Friday, February 27, 2009

For lack of a better name: The Grand "GREEN" circuit

This has been some years in the making, most of the time in my head, but it looks that its time has finally come, and I have to put it down, and take it forward.

I had been toying with an idea to bring "responsible" tour operators in the sub-continent (India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, and even including Tibet) together to develop a "grand green" circuit (which I have not gone around to naming creatively enough). The idea is this

The trip passes through some of the "responsible products" on offer in the sub-continent, connecting all places through through "green(er)" transportation means, like ground transport, trains, ferry etc, trying to avoid flying basically, which is a big issue today. We thereby achieve three big things:-

1. Make available a wonderful product which also makes "conscious" clients aware of what all is happening in the realm of responsible tourism, and what is available out there, that they can choose from and experience.
2. Develop a trip that is "green(er)", thereby having a better pull in today's footprint concious markets.
3. Is a common platform where local operators can work together and support each others business, and also share experiences and learn from each other, which will result in better products and services for the clients again, plus harnessing the synergies of common learning.

So where are we with this:-

So far, and I will keep updating this post as it happens, so keep an eye on this:-

The players

socialtours.com, GrassRoutes and The Blue Yonder are together in this, so also is Travel to Care and the intiative will be launched at ITB (www.itb-berlin.com), actively supported by experts in local travel like Your Safe Planet. Getting good moral support on the idea from Valere from TravelMole

Keep an eye here, the list will keep growing.

The product

To date, we have a trip that starts in either Kathmandu, Kolkata, Visakapatnam, Delhi or Cochin (the idea being that clients can land at an international airport of their choice and join the circuit, and pop out whereever it is convenient for them)

This will be a small group adventure and culture trip with the minimum size of 2 and maximum of 6 pax.

If you start at Delhi, one takes an overnight train to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, which is about 2 hours drive from the border with Nepal. You enter at Sunauli, where the first leg of your journey commences in Nepal.

NEPAL - Tamang Heritage Trail by socialtours.com travels

Day 01. Pick up at Sunauli and drive to Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha. Rest at the hotel.
Day 02. Tour of the Lumbini gardens and visit to the monument at the birthplace of the Buddha. Visit to the Buddhist temples from various nationalities at the site. Back to Hotel for the night
Day 03. Travel to Kathmandu by land (Bus or car, depending on size of group). Taken to a welcome dinner to a theme nepali restaurant, and later back to hotel.
Day 04. Preparation day for the trek in Nepal. Detailed trip and safety briefings, and last minute purchases.
Day 05-11. Drive to Dhunche in the Langtang Region to start the Tamang Heritage Trail, a newly devleoped product in the Lantang Region, complete with homestays in Tamang houses. The Tamangs of Langtang were originally Tibetan and fled Tibet centuries ago and settled in Nepal. Since they were not recognised as Nepalese, they changed their surnames to Tamang, which is a Nepali surname. The 7 days trek meanders through Tamang villages, with overnights in homestays and immersion into the cultures of these wonderful people.

Read details of this trek here (The Tamang Heritage Trail)

Day 11. Back to Kathmandu and overnight in Kathmandu.

Day 12-14. Drive to Chitwan National Park for a Rhino safari. We will stay in small lodges here, support the work of the Nepal Green Society, visit an operation which is making paper out of elephant dung, besides going on elephant back safari, canoeing, visits to the elephant breeding center. More about the safari part here (Chitwan Jungle Safari)

Day 14. We will drive today to the Border of India at Raxaul, and get on an overnight train to Kolkata.

EASTERN INDIA - Orissa Odyssee by Grass Routes Journeys

Once in Kolkata, for another 15 days, your trip will be taken over by another Responsible Tourism partner, GrassRoutes, where they will take you on an expedition through Bengal and Orissa, before ending the journey at Visakapatnam. Read more about this journey here (The Orisssa Odyssee)

So on day 29, you will be at Vizag, boarding a train which will take you to Cochin, where the Blue Yonder will take you to the Nila River in Kerala and their product there.

SOUTHERN INDIA - The Malabar Holidays - from The Blue Yonder

Malabar was once a British Principality of India. After Independence, Malabar as a state was no longer recognized and the region was divided to form the northern part of what is today called Kerala. Though Malabar has no geographical boundaries, no presence on a map of India, it still exists as a state of mind: laid-back, slow, to live and let live.

This is the spirit we capture in this package that begins with Cochin and goes along backwaters, River Nila, Mountains of Wayanad , and ends at the virgin beaches of Kannur in Malabar region.. While most of Kerala is recognised as a traveller’s must–visit destination, Malabar is yet to be discovered. And hence to the uninitiated offers a plethora of delights ranging from a river cruise to legend trails to spice tours to tea estate visits to craft villages and heritage sites.

This is a Kerala where the everyday and exotic merge seamlessly. For a traveller who is weary of experiencing shrink wrapped plastic package tours, the Malabar leg comes minus hype and spin and instead is a way of life that asks little of the traveller except an open mind.

This 14 day package takes you through Cochin – Backwaters – River Nila – Nilambur – Wayanad – Kannur-Calicut Train Station.

This is where the circuit has reached at the moment

Comments are welcome.

btw, looking for people who can comment, join, expand the idea, make suggestions, just about anything... even criticize (hopefully of the constructive nature)

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