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India: Challenging But Oh, So Rewarding

India: Challenging But Oh, So Rewarding


India is a country renowned for its sights, sounds, colors, and aromas. It's also known to be challenging and difficult -- a chaotic environment with snarled traffic jams, endless noise, dust and smog, impossibly crowded trains, cows wandering the roads, and many more obstacles to an easy vacation.

But these difficulties shouldn't prevent you from exploring this amazing country, where almost all visitors come away different and more aware than when they arrived. It's worth pausing and considering this phenomenon. How many vacations actually help you become more self-aware? How many trips have you taken that challenge or reaffirm your innermost beliefs?

It's a special place that can accomplish that. India should be a must on your list of dream trips. Here's one way to discover the best of India in a fashion that minimizes the stresses of journeying here. First, book your air on Jet Airways, which offers an economical business class option Called Premiere Class, with private sleeping pods at surprisingly low prices. This class of service includes delicious meals (frequently with both Indian and Western-style options) and, when available, an attendant who meets you at the plane door and whisks you through customs and immigration and onto your transfer or awaiting transportation. Jet Airways works with Jet Lite for domestic connections. Jet Lite is incredibly inexpensive.

Economy travelers, fear not: Coach class offers amenities that nearly rival business class in other airlines, with seating considered the most comfortable economy class seat in the world. When the back is reclined, the seat moves forward and up to cradle the passenger at a 130-degree incline, and a foot net appears beneath the seat in front to provide support for feet and ankles. Each seat also comes with a nifty Panasonic eX2 entertainment system (with more than 200 movies and many more musical choices) as well as Bose noise-canceling headphones. You'll appreciate all this since the Brussels-to-India segment of your trip can be at least nine hours.

Aman Resorts, which boasts three stunning hotel properties in varied locales in India, offers a specially priced deal that is a perfect way to discover India in pampered style with all transfers included. Dubbed Aman India Journey, the special ($3,650 double occupancy through April 30, 2010; $3,840 Oct 1, 2010 through April 30, 2011) includes a minimum of two nights in each of the following properties. Also included are breakfast and transfers between the properties and one activity per stay. And let's not forget the addictive lemon-scented cold towel compress that meets you at every juncture, both cooling and sweetening your stay.

Aman New Delhi is Aman's newest property. It's also it's first true urban hotel and the largest in terms of number of rooms. The sleek, modern lines, masculine subdued palette, and abundant green spots make it a truly welcome oasis of peace in the heart of India's bustling capital city. Each spacious unit comes with its own butler and a plunge pool. The gym is gigantic and modern and is maintained by fitness trainers who are happy to help you burn off the calories you'll consume at the hotel's fine restaurants.

Top excursion(s):
* Visit the colorful cacophony of Old Delhi
* Marvel at Humayan Tomb, precursor of the majestic Taj Mahal
* Bend your plastic at Khan Market
* Watch elephant polo at Dera AMer in Village Khurad

Amanbagh is one of Aman's true jewels. Located in a remote valley in Rajasthan surrounded by palm trees and lost-in-time villages and monumental ruins, the property is almost entirely self-sufficient, with its own water treatment facility, organic garden, restaurant, and bakery. It also boasts a 150-foot long pool as its dramatic centerpiece. Surrounding it are the accommodations, which are huge, private, and elegantly appointed with locally quarried marble as well as a small but serviceable gym and a spa.

Top excursions:
* Visit the beautifully restored 17th-century Bhangargh abandoned village
* See the cows come home during the "cow dust" tour of local villages
* Day trip to Jaipur, India's Pink City

Aman-i-Khas is Aman's tented resort, also located in the state of Rajasthan but in an even more remote location alongside the Ranthambore National Park. This is where you'll enjoy open-top vehicle safaris in search of India's elusive tigers and other wildlife by day and luxurious tented accommodations at night.

Top excursion:
* Safari in Ranthambore National Park
* Shoot (with a camera!) a tiger

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Ed Salvato