Editor’s Picks: Best of TravelDine’s Hotel, Travel, and Aviation 2021

How do you write on travel and hotels in a world under lockdown? And how does writing change when the it finally opens, but to a whole new reality? My picks of the best articles that trendspotted, helped me travel digitally, told me things about India that I did not know, and entertained me.

How do you write on hotels and travel in a world shut down by a pandemic? Both are experiential in their very nature, both require you to be on the ground, understanding the cities, destinations, hotels you are recommending and writing about. Moreover, you NEED those hotels, cities, and destinations to be open, to be buzzing with travellers, to be introducing new things, launching new suites and, maybe, sparkling new experiences.

Earlier last year, amid closed borders and cancelled flights, travel came to a virtual standstill, with the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation declaring 100% of global destinations had implemented travel restrictions at the peak of the pandemic.

Travel, largely, remained a fantasy.

So, we travelled vicariously. We read about destinations we have been to, and the ones we want to go to. We explored hotels through words, images, and videos. And we dreamt. If you have read American writer, filmmaker, philosopher, teacher, and political activist Susan Sontag, you would not forget what she said about her travel plans: “I haven’t been everywhere, but it is on my list.”

We collected lists, stories, and narratives of destinations we dream about, ones we want to explore, or new ones we discovered just by reading.  

By end-2021, boom, unexpectedly, travel opened and how! Across the world, and in India, people drove, took a flight, and sometimes a train to destinations within their geographical location. GPS became our best friend.

Traveldine, over the last year, put out a scintillating line-up of travel and hotel stories. Here are my favourites.

Writing that took me to that magical place

Japan: Journeys of joy

Japan

All those Kurosawa’s films, Murakami’s books, Yohji Yamamoto’s minimal fashion aesthetics, the stories about geishas and not to mention, cherry blossoms, ensure that Japan has a top recall in our minds. If slow travel is your thing, Japan is your destination and this intense article by Priya Pathiyan, Traveldine’s head of hotel, travel, and aviation. on the country explored every aspect – from food (especially food!), tea ceremonies, to Kyoto and its geishas.

The Traveldine Book of Extraordinary Journeys: Slow travelling the world on 4 most luxurious train journeys

Train journey

This one’s here because I enjoyed writing it. Belmond’s Andean mountains to South Africa’s Blue Train, it packs in the decadence of a luxury train, the dining, and the stunning destinations. Vicarious travel at the best. 

A ‘dweep’ dive into Lakshadweep

Lakshadweep

Cool ocean fringed airports, endangered sea turtles, uninhabited islands, and sea as green as it can get – what’s not to love about the destination and this article by Priya. 

Conservation tourism: Lessons from Phillip Island’s penguin protectors

Phillip island

Phillip Island is a conservation icon and the Little Penguins, an endangered species, are the stars of the show here. The article dwells on how conservation can save our wild terrains, that are under threat. 

Writing that helped me explore beyond the obvious

The tipping point: How to ace the gratuities game

Tipping point

To tip or not to tip? Priya writes a fun guide to the tipping game and the stereotypes about Indians being bad tippers

When words can give you wings to explore the world

Words

Another gem, is this exploration of words from different cultures, and languages, which all define the laidback, relaxed, susegad experience. My favourite, Find time for a ‘fika’. Find out what it means right here. 

Northeast India: Redefining cool, one experience at a time

Sushmita writes about the fashion, food, travel, and other such lovely aspects of why the northeast should be on your radar.

Writing that allowed me to trendspot

Trendspotting: Container hotels

Container hotels

Cargo container hotels are the future and India has one of its own – the Tree of Life, Agra, which opened in January 2022. But we wrote about it last year. Yes, that is how on-trend we are.

Are caravans the new way to discover India’s great outdoors?

Caravan travel

We told you caravan travel was niche, and Indians were increasingly discovering it. Madhya Pradesh Tourism is even hiring out luxury vans for those who want to explore its backyards.

Green fuels: Not just a flight of fancy

Green fuels

The writing is on the wall. In the next few years, more and more airlines will switch over to sustainable aviation fuels. We told you everything you wanted to know about it here. 

Are robots and AI the future of the hospitality industry?

Robots

Ready to be welcome to the hotel by a robot? To be served by one? Read all about robots in this all-comprehensive article. 

Writing that helped me (re)discover India 

At Traveldine, we chose to celebrate India’s 75 years by exploring its vast heritage, its untold stories, and the narratives that make India what it is. Among those, the ones that stood out for me, among some others.

India@75: How the lost city of Muziris in Kerala found itself

Muziris

This article by Priya brought back memories of my cruise down the Periyar — calm, tranquil, snaking through some of the oldest sites in India, a port city that was once at the centre of international trade. The article had it all: rain-swept Malabar coast (you haven’t experienced the enchantment of Indian monsoons till you have seen how rain swoops down on the lush coastline), the sprawling Paliam Kovilakam home, so quintessentially Kerala, the pepper houses and the churches and the synagogues — a true depiction of the beauty of India’s syncretic culture and its dominance in the world economy that attracted so many cultures to us. 

Girls, uninterrupted: An epic drive down India’s beautiful Konkan Coast

Girl uninterrupted

Two sassy girls, one fancy car, and loads of adventure. The writing was as interesting as the journey.

India@75: The stones of Golconda still speak

Golconda

Once, the Golconda mines yielded the snazziest diamonds, among them, the famous Koh-i-Noor, which is part of the royal crown of England. The many jewels that have achieved iconic status came to the world from Golconda. Today, the mines are in ruin, but their stories live on, so does the Golconda fort and the town that are alive with the mystique of the mines. Priya deep dives into the mystique and glamour of the Golconda diamonds, the mine and the town that defined cool in the Victorian era. 

India@75: Mallakhamb — a fascinating tale of athleticism and tradition

Mallakhamb

Culture, food, art, experiences – what would travel be without these experiences? Countries leverage their culture to create experiences that help travellers connect to their past and their living heritage. India’s rich culture yields so many experiences in every region, every state, every district, that you don’t know where to start. Here’s one article by Sushmita Srivastav that offered a peek into one of the most fascinating ancient sports which combines dexterity with athleticism, with a spot of culture. Did you know that Mallakhamb is the fastest growing traditional sport in the world? Find out more.

The legacy lives on: Air India comes back to the Tata fold

Air india

Ajay Awatney traces the heritage of one of India’s most-loved brands, and one of my favourites, in this article right after the national carrier came back to the Tata fold, from where it had begun its journey. For me, that photograph of JRD Tata with the crew of Air India will always remain the most memorable. 

The Future of Travel: Greening your 2021 vacations

Green destinations

Northeast India: Redefining cool, one experience at a time

Northeast 1

Sushmita writes on why northeast should be on our radar: fashion, food, culture, and beauty unmatched. The region’s cutting edge fashion, westernised culture, surprising cuisines, the overall vibe, and the coolest experiences is attracting world attention.

Hotels that define luxury

India saw a host of uber-luxury openings, and the Traveldiners ensured you got the first glimpse. From…

First look at the Six Senses Fort Barwara in Rajasthan

Six senses

The hotel famously shot to national fame when it hosted the Katrina Kaif–Vicky Kaushal wedding. But you read about it here first.

To…

Raffles

India’s first Raffles deserves pride of place on this list. It redefines luxury, as India has seen it yet.

Get ready to space out in style!

Six senses 1

They are yet to open, but this article had me dreaming. Many are readying for business in Low Earth Orbit, and we brought you a glimpse.

Eco resorts

I do not know if I will ever make it to space, but I did bookmark this excellent collation by Priya on hotels with low footprints that allow you to slow travel. Just my kind of thing.

Style meets substance

We are perhaps the only publication that believes carrying the right wardrobe is essential for a great journey.

Want to take off in style? Here’s our guide to creating the perfect airport looks

Style

Everything, just about everything you want to know about airport looks, and more! Now, dress like a celebrity using this guide by Sushmita Srivastav.

Videos

Watch a volcano erupt in Iceland in real-time

Lava

Fancy cooking sausages and toasting hot dog buns close to the lava? This is the video for you!

India’s most expensive Airbnb

Airbnb

Check in to the royal life

The video is worth checking out for the decadence of life in Jaipur’s City Palace and the royal suite, which is up for rent.

On a winter trip to Auli

Auli

Embrace snow and serenity on a road trip to Auli

It makes me want to get to Auli as soon as possible. For now, I have bookmarked the article as my guide for the next winter trip I must take.