The last time I was in India, I only went to Delhi. I enjoyed it, as I was there for a Global Voices Online Summit. This time, I was there as a full blown tourist!
1. Travel Buddy
You may have heard of my travel buddy, Miss Nonnie King! Hehe. Last time I travelled with Nonnie was to Bangkok and Phnom Penh. ❤ I have to say, she’s a great travel buddy!
My travel style is as follows: I love to relax, not stress, do whatever, free and easy when I travel. I also love to shop, but I don’t necessarily buy a lot of stuff. I love to eat, do random stuff, make friends (but not too many), discover hidden treasures and walk a lot. I don’t really party like an animal, but I can! I am pretty indulgent and love to pamper myself in both cheap and expensive spas. I think I am pretty easy to travel with. Nonnie’s exactly the same! (Without food restrictions!) Hahahaha. But it’s all good cause, I can taste forbidden things through her! (Is that weird?)
2. Indian airports are really awesome: Indira Gandhi International Airport
When I was here previously, the airport was not this nice. Now, it’s pretty amazing! I love that they provided charging kiosks where u can just charge your mobile phones and laptops. They have shower facilities, massage facilities, free wifi, and the toilets are clean and dry! Security is a bit tight but then again it’s for our own safety so that’s ok.
I love also that for departures, they had these AWESOME CHAIRS!!!!
These awesome lie down chairs face the runway so u see airplanes taking off and it’s soooooo awesome!
2. Arrived in Delhi: Checked into Hotel Sunrise, Karol Bagh
Karol Bagh is where I stayed last time I was in India. It’s a very interesting neighbourhood.
When we arrived in Karol Bagh, I was a bit taken aback when I saw that the area has been sealed off by the Delhi Police and instantly thought, have I lead us into danger by choosing to stay here???? Our taxi driver, cranky cause late at night, was even angry at us cause our hotel was pretty hard to find. Ain’t gonna lie, Karol Bagh looked super ghetto, seemed like the bad part of town, and the fact that it was sealed didn’t exactly help. Honestly I was half expecting to get robbed and was secretly memorising the roads in case of the need to escape! LOL.
Of course Karol Bagh, is actually super lovely. It’s just very local with verrrrrryyyyyy few tourists so it’s not exactly modern per se. However, it’s a fairly safe neighbourhood for two lady tourists to walk about in, and there’s a bustling market there where you can shop to your heart’s content.
We checked in to our lovely hotel, got to our room. It’s clean and comfortable. We both plopped into bed so can get some rest for our train ride the next day. I changed my timezones before snoozing off to bed. And konon I want to be nice to Nonnie, I set the alarm on my laptop.
Next day, woke up to the alarm and as usual showered (cold water cause dunno how to switch on the heater!!!!!), got dressed, woke Nonnie up and put on makeup. As we were leaving, Nonnie inda sengaja checked her watch and in an exasperated tone, yelled, “MAURINA IT’S 2.30AM!!!!!!!”
“Huh, in Brunei?” *bangang*
“NO IN INDIA!!!!!!!!”
Rupanya I forgot to change the time zone on my laptop. Hahahahahaha. Erk!!!!
After staring at each other, we went right back into bed, me feeling like the stupidest person on earth. LOL
Here is our hotel during daylight hours:
2. New Delhi Railway Station (NDLS)
Next day, we went to the train station, en route to Agra. The NDLS is the main railway station in Delhi and one of the busiest.
Honestly it is not as modern as I pictured it to be.
When we were there, I figured we looked pretty lost and thanks to our inability to blend in, we stuck out like a sore thumb. A man, claiming that he works there, came up to us and wanted to help us with our ticket. It was 5am, and our brains were not working properly. Long story short, we were told that we need a boarding pass to get on the trains and followed the man to what was presumably “International Tourist Bureau” where we were told we can only get the passes printed in Connaught Place, 5-10 mins away from there. We gingerly followed his instructions and paid 300 Rupees for a taxi ride.
In Connaught Place, at a “Ticketing Bureau” or something, we were told that the passes can’t be printed cause we’re too late! He offered a car, which can get us to Agra at the price of US$200! Outraged, we said no thanks and left.
Back at NDLS, now awake, after the boarding pass incident, we saw that our train was still there. We thought: Who’s gonna check if we have a boarding pass anyway? Why don’t we just go on the train? Lets memajal!!!
We got into the gate (which was super full), and as we got in the platform, and walked super fast towards our cart. Suddenly the train started to move. ITS LEAVING!!!!!! We both rannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn and hopped on to our cart. There was even a few men cheering us on at the entrance to the cart and helping us up! LOL.
Inside, we settled down on our assigned seats and prepared what to say to the conductor once he passes and demands to see our ticket. The following were seriously considered:
- Pretend to faint
- Say we don’t speak English
- Say “hilang” while eksen2 finding in pocket
- Panic and jump off train
And guess what?! When the conductor came, showed our tickets and he only said “Thank u Madam!” No boarding pass bullshit needed meaning we were SCAMMED 300 Rupees!!!!!!!
Boleh senyum sudahhhh!
BTW I love this train. We were served Breakfast Tea and Hot Breakfast after that. Also given complimentary bottle of water. Very very convenient for Agra!
3. Agra Cantt
As we were leaving the train, I spoke to a newly married couple sitting next to us if they’re going to Agra Fort first, or Taj Mahal first, cause Nonnie and I haven’t made up my mind. The said Agra Fort and offered to share a taxi. We agreed of course but when we were in the taxi, when we wanted to pay them, they refused.
Awwww! Nice people are for sure, everywhere!
Here is what the Agra Cantt Train Station looks like from outside. It’s not much but very crowded!
The taxi stand is right outside and u can rent a car for 800 Rupees (for 8 hours). The driver will wait for u and will give u travel tips hehe.
4. Agra Fort
Anyway, tip from our taxi driver, buy both Agra Fort and Taj Mahal tickets here and get 50 Rupees discount!
Agra Fort has interesting architecture:
But what I really love about Agra Fort is that, so many animals are living there!
Until dog also people don’t want to layan:
When we were in the Agra Fort, there was also a man version of Snow White. He has skin as white as snow, hair and black as ebony, lips red like roses. And animals love him!!!
Hehehe he’s cute.
5. Taj Mahal
The line coming into the Taj Mahal is super long. The lines reminded me of the cows in the Temple Grandin movie hehe. Really felt like cattle being lead to slaughter!
But if you are a woman, you go in a separate, shorter line. However, if you are a foreign woman, then you go in using the shortest line. Which is pretty awesome. 🙂
I really miss that bit about India. They really know how to respect and treat women. We get preferential treatment everywhere and people are less inclined to bother us, just cause we’re women. And in a city where “busy” has a whole new meaning, that is a big thing to be left alone, minding your own business. I find India super modernised that way. In many other places that cries out that they’re modern and civilised, our gender is a reason to abuse and mistreat.
See for example Taj Mahal! It’s built by a man, in memory of the woman in his life who died giving birth. He loved her so much that it inspired such beauty:
Dear Taj Mahal, I’m back!
Here’s the view of something you don’t really see often, behind the Taj Mahal:
And the amazing view of Metah Bagh, river behind the Taj Mahal:
No shoes allowed in the Taj Mahal. So always bring a plastic bag to put your shoes in, if you don’t want to leave them outside.
Many people I spoke to about my visit, including Nonnie, did not know that Taj Mahal is actually a mausoleum, not a palace. Hehe. Yes it is, here the body of Shah Jahan’s wife lay to rest.
Anyway, here is something interesting: when we were in Taj Mahal, in the same afternoon, apparently so was Tom Cruise:
Yes I screamed in frustration too!
6. Radisson Agra
As we’re delusional and think we are rich, we had lunch at Radisson Agra. It’s very very very nice. 🙂
After lunch, we sat and chit chatted and decided to go to the spa. Unfortunately, the spa at Radisson was only available for in-house guests, but the beautiful lady behind the front desk suggested that we go to another hotel: Jaypee Palace Hotel.
7. Jaypee Palace Hotel & Convention Centre
We thought Jaypee was another hotel, similar to Radisson. NO ITS NOT. It’ more of an Empire!
Check out what it says on its website:
The regal Jaypee Palace Hotel and Convention Centre, a glorious structural blend of red sandstone and marble, is spread over an unbounded 25 acres of elegantly landscaped luxuriant greenery. Sprinkled with enormous water bodies and endless walkways, this magical creation impeccably blends Mughal and contemporary architecture with modern amenities.
Super fancy!!!! Was half afraid that I won’t be able to afford the massage ahahahha.
Turns out it was priced ok. Kind of like having a massage in Thann Sanctuary (which admittedly is kind of expensive in India) but hey, we’re here to splurge and enjoy after all!. Hehe.
The massage tables. They look a bit like torture chambers. Haha. It’s an ayurvedic thing.
The massage incuded:
- Couple Sauna
- Couple Massage
- Couple Steam
They were all done together. My relationship with Nonnie elevated on to a higher level. LOL!!!! Thankfully we didn’t have to shower together like below!!!
8. TDI Mall, Agra
It looks ok from the outside.
But inside it’s pretty boring. Reminds me of Kiulap Mall.
Kinda empty and very dead. Hehe.
*Camera battery died here*
But basically we went back to the train station and after a 2.5 hour delay, we boarded the train (with no drama) and went back to Delhi. Super cold in Agra at night. Make sure u dress warmly!
8. Karol Bagh
This is when I realise, Karol Bagh is not THAT ghetto! Hahaha. FIrst impressions are not reliable in India. You look at something and think a certain way, but actually, you should not have! Next thing u know, you’re hooked!
Shopped around and had breakfast.
You’d think that these are cheap saris. Believe it or not, there are cheaper sari shops with better quality and better service. These are at best: mediocre.
Pretty jewellery. I wish I bought more!
Had yummy food too at a random deli:
I love that they toast my bread in a panini gril. I love the grill marks haha.
But despite such a thriving community, Karol Bagh, as I’ve mentioned before is in danger of sealing and demolition.
However, one month before we arrived, in November, the demolition was halted. Read more here.
9. Sarojini Market
I LOVE Sarojini Market! ❤ Look at all these people who feel the same!
For sure the crowd here kalah the one in Consumer Fair.
Many different kinds of shops here, and so many people! Difficult to window shop, cause once u pass by, then item may be gone, so u really need to know what you’re looking for and then tarus POUNCE. It is an open air market so even in winter, it can get kind of warm, especially cause there’s so many people there.
We bought a lot of saris here in Sarojini, and made friends with these two girls. They apparently have to fold a million saris every single day:
When I was taking this photo of them, it gave me food for thought. The one on the right is the daughter of the shop owner, somewhat privileged, and the one on the left works at the saree shop. I’m sure they’re the same age, they see each other everyday, they are good friends but their lives they live are remarkably different.
Wondering where will they be in 10 years?
10. India Gate
This is a tourist must see destination. And if you’re wondering, yes, it is inspired by the Arc De Triumphe in Paris. Hehe.
By the way, we rented a car for cheap and our driver is really nice. We arranged this through our hotel. It’s the best way to get around the Delhi as you’d generally want the driver to wait for you and u need some place to store all your shopping. Haha. Of course there’s always the Metro if you don’t shop and just like to sightsee. There’s a women-only cart so it’s really safe. 🙂
So anyway, back to India Gate. There’s a lot of peculiar sights there:
Skinny cotton candy (as opposed to puffy eating-clouds type cotton candy)
People queueing to go on Weighing Machines
Vain men (admittedly this is not so peculiar but I just find it funny that they are all so bangis and geraha)
Men in costume. I refuse to call this a uniform.
But mostly I was most shocked by a few ladies ambushing me with henna and demanding payment LOL. Before I knew what was happening, I already have a brown flower on my hand.
(It was pretty and lasted more more than 2 weeks, I just find it annoying being ambushed like that.)
11. Ansal Plaza
To complete our shopping tour one full circle, we need to stop by a Mall. And after the whole day walking around in markets and dodgy locales, Ansal Plaza made us feel completely awed!
It’s a small mall but it felt really big!!
(Sorry no nice photo)
And just cause we like the irony, we had Korean Food for dinner!
This shop has wifi so we mostly ate in silence LOL. Received some bad news from home.
12. Kingfisher Airlines: Sexy Flight Attendants
Here is a fact of life: Flight attendants are sexy. But sexiest flight attendants are from Kingfisher Airlines. The CEO, as he has so authoritatively said in the introductory video before takeoff, handpick his girls so we can be assured ultimate satisfaction.
I like the welcome video. 😛
13. Dabolim Airport, Goa
Nothing interesting here, it looks just a normal island airport.
But Goa taxi drivers all wear white. Please don’t mistake them as hospital staff.
14. Our Beach Hut #13, Palolem Beach
Here’s out orange beach hut. It’s not much but it’s got a great view:
Which can be enjoyed while lounging on the hammock:
Fell asleep here so many times while surfing and playing games. 🙂 I’m so lucky!
15. Dinner at Cuba Beach Restaurant
Yes you may say that we’re so unadventurous for having dinner here 3 nights in a row, but seriously, this restaurant is so siok!!!
Location is central (only 30 seconds away from our beach hut):
View is amazing:
Food is great:
There’s even fireworks!
No need to think about where to eat! Fish and seafood vary every night and we love the marinade!
People are friendly.
Even the chai is great!
We are happy people…
16. Ashtanga Flow Yoga School
Haha yes we did yoga. Hey it’s India!
Saw this banner on our first day in Palolem:
I’m not sure what’s ashtanga really. But yoga is from India and in Goa, the men, even though skinny, they’re strong. Example below:
P/S: Nonnie’s bag above is REALLY REALLY heavy!!!
Turns out, the school was only 2 minutes away from our beach hut:
View from outside. I know, it looks kinda scary. But it’s actually quite nice in there. Not even a mosquito! But Nonnie did get bitten by a centipede hehehe (I saw it crawling towards her while we were doing the downward dog).
But centipede aside, when you are lying on your back you can see clear blue skies and coconut trees. Really peaceful.
BTW everyone in our class already know yoga. Like expert already cause they all can do headstands!!! The class was filled with orang putih but me and Nonnie were the only real beginners. We did various “asanas” and I felt like laughing a lot making me feel so juvenile. Everyone was so serious ok! We also must pretend we know what we’re doing!
Kept on exchanging glances with Nonnie too cause one lady was super uptight looking and obsessed with perfecting her poses. She reminds me of the character Julia Roberts play in Eat, Pray, Love. Retch, Bend, Cry.
Where do the locals learn Yoga anyway?
17. Shopping in Palolem Beach Market
Actually there’s a big ass flea market 2 hours away from Palolem called the Anjuna Flea Market. We have every intention of going but, beach life does that to u. You get so relaxed and LAZY!!! We also couldn’t bear the thought of spending 2 hours in a car, when we can be relaxing on the beach!
So we decided to shop in Palolem only.
Quite a lot of shops in Palolem Beach actually, especially shops like the above.
There were also a lot of jewelry stores.
I myself bought a little trinket to remember Palolem:
Shops selling tea and spices:
Shops selling icecream:
And shops selling snacks! Love Indian Lays btw!
18. Dolphins at Palolem Beach
An experience NOT TO BE MISSED!!! The big reason why we wanted to stay on Palolem Beach, aside from the convenience and the great location, is that it’s the best place for dolphin sightings!
We woke up early morning the next day and arranged for a boat to bring us see the dolphins. Was not difficult too. Cuba arranged for us! ❤
This is the dolphin tour agent:
You only pay at the end of the trip and they usually throw in an island hopping tour as well. The boat is a family boat and this man is our guide (the agent’s brother). I love that this is a family business. Most inhabitants of beachy tourist destinations are not so lucky.
Off we go!
The guides guarantee a dolphin sighting everytime they bring u out to sea. And well, no wonder cause they’re so many of them! Saw quite a few!
I love dolphins!
Love it so much that Nonnie and I rented kayaks again in the afternoon and rowed ourselves to the exact same spot and saw MORE DOLPHINS!
Hehehe! True! Although we probably did not look as effortless as these guys here:
Kayaking is super hard at first. LOL. But u get the hang of it.
After that we were brought around to Honeymoon Island, Monkey Island and Butterfly Island which were unfortunately not as interesting as the dolphins so here’s my photo on the boat:
19. The Konkani Express Train from Goa to Mumbai
I am so impressed by this train! BTW I love trains. LOVEEEE!
In Margaon CST (train station in Goa) a kuli, which is someone who helps you carry stuff, offered to help us with our luggage and we obliged. Actually I obliged, and agreed while Nonnie was busy paying the taxi haha. She was kind shocked when she saw a man carry away our stuff. LOL
He also helped us find out which Coupe we were placed in cause we’re helpless little bimbos from Korea (oh btw, everyone thought we’re Koreans all the way from Delhi to Goa and as we were to find out, Mumbai so people always greeted us ANYEONG HASAEYOOOOO!!!!).
Anyway so the kuli helped us and apparently our cart is pretty far at the front of the train. So glad we have a kuli. Hehe. The kuli was so fast and he ran all the way with our luggage! Me, unaccustomed to RUNNING (haha), also ran like ayam behind him. It was quite a funny sight!!!
On the train, since we travelled first class we get our own Coupes. The kuli helped us carry our luggage and placed them under our seat. Funny thing the night before, I was praying I will be able to carry my bag on to the train, cause it was super duper heavy and my arms were weak and super mambang cause of the kayaking we did the day before. My wish came true! 🙂 Thank you Allah!!!!
Here is what it looks like outside our Coupe.
Inside our Coupe, it looks like this! Check out the comfortable seats! And our bags underneath the seats.
Now what I love about these seats is that they can magically be changed into bunk beds, kind of like the below. (This is actually the beds for Second Class A/C! Same as ours but with no doors!)
Amazing! Then you’re given a bedsheet set, complete with soap, towel and pillowcase.
So all you’ve got to do is put the sheets on and wallah, instant bed!!! Most comfortable train ride in the whole wide world!
Always remember to lock your doors cause many sellers will pass by and yell out that they’re selling many million kinds of food! We didn’t know this at first until one guy opened our door and yelled out GULAB JAMUN. I didn’t buy the gulab jamun but after a few hours, the thought of gulab jamun festered in my mind and transformed into a craving. Hahahahahaha….. Pretty soon I was pretty convinced that I want and NEED gulab jamun and it was all that I could think of!!! Gulab jamun consumed every corner of my brain!!! This is the power of suggestion:
Gulab jamun all for me. 🙂
20. Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai
We’re in Mumbai! And here’s the train station:
Feel excited to see this train station cause it was featured in Shah Rukh Khan’s latest movie, RA.One!!! As u know I’m obsessed with SRK. Keep on praying I’d bump into him in Mumbai (I didn’t).
BTW check out this Flashmob in Mumbai CST!!!!!! OMG cannot imagine the crowd… CROWDDDDDD!!!!
21. Hotel New Bengal, Mumbai
Our hotel is pretty awesome. It’s clean, and cheap. Something which is hard to find in super metropolitan Mumbai. We have a balcony, and we can see everything!
Another great thing about this hotel the location! It’s only a stone’s throw away from awesome shopping area around Crawford Market!
Also, your stay will come with breakfast!
22. Crawford Market
Crawford Market is a MUST VISIT. People go there to buy food items so we didn’t exactly shop there.
The building however, is a famous Mumbai historical monument, and is pretty awesome!
I soon discover that this is typical of Mumbai’s buildings. They are remniscent of British colonial architecture.
Murals and carvings aplenty.
Inside it’s a lot of people and a lot of stuff.
I find it strange that coconut is being sold this way hehe:
Saw figs! One of my fave food btw.
Cute lil cats and many more:
Nearby, I saw a little mosque! Squeezed in between two buildings:
How I know it’s a mosque? It’s green, the universal colour to denote mosques! (Well actually it says so on the label, in all English, Arabic and Hindi)
Anyway, Mumbai has a thriving and extremely large Muslim community. They’re really more visible here in comparison to Delhi, where I think the majority are Hindus. It’s more common here to see ladies in hijjabs or many pretty colours and styles, rather than sarees.
Further down the road, there was another bigger mosque, the Juma Masjid:
23. Mangaldas Market
This is where all the nice sarees are. I loooove the sarees here! There’s just so many and they’re all so nice!!!
Here’s my fav saree shop:
Designs are modern with subtle colours, but still so beautiful. A man is behind all the designs, from fabric, colour choice, embroidery, to beading! Amazing!
24. Leopold Cafe
This is a famous cafe, featured in the novel Shantaram. Never read this book but I do remember this cafe to be a site for the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
It’s so happening there!
But you can definitely see that most of the people in there are tourists, like these two:
Haha. We had awesome cheese nan:
And some chicken tikka masala, a house specialty:
BTW during the November 2008 terrorist attacks, we read that Leopold Cafe was sprayed with bullets (eee scary). So Nonnie and I were scrutinising every blemish on the wall, convinced that it’s bagas the bullets. LOL
25. The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel
This hotel makes Empire look like Traders Inn. Seriously! It’s so freaking posh!!!
So apparently the Taj is where all the Hollywood celebrities stay when they are in Mumbai.
Many places in Mumbai are pretty posh actually, unlike me. The portrayal of Mumbai in MI4 is actually pretty accurate.
26. Gateway of India
A must see tourist destination!
As usual, filled with a million people:
Like the India Gate, there are some peculiar sights here as well.
Children with no pants:
Old fashioned camera which at first I thought was a LOMO but well, it’s not:
People in Mumbai are generally more posh and modern though, so you can sense that they’re more… cosmopolitan.
27. Tour Cruise Around Pier
Oh we discovered that you can take a cheapo cheapo cruise around the pier on a sweet little ferry boat! It’s pretty nice.
Just something random and nice we decided to do. Probably cause missing Goa. (BTW check out the guy in pink, the whole time we were on the ferry, he insisted that his friend take his photo on every corner and every possible view. SUPER VAIN!!!)
View of the city:
I believe this is the Arabian Sea:
29. Cafe Mosche
I love Mumbai’s cafe scene. Siuk! I wish we have cafes like Mosche in Brunei!
Had a Mushroom Open Faced Sandwich there. So nyaman!
30. Phoenix High Street Mall
And to complete the cycle one full circle, a mall!
Now this mall is pretty awesome!
Check out their tree!
Spent a really long time here. And discovered the awesomeness that is LUSH!!!
31. Indian McDonalds
LOL!!! Yes we did!!!
We had Rahul McDonald’s! Did you know that Indian McDonalds do not serve any beef? Hehehe only chicken. So there’s no Big Mac, but instead, there’s a MAHARAJA MAC! Obviously we need to try the Maharaja Mac!!!!
Om nom nom.
It’s not bad 🙂 But cannot substitute BEEF!!!
32. Cinema: PVR Phoenix
Watched a movie! Wish we could watch a Bollywood movie but no subtitle!!!!
We watched Machine Gun Preacher, just so you know. It was a great experience!!! Did u know their seats are so awesome???? First of all it was purple. Second of all, it can recline like Chandler’s and Joey’s TV seats in Friends!!! No wonder everyone loves the movies in India!!!!
Oh and we had to stand up for the Indian national anthem before the movie and there was a 10 minute break in the middle in case anyone wants to go to the toilet. Haha!
31. Chatrapati Shrivaji International Airport
After movie, we went back to the hotel to get our things and went straight to the airport. VERY FAR!!! About 1.5 hours away and the traffic was not so bad.
Here’s the verdict: Mumbai Airport cannot beat Delhi Airport.
But just FYI, when we were there some serious renovation was going on. Won’t be surprised if the airport ends up even better than Delhi!!!
Our luggage super ngam!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And that concludes our India trip!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OMG this blog post took me 6 hours!!!!! (7pm to 1am) LOL. I apologise if I sound bored in the end. It’s 1am!!!!