and Raj Ghat, a Memorial to Mahtama Gandhi. Also enjoy a rickshaw ride in the streets of Chandni Chowk. After lunch, explore the sites of new Delhi, including the Qutub Minar, which is the tallest stone tower in India. Also tour Humayun’s tomb, built by the widow of the second Mughal Emperor, Humayun, and an outstanding monument in the Indo-Persian style. Later, drive past the imposing India Gate, the Parliament building and Rashtrapati Bhawan, the President’s residence.
The next morning, drive to Agra by private transport. After a traditional lunch in the home of a local family, visit the Agra Fort, a magnificent citadel with marble palaces, ornate alcoves and terrace pavilions. In the evening, enjoy a sunset visit to the Taj Mahal. Built in the 17th century by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj took over 22 years and 20,000 men to build. The monument is truly a wonder of the world.
After an evening at leisure, drive to Jaipur, en-route visiting the perfectly preserved and deserted red sandstone city of Fatehpur Sikri. On arrival in Jaipur, transfer to your hotel. Jaipur, the vibrant capital of Rajasthan, owes its name, foundation and planning to the great astronomer and warrior Maharaja Jai Singh II. The city is fondly called the “Pink City” due to the pink colored buildings and avenues. The following day, tour this enchanting destination, starting with the Amber Fort. The final descent to this ancient city is made by elephant back—a truly memorable experience! In the fort, you will see magnificent palaces and halls covered with mirrored mosaics. After lunch, explore Jaipur City. Visit City Palace, a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture that is still occupied by the Royal family. Also view the Palace of the Winds and visit Jantar Mantar, the solar observatory. In the evening, spend independent time exploring the vibrant markets and bazaars. Jaipur is especially known for jewelry, fabrics, rugs and textiles.
There will also be a few special surprises for our winners, so be sure to enter and win for your chance to visit India! You can also enter on our Sodha Travel Facebook page, and the more you share, the more chances you have to win!
Sodha Travel is excited to be a part of the Portland Indian Bridal Showcase on Sunday, February 10th at East India Co. Stop by our booth and learn more about our services, including India destination weddings and honeymoon packages in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. Sign up for an exclusive discount off our custom packages, and win prizes by testing your trivia knowledge! Tickets are only $5 with online pre-registration, and $12 at the door. We hope to see you at this wonderful expo that showcases ethnic treasures!
Imagine a space where prominent writers come together from across India, Europe, Africa, South Asia, and America to celebrate literature. The internationally renowned DSC Jaipur Literature Festival, now in its sixth year, will be held at Diggi Palace in Jaipur from January 24-28, 2013. The festival includes readings, debates, musical performances, children’s activities, and interactive workshops. It is the largest literary festival in Asia-Pacific and considered one of the most prestigious events in India.
During my recent trip to Jaipur, I had the opportunity to meet with Thakur Ram Pratap Singh Diggi, the managing director of Diggi Palace. He graciously took us on an inside tour of the expansive property and gardens and shared some wonderful stories about the family heritage. The Diggi lineage traces back to 1524 AD and the family haveli was established in 1727. In 1991, Thakur Ram and his wife converted part of their home to a hotel and Diggi Palace opened their doors to tourists worldwide. The family is particularly proud of the Jaipur Literature Festival being held on their property, as it showcases both the rich history and progress of Jaipur.
The festival is free for the general public but registration is required. You can register online or at the event, though online is advised to avoid long lines. The attending speaker list is expansive and diverse and the festival program will be posted after January 1.
The city of Jaipur certainly adds a romantic backdrop to the event. Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is fondly called the “Pink City” due to the pink-colored buildings and avenues. Why pink? When the Prince of Wales visited Jaipur in 1853, the city was painted pink to welcome him. In addition to historic sites like Amber Fort and City Palace, Jaipur is known for its jewelry, gemstones, textiles, and distinct cuisine. Diggi Palace, nestled in a residential neighborhood at the end of a long driveway, offers 70 rooms and suites. The property also offers Taste of Diggi, a culinary workshop where guests visit the local markets and prepare specialty dishes with ladies of the resident local family. Sodha Travel highly recommends the charm and chronicles of Diggi Palace, where history blends with comfort to provide an enchanting experience.
From October 31 – November 18, the Sodha Travel team will be traveling in North India. In addition to negotiating contracts and meeting with vendors, we will be conducting property tours, visiting the most recent sites and restaurants, and researching all the latest and greatest activities for our clients. This year, our destinations will include Delhi, Jaipur, Rajsamand, Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Rishikesh. During our travels, we will be posting photos and journals on our blog and Sodha Travel social networks. We invite you to follow us on our journey as we celebrate Diwali and other regional festivals with the magnificent people of India.
Here is a brief description of the destinations we plan to visit:
Delhi: Located on the Yamuna River, Delhi (locally known as Dilli) is the capital of India. It is typically the first stop on the popular Golden Triangle circuit and offers many attractions for visitors. Because my husband’s family lives here, we often discover unique spots usually frequented by locals. Delhi is also overflowing with wonderful markets and bazaars, and we enjoy scouting the shops for treasured items. We are perhaps most excited about celebrating Diwali, the Festival of Lights, in India’s capital!
Jaipur: Jaipur is the capital and “Pink City” of Rajasthan. It is considered India’s center of jewelry and gemstones, and also known for handicrafts, glazed pottery, and block textiles. We will be visiting Galwar Bagh (the Monkey Temple) and the most acclaimed properties in the city, including Rasa and Oberoi Rajvilas.
Rajsamand: The Deogarh Mahal is one of my favorite hotels in Rajasthan, and we are excited to return to this restored Mewar Palace that is still partially occupied by the royal family. In the evening, we will participate in a rural ramble, a jeep ride through the countryside.
Udaipur: With a wealth of enchanting lakes, Udaipur is a true oasis in Rajasthan. The highlight of our property tours will include a visit to Taj Lake Palace, one of the most luxurious and romantic hotels in the world. We will also be participating in a regional festival and viewing the city frescoes.
Jodhpur: From Udaipur we will travel to Jodhpur, en-route visiting Ranakpur, a pilgrimage destination famous for its exquisitely carved Jain temples. Jodhpur is the 2nd largest city in Rajasthan and known for its impressive fortified bastions. Our team will have the opportunity to visit a traditional Rajput home and spend time learning about the family traditions, past and present.
Rishikesh: To many, Rishikesh is considered the heart of yoga and meditation in Northern India. However, it also offers an array of adventure activities, including rafting, kayaking, cliff jumping, and trekking. Two members of our team will be participating in a thrilling 2-night rafting adventure on the Ganges River.
Are you a fan of Sodha Travel? Be sure to follow us on Pinterest as we travel to the enchanting destinations of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. Soon, we will be adding recipes, videos, media recommendations, and more. Also, be on the lookout for a photo contest in the next couple months. The winner will receive a custom gift basket from one of our favorite Indian bath and body companies, Forest Essentials. Invite your friends, and join our journey!
Mark your Calendars: Starting November 5, our team will be traveling in India and sharing all the latest and greatest sites, accommodations, restaurants, and activities. Be sure to follow us on all our Sodha Travel social media platforms!
Tomorrow, August 15th, is India’s Independence Day. As the capital of India, Delhi will understandably have the largest celebration in the country. Delhi is a bustling metropolis that incorporates the ancient with the modern and the monuments stand as a silent reminder of India’s legacy. Many attractions in the city incur an entrance fee, with different rates for Indian and foreign nationals. However, there are also many free activities to enjoy in India’s capital and 22nd largest city in the world. Here are five of my favorite free traveler experiences in Delhi:
Gardens Galore: Spread over 900 acres, the Lodi Gardens contains various tombs and architectural works. Protected by the Archaeological Survey of India, the park is also a popular spot for locals enjoying morning walks. The Garden of the Five Senses offers modern art sculptures, herb gardens, bamboo courts, and a solar energy park. Cultural festivals and events are also held in the 20-acre park, so it is quite possible you may experience a festive dance or music performance!
To Market, To Market: Delhi is considered an epicenter for markets and bazaars. My favorites include Janpath, Connaught Place, Khan Market, Hauz Khas, and Lajpat Nagar. There is also Chandni Chowk, established in 1650 AD and considered one of the oldest and busiest street markets in Old Delhi (Shahjahanabad). Warning: Though visiting the markets is free, it may be difficult to resist purchasing the beautiful items along the way!
Exhibitions: Check out the exhibitions at the Delhi Art Gallery in Hauz Khas and Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA). Both offer rotating arts and cultural galleries and performances, and most are free to the public. The current exhibition at the Delhi Art Gallery is titled Indian Landscapes – The Changing Horizon, featuring a selection of 400 works by over 100 renowned artists.
Temple Trail: Most temples and places of worship in India have no entrance fee. In Delhi, visit the Birla Mandir, Guruwara Bangla Sahib, and Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque that can accommodate 25,000 worshipers. Nearly 70% of all Delhi tourists also visit the Akshardham Temple, an elaborate temple complex that features an IMAX theater, musical fountains, sunken gardens, and a boat ride that explores India’s extensive history. Note: Though the temple and garden area have no entry fee, there is a nominal charge for the media attractions.
Handicrafts and Handlooms: The Crafts Museum, also known as the National Handicrafts and Handloom Museum, displays India’s tribal and rural art and artifacts. The Village Complex is an exhibition that displays village life from varying regions in India: “The huts, courtyards, and shrines are…built with regional construction material and by the respective village masons, artisans, thatchers, and carpenters. In every hut and courtyard, day-to-day items are displayed.” Each month, the museum invites approximately 50 craftspeople to reside on the property and demonstrate their talents.
Of course, there is also the option to hang out with the Delhiites in areas like Priya Complex, Khan Market, and Defence Colony. Still searching for free options? Check out the What’s Hot section every Friday in the Times of India. Explore, experience, and enjoy all Delhi has to offer! To learn more about Delhi’s vast attractions, contact a Sodha Travel Destination Specialist.
Do you love the color, songs, and drama of Indian cinema? Lewis & Clark College in Portland will be presenting 13 Bollywood films from January 18 – April 25. The subtitled films will be shown at 6:00 PM on Wednesdays in Miller Hall 102. They are free and open to the public. Here is the schedule:
January 18: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
January 25: Lagaan
February 1: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge
February 8: Zanjeer
February 15: Dil To Pagal Hai
February 21: Satyam Shivam Sundaram
February 29: Mother India
March 7: Khalnayak
March 14: Roja
March 21: Hum Aapke Hain Kaun…!
April 11: Devdas
April 18: Masala
April 25: Kal Ho Naa Ho
For more information, please visit Bollywood at Lewis and Clark.
In the past few months, I have been spreading the word about the upcoming SAWERA Fundraiser. I believe this cause is very important, so here is one more reminder! SAWERA, the South Asian Women’s Empowerment and Resource Alliance, provides free, confidential, and culturally sensitive services to South Asian women and children who are experiencing domestic violence in the state of Oregon. The annual gala will be held on November 5th at the Governor Hotel in downtown Portland. Join us for a wonderful evening of dinner, dancing, and most importantly, fundraising!
This year, SAWERA is also excited to present Belly Dance Soulfire as the featured entertainment. This talented group of dancers hope to inspire all to embrace and accept all forms of beauty, help women to feel more comfortable in their skin, and to promote cultural awareness and global healing.
For more information and tickets, please visit the SAWERA event page. Sodha Travel is proud to be associated with this cause and we hope to see you at the event. Thank you for your support!
On Sunday, August 21st, the Portland India Cultural Association will be presenting India Day in Pioneer Square from 11am – 9pm. Come celebrate the sights, sounds, and tastes of India. Enjoy dancing, music, entertainment, henna, shopping, and food vendors. This is a free event that draws crowds of thousands from the Pacific Northwest. It is truly a festive day and we encourage you to attend! For more information, please visit ICA Portland or contact us.
On November 11, 2011 at 11:11 am, a field of Bhutanese and international runners will participate in the inaugural Bhutan Himalayan Marathon. This event offers athletes a unique opportunity to experience the Kingdom of Bhutan on a 26.2 mile course in the shadows of the highest mountains in the world. The country fiercely regulates inbound tourism in an effort to protect its culture and environment, and international registration is only open to 150 runners.
Here are the course details, as posted on the official marathon website:
The marathon begins and ends in the heart of Thimphu at Changlimithag Stadium, the scene of a battle in the early 20thcentury that lead to the rule of King Ugyen Wangchuck and the establishment of the current monarchy.
The route circles Thimphu, passing the Memorial Chorten, honoring the third king of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, Tashichhoedzong, a combination Buddhist monastery, government center and fortress, India House and the royal residences.
Leaving the city, runners head north along the Thimphu River toward the Himalayas, with water prayer wheels and prayer flags sprinkled throughout the Blue Pine forest. At the base of the high Himalayas and with a stunning view of the Chargi Monastery, the route turns back toward Thimphu. The return portion of the route is on trails and passes through several small villages. Returning to Thimphu, the route circles the town again and ends back at Changlimithag Stadium.
Interested in joining this inaugural event? Our Bhutan tour packages can include the marathon registration, based on availability, so please contact us to register!
We are very excited to be co-presenting a travel photography workshop with Jeff Hinds Photography!
Are you interested in developing your travel photography skills or enhancing your individual photographic objectives?
Join Sodha Travel and Jeff Hinds Photography for a workshop geared toward all levels of photographers. Travel photography is more than taking a great snapshot of cultural and historical wonders. It is also about improving visual awareness and having a greater appreciation of your surroundings. Jeff will help participants learn more about their cameras and settings, demonstrate how to “see the world through the lens” and use those angles to develop individual photography skills.
Date: June 12th – 10am – 1pm
Location: Downtown Portland
Early Booking Discount: Register by May 13th and save $20 per participant!
To register: Contact me (Allison) directly at 503.718.7839 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Space is limited, so register today! We look forward to seeing you!
About Jeff Hinds: Jeff is a professional photographer and part-time instructor at Mt. Hood Community College for the Integrated Media and Professional Photography programs. He has also been a team photographer for the Portland Trail Blazers for ten seasons, concentrating in sponsorship and promotion photography. His skills include all aspects of lighting, from ambient indoor and outdoor to high-powered arena strobes for fast action indoor sports photography. Visit Jeff Hinds Photography to learn more and view his portfolios.
For those who love to spread their wings and explore the world – or even hop from one destination to the next – be sure to check out Travelhoppers. Recently launched, Travelhoppers is a travel site that allows consumers to research, connect, and discover. I am also personally excited to be a featured contributor in the Travelhoppers community.
Here is an excerpt from the official Travelhoppers press release:
Travelhoppers is a travel site dedicated to the proposition that it’s all about value. The company provides consumers with free access to the largest, frequently updated repository of travel companies’ brochures, real travel deals, and travel planning resources on the Internet. All via one site, Travelhoppers brings travelers unabridged information directly from 3000+ tour operators, packagers, cruise lines, destinations and other travel suppliers; as well as insight from travel industry veterans, first-hand knowledge from travel writers and feedback from other consumers; and a means to connect with travel specialists for assistance with travel planning.
“Travelhoppers presents travelers with resources for planning their trips that they typically would not find online – and certainly not in one place,” says founder Richard Earls. “It’s the perfect place to research where you want to vacation and find the right information and provider for your desired trip – from well-known brands to smaller suppliers and niche-focused operators, we present a comprehensive spectrum of companies, information, and real travel deals not hook’em and book’em ads seen rampant across the Internet.”
Owned and operated by travel professionals, Travelhoppers is backed by decades in travel with various sectors of the industry represented. “When a prospective traveler says they want ‘the best travel deal’ – that doesn’t necessarily mean the cheapest,” explains Earls. “We’ve all heard the stories of how many travelers have booked a cut-rate package simply to find that the accommodations are below the standards they were expecting, or the location was far from the city’s main attractions… These are NOT travel deals; they are simply vacation spoilers that end up costing travelers more than money. At Travelhoppers, our focus is to provide travelers with the values they seek. We want to provide a forum for travelers to educate themselves.”
Hop on over and check out this fantastic new site, and also check out my most recent Travelhoppers article, India: Beyond the Taj Mahal.
Writing a post on travel updates, featured tours, or client testimonials appears inapt this week after the powerful earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan. The loss of life and desolation was just heartbreaking. However, these times of tragedy also illustrate the power of humanity. It was a reminder of how the world can unite and offer overwhelming support during a crisis. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan and everyone else affected by these catastrophic events.
Every March/April, we start receiving daily phone calls from travelers who wish to experience the Pushkar Festival. Located in Rajasthan, Pushkar is a small town that houses over 400 temples, including the only Brahma temple in all of India. Every November, over 50,000 camels are decorated, raced, and sold during the Camel Fair – one of the largest livestock fairs in the world.
The 5-day festival occurs on the banks of Lake Pushkar. In addition to camel races and livestock sales, there is also music, dancing, and exhibitions. Locals construct temporary bazaars to sell textiles, jewelry, clothes, and handicrafts. The desert landscape is transformed with vibrant color, energy, and festive tourists. The population of Pushkar is approximately 15,000, but during the festival, it exceeds 200,000.
In addition to hotels and inns, there is also the option to stay in tented accommodations. But this is not your everyday camping! The tents feature attached bathrooms with running water, furniture, carpet, and even heat and A/C. Many of our travelers appreciate the opportunity to camp under the stars in luxurious cottages like the royals of the past.
For more information on the Pushkar Fair, there is a great article by Shilpa Shukla in Little India, World’s Largest Cattle Fair. Please contact a Sodha Travel representative and we will be happy to answer your questions.