Australians are excused for not having heard of Cox & Kings, the oldest travel company in the world.
Cox & Kings was established in 1758, making travel arrangements for 14 cavalry, 64 infantry and 17 militia regiments of the British Army by the end of the 18th century. (By comparison, the first excursion that Thomas Cook organised was in 1845.)
Cox & Kings was involved in travel arrangements for George Mallory's 1924 attempt to summit Mt Everest but only started its foray into Australia in March. Cox & Kings Australia now includes Tempo, Bentours, Small Group Journeys and ezeego1.
While it might be a new name here, it is part of the lexicon of travel in the UK, India and many other parts of the world.
"Anyone in India just knows Cox & Kings," says one of its experienced guides, Shailendra Singh, as we set off from Delhi to travel to the other points of the Golden Triangle, Agra and Jaipur.
He adds that in a recent survey in India of the most known brands, Cox & Kings came second to Coke.
Cox & Kings is primarily focused on small-group tour journeys to India, the Middle and Far East, Europe, Africa and Latin America.
Travellers generally stay in first-class four or five-star hotels, lodges and camps "or the best available". Journeys are accompanied by a tour manager as well as local guides.
While I travelled the Golden Triangle, Cox & Kings has many trips in other parts of India, and also takes trips on luxury trains - the new Maharajas' Express, the Palace on Wheels and The Golden Chariot, which has featured in these pages.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
>> Cox & Kings' Indian Experience tour of the Golden Triangle visits New Delhi, the Taj Mahal at Agra, the sandstone city of Fatehpur Sikri, and the ancient fort palace and pink city of Jaipur. Priced from $1532 per person, twin-share, the eight-day tour includes small-group sightseeing, quality air-conditioned vehicles, a tour escort, expert local guides, entrance fees and seven nights' accommodation. This is based on four and five-star accommodation. The tour has departures until April 23, 2011. The advertised price is valid for departure on September 25, 2010.
Cox & Kings organises high-quality, escorted small-group journeys to many of the world's interesting regions. Details: 1300 836 764, www.coxandkings.com.au, or email@example.com.
>> Travellers on Cox & Kings' many tours have the option to stay at Oberoi hotels. I stayed at the Oberoi New Delhi, Oberoi Rajvilas Jaipur and Oberoi Amarvilas Agra.
Delhi's is a well-positioned, extremely comfortable hotel, Amarvilas Agra has a view of the Taj Mahal from every room and wonderful gardens and food, and Rajvilas Jaipur is a simply remarkable hotel with beautiful gardens, room options and a complete sense of being welcomed.
Total approximate cost of a Cox & Kings trip, including six nights' accommodation at the Oberoi hotels in the cities mentioned (two nights in each city), sightseeing with local guide and private transport, transfers and entrance fees, would be about $4100 per person based on twin-share in high season, and about $3700 per person, twin-share, based on low season. These prices exclude any domestic flights.
See www.oberoihotels.com and book through the Cox & Kings details above.
>> AirAsia has 148 flights a week from Kuala Lumpur to India. It flies to New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Tiruchirappalli, Kolkata, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram in India. The low-cost carrier flies regularly each day from Perth to Kuala Lumpur and offers premium flat-bed seats in addition to economy seating. See www.airasia.com.>> The best time to visit this part of India is from October to March.