Despite having widely different expectations at the start of their honeymoon planning process, Matias and Taryn Camilleri De Marco never imagined they would enjoy their chosen destination as much as they did. As the newlyweds explain, they travelled with open minds, and absorbed every sight, sound and dish that incredible India, had to offer.
The couple met in 2008 through a mutual friend, and after dating for 11 years, they said their ‘I do’s at the Metropolitan Cathedral of St Paul in Mdina on 21st September 2019, followed by a stunning, day-long reception at Matias’s family home in Wardija.
Planning the trip
With the flurry of wedding preparations in the months and weeks before their big day, the couple agreed to reserve honeymoon planning for a quieter time, with the aim of travelling the following January. “Matias and I love to travel and explore the history, architecture, culture and especially the food any place has to offer,” says Taryn. “Due to our work commitments and our dogs, Penny and Roscoe, Matias and I never had the luxury to travel for long periods of time, so our honeymoon was the perfect excuse!”
Taryn explains that while her husband Matias was keen to explore Africa or South America, she had her heart set on south east Asia. “We always joked that we were going on separate honeymoons,” she quips. “After lots of research, we finally agreed on India, followed by a week-long stay at the one-of-a-kind Iniala resort in Thailand – which was a perfect place to cool down after three adventurous weeks in India.”
Taryn admits that, due to their widely different expectations, they only started making reservations for their honeymoon one month before their departure. “It was only thanks to the invaluable help of our good friend, Joanna Briffa, who has organised incredible trips across India for many years, that we managed to settle on our destinations within two weeks. She helped us put together the perfect itinerary, guided us to the best hotels and made sure we had Raghu, our fantastic guide and a driver wherever necessary.”
Due to the challenges for both Taryn and Matias to organise and free up a whole month off work for their honeymoon, the couple was adamant to make the most of their trip, with their dates set for 2nd to 27th January 2020. “We really wanted to go on a life-changing holiday where we could learn about new cultures, explore, and meet new people. India is a sub-continent comparable in size to Europe, so we decided to focus on the north (Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan) and spent a couple of days in Mumbai.”
And a life-changing holiday it truly was. Taryn describes the country as “chaotic, beautiful, spiritual, unique, overwhelming and fantastic”. Due to the sheer enormity of the country, they prioritised what they wanted to experience and planned the holiday around their expectations.
“India must be looked at as an experience not a destination,” says Taryn. “You will meet people who love it or hate it, depending on what they experienced on their journey there. Matias and I travelled there with open minds, and our main priorities were to feel safe while travelling, relax in nice hotels and make the most of the adventure we were going to embark on.”
Their incredible journey
Upon arriving in India, the newlyweds started off their adventure in the Capital of India – New Delhi. “Here, we spent two days making our way around on a tuk-tuk, taking in the millions of faces, scents, sounds and the beauty of the monuments, temples and mosques, that have witnessed the rise and fall of long-gone empires. New Delhi gives a good introduction of what made India the country it is today!” Taryn explains.
“We moved on to Agra, as a trip to India would not be complete without visiting one of the World Wonders – the Taj Mahal. We found ourselves overwhelmed with emotion, gazing at the white façade that shimmers in the sunlight and that boasts flawless symmetry! It was hard to leave.”
Following their short stay in Agra, the couple made their way to the ‘Land of the Kings’ – Rajasthan. “Rajasthan, in Northwest India is by far the most vibrant and colourful state in India, offering diverse scenery ranging from lush forest safaris, to the golden sand dunes of the Thar Desert. We started off with a two-day safari in Ranthambore in search of rare Bengal tigers. During the last hour of our safari, we were lucky to see ‘Fateh’, the oldest tiger that lives in the Ranthambore National Park.”
After that captivating experience, Matias and Taryn spent the following two weeks exploring the most famous Rajasthani cities that distinguish themselves by colour. They visited Jaipur, known as the Pink City; Udaipur, known as the White City or as some call it, ‘Venice of the East’; the Blue City of Jodphur and ending their Rajasthan adventure in the Jaisalmer Thar Desert – known as the Golden City.
“Rajasthan is an unparalleled destination, rich in culture, heritage and history, making it the perfect introduction to a trip to India. Rajasthan’s royalty and history can be best experienced through its historic elegant palaces, forts, stunning havelis and sacred temples,” she explains. Besides the many stunning sites, Taryn adds that Rajasthan is also famous for its warm and luxurious hospitality and is home to some of the world’s top hotels.
In fact, the couple had the opportunity to stay at one of the most romantic hotels around the globe – The Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur. This majestic palace, built in 1743 by Maharana Jagat Singh, floats in the middle of Lake Pichola. “The experience was breath-taking and the service we received was flawless! In general, the standard of hospitality we experienced across our trip was beyond exceptional.”
Another highlight for the couple was the Galta Ji Hindu Temple, located just outside Jaipur. Here, they spent an afternoon interacting with hundreds of mischievous monkeys who only obey their keeper, the world famous ‘Monkey Man’. “Matias and I love animals, so it was a great experience for us!” says Taryn.
Taryn and Matias moved on to Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, for a couple of days. Mumbai is India’s captivating and ambitious city of dreams. It is also India’s financial district, home to Bollywood, Asia’s largest slums and a population of 24 million people. “While exploring the heart of the city, you can witness some of the grandest colonial architecture, built under British rule, discover India’s fashion epicentre and feed off the energy this city radiates at any time of the day,” says Taryn.
While in Mumbai, the newlyweds indulged in a stay at the heritage Taj Mahal Palace hotel, based right opposite the Gateway of India, in the Colaba region. “Back in 2008, this hotel was one of the main sites targeted during the Mumbai terror attacks,” she explains.
Adding to India’s charm and distinctive offering is its food, and Taryn has a hard time singling out specific gastronomic highlights from their trip – with too many to choose from. “Rajasthani food is unique, colourful, spicy and rich, just like its culture. It is common to find Hindus who will avoid eating meat to avoid hurting other forms of life. Matias and I really loved this outlook and opted to eat a lot of vegetarian dishes over the holiday. We were particularly impressed with the creative ways in which vegetables are cooked across India.”
Mumbai, on the other hand, lived up to its fame as a cosmopolitan city, “packed with trendy cafés, restaurants and buzzing street food stalls with a wide variety to tickle anyone’s taste buds. Matias and I love seafood and we must have had the best crab we ever tasted, and even got to try the Bombay fish at Mumbai’s famous seafood restaurant, Trishna,” she recalls. “One thing that we do miss, is starting and ending our day with a comforting, authentic cup of Chai Tea!”
Having planned their honeymoon in record time, Taryn says they were surprised that everything went according to plan – thankfully, they never fell ill, and the weather was also very much on their side. “We were lucky that the COVID-19 pandemic had just started in Asia when we were at the end of our honeymoon. People kept stopping us at the airport to ask why we were wearing masks,” she says.
Meanwhile, Taryn and Matias are already planning to revisit the country that left such a profound impression on them once travel resumes, and they hope they’ll be able to experience the country again fully, absorbing its many places of interest. “This trip by far exceeded our expectations,” she says, “and we’ve already started planning another trip there, but this time, we can’t wait to see what the south of India has to offer.”