September 10, 2016

What to do in India?

Yes, that was my reaction when I first knew that I would be travelling to India for a friend's wedding.

Never in my life I thought I would be travelling to India LOL coz well, all the stories that we hear and the slumps...but I decided that since we're going to India for the wedding, might as well explore one of the seven wonders of the world and travel a bit no matter what people say about the country.

And so off we went to India. Well, were were among one of the few Chinese in the plane but it's okay. Skin colour don't matter. We first flew to New Delhi. Indira Gandhi's airport was voted one of the best airports in the world for 2 consecutive years so my first impression was, 'WOW!'. The airport was not bad. Huge and great facilities. So yeah first impression was good hehe

But our ride to our hotel almost killed us LOL. I tell you, the Indians can really drive so recklessly there. So much noise pollution as well because they kept honning each other and they just do not follow rules and traffic light. 5 days in India and we're thankful we did not get into any accidents.

So, we stayed at Hotel City Star, Pahar Ganj in New Delhi.
It's near the railway station and around 30 minutes from airport.
The hotel is highly recommended. The street has many hotels but we're lucky we chose this hotel. From the outside, it looks lousy, but when you enter, it's really beautiful and classy. The bed was big and comfy.

The best part was the restaurant at the rooftop. We arrived quite late at the hotel and there's really no nightlife in India and everything seems closed. Luckily the restaurant was opened 24/7 and although we were the only customers at midnight, they served us well and cooked very delicious food. 

I miss their butter masala chicken with chapati. Their curry has big chunks of meat and we had a hearty meal that night. First meal in India made us happy.

A word of caution: Try drinking only mineral water. So far, we only drank mineral water throughout the journey and everything was fine. We didn't touch any drinking water, no boiling water from tap, etc

The next morning, we had to wake up at 4.30am because our train to Agra to see Taj Mahal leaves at 5.30am. Hotel City Star kindly provided room service breakfast in bed at 4.30am to fill our stomach before we leave.

I booked a one day tour to Taj Mahal via Samar Tours. PIC Ajay was very helpful and very fast in replying emails. I booked everything in Malaysia and when we reached, everything was settled for us. The driver was waiting at our hotel at 5am sharp to bring us to the railway station and the tickets were all pre bought.

This train station is huge! You can see people walking on the railway line to go to the other side haha
And you'll be surprised by the amount of people sleeping there. I was unsure whether they are homeless or they were on transit.

We sat in an air conditioned train which was comfortable.
Something like KTM. 

They first served us morning tea with biscuit and then served us breakfast in just a 3 hour train ride! Not bad, huh?
Food wasn't very appetizing, but oh well.

We finally reached Agra railway station where our guide picked us up.
We then stopped at the gate of Taj Mahal but since no other transport could drive in, we took something like a tuk-tuk to go in.

Me in the tuk-tuk.

Reached the main gate of Taj Mahal.

Even the main gate looks grand.
We were early so there were not many people. Good for photo opportunities.

The majestic and beautiful Taj Mahal <3
It is made of entirely marble and the intricate work and design story you will hear from the tour guide is just out of this world. Since it's pure marble, it was built white, it's still white and will always be white haha

This is the story of Taj Mahal:

It was in the year 1628 that Shah Jahan became the Emperor and married Arjumand Banu. He bestowed her with the title of Mumtaz Mahal, meaning the "Jewel of the Palace". Though Shah Jahan had other wives also, but, Mumtaz Mahal was his favorite and accompanied him everywhere, even on military campaigns. In the year 1631, when Mumtaz Mahal was giving birth to their 14th child, she died due to some complications. While Mumtaz was on her deathbed, Shah Jahan promised her that he would never remarry and will build the richest mausoleum over her grave.

It is said that Shah Jahan was so heartbroken after her death that he ordered the court into mourning for two years. Sometime after her death, Shah Jahan undertook the task of erecting the world's most beautiful monument in the memory of his beloved. It took 22 years and the labor of 22,000 workers to construct the monument. When Shah Jahan died in 1666, his body was placed in a tomb next to the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. This magnificent monument came to be known as "Taj Mahal" and now counts amongst the Seven Wonders of the World.

It really looked beautiful on the outside but unfortunately, in the inside you could just see 2 tombs in it and the intricate marble designs and that's about it. There's really nothing much in it. I mean I didn't know what to expect inside as well but the whole tour inside literally just took a few minutes LOL

We spent more time taking pictures outside.

No shoes allowed. You'll need shoe covers.

The marble designs.

So let me tell you my experience in Taj Mahal. Overall, I thought it was a bit overrated haha. Which 7 wonders of the world is not, right? =p I mean, yes architecturally it was really beautiful and the amount of effort put to build it was impressive. But, yes, that's about it. It's just a very beautiful building. Period. haha

You ought to be very careful with the Vendors there. They will harrass you and run after you to sell their stuffs so be quick to walk and take care of your belongings. And while touring inside Taj Mahal, you must be aware NOT to be conned by photographer. You see, we were told that a photographer wanted to join us to take some nice pictures and if we are not happy with the quality of pictures turned out later, we are not obliged to buy it. So we agreed and consented him to take pictures of us. But after taking tons of pictures of us, he decided to force it on us to buy a whopping 90 pictures, plus album, CD etc. We were clearly not interested. No doubt, the pictures were really beautiful and it's the only memorabilia from Taj Mahal because after all people go to Taj Mahal to take pictures of Taj Mahal (duh!) haha But we were not happy with the forcing.

Howsoever, we bargained our way to reduce the amount of pictures to be printed because we didn't want all. End results, we had some beautiful pictures which we were happy about. But do be very careful of this and remember, if you want the pictures, bargain with him first before committing to buying.

From there onwards, we were very cautious when dealing with vendors. People there are so poor that they will do anything for money. Everything is about money and tipping. Tipping is another thing we were wary about. Too little and we get scolded, too much and we think they don't deserve it.  >.<

Anyways moving on, after Taj Mahal, we had some nice lunch in a restaurant.

I really love India's masala chicken with their 'roti' which can be chapati, tosai, paratha etc
I could eat that all day haha The blend of spice is really appetizing and their breads are so soft and fluffy. Their prices are super reasonable as well.

Their dessert which is really unique. Some leaves and rock sugar to be eaten together for nice breath and good digestion it seems.

We also stopped by at a temple on our way back and again we were very tired about their money mindedness. It angers me that a holy temple has people inside that's just trying to earn the visitors' money which made it not sacred anymore  >.<

Be prepared to bring a lot of small change in India for all these tipping. You're actually forced to tip them so you have no choice -.-

Overall, our trip to Agra was very eye opening. We experienced so much; from the train ride, to experiencing a majestic place but filled with Vendors trying to make their ends meet, the people there, slumps along the way, seeing people bathe naked just on the roadside, and soo much more!

Gosh, when we arrived at our hotel, we were dead tired.
We could only just walk along the streets of our hotel to buy McD as dinner haha

Chicken Maharaja Mac.

Sorry, cannot beat our Big Mac here. And their chilli sauce is spicy sour which does not blend with our taste and any additional chilli sauce packet you want, you have to buy -.-

The next day, we wanted to explore Delhi, so we took a tuk-tuk to Chandni Chowk which is a shopping street hub.

Again, almost died in a tuk-tuk. At the rate, I think dying of heart attack seeing how they drive is faster than dying in an accident. Okay, touch wood haha

It was still early so we just walked around and saw some slump areas.
The people there were really poor. I am surprised by the amount of slumps I see in New Delhi because it's the capital of India. Chennai is much better than Delhi in my opinion.

There were a lot of street vendors there so it's really a good shopping area. I even bought my saree in one of the shops and it seems the beadwork in New Delhi is better than in Chennai.

Thereafter, that evening, we flew to Chennai. I expected Chennai to be worst than New Delhi but no, Chennai was better, and the Indians from Malaysia can speak the Tamil in Chennai so it's so much better to communicate with the locals there especially if you have Malaysian Indian friends with you.

Also, please be mindful of the taxis you're using. You can use this app called Fast Track which is something like Uber but tell them you only want to use Meter. Otherwise, they will cutthroat you.

We stayed in Taz Kamar Inn, Rangan Street, T Nagar.
It's a very comfortable hotel with the nicest hotel staff. The doorman was the first person ever to reject our tip whilst others out there were asking us for more.

We even got upgraded to the Presidential Suite and the location was perfect. Down the street is the famous T Nagar street shops where it's a shopping haven.

Only thing was I think it's new so most cab drivers do not know the hotel name and it's quite hard for us to show directions because we were the tourists. And their breakfast serving was poor. The restaurant though had good food just like Hotel City Star so we need not go far to get our food fix.

And so we shopped in T Nagar street and..

Got my henna done. It's soo cheap with full intricate design somemore!

You must bargain hard lah for anything you wana buy there lol. Not much modern stuffs, so I just bought a punjabi suit and 2 dresses.

We then ate at Thalappakatti, which is famous for its Briyani.
You can choose among the varietals in the menu and the food was good! The crab rassam soup was yummy too and we loved the Black Pepper Chicken with mutton briyani haha

Got Indian-ed for the wedding reception.

This whole set of Punjabi suit only costed RM60. Soo worth it haha

Look at the food! Soo unique right??
They served us I think more than 20 types of dishes in one banana leaf LOL
This is the typical food for weddings in India it seems.

Next day woke up at 5am to tie my saree and ready for my friend's wedding. It's so early due to some auspicious timing.

It was another experience witnessing weddings in India.
This was a really eye opening vacation. And I don't even wake up at 4am or 5am for work! But I did that in India LOL

We had Thali for lunch.

It's a dish with many side dishes- that's the only way I can put it haha

But yummy though. I can really fit into Indian's food. I love them all!

So, did I get diarrhea?
Well, not in India but one day after I came back and for the entire week, my stomach was not feeling too well. Some joked that I couldn't adjust back to Malaysian food after experiencing India's food haha. So I am not really sure whether it's the food in India or maybe I ate something bad in Malaysia so I can't say for sure.

But what I can say is that I really enjoyed experiencing the many things in India. It was truly memorable and something money can't buy. But I was really glad to be back home after a week because I don't think I can live there for more than a week haha. To be back to silent roads where people don't abuse their hons, good driving and cleaner environment made me happy I was born in Malaysia ^_^

That being said, I think everyone should at least experience going to India once and see how people live there and you will learn to never complain about your situation no matter how bad it is.

Thank you India for giving me a lifetime experience.

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