Date: 7-11 December 2010
There are sooo many things to share on my first trip to India. So here goes:
Day 1: Landed in New Delhi at 7.30 PM local time.
Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi
Upon arrival, I was impressed with the modern airport, constructed in conjunction with the 2010 Commenwealth Games. The temperature outside was cool, 22 deg C but... the air was smoggy. So no deep breaths for me... Then, literally, I couldn't breath at all once I experienced the car ride, Indian style! It was a scene from a car chase in a Bollywood movie, without an actual car chase! The hotel driver was driving as if the car was a motorbike! In the traffic jam, he squeezed between the smallest of space, triumphly without a scratch. The 3-lane road became 4-laned. Most cars removed their side mirrors intentionally, or may in some cases be removed for them by other vehicles. So how do they drive safely without side mirrors you would ask... well, they honked aaallll the time and gave highlights at night to inform others on their presence... a creative way to replace the use of side mirrors... creative indeed...
You are very much welcomed to honk and flash!
A human traffic light!
Lodging: Delhi City Center Hotel
Room condition OK with a flat screen TV. Toilet is a bit dirty but tolerable.
Day 2: Off to Agra for the Monument of Love, Taj Mahal!
Me in Taj Mahal!!!!
6 hours ride from New Delhi to Agra for a distance of about 300km... the traffic jam was the cause of this long journey. However, it was worth it, for the sight of the Taj Mahal - one of the seven wonders of the world - was superb! A building that old can still maintain its white marble colour confirms the quality of the material. My friends and I were so busy taking pictures that the guide was a bit pissed since no one was listening to his story on the history of Taj Mahal.
Lodging: Goverdhan Hotel
1 hour ride from Agra. A homey motel with very friendly staff. We ate vegetarian for dinner in the garden while the owner of the motel sang songs especially for us. Some of my travel mates suspected that he was drunk... but I'd pitty him if he wasn't because he was trying very hard to entertain us. Cleanliness - acceptable!
Day 3: Fatihpur Sikri - a UNESCO World Heritage Center
The main gate
Fatihpur Sikri was a royal city built by the Mughal Emperor Akhbar during the 14th century. The buildings were built using red sandstone and the architecture was amazing, a blend of Hindu and Islamic elements. This place reminded me of Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Again, the guide (a different one) was annoyed that we were delaying the tour with excessive picture taking.
Tour Guide: For the sake of lord, pleaseeee hurry up!
Julie Zac: Sorryyy...
Tour Guide: No, no, don't say sorry. In our culture, guests are like gods.
Me monolog: He scolded gods??
There is a ritual here where they pay respect to a Sufi saint and make a wish at his tomb. Not an Islamic practice - may be influenced by local tradition.
Although the tourist sites were amazing, we were warned on the pick-pockets, beggers, and street salesmen overcrowding the streets. There were many poor and homeless people trying to make ends meet and they will aim for tourists, who in their perceptions means cash!
Before another 6 hours ride back to Delhi, we stopped for lunch at Ganpati Resort. Eating naan and other indian food under a canopy in a garden was so delightful... We can't experience this in the steaming hot weather in Malaysia, no, no! But I have to admit, my taste bud is already used to Malaysian Indian delicacies, altered Malaysian style... so I much prefer our curries and dals.
Lodging: Sita Hotel
A very old hotel with quite a few cleanliness issues. The towels, bed sheets, and pillow cases were no longer white in colour. We requested the staff to change these items and at 1 point, my father actually mopped the floor himself. Julie Zac was utterly depressed once she entered the room. However, I am not planning to b*tch about this hotel because the staff was very humble and tried hard to accomodate our requests.
Day 4: New Delhi Historical Sites
Bangles for sale!
The historical mosque
Our first visit of the day is Jama Masjid Delhi, built by Shah Jahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal, and is the largest and best-known mosque in India. There were many merchants selling all kinds of things in front of the mosque. The open air praying area was so vast, and there were quite a few bird droppings. People always remind to control what you say especially in holly places, but silly me, blurted out what ever comes to my mind.
Do not look if you are eating!!
Me: How do they pray with these bird droppings all over the place? Why is nobody washing the floor?
A few minutes later, a bird decided to teach me a lesson and pooed right on top of my head!! Splat!! As the Malays would say, "Jaga mulut" - Take care of your mouth. Gross-ness aside, we had to leave quickly before the many Muslims men arrive for the Friday prayers.
Red Fort - Dad & Bal
Close by is The Red Fort, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, also built by Shah Jahan and served as the capital of the Mughals until 1857. Here, we only took photos from the outside.
Next stop, Lotus Temple, Bahai House of Worship. A place where they introduce a new religion or spiritual idea... I think...
The Qutub Mina and ruins
An incomplete twin of Qutub Mina
Julie Zac and the Moghul Mosque
Last but most impressive of the day is Qutub Minar, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the world's tallest brick minaret with a height of 72.5 meters and is the highest tower in India. It is surrounded by several other ancient and medieval structures and ruins, collectively known as Qutub complex. This was the place I enjoyed the most!
Gate of India
At night, we visited the India Gate and went shopping for saris and punjabi suits.
We are in Sari Haven!
Lodging: Pearl Hotel
A few blocks away from Sita Hotel, modern and new so no hygiene issues. However, they have managment problems, promising us many things and not fulfilling most of it. Poor service as compared to the old Sita Hotel. You gain some, you loose some!
Day 5: Shopping Until Take-Off!
Free and easy on our last day in India so we decided to go shopping! I am not so interested with Levis and Adidas, and is so itching to search for Hard Rock Cafe New Delhi. So me, Hasben, and Shamin left the rest of the group for our HR adventure. We took the Metro - it's not as easy as it sounds. There were soooo many people and majority were men... pushing and shoving to get into the Metro.
We traveled from Rajiv Chowk to Malviyar Nagar
In the Metro, we met with Khabir Khan, who offered me his sit. We chatted with him and he told us the way to DLF Mall, where Hard Rock is located. We had no idea how far the mall is from the Metro station so we decided to walk. Big mistake! There were a few points where there were no proper pavements to walk on, just piles of rubbish! It was quite gross but it made me realized, that is how the poor people here survive every single day. So I didn't complain and kept on walking. After shopping at HR, we got back to the station by Tuk-Tuki... one-way adventure is enough for me!
The view from my morning walk in South Delhi
At Palika Bazar, before returning to the hotel:
Me to Shamen: If we had no money, what do you think we will do? I'd probably dance around and generous people will throw coins at me.
Unknown man with a cotton bud on his forehead: Hello, want me to clean your ears?
Me: It's OK, no thank you. Shukria!
Ear Cleaner: It's very good!
At 4pm, we were off to the airport. My Malaysia, here I come!!