Had stuck until last minute to boarding ticket issuance had encountered technical problem. Quite disappointing as we were there early so that we could shop a bit at duty free. E-tickets were re-issued, some runnings and thank goodness, resolved last minute that had us run through security and immigration. Whew…… Didn’t manage to send off even a prepared mail, let alone our wish to buy a syochu for our friend in Delhi whom we’ll be staying with !
Our plane is flying over the air space of China, over Shashi, another 5.11 hours to go. In flight meal was really delicious. True Indian curries – veggies and chicken, not that I’ve tried so far exciting thinking about the authentic Indian curries that we’ll be having for the next 7 days. Around 1510, Indian time, sandwich, fruit and dessert were served, no other choice but all tasted good. Finger food offered is peanuts only. Upon arrival, our friend will be meeting us and we’ll be off to dinner together. I haven’t seen him since we went fishing some years ago…… waa…… time flies. The boys were in primary schools then but are now in high school already.
Interesting to have a Mr CA (= cabin attendant) asking for a Vicks drop. He must have seen my toiletries bag in my trips there. I suppose his colleague has very bad sore throat as he offered soon thereafter.
Our tour began from 1000, got back around 1700. Visited monuments around Delhi as recommended by most travel tips – Qutub Mina, Paraná Qila, Presidential place, Connaught Place, Red Fort, …….
Thank goodness I had a hat and shawl and plenty of wet tissues with me, beside alcohol based hand gel, as a bird dropping fell on me as it flew by when we were visiting Qutub Minar ! Certainly important to keep it handy when visiting India or travelling. I also find having toilet papers in hand bag very handy especially when public WC is used more.
I liked the colour of brick stone that is used on most monuments. Such natural building colour that won’t fade over the years.
Driving is a big challenge for non-local, quite unpredictable driving from others and high technique needed as drivers needed to slot in through any little available space to move ahead. Road signs are not conveniently available to navigate a non-local driver too. Almost none obeys road rules even if there is one.
We tried curries, all very, very delicious and not spicy – biryani, butter chicken, masala, naan, chapati, roti, tosai, veggie curry, tandoori chicken, dal. Aah….. Surprise, we were not bored with curries as we thought we would even at the end of our trips.
We said goodbye to our friend and set off to Jaipur from 0600 hour, in an Innova van. Mr Sujay, was our driver, a small gentleman. We met our guide near Jaipur palace, outside of main city. Taken to a lunch place after we left the Amber Fort and palace. We took elephant ride up, INR900 a ride of 2 persons. Nice history of the maharajas and the garden with carpet design in the midst of lake, which was originally intended for the planting of saffron. Yet, weather in Jaipur is too warm for the cultivation of saffron, hence they change it to a garden.
Jantar Mantar, an astrological site and also on UNESCO list. Brought back my little knowledge about galaxy. Very interesting. There is a gigantic time counter, accuracy to 2 seconds. It also has cosmic sets to calculate position of earth against zodiac stars, which is still usable today. Very interesting to see the instrument that points to Northern Star (even for all other main named stars), how time is indicated on the stone parabola with measure curved on it, how sun’s position is indicated by 2 back-to-back at same angle to earth’s tilting to indicate sun’s on position of north or south hemisphere, zodiac stars’ positions – magnificent, indeed. Certainly brought me back to my school days. All these contributing to zodiac stars’ fortune telling. As we realise later, entrance fee (INR300 pp) to this World Heritage Site also includes entrance to other sites as well that are around Jantar Mantar – Amber Fort Palace, Hawa Mahal (= Palace of Winds). Hawa Mahal was built so that maharanis (queens) could enjoy parade from the maced windows. City Palace entrance costs INR300 per person.
Headed towards Agra. We’ll stopped by Fatehpur Sikri (City of Victory). It was built as an appreciation for a Muslim holy man. Maharaja went to seek his intercession prayers for a son, and was granted one through his Hindi wife. Yet he abandoned this palace due to water problem.
Had nice Indian lunch – cash only, before we continued on to Agra, about an hour’s drive. Our cash was running out because of the unexpected cash expense. Exchanged for more INR at hotel ITC Mughal, rate was not bad ….. whew ….. meals are highly priced here compared to Sheraton, Jaipur for some reason.
There are unexpectedly lots public spitting, lots of garbage, mini discharging (in Jaipur, roads towards Agra) along our driving paths, to my surprise. Most English colonies have adopted good hygiene and newer disposal system but not here, it seems. I wonder if the ancient inhabitants did not burn their garbage, for instance. Burning garbage is the earliest method to disposal clean up. Even today, large scale garbage burning system is still a popular method. Throwing into rivers does not look like a nice option.
Lots of tipping and entrance fees – lots of cash used, even toilets in restaurants at times. I had toilet papers prepared in my hand bags. Change needs to be reconfirmed on the spot. Teenage seller can be ill-manner, murmuring foul word when you truly did not buy ! Probably they need new lessons about marketing and manners when visitors are not buying. Certainly put me off from considering at all !
One thing we realized about private Indian tour guides are here they are unhappy when you are not buying from these vendors……. Cheap though, what’s the point of buying when it is only to be discarded !
We’ll be off to see Taj Mahal, then back to hotel for brunch and rest before heading to Delhi Airport and off to Kathumandu, our last stop.
Certainly a beautiful architecture coloured with precious stones ! Koran phrases inscribed with black marble. Sun rose at 0640 hour today. We arrived at 0745, entrance costed INR750 per person, with a bottled water and shoe cover provided. Lots of monkeys as we chose to walk, 500m to the entrance. Camel ride is available from 0800 and above I imagine as we saw them on our way out but not earlier. Thanks goodness we weren’t ‘forced’ unto one as we were when visiting Fatehpur Sikri – tutu costed INR200 per ride up and down. Not fare issued here but the way it was shoved unto visitors without being asked ! The ride up was about 10 minutes there on tutu.
Too bad the Maharani Mumtaz – 3rd queen, with 14 children, though 8 died later, didn’t get to see her own mausoleum.
Our onward flight to Kathmandu was smooth. We arrived at Delhi airport around 1510ish hour. Check in for Jet Airways was smoother than anticipated as well. Bags with 1L bottles of water totalled 29.3kg. Whew….. Our allowance totalled 40kg, normal e-ticket. It can be difficult to find shops and buy at the right timing. Hence, we thought it’ll be easier to bring along, if possible than spending time searching for it.
Immigration and security check was smooth though the seemingly strict check cast some doubt still. Men and women are queued separately. There is body-check. We went to D- lounge in area-A. There are several available in designated areas, good service indeed. 9W 0264 was full as we could see. Definitely advisable to book early. Tiger beer was given out, to our raised eye brows ! Hmm ….. I suppose because it probably is the safest drink for passengers. A group of Chinese travellers and a few Europeans on this flight. The Indians and monks are not sitting on their designated seats, seemingly because they could not read ? (Proven half correct as we learnt later that Indian languages have different numeric figures also)
We are seated next to an Indian lady. Her movement is almost like a cartoon, am tempted to show her to open a yogurt pack when she was struggling to open it. She managed with a fork.
The sunrise time was actually around 0540 hour….. Thanks goodness we were half awoke already. Himalayan mountain range was magnificent in pink colour. Surely the sun rise behind range on the right side of our room-101. she was moving by the seconds. We’ll get another try tomorrow morning again. Surely recommended to stay at least 2 days here. Lovely hotel, friendly staff, who waited for us despite of being informed of our late hour arrival (we arrived 0030). Good driving by a young gentleman and a friend, I imagine. Our guide will be Mr Aman.
Breakfast was good, tried buffalo sausage for the first time. Had eggs. Pancake was good. Had a choice of instant coffee or tea. Yet, it was a bit upsetting as a few of China Chinese tourists were shouting at each other at seeing the beautiful scenery, even though we were close to each other. Voices were vibrating through the valley !
We’ll be aiming for hill top this morning for sun rise, then back for breakfast. It’s about 5km away, as we are told. .
Hmm….. Mr Aman was late. Our call was connected on the 2nd time but it was late already. By the time we reached the hill top, it was a few minutes passed sun rise. Hopefully, some shots from our room’s the morning before would turn out great. It appears that the definition of sun rose here differs from ours- do minus 30 minutes from sun rose printed on newspaper/hotel notice. Ours was noted as 0632 but the sun was already up above the Himalayan range ! The magnificent orange will begin from 0530ish, as I would define sun rise hour. .
The scene at Boudhanath Stupa is interesting. There is a legend to its building at around 500AD as history would trace back.
Lunch was great and interesting tries – we tried veggie munchurian, a kind of veggies deep fried ball in veggie sauce. Simple but goes very well with long grain rice. We also tried Nepal Thuli set, but not as well adapted to it. We had refrained from raw veggies, fruits, yogurts, cheeses for instance so as not to trigger unadapted stomach. We ended up good, without any need for medication.
The last site – Pashupatinath – was a funeral and cremation place. Apparently the sacred river is dirty because all things that are brought/used for the funeral ceremony must be thrown into the sacred river as with the ashes of the dead. The dead is fed with rice grain and sent off with tikka powder as final beautification, given drink from sacred river and covered in yellow cloth. Packs of natural oil are placed on logs of wood, unclothed and burnt just as is, in the belief human enters the world naked and thus, will return naked. Similar to what Job noted in the book of Job in the Bible ! The river is cleansed once a year by the head of towns, armies, police and locals.
late Feb-March 2013