Amusing Landmarks of New Delhi

For two days, our tour jump off in New Delhi was always started at 9:30am and ended at 5:30pm. It was considerably the best time to escape peak hours of jammed and impenetrable streets. There were so many tourist sites in Delhi but sad to say that times didn’t permit us to visit all of them.

Location: New Delhi, India

Where I stayed: Hotel Clarks Inn

Buddies: Group (3+)

Day One – First Taste of New Delhi

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Jama Masjid. Reaching this site shows the real situation of India. The narrow street was filled with all kinds of vendors and poverty existed normally. There is no entrance fee but INR300 was collected from us for each camera and mobile which are to be used for taking photos. It’s a mosque so removal of foot wears and wearing rented long dresses for women are required.

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Red Fort Delhi. The first site in Delhi which we were almost knocking on its front door but was refrained by an Indian local whose offering to us a different tour. “They (gate guards) will ask you to pay INR500 but there is nothing inside…only a park!”. His word of discouragement opted us to choose none of the given options.

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Akshardham Temple. The entrance security was so strict as there was metal detector and scanner in the entrance. No big bags, cameras, and mobiles are allowed. It is a Hindu temple complex consecrated in 2005 with a magnificent landscaped gardens. In the middle is the impressive temple built from marbles and decorated with gold, precious gems and stones. Entering the temples on barefoot enlightened us the cooling effect of a marble-made floor against the surging noontime temperature.

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Lotus Temple. The queue to this site was blockbuster. Crowds was unstoppable and patiently waiting for chances to enter the flower shaped temple. Like any other temples, everyone needs to remove foot wears and mobiles to switch off.  The temple is open for all religions as it looks more like an empty cathedral. Once inside, a few minutes of solemn prayer conveyed on different languages and beliefs.

DAY TWO – New Delhi’s Landmarks

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Qutub Minar. Another site which has an entrance fee but was said not worth for sightseeing. Looking at the inaccessible tower from the main gate was the only memory I captured after we decided to skip this UNESCO site.

Rashtrapati Bhavan. The current residence of the Indian government. Most buildings inside the complex has classical architectures. There was no parking space available for public or tourist car so our time upon dropping elapsed so quickly.

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India Gate. It is an open space landmark and supposedly free but was asked for INR100 by the old woman who pinned a tiny Indian flag on my shirt. India Gate is the monument built in memory of all Indian armies died from the previous battles since the First World War.

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Birla Mandir. A Hindu temple with splendid architectural design. Cameras and bags are strictly not allowed and must be kept in the provided locker. There was no entrance fee but a small offering was collected.

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Tourist sites hopping in New Delhi was indeed time consuming. Aside from moderate to heavy traffic, each site requires a minimum of one hour to enjoy its charming beauty and absorb its visible information. Hiring a local guide will surely guarantee an extended hours. However, it will be assured to give satisfaction and receive a bouquet of knowledge about the visited historical spot upon leaving. Taking lunch break was also another time draining as we required to stop in a restaurant to order meals and dining. Fast foods location from sites are not so convenient.

( Day 5 and 6 of my customized tour to the Golden Triangle of India last August 25 to 30, 2017. )

The Pink City and the Gayest Structures of Jaipur

While waiting for the pre-ordered complimentary breakfast at the hotel’s garden, an Indian guy wearing a turban showed up. My observant eye focused on him because he didn’t look like one of the staffs. He was heading to the portable music bass amplifier positioned in the middle of the garden. He slowly switched it on and sat beside the bushes. He took out his musical instrument, a flute and started playing. I was expecting of a frightening snake show. His music seems taming a wild beast from the forest but my perception was wrong! He was serenading all guests which was normally an ordinary morning show in the hotel.

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The Pink City

Location: Jaipur City, Rajasthan, India

Where I Stayed: Anuraag Villa

Buddies: Group (3+)

Our tour in Jaipur started at 9:30am exploring first the city center. A joyride to the old walled town of Jaipur which was called the Pink City. “It’s an Indian pink”, as explained by our new local guide. The vibrant color has different shade when comparing it with the bright pigment of commercially bought pink crayon. The stores, offices, flats, temples, and all the buildings inside the city were painted with the same color.

We passed by at Hawa Mahal, a distinctive landmark inside the Pink City. It’s a five-storied high wall with windows designed for conservative women of the royal family. It looks weird especially if obsessed to things which has so many holes. Parking was not allowed so we didn’t have time to drop by.

We entered the City Palace which was the residence of the emperors in the 17th century. For a fee of INR500 each, we explored the domain of the complex. The complex is home for old palaces with halls and alleys. Some was converted into museums and I personally saw galleries of old and antique personal belongings owned by previous leaders of Jaipur. Some old collections of textiles, armories and jars were also on displays. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed so the great collections were up to memory keeping only.

Beside the City Palace, we visited the Jantar Mantar. It is like a village with invisible houses and the stairs are remnants for the naked eye. It is actually an observatory and an open physics laboratory which has huge instrument for studying stars and constellations. There is also an instrument which provide accurate timing using the sun shadow. An entrance fee of INR200 per head gave us access to the old but proven technology of the 18th century.

After the city, our guide brought us to the Shopping Paradise to see locally made handicrafts. One guy met us at the entrance and voluntarily demonstrated on how they put dyes and design their own made textiles. We didn’t stay long time in the store for our stomachs were shouting because of hunger.

At 2pm, we moved out from Jaipur City and visited the Amber Palace and Fort with a fee of INR500 per person. The palace is magnificent as it was situated on the hilltop with a lake that nourishes its beauty. A rain poured heavily when we reached the rear entrance gate. The rain paused all the movements of tourists and stacked us at the gate. But when the nimbus cloud cleared out the sky, everyone advanced to explore the grandeur palace. The site has with magnificent view of the Amer town and spectacular surrounding walls on the mountain which securing the entire palace. It is haven for a dreamed like royalty living. The most impressive building for me was the Mirror Palace where walls and ceiling is ornamented with mirrors.

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We wanted to see and ride an elephant so we headed to EleJungle for the elephant activity.  We availed a 30 minutes elephant ride within the village which costs INR1,100 for two persons. The elephants were scary big and domesticated animals but its slow swaying movement massaged my son to sleep while I felt boredom. The simple living of the villagers was seen as the route of the elephant ride covered it.

Before going back to our hotel at 4:30pm, we stopped by at the lake side park sighting Jal Mahal. A small palace in the middle of Man Sagar Lake. The shining palace was under renovation and by looking at it from the distance left my thought uncovered. I didn’t have personal evidence if the palace is really floating or just surrounded by water. Our local guide said that there is no natural bodies of water in Jaipur and lakes were man-made.

At 7:30pm, we were invited by our buddy for a dinner at Raddisson Hotel. A sumptuous Indian cuisines were attempted to love and enjoy. We felt special as the head chef visited our table to check the served menu. The foods offered on our table were prepared distinctively as they adjusted spices to suit our sensitive tongues. Though majority of the menus were served spicy, our rendezvous on the restaurant with unusual food on my plate was remarkably astounding!

We’re back to the hotel at 10pm and prepared for moving to Delhi in the morning.

We checked out from Anuraag Villa at 9:30am. Our two buddies were already left the hotel earlier and on their way to Agra for a day tour.

I took a last glance at the Pink City and visited Madhavendra Bhawan Central Museum or famously known as Albert Hall.  Unfortunately, it was closed for maintenance which was scheduled on every Monday. The architectural beauty of the building was furnished with noticeable numbers of pigeons which dominating the picturesque hall. Such assemblage of feathered friends was visually romantic to the camera but undeniably unhygienic to the actual scene.

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Pigeons Hall or Albert Hall

Before leaving the city, we dropped by at Blue Pottery and discovered the displays of handmade porcelains on sale. The travel to Delhi took us five hours because the road was consistently lane for slower big trucks. Industrial site is along Jaipur-Delhi route. We arrived in Delhi at 4:30pm and we checked-in at Hotel Clarks Inn.

( Day 3 and 4 of my customized tour to the Golden Triangle of India last August 25 to 30, 2017. )

Conquered Agra and its Fort

We woke up early and received messages that the morning flight of our trip buddies from Dubai to Delhi was cancelled. Added to the tension was a problem with the tourist visa which can be solved for a couple of days.

We followed the original plan as suggested by the travel agent. All hotels and travel guides were booked already as plan. We should continue the confirmed group tour without them.

Location: Agra, India

Where I Stayed: Hotel The Taj Vilas

Buddies: Family

At 10am, we left Taurus Hotel and traveled down to Agra. The heavy traffic in Delhi confronted us. The wide road occupied by different types of land transportation, from a simple pushed cart to heavy loaded trucks, competing to each other. Blowing of horns was just normal. The driver said, “on this road, some cars are following no rules.”

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The road to Agra was wide and spacious. The vast agricultural plain decorating the province was the source of livelihood of locals. The fields are planted with rice, sugar canes, corns, and millet. Animal raising was also abundant like buffalo, cows, sheep, and goats. The bright and colorful cloth seen at the distance was an Indian woman taking care of all the animals on her traditional dress called sari.

At 12pm, we stopped in a restaurant. The smell of spices evaporated in everywhere. The aroma of curries were so tempting but the surprising spicy taste which we couldn’t handle refrained us on ordering.

At 2pm, we reached the territory of Agra. It just like a village with so many strayed cows resting on the road. There were buffaloes too even within the city. We directed to our hotel and checked in at the Hotel The Taj Vilas. Our driver contacted our local travel guide who will lead us in visiting Agra Fort at 3:30pm.

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After an hour of freshen up, we headed to the fort. We were paying the individual entrance fee of 500 rupees when the rain started to fall. An umbrella was a helpful tool to keep us dry.

The local travel guides are necessary to point the exact location and explain the brief history of a certain place. They knew well the site so learning unfamiliar stories were so interesting with them. The Agra Fort was constructed primarily by Emperor Akbar in 15th century. Additions on the fort were made until the time of his grandson Shah Jahan, the successor leader behind building Taj Mahal.

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The fort was new to my eyes. The thick red colored walls had shown me how the civilization look like at the old ages. It was like dreaming a fairy tale where I was the bravest warrior entering the fort aggressively. We entered the great gate which hid the beauty of the capital in the 16th century. The original gate padlock was still hanging at the door. There were three gates towards the inner part, so the conquerors at that time succeeded three levels of defense to penetrate. Currently, all gates are still functional for security inspection. I imagined how many warriors died on the location. Besides, the fort was believably surrounded by water with crocodiles in it. However, gun powder was already invented during the war so crocodiles failed to safeguard the fort’s exterior.

A hidden paradise was seen personally. We were introduced to the different buildings inside the fort. Each palaces and building mark their history as well. The curved and the designs were detailed and really astonished us. We saw the gathering halls, the royal family rooms, the old walls, wells, the terrace facing the majestic Taj Mahal, the communication wall, the mosque, gardens, and the most was the small and cute squirrels who were still occupying the place.

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Jahangiri Palace

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The rain was heavily dropping but the bulk of tourists visiting the site was unstoppable. I didn’t absorb all of the details that our travel guide was explaining but he left me something to search on.

We left the site joyfully with our eyes full of beautiful scenes of Agra Fort. Before dropping us back to our hotel, our guide led us to a gem and textile shop. He also led us to a shop which shows how they manually crafted gems on marbles. The shop owner explained their crafts were similar on how Taj Mahal was created. Each shop has items to offer with corresponding price. Souvenir items are quite expensive but the thought of their authenticity was respected.

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Gem cutting to perfection
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Lights off! Gem on marble

At 7pm, across the road of Hotel Taj Vilas was a shopping mall which has McDonald outlet. Hoping to find a tasty beef burger I visited it. I stayed for few minutes watching the meal offered on the screen. I left disappointed that there was no beef burger but there were burgers with purely vegetables, chicken masala and chicken tandoori patties. India was indeed so interesting!

( Day 1 of my customized tour to the Golden Triangle of India last August 25 – 30, 2017. )

Temples, Palace, Cruise, and a Lotus

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At first look – a typical water lily

We woke up early for our Thai breakfast at 7am. The dish was like a porridge with so many spices. The taste was very flavorful.

We then prepared to Taling Chan Floating Market which was just 20 minutes from the hotel according to the google map. Unfortunately, the taxi only brought us at Taling Chan town and not in the floating market. They advised us for a motorcycle ride for 60 baht to reach the floating market in time.

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The floating market was not so big but we saw bulk of tourist visitors. Like us, we’re here with a common reason. To experience the market venue in a floating platform. The good thing was its free and has no entrance fee.

We saw those women paddling the boat and selling their products. The water was not clear, chocolate in color but those big fishes (catfish?) were smartly living there. One Thai student fed the fishes with bread and offered some bait with us. We enjoyed the life in the floating market and the restaurants as well. The first menu was the delicious and fresh vegetable salad. We also tried  the tasty bowl of noodle soup while seated in a shortened chair with matching table. Our stomach were full when we left the market. There were so many Thai foods and agricultural products on sale.

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We decided to walk up to the temples that we had seen along the way. We didn’t usually know the names of them. After the temples, we hired a taxi going back to the hotel to prepare for our next tourist site. I checked through internet that entering the Grand Palace requires descent clothing. Wearing short skirts and pants were discouraged.

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We arrived at the Grand Palace at 3pm. We were late but we still secured an entrance gate pass for 400 baht each. We were amazed on the preservation of the place and the temples of Emerald Buddha. The stones and the architecture were very impressive and unique. We even entered the temples removing our shoes. Touring and visiting Grand Palace needed more time to explore. And we failed! We didn’t gave such ample time. We lastly visited the Emerald Buddha museum before it closes at 4:30pm.

We followed the flow of visitors exiting the palace. It was directed to the nearest market along Chao Praya river. A cold refreshing smoothies after a tiring walk inside the palace was the best reward.  The foods in Thailand were very cheap and healthy.
We didn’t eat much for we’re preparing for our cruise dinner. For it still early, we walked from the market up to the pier allocated for boats going to Temples of the Dawn. We just glimpsed the temples because we didn’t have time to transfer on the other side of the river.

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The Wan Fah Dinner Cruise was booked through site Bangkok Cruise for 1,300 baht. The starting point was at the River City. Thinking that we’re just along the river, I’m expecting that we’re near the River City pier. I asked a “tuk-tuk” but the driver charged us 300 baht. We didn’t agreed because for me it was overpriced. We dealt with 200 baht. But on the way, I realized that it was really far and the traffic jammed us. The cleverness of the driver escaped us from the crowded traffic. When we arrived at River City Mall after Sheraton Hotel, we handed him 300 baht as silent apology.

At the pier, back of the River City Mall, we couldn’t see the staffs of Wan Fah Cruise. We went inside the mall and saw their booth. We approached the staffs and confirmed our arrival. They pinned us corsages with a number and led us to the waiting old wooden boat at the pier.

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Our dinner cruise along Chao Praya River started at 7pm. Prior for our boarding, a lady wearing a thai traditional costume held us for a picture taking. She then led us to our table number corresponding the number on our corsages. The boat started to move and the dinner was prepared starting with a spicy soup and vegetable spring rolls. After a few minutes, the Thai and Seafood set baskets were served. While the people were busy popping their heavy meals, the tour guide was explaining the tourist sites we had passed like the Temples of the Dawn, Grand Palace, famous hospital, and the beautiful Rama VIII bridge of Bangkok. When the guide is off air, thai traditional music was on the playlist.

On the way back, Thai traditional dances were performed. They also asked some tourist to dance together with them. Unfortunately, my camera was down because the battery degraded. I have no souvenir from those cute dancers. Three different dances were performed but with same dance steps. For me, only costumes and the music were changed but the steps were not. The bill was then given to each table. The drinks were not free except for water. Each delicious drink costs 150 baht. Then the photo shopped picture which was taken before boarding was in frame and costs 200 baht.
The river cruising took two hours and the experience was great. Touring Bangkok will never complete without experiencing river dinner cruise.

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For the River City is very far, we chartered a taxi in going back to our hotel. Our hotel was not that famous because the first driver didn’t know it. So, we rode a taxi to the famous Phayathai train station and from there another taxi to Resort Bangphlat.