IN MAY 2005, ABOUT THE TIME I WAS RECOVERING FROM MY FIRST TRIP TO INDIA, THE SUBCONTINENTAL NEWSPAPER THE DECCAN HERALD RAN A STORY BEMOANING THE POOR TREATMENT OF INDIAN TOURISTS IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY. Written by Ashis Dutta, the article claimed that middle class Indian tourists were often discriminated against when they tried to take a holiday in India. Dutta also suggested a solution to the problem for Indians looking for a little respect -- go to Kuala Lumpur for your next holiday.
Dutta wrote: "It is a cruel twist of destiny. While the global history places India as a front-runner in the fight against apartheid, its people face racial discrimination in their own land, by their own ilk.
"Such prejudice against Indian tourists is prevalent mostly in destinations with considerable western visitors. But thankfully, not in all such destinations. From a survey feedback, incidents of Indian tourists being slighted at hotels, restaurants and by the tour-operators, is found mostly at the tourist hot-spots in Kerala and Goa. And as if by contagion, Gokarna in the Karnataka coast, south of Goa, has also caught up in the game.
"'There are several cabins on the beach there in Gokarna,' said Anju a software engineer from Bangalore. 'When enquired, we were being told that none was available. It was in the low season. Several of those were empty and we would pay their charges. But they want to rent out only to the whites.' Anju was bitter, 'It sucks.'
Various theories have been offered for the mistreatment of Indian tourists in India. One is that since foreign tourists usually tip more generously, tourism industry workers don't want to waste their time with Indians. Another theory is that Indian tourists are more demanding on staff, treating them as extensions of their domestic servents. Furthermore, young Indians travelling in groups are prone to get drunk and become nuisance. This hardly ever happens with the westerners, as one commentator observed.
Nonetheless, discrimination sucks, and if you are Indian and you want to get some real respect on your next holiday, you ought to consider a trip to Kuala Lumpur.
If you are an Indian tourist, Kuala Lumpur will love you. You won't get declined service in a restaurant or turned away from a hotel. Why is that? Why are Indian tourists so beloved abroad, even though they may be reviled at home?
The answer is simple -- Indian tourists are free spending, they are adventurous, and there are a lot of them. As the Indian economy continues to expand, there are going to be a lot more Indian citizens clogging the airports of the world. Smita Tripathi wrote: "Remember the stereotype Japanese tourists of the 1980s? They had cameras slung over their shoulders -- Canons and Nikons, naturally -- and they clutched guidebooks like they had discovered a new religion tucked between pages on La Tour Eiffel or the Arc de Triomphe. Oh, and they also had wads of cheaply bought tourist dollars.
"The world has changed beyond recognition in the last decade. The Japanese economic miracle has turned sour and as travellers the Japanese have been replaced by other races -- Eastern Europeans coming in hordes from the former Soviet Bloc countries, getting their first taste of western Europe and the United States.
"There's even the Chinese leaving their fast-growth workers paradise for a quick glimpse of how foreigners live.
"Are middle-class Indians about to take their place at the back of this queue? Suddenly, Indians are getting itchy feet and looking across the kala pani to foreign shores.
"And most countries (except for the UK and USA which are afraid of illegal immigration and also terrorist attacks) are going all out to attract the Indian tourist. Yes, the global Indian has finally arrived and the fact that 20 or so countries have set up tourist promotion boards in India, is proof of that.
Countries as far apart as Seychelles, Malaysia, Spain, Hong Kong, New Zealand etc are competing with each other for the Indian tourist's time and, more importantly, money."
But why are countries going all out to attract Indians? "They spend money," says Edward Chew, spokesperson of the Singapore Tourism Board. Last year, Indians were the highest spending travelling community in Singapore with an average daily spend of S$200-300.
Says Bhupesh Kumar, marketing manager, Tourism Malaysia, "Most Indians prefer to stay in 4 star and 5 star accommodation. This is of course good for the Malaysian economy."
Last year (2005) it was reported that one of India's top travel agencies -- Minar Travels (India) Pvt Ltd -- was trying to wrap up a "Visit Malaysia" package.
Managing director HS Duggal said his company, which expanded into the outbound market last year, has placed Malaysia high on its "to do" list.
"Malaysia offers a steady tourism market, with its world class facilities. Indian tourists will like what they see here and I am confident that Malaysia can be a top tourism destination for India," he said in an interview during his recent trip here to attend the PATA Conference, as reported by Best of Langkawi.Com.
Duggal said Minar Travels was currently working on specific tour packages for the Malaysian market. These include seven to 10-day packages involving also Singapore, with seven nights spent in Malaysia.
"The plan is to despatch Indian tourists to Kuala Lumpur, Genting Highlands, Penang and Langkawi. Language is not a problem for Indians here, as English is widely spoken. Besides, Indian food is also easily available here," he added.
While in Kuala Lumpur, Duggal consulted fellow Indian citizen Pardeep Batra, who is operating a chain of Spice Garden restaurants specialising in North and South Indian cuisine in Genting Highlands, Bukit Bintang, Bangsar and Subang Jaya, resulting in a unique link-up between Minar Travels and Spice Garden.
"We are working on a tailor-made package, in which Indian tourists will have their lunch and dinner at the Spice Garden chain. I tasted the food and it was just great," said Duggal.
If you are Indian and not on a package tour where everything has already been decided, then this page is for you. I want to suggest some of the places you can go, meals you can eat, and products you can buy while you are in Kuala Lumpur. The interesting thing for Indian tourists is that already 10 per cent of the KL population is Indian. They have developed a flourishing infrastructure in the city, and there are at least two or three Little India's which you should definitely take in on your visit.
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FOR A MORE DETAILED ACCOUNT OF THE INDIAN DINING POSSIBILITIES IN KUALA LUMPUR, CLICK HERE. There are Indian eateries scattered across Kuala Lumpur, but here we are concentrating on the Indian restaurants in Little India. And the selection is:
Karuna's Vegetarian Restaurant: Grand Paradise Hotel, 62, Jalan Masjid India, Brickfields. Phone: 03/2273 0100.
Opened in 2003. According to the promotional material sent out at the time of opening: "Karuna's Vegetarian Restaurant specializing in authentic vegetarian cuisine, Karuna's have captivated the industry with its simple yet appealing concept in providing reasonably priced quality cuisine, impeccable service coupled with its attractive authentic decorations. Our chefs are trained to offer an irresistible array of vegetarian cuisine ranging from Chinese, Indian, Malay, Western and even Thai. At Karuna's the menus comprise anything from Chiken Rice (sic) to Varuval, Pizza, Spaghetti and to the best mouthwatering vegetarian Satay.
"At present, Karuna's outlet is at Grand Paradise Hotel KL Sentral, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur."
Vidya Curry House: Brickfields.
This place serves any number of authentic Indian dishes including chicken, mutton, vegetable and fish biryanis. You can also dine on chicken 65, chilly chicken, black pepper chicken, black pepper fish, cauliflower Manchurian, deep-fried chicken and fish, squid masala, prawn and egg sambal, omelette, fish head curry, chicken curry and mutton curry, and so on, and on.
Lunch and dinners range from about RM4.50 to RM8 per person.
A GALLERY YOU COULD CHECK OUT IN LITTLE INDIA: Wei-ling Gallery, No. 8 Jalan Scott, Brickfields, K.L. Phone: 03/2274 2368.
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THERE ARE PLENTY OF GOOD DEALS FOR INDIANS TO GET TO KUALA LUMPUR. Here is a selection of them:
+ + + Sri Lankan Airlines: Tourism Malaysia has tied-up with SriLankan Airlines to offer a three-night four-days package to Kuala Lumpur for only Rs 18,000.
+ + + Smita Tripathi writes: "Every Indian travel agent and tour operator offer packages of all sizes and shapes to these Malaysian tourist hotspots. Looking for something different? Try Sarawak.
"Sarawak, the largest state of Malaysia, is located on the north-western shore of the island of Borneo. There are daily direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching, the capital of Sarawak. Air Asia tickets are priced dirt cheap at between 70 ringets to 75 ringets (approximately between Rs 910 and Rs 975). A Delhi-Kuala Lumpur-Delhi airfare is between Rs 17,000 and Rs 25,000."
+ + + Malaysia My Second Home: You have probably heard about the Malaysia-My Second Home campaign, which has been extensively advertised in India. This is aimed at affluent Indians who want to stay in Malaysia for a long, long time -- like years and years if necessary. Under the program, Indians will be allowed to stay in Malaysia initially for a period of five years on a "social visit" pass. Of course, the person wanting a second home has to deposit 150,000 RM (approximatley Rs 1.95 lakh) with a Malaysian financial institution along with a monthly income certificate.
+ + + Retire in Penang: If you dream of retiring on the beautiful island of Penang, go to this website. The website poses these rhetorical (and not so rhetorical) questions: "Do you always dream of staying in a tropical island where it is warm and sunny year round ?
"How about a place where there are no earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes, volcanoes or tornadoes?
"Can I afford to stay in a tropical island for only £350/€500 per person per month?
!No TAX on the income brought into this island - Is this true?
Is the place peaceful (where I can call it my retirement home, second home or holiday home)?
Long term visa available?
For the answers to all these enticing questions and more, go click on the said website already!
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