More praise for Monty

Dheeraj Bhatt in India

We are thrilled that Intrepid’s Dheeraj ‘Monty’ Bhatt is once again a finalist in the prestigious Wanderlust World Guide Awards.

To be recognised as one of the best in his business amongst such a talented team of guides is an achievement in itself, but to receive such high praise several times during his 8 years with Intrepid is testament to Monty’s dedication and passion for adventure travel.

Since the Wanderlust World Guide Awards commenced in 2004, this is the seventh year that Intrepid group leaders have either won or been shortlisted for the accolade of world’s best tour guide.

Monty follows in the footsteps of Bruno Dawsan, Intrepid’s guide in Sri Lanka who received gold in the 2011 awards and bronze in 2010. Hossam ‘Sam’ Moussa won silver in 2013, Tejendra Singh took the bronze award in 2009 and Esam Abd El Salam from Egypt won the gold award in 2008.

In a record year, over 2000 travellers have nominated hundreds of guides for this year’s Wanderlust World Guide Awards. Monty’s supporters praised him by saying “the world needs more people like this.” “This was a trip of a lifetime and it would not have been without having a great leader.”

One person who travelled with Monty said: “Monty treated us like a personal guest in his country and even invited us to his apartment in Jaipur for dinner. He also took us to his Mother’s house in Bundi and she and his Aunt cooked us a wonderful dinner.”

Monty was born in a village in Rajasthan, grew up in Bundi and began leading tours in rural Rajasthan at the age of 16. While studying tourism management he began working as a leader of English and French tour groups in North India. In 2007 he joined Intrepid and now leads over 18 different trips across India and Nepal.

“Dheeraj has been a consistent performer from the start. He is well versed with all regions of India and his openness and passion to new projects and challenge makes him a unique tour leader”, says Ravindra Singh Shekhawat, Operations Manager India.

“He is a real people person and is willing to walk that extra mile on the service delivery. Dheeraj understands the value of customer service. Every new season he makes sure that he is better than the last one and have seen him constantly trying to read through history and harness his skills further. His understanding of cultures outside of his country, besides more than 101 sub cultures in India, is commendable.”

Wanderlust is calling for people who have travelled with Monty to tell them why he deserves to be named the world’s best tour guide, so please show your support by voting online at worldguideawards.co.uk or sending an email to topguide@wanderlust.co.uk (with Dheeraj ‘Monty’ Bhatt in the subject line) before 22 May, 2014.

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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4 comments

My husband Ben and I booked a last minute trip with Intrepid in Nov 2011 to India for no other reason than we had 5 weeks of holidays on our hands and didn’t fancy travelling to the cold northern hemisphere (since we live in sunny Sydney!).

We met Monty and 4 other travellers on a hot and muggy evening, a week before Christmas of 2011 in New Delhi. We were feeling a bit nauseaus from all the dust and fumes wandering by ourselves around the hotel before meeting the Intrepid group.

Monty bounced into the room, firm but warm and kindly in his demeanour. I was a bit worried his English was too fluent (is he really local, and Indian?!) to show us authentic India.

He set out firm rules which turned out to be a god send for the rest of the trip, be on-time! Day after day, Monty became more and more like a friend and caring companion. He must have done these trips many times before leading us, yet his enthusiasm for the history and people were genuine and totally infectious.

Half way through our trip, Monty kept teasing my partner of 4 years and I why we have not yet married. The usual litany of excuses…we’re buzy, we’re busy, we have too many family and friend all over the world to organise a wedding. One evening, as we eagerly stuffed our greedy faces with more chappati (Monty’s favourite….man can he inhale those!), Monty said to Ben and I he could organise our wedding in India for us. We thought he was drunk on chappati…laughed and changed topics.

Come breakfast, Monty again brough up the subject of our wedding. What? Is it possible the man is thinking straight and offering to do this thing? We discussed it with each other, and then with our other tour mates (we became like family by then…Janna my clever San Fran sis, Kim my wild and true companion, loving Cathy and Courtney, how are you?!!!) and decided let’s do it!

We expected a small, casual affair…after all, we’ve given Monty a grand total of 3 days and a very super modest budget.

And then it began….

The night before our wedding, Monty booked us onto a boat to dine on Jag Mandir Island in Udaipur….I had visions of Arabian Nights that evening. We were drunk and merrily walking back to our hotel…barefoot across a palace…with guards and their guns at the huge palace gates. What an incredible evening…I was content for that to be the height of our wedding celebrations.

Then we landed in Puskar. I asked Monty what I should do or prepare for our wedding the next day. He said airily, just relax and have a good night’s rest!

In the morning, three smiling Indian women in their colourful saris collected me from the hotel. One spoke halting English, the other two did a lot of nodding and gesturing. I took it to mean oh my god, this woman will need so much grooming!!!

They whisked me in a hired car to one of the women’s salon. Washed, waxed, painted, dressed and fussed over me from top to bottom for 6 hours. When they were satisfied (I was feeling a bit dazed by that point and wondering if this is not an elaborate Bollywood comedy), they thrusted a mirror in my hand. I could hardly recognise myself…my Chinese face no longer pale, gone were my travel trekkies. I looked like an Indian bride…nose ring and all!!

They whisked me into a car….and dropped me home to the hotel where I met Ben, my husband to be…so princely and handsome in his sherwani. We were then on a bus…and a while later separated. Monty appeared with Ben who came riding on white horse to greet me!

Amazingly, a hundred or so Indian villagers appeared at the wedding feast. Live music, ceremonies, flowers, laugher, home cooked amazing vegetarian food abound. A funny Hindi priest performed the sacred ceremony for us. What an evening what a night. We even appeared on a local TV station the next week.

The best part of it all, Monty and our new friends from the tour gifted us a night at an amazing hotel that night. Monty had arranged for the entire room to be filled with fresh flowers….

Too much to say, too many things we are so so so grateful for. Mostly for being the best tour guide in the world, EVER.

We took our kids back to India in 2012 to meet Monty and visit india for 2 weeks. Unforgettable, priceless, magical.

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU MONTY.
Much love,
Georgi, Ben, Shane & Jacqueline (Sydney, Australia)

Hi Georgi,
Thanks so much for your wonderful story about your very special experiences in India and the big part that Monty played in making it such a memorable trip. I think you’ve had most of our Intrepid team in tears of joy, because it’s stories like these that really touch the hearts of travellers (and romantics!).

We have passed your comment on to the Wanderlust World Guide Awards and hope you’ve had a chance to contact them directly, either online or via email. Also you should know that in an interview recently Monty was asked what was his most memorable moment on a trip and he when two people got married – now we know the other side to that story :-)

Thanks again for sharing your inspiring personal story.
Happy adventures,
Sue, Intrepid Express Editor.

I tried to submit a comment on Wonderlust but needed to be e member. Maybe you can pass this along that I went on a tour of India with Monty in October 2013 and hew as the best. He even invited us to his home and cooked a lovely tea and provided drinks. He was even going to pay for a taxi for me. he bought a adaptor for my video camera so I could charge it and he booked a trip from Calcutta to Madras for me. I went on the Northern India trip and then flew to Madras for the Southern India trip. The only thing that could of been improved which was more of Intrepid’s fault than Monty’s was that I should of been told about excess luggage as on International flights I have 30 kilograms limit but domestic trips only 10 kilograms and I had to pay many dollars in excess luggage

Hi Peter,
Thanks for your great comments about Monty. It’s certainly his desire to go beyond the ordinary for his travellers that makes him such a great group leader. We have passed your feedback on to Wanderlust, but you can also submit your testimonial by sending an email to topguide@wanderlust.co.uk (with Dheeraj ‘Monty’ Bhatt in the subject line) if you wish.

Thanks too for your feedback about luggage limits on domestic flights and that’s something we’ll look at including in our trips notes.

Best wishes,
Sue, Intrepid Express Editor.

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