One of the benefits of being a blogger is that you often get invited on pretty amazing trips or to review incredible places at no expense. Over the last year I've often had to take a step back and be like "woah, is this actually a job?!" With the conclusion that yes, yes it is or at least it can be. So when I found out that my 22nd birthday was going to be the final day of our tour I thought I'd fit in a little review of a luxury hotel. Sneaky. Thankfully, ITC Maruya in Delhi were super keen to host me for the day and part of the night before our flight. I think (the other) Emma that I was travelling with, was probably more excited than I was at the prospect of a day being pampered like Indian royalty.
The morning of my 22nd I woke up on an overnight train. I looked at my phone to check the time, it was 5am and for a split second I'd actually forgotten it was my birthday until a text from my parents and grandparents flashed up. I looked around at my surroundings and actually laughed at the complete contrast to my birthday the year beforehand (admittedly I actually almost cried and then decided to be positive about the situation.) Last year I spent the day with all my family, boyfriend and best friends, we brunched at Granger + Co, I went to the zoo and was taken out for dinner by my boyfriend and had the perfect party the next day. This year, I was waking up alone, to the tunes of Indian men snoring, whizzing through the Indian countryside as the sun rose over the horizon. It was at that point I came to the awful realisation I really, really needed a wee... Now usually this wouldn't be a particularly daunting prospect but this was an Indian squat toilet on a train we're talking about. And so that is how my birthday morning started, holding my breath trying to balance for long enough to go to the toilet. I knew I shouldn't have drunk all that pineapple juice the night before. It's certainly a birthday morning I won't be forgetting.
Thankfully, things were only looking up. As soon as we pulled into New Delhi station we were greeted by a lovely man called Prakash, he quite literally came to greet us on the train and before we could so much as lift our, by this stage, HUGE, backpacks, they had already been whisked away from under our noses by two porters. Once off the train we said goodbye to our group, grinning like we'd just won the lottery and sped off with Prakash to our waiting Mercedes. Ahhh... much better. It was the first time I've truly appreciated how quiet a car engine can be, it's dulcet tones were soothing to my ears after the 3 weeks of engines that sounded like they were about to die mid tuk tuk ride. We were silently driven to our day of luxury, however nothing could have quite prepared us for the welcome we were about to receive.
Now I know Asian hospitality is always incredibly welcoming, if not slightly over the top but I genuinely feel like I know what it's like to be the queen after arriving at the ITC Maruya hotel. Clearly being a blogger and it also being your birthday is a sure way to be treated like royalty. We were greeted by a welcome committee of around 10 people, bouquets of flowers and silk sashes. There was even a huge flat screen TV in the lobby saying "Happy Birthday Ms Emma!" We were quickly shown up to our gorgeous suite where a birthday cake, amongst other goodies, were waiting for us. But most importantly it was finally time for a shower, I cannot tell you how good that shower felt. And yes before you ask you can indeed see an EDIBLE chocolate frame with our EDIBLE faces printed on sugar paper...
Now we were clean and dressed up for the first time in 3 weeks it was time to eat breakfast. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, I adore it. And a buffet breakfast is even better, the restaurant was on the top floor with a spectacular view. We got busy helping ourselves to quite literally everything on offer. First mistake of the day, we had no idea how much food was coming for us. After breakfast it was time for a bit of relaxation by the pool, the first time we'd actually been able to properly sunbathe. All other attempts had been quickly finished due to how uncomfortable it was to be stared at. But not here, it's a 5* hotel so it's pretty common for sunbathers to be around the pool. Before long however, it was time to eat again. This meal I was incredibly excited for, although we really were not that hungry given the amount of food we managed to stuff ourselves with at breakfast.
We were to eat lunch at the Bukhara restaurant which is within the hotel but is a destination in it's own right. My dad ate here when he was in Delhi on business about 20 years ago, when he found out I would be eating here he was not only incredibly jealous but also gave me a list of things I had to try. You can read my recommendation post for the Bukhara here, but my god, was the food good. We were presented with quite literally everything on the menu, having eaten vegetarian for the 3 weeks prior it was actually quite overwhelming to be presented with as much meat as we were but we did our best to eat as much as we could so we didn't seem rude. I was then presented with the most insanely impressive cake, shaped like a naan and it actually looked like a naan bread too. Cake number 2 of the day. It was crazy the contrast we'd seen in the day, having walked past many beggars on the train platform to being presented with such lavish trappings of luxury a mere few hours later. Someone commented on an instagram photo of mine whilst I was staying at the hotel, asking if I felt guilty enjoying luxuries in a country where people starve to death, I first of all thought well that's kinda like asking if you feel guilty about buying yourself some lunch when someone else can't afford their weekly shop but it did make me think. Sadly, that's the way the world works, some people have a lot, some have enough and some have not nearly enough to survive. I don't feel guilty accepting luxuries, especially if they're part of my job but I do feel a greater sense of responsibility to use the knowledge I have of inequality, along with my audience (yes, that's you) to try and find a way to make a positive impact on even just one person's livelihood that is not as fortunate as you or I. If I could have invited every person I saw on the street in for lunch, I would have but sadly it's not that simple or easy.
Okay, back to my BIRTHDAY!
After lunch my personal butler, sorry did I mention I had a PERSONAL BUTLER (?!?!) took us back up to our room and then proceeded to try and feed me cake, like a Tudor king lying on a chaise longue I was quite literally hand fed cake. I have to say I actually didn't really know what to do with myself, I almost felt like sending my mum a text saying "er why don't I get this kinda service at home?" (Sarcasm, in case you are one of those unfortunate people who are incapable of cottoning on to that kinda humour.) Our personal butler was called Pallavi and she was very sweet and great at her job but I feel like a butler is definitely something I could not get used to, although it was quite fun for a day.
After lunch it was to the spa to be scrubbed, pampered and massaged until we could be pampered no more. For the first time in 3 weeks I actually felt clean and it felt damn good. Post spa there were more flowers and gifts before it was time to get ready for dinner.
More food... God help us. I half wish someone had lent me their stomach for the day so I could manage to eat at least half of what we were presented with. Dinner was pretty amazing, we were treated to a taster menu at their Tian Asian Studio, which is basically like one of those restaurants in London with all the crazy ingredients and you just think "ew that sounds disgusting" but it actually ends up being delicious. 8 courses of deliciousness later and I can't say I was feeling particularly well... We were actually a bit delirious from food consumption upon finishing. I wish I hadn't have had so much food throughout the day so I could have enjoyed each meal a bit more. The food really was incredible. And then if we thought we'd escaped the food yet ANOTHER birthday cake was presented, which I actually told them to share out with the rest of the restaurant because I thought I was about to explode.
Before we knew it and at long last it was time for a little lie down, we only had an hour for napping however as at 1.30am it was time to head to the airport and back to London! I actually can't explain quite how happy I was to be home, I loved the travels we'd been on but they really did make me appreciate what I have here.
Oh and did I mention, I really, truly with all my heart can say - I LOVE MY JOB.
A massive thank you ITC Maruya for hosting us and making my birthday truly unforgettable! I've never felt quite so indulged or spoilt, I really did feel like a birthday princess or actually, just like a real life princess.
I hope you've enjoyed journeying through India with me this past week or so. I cannot recommend a visit enough. Join a group, go solo or just grab a friend and take them hostage for a few weeks to accompany you - just GO!