Spices and Saris – India the easy way

If the film, The Exotic Marigold Hotel, tantalised the traveller within you with scenes of warmth and colour but your bones tell you that the days of roughing it and backpacking are over, then fear not, there is an easier way of tasting a little of India.

Aegean Odyssey I found a company called Voyages to Antiquity who own a small ship called Aegean Odyssey. I was attracted to this, all inclusive trip, because it is a small ship (195 cabins) and bears no resemblance to the huge, all singing, all dancing cruise liners you see advertised.

Their package included flights Heathrow to Singapore, 2 nights in Singapore with excursions before joining the ship. We then sailed up the Malacca Straits with excursions in Malacca and Penang. Three days sailing took us across to the Indian Ocean stopping in Colombo, Sri Lanka and then up the west coast of India port hopping to Cochin, Mangalore, Marmagao and finally Mumbai.

Popular with the U3A age group, Silver Travellers and NADFAS members, these cruises offer professional lectures on topics such as the geography of the region, Indian textiles and the world of ‘Bollywood’ with regional briefings. Each evening we could choose from a high standard of musical entertainment with programmes ranging from Gershwin to Puccini or a relaxing trio in the bar area. The on board musicians were excellent and one was a protege of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The Terrace Cafe - Aegean Odyssey At meal times I was not limited to a designated table and so could choose from 3 dining areas. Memories of sipping wine on the open terrace deck while sailing on a balmy night will stay with me for a long time. The food throughout the trip was good and varied and I did not fall prey to Delhi belly. I had a good stock of Travel Biotics just in case!

The Indian adventure continued on land. I disembarked in Mumbai to fly to Jaipur, the final leg of the package was to cover the Golden Triangle (Jaipur, Agra and Delhi) by road. The planning and organisation by VTA and their ground agent was faultless. Our guide was knowledgeable, spoke excellent English and had a good sense of humour. The overnight stays were in 4* Sheraton hotels which all resembled palaces. Staff met us with smiles and greetings of ‘Namaste’ at every turn. This is hospitality at its best.

India With our guide, driver and his assistant driver (obligatory in India) the air conditioned buses took us through surprisingly green countryside where women in saris pick potatoes and work on construction sites. Men herd huge flocks of sheep. This trip offers a perfect contrast to the coastal ports seen so far.

Be prepared to experience a palette of colour, green parakeets; orange and pink bougainvillea; red sandstone forts; turquoise swimming pools; baskets of yellow and orange spices and saris in vibrant designs.   

Our ears and eyes were bombarded by constant hooting, traffic, people, monkeys, chipmunks, painted elephants and wandering cows. This is a land of contrasts, energetic with a mist of trade route empires lingering in architecture and signage.

Temples and Gods Temples and gods sit snugly between road side shacks where anything from scooters to taps can be fixed.  Open air laundries hang sheets to dry at the feet of sky scrapers. A shop selling turbans of all colours is next door to the coffin maker. This is India today.

It all seems chaotic to the Western mind, but whenever you make eye contact with a passer-by, a street seller or a bus passenger they wave and turn radiant, smiling faces to you.

So, if you want a taste of India without roughing it, there are many ways to have an adventure and a trip by small ship is definitely a good choice.

Fact file

Company: Voyage to Antiquity
Ship: Aegean Odyssey
Tour Name: Passage to Sri Lanka & India
Government approved tour guide: Saral Ganguly  sgpandy@yahoo.com. Fluent in English, French and Italian.

132 people found this helpful

Share Article:

Kay Wiseman

Optimistic traveller & wordsmith

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Mark Nicholls visits Austria’s snowiest ski resort and stumbles across a chapter of pop history….

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.