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To the Pinnacle of Bliss in the Himalayas

13 mins. read

Published in the Sunday Sakal on 21 January, 2024

Sudhir and I reached Leh for the first time in April 2014, with the idea that when we started Veena World, we should begin from Leh Ladakh, the northern tip of India. We had no contacts with any travel agents or hoteliers there. Our plan was to explore the tourist spots, and if we liked what we saw, we would organize large trips to Leh Ladakh for our tourists. One of the concerns tourists often have about Leh Ladakh is the uncertainty, akin to the famous 'to be or not to be.' We wanted to address this mixed feeling and eliminate any apprehensions. 

Upon reaching Leh, we followed the guidelines, rested according to the rules, and adapted to the altitude by getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, and acclimatizing to the thin air. For four or five days, we explored the region from morning until evening. The landscape of Leh Ladakh left us astonished. We found ourselves blaming our past hesitation, thinking, 'It's too late to come here.' Simultaneously, we were also convincing ourselves with the mantra, 'It's never too late to start something worthwhile.'

One thing became certain during our explorations – we were determined to bring numerous tours to this captivating place. It wasn't just about tourists; we wanted every Indian to experience the beauty of Leh Ladakh. Consequently, we began crafting tour programs. To execute these plans, we required a local partner. Sudhir had encountered a Ladakhi travel agent during the world's largest travel show, ITB Berlin. We tracked him down and arrived at his office, where we found him accompanied by his daughter. Initially, we took the time to comprehend their business operations – understanding what they do and how they conduct business. Up until that point, their focus had been on managing approximately five hundred tourists annually, primarily during July and August. Most of their clientele consisted of foreigners interested in hiking and trekking. In essence, we discovered that our tours and their work were distinctly different. If we were to collaborate, we would need to provide comprehensive training, covering everything from the basics to the current practices. Despite the disparity, the people appeared to be commendable. They exhibited a strong work ethic and, most importantly, spoke with honesty. Their sincerity was evident, as they didn't try to impress with grand statements.

We declared our commitment, “Starting from June to July, our goal is to host around 1000 tourists this year. Can you meet this challenge? Our guests aren't hikers or trekkers though; they are tourists with distinct needs. It was astonishing for that Ladakhi travel agent to learn that Veena World, only a few months old, aspired to cater to a thousand tourists. We emphasized that achieving this target was a significant challenge for us, given our status as a new travel company and Leh Ladakh being a recently introduced destination. Nevertheless, we assured them of our utmost efforts and expressed the importance of local partnerships. 

Despite the convenience of online bookings and the ability to manage everything from Mumbai, we emphasized our preference for a local partner. We believe in working together to make people happy and grow collectively. This sentiment resonated, and we sealed our new partnership at that moment. Upon our arrival in Mumbai, we launched the Leh Ladakh Women's Special, and within the first fifteen days, two hundred women booked their spots. The overwhelming response led us to organize another tour of the same capacity. Why should families be left behind when tourists, especially women, have overcome any apprehensions about visiting Leh Ladakh? The enthusiasm for Leh Ladakh grew, and in that inaugural year, we successfully guided fifteen hundred tourists to the region. Today, Veena World welcomes five thousand tourists to Leh Ladakh annually. Our partners from Leh have been with us since the beginning. The quartet of Wangchuck Shali, Rigzin Dolma, Gal Shali, and Dolkar—parents and their son and daughter—provided exceptional service since our first Women's Special tour comprising of two hundred women, setting the tone for our ongoing success. The collaboration flourished, with our Ladakhi partner's company, with ‘Explore Himalaya’ now becoming almost like Veena World's office in Leh Ladakh.

As the number of Indian tourists to Leh Ladakh surged, hoteliers invested in new infrastructure, only to face setbacks with the onset of the Covid pandemic. Despite these challenges, Veena World successfully navigated through the uncertainties, surpassing 5000 tourists to Ladakh annually. While Ladakh was slowly recovering, an airline that transported a substantial number of tourists to the region collapsed last year. Consequently, tourists were unable to visit Ladakh, and once again, the region found itself in distress. Ladakh is currently facing ongoing challenges. The uncertainty remains about the number of tourists who can visit this year, as the airlines have not yet secured the necessary Leh air slots. Despite this, we have stepped up with determination, utilizing available resources to continue bringing maximum number of tourists to Ladakh.

This year, let's collectively make Ladakh an integral part of our Travel Mission. With Ladakh now designated as a Union Territory, the region has undergone positive reforms. Improved infrastructure has eliminated previous road-related concerns. However, the ongoing struggle for Ladakh, heavily reliant on a brief tourism season, persists. The call to prioritize Ladakh in travel plans serves as a collective effort to support the local economy. 

It is crucial to acknowledge that travellers and tourists extend no favours to Ladakh but rather value the unique experiences, natural beauty, and memories exchanged for the money spent. While specific attractions are left unmentioned, the invitation to explore Ladakh concludes with an enthusiastic call to embrace the adventure. So, pack your bags, overcome any reservations, and heed the call of Ladakh, for it beckons with its unmatched allure. 


Veena World Travel Mission - 100 Countries

Let’s explore Our Incredible India and Wonderful Countries Around the World 

Everybody has their own way of enjoying things, right? Just like in families, where what's fun for one might be boring for another. Well, in travel, it's the same. We want to make everyone happy, and that's why we say, ‘Veena World for every family and everyone in the family’. Last Sunday, we talked about a big trip to 15 countries in 27 days and other multi-country combination tours. Now, let's talk Europe – the land of 50 countries. People are exploring Europe bit by bit like visiting the dream continent for even 8 to 10 times. We have got perfect tours for that. Newbie explorers in Europe usually start with Western Europe – 8 to 10 countries at once, soaking in the vibes. After that? It's like a choose-your-own-adventure. They might try more multi-country fun or take it slow, enjoying one country at a time. We have got options for both. Check out Veena World's many 'One Country at a Time' tours: Best of Switzerland, Best of Italy, Best of Austria, Best of Spain, Best of Greece, Best of Turkey. Visit our website, and you will love the travel magic we have for you. Now, the USA is huge. So no combining it up with other destinations. Rather, we have got separate trips for the East Coast and the West Coast. Pick your favourite, and we'll make it happen. Moreover, we have got amazing single-country tours worldwide: Best of Australia, Best of New Zealand, Best of Japan, and many more. Newly added to this list are Best of Oman, Best of Qatar, and Best of Saudi Arabia. Don't forget the classic favourite, Best of Dubai Abu Dhabi. So, what's the holdup? Let’s make those travel dreams real, one destination at a time. Come on, let’s hit the road together and eventually accomplish our travel mission!  


Northern Lights or Midnight Sun or Only Iceland Scandinavia

Last week, we had a tour going to Scandinavia to see the Northern Lights. It was like magic! On the first day, our guests saw the incredible Northern Lights, also known as the 'Aurora Borealis.' They were so happy and excited. Even last year, there was a Northern Lights tour in December, and even at that time, guests got to see this dance of light in the sky. Our tour managers, Rahul Desai and Mahendra Wadkar, who have done this trip before, say the Northern Lights are even brighter this year. If you want to know more, Neil Patil from Veena World wrote an article about the Northern Lights in 2024. Just scan the QR code here to read it. We have two great tours for seeing the Northern Lights. One is a 9-day trip to Scandinavia, and the other is a 14-day adventure in Iceland and Scandinavia. Hurry! There are only a few seats left for February. If not, you can book for March. Why is Scandinavia so special? Well, it's the perfect place to see the Northern Lights from November to April. And if you can't come in winter, no worries! In May and June, there's the Midnight Sun. The sun shines all the time, and it's amazing. People come from everywhere to see the sun at midnight. 

Veena World has a 16-day tour to see the Midnight Sun in Scandinavia. It's been popular for years, so book now before seats run out. There's also a 14-day tour of Iceland and Scandinavia with the Midnight Sun. But act fast – only two trips for each are available. Remember, the sooner you book, the better. Let us handle the details. Our tour managers and office team will take care of everything. Get ready for an adventure like no other! Come join us under the Northern Lights or the never-ending Midnight Sun – you get to choose! 


Photo Alert!  

As a tour manager, I have had lots of adventures, and I want to tell you about a funny moment during a stop at Zurich Lake. It was a nice morning, and we were all happy taking pictures. Suddenly, a cool motorbike appeared, something we don't see often in India. Families and teens in our group wanted photos with it. A friendly Swiss guy, probably the bike owner, agreed to let us take pictures. He handed a camera to a teen, and they started clicking. But soon, the Swiss guy had to leave, saying, "Excuse me! I need to go." When we checked the pictures, the teens got upset because the bike wasn't in any of them – it had already left! We found it funny, like a "photo accident." When it comes to amateur photography, goof-ups like these are common, even today. We love taking pictures wherever we go, don’t we? It's like a tradition to capture good memories. Now, a quick tip: When senior citizens are travelling, help them by putting the camera icon at the right top of their phone's first screen. It makes taking pictures easier. Another problem is losing phones and consequently all the pictures. Use neck straps or cross-body strings to keep your phone safe and your hands free. Lastly, don't get too busy with photos. Spend only 25% of your time taking pictures and the rest enjoying the place with all your senses. Make the most of your time and create lasting memories. So, take pictures, but also live in the moment. 

January 20, 2024

Author

Veena Patil
Veena Patil

‘Exchange a coin and you make no difference but exchange a thought and you can change the world.’ Hi! I’m Veena Patil... Fortunate enough to have answered my calling some 40+ years ago and content enough to be in this business of delivering happiness almost all my life. Tourism indeed moulds you into a minimalist... Memories are probably our only possession. And memories are all about sharing experiences, ideas and thoughts. Life is simple, but it becomes easy when we share. Places and people are two things that interest me the most. While places have taken care of themselves, here are my articles through which I can share some interesting stories I live and love on a daily basis with all you wonderful people out there. I hope you enjoy the journey... Let’s go, celebrate life!

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