Sunday, July 20, 2014

India (15) Delhi

Spent Monday shopping... still shocked by the dirty conditions that were just everywhere around Delhi. What we were looking forward to was our trip to Agra the following day. And we would have the driver we requested: Sonu :)

India (14) Haridwar


Mum and I now remember this day with a slight shudder. We left Delhi with our driver, Shankar to make our way to Haridwar. Truth be told, I was really looking forward to this trip. We were doing some kind of pilgrimage and planned to do the 7pm prayer at the Ganges River.

The 7hr drive was nerve-wrecking. It honestly felt like our driver was just unleashed to cause HAVOC. He seemed to be so impatient. He overtook on oncoming traffic, where at one point, I thought - "it's over...". OMG!

Long story short - he was unable to understand or communicate in English and didn't even know the hotel we were staying at. When we finally reached SRS Lakshya Hotel, it was just about an hour or so before we were going to partake in the "aarti".

When Shankar picked us up, it didn't seem like he knew where we were going. He turned into a car park and looked back at us, expecting us to leave the car. 

"Where's the aarti?" we asked. He said it was two minutes away and that we'd have to walk there. We were promptly on the phone with our tour operator, Shamsher who spoke to Shankar on our behalf. Mum and I refused to leave the car.

"I'll be fine if I don't do the aarti," said mum.

We couldn't fathom that Shankar wanted us to leave the car - walk alone to goodness knows where and then...make our way back. In the dark. NO WAY!

"Uncle, please take us back to the hotel," I asked. It was getting late, we were already stressed out from the drive to Hardiwar and...I was trying to convince myself that this wasn't meant to be.

One the drive back to the hotel, I suggested to mum that we skip the following day in Rishikesh and go back to Delhi. Once we were got back to the hotel, we made arrangements with the hotel to check in a day earlier. Of course this was over and above our tour price and would need to be paid separately. No problem!

The next morning we left at 8am. Back to Delhi. The drive was just as bad, but we asked Shankar to "calm down, please!" 

We couldn't have been more excited to see our hotel again. Next stop: Spa for a massage!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

India (13) Delhi Sighseeing

Our tour guide for Delhi was Dinesh.

Our first stop was Jama Masjid, which was the main mosque in Old Delhi. Situated in Chandni Chowk, it was commissioned by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1650. They were just about to close to the public as it was time for the Muslim Friday prayer. I was really astonished to learn that the place can hold up to 25,000 devotees!

We then went to Raj Ghat, which was the exact spot where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated.

Made a quick stop at the India Gate, Parliament Houses, Red Fort & Qutub Minar.



India (12) Goa to Delhi


So Thursday, June 12 - the day we were leaving Goa, mum was surprised with a little cake in the room. Why? Because it was my parents' 33rd Wedding Anniversary! :) What a nice gesture from the hotel, isn't it?

The flight to Delhi was really bumpy and we arrived to grey skies and  a bit of rain. Our driver for Delhi was Sonu - polite and helpful. The drive to the hotel was about 20 minutes. Security check before even reaching our check-in point was once again tight, but we were soon checked in quite swiftly by friendly staff.

That evening, as we decided where to dine [there are a variety of choices]. By chance, we met Anmol - a hotel staff member in the elevator. He asked if he could be of assistance and we just told him that we were trying to decide where to have dinner. We thought we'd check out Twenty-9. With no hesitation, Anmol took us right to the restaurant where we met...Sajeev, the Executive Chef of the restaurant.

What blew me away first of all, was the exceptional presentation of the food. Each dish had been prepared with such care and pride. It was completely evident! My favourite in the whole place was the two "Chaat Stations", one of which had Paani Puri! The desserts are something quite incredible and I was really amazed to learn that absolutely everything is made on site.

Sanjeev and his team were very professional, friendly and attentive while we were there. Really impressed with the service! Our room was great and comfortable and well. Had an early-ish night as the following day would be spent sight-seeing around Delhi.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

India (11) Goa - Panaji

Decided to spend the day in Panaji (or the English name, Panjim). We were sent such a nice driver called Imran - who honestly made my day with this dialogue:

Me: Imran, where is your rear view mirror?
Imran: Madam, some tourist people do naughty...bad bad things in back. It distracting me!




Imran took us to Bombay Bazaar - which on website is described as "a department store with a twist". Come to think of it, it reminds of Yong-san in Seoul, South Korea. The moment you walk in, vendors are vying for your attention.

I swear, Bombay Bazar in Panaji is like shopper's paradise. As you enter, you're welcomed by jewelry. Earrings, rings, bangles... my heart was racing with all the bling bling bling! Walk further and you are drawn into a world of endless sari's (they have a very cool way of draping a sari for potential buyers - they put an elastic around the waist which acts as the inner skirt where the sari pleats can be tucked in.) Ornaments galore! But that's not all..there are 2 or 3 floors up!

I can't even remember how long we spent there, but now when mum and I talk about it - we figure that we actually COULD have spent more time and bought more things there.

Oh and then...we needed some lunch so we stopped and had KFC. But this wasn't just ANY kind of KFC that we had. We had ... a " Paneer Wrap" which was too delicious for words. Wandering around the mall, I met a lovely caricaturist called Lawrence.

On our way back to the resort, Imran stopped at a few beaches and guess what?! Mum and I were lucky enough to see a teensy bit of a film song shoot Miramar Beach! Security was tight - as much as I tried squirming my way through ;)




India (10) Goa - Spice Farm


Spent the morning laying at the pool. Yes, you read right! Not quite used to this level of relaxation, mum and I decided we needed to do something for the day. We agreed that a visit to the Sahakari Spice Farm would be a good idea. It was awesome seeing our favourite spices in its rawest forms - especially cinnamon! Visitors are given a welcome garland and drink upon arrival. After the tour (which lasts approx 45mins), you can enjoy lunch - price included in the entry ticket. Got a bit worried when I saw a mosquito on my mum's arm. Go armed! 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

India (9) From Mumbai to Goa


As usual, Santosh (our driver) was on time to pick us up from the hotel and take us to the airport. On our way there, though, it started drizzling. The first thing that comes to mind during this season is "monsoon" - but we were told that these were merely passing showers.

The flight to Goa was fine. Not a very smooth landing, though! and we were greeted by some light showers. It was a completely different vibe to what we experienced in Mumbai. Our driver was from the resort was right on time and we were soon off to Kenilworth.

The resort is situated in South Goa, giving opportunity for not much - except good ol' relaxation! We had a lovely welcome upon arrival at the resort. Check in was swift and done in a friendly manner. After a light bite, we made our way to the spa. We were actually fortunate enough that they had an opening and mum and I were booked in for an Ayurvedic Massage. Covered in oil from literally head to toe, they also have shower facilities available. 

It was the perfect welcome to Goa!


India (8) Visit with Fooi & Fooa


This is my mum's paternal aunt ("fooi") and her husband ("fooa"). It was my second time meeting them and only my mum's 3rd time meeting them. It was such a special visit with them at their home in Mumbai. Fooi and I communicated in half English / half Gujarati :) Mum and I were treated to glorious homemade masala tea and delicious snacks from fooi. Mmmmmmmm! 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

India (7) Sightseeing in Mumbai Day 2

Feeling a bit more settled, after breakfast, Santosh was right on time to pick us up. We also met our tour guide, Varun, for the day. He was openly passionate about his city, as he kept referring to it  as "my city"

I was very excited for our first stop - Dhobi Ghat. This is the world's largest open air laundromat that is still operational. When we were there, it was fairly quiet, because (as we were told) it was a Sunday and families were probably out.


Made a quick stop at Haji Ali Dargah. It houses the tomb of the Muslim Saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari as well as a Masjid. The entire structure was built on high rising rocks. Said to be one of the most popular religious places in Mumbai, it is visited by many people of various religions. 



The Jain Temple was a sight for sore eyes. Built in 1904, the temple is filled with beautiful and intricate sculptures and paintings. One needs about an hour to wander around...to really take it all in. Visitors need to remove shoes and try not to be in the way of devotees. Photography is permitted in most parts of the temple. 



Mani Bhavan is said to be the spot where most of Mahatma Ghandi's political activities took place in Mumbai between 1917 and 1934. It was eerie being there...



India (6) Sightseeing in Mumbai

We arrived in the dining area just in the nick of time for breakfast. After an international flight and only getting to sleep after 04:00, it's quite understandable that we felt like we were slightly in zombie mode. Despite arriving just as breakfast was about to end, we were helped so graciously - especially by Manoj, who tended to us in a very polite manner.

Santosh was right on time to pick us up. First stop:

The Gateway of India

Men and women queue separately for security reasons. Everyone is checked before proceeding further. Although - the check is anything, but thorough! They merely open the bag, seem to glance inside...and that's it!

This was the first iconic spot we visited and it was magnificent seeing this great structure before our eyes. The Gateway of India was built in memory of the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to India in 1911. 

Be cautioned of photographers trying to convince tourists to allow them postcard-like pics. Because of the intense heat - especially at that time of day, we didn't stay around too long.


As we made our way back to the spot where we agreed to meet Santosh, a little girl with henna stamps wanted to stamp our hands. She was quite persistent and said that it would last for a week. I already had a hunch that it wasn't true, but my mum said that it doesn't matter - she was just a little girl trying to make money. Well! It was only after she adorned our hands with henna stamps that she told us it would be 10 Rupees for each stamp! She didn't tell us this before. Never mind. We put it down to experience.


Our next stop was Chhatrapati Shavaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly known as Prince of Wales Museum). Please note the camera fees:


The museum is home to about 50,000 exhibits of ancient Indian history. There are 3 noted sections, namely: Art, Archaeology & Natural History. It can get terribly hot and claustrophobic inside. Don't forget your bottle of water and a fan.

Met my friend, Rajeev on Saturday night. We went to High Street Phoenix (formerly known as Phoenix Mills). 

Stopped for some chaat (best paani puri ever!) before proceeding to dinner. One of the best restaurants ever! Rajdhani. It was so good! They don't give you time to go hungry. They keep coming to fill up!  Despite a constant buzz of waiters coming to tend to your every need, it was a very chilled out atmosphere. Very clean... and the food? Absolutely scrumptious! Awesome night out with my friend :)


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