Sunday, August 22, 2010

Incredible India

4 - 10 August 2010

Official trips have been kinda slow in coming. This my first overseas trip for the year! Can you believe that?? Well, AirAsia X flew its first flight to New Delhi (5 1/2hours) on 4 Aug 2010 & me & other medias were on it.

We touched down at Delhi’s spanking new Terminal 3 Indira Gandhi International Airport to an elaborate welcome by the Airport staff as we were the first Malaysian carrier to land there. It was the first time I received a certificate of congratulations for landing in an airport!

Had a very fancy smanzy hotel at Le Meridien, New Delhi. Check out my pad!

AirAsia X was giving away a promotion of flights for 1 rupee! That's less than RM0.10!

Old Delhi was the capital of Islamic India before the British built New Delhi as their imperial capital. Although modern developments are mushrooming all over Delhi in preparations of the upcoming 2010 Commonwealth Games, the allure of Delhi’s historically rich past is still very much alive, if you care enough to look.

The tranquil ruins of Humayun’s Tomb is one place you can go to seek refuge from Delhi’s noise. Built by the wife of the second Mughal emperor Humayun in the 16th century, the structure’s architecture is a fusion of Persian and local cultures which eventually lent inspiration to the magnificence of Agra’s Taj Mahal.

Enjoy some quiet time at Humayun's Tomb


Most people who visit Northern India travel the classic Golden Triangle circuit of Delhi – Jaipur – Agra – Delhi. We were no different as that route basically highlights the best of the region for those with limited time.

The desert state of Rajasthan is reminiscence of the rich and romantic past of the maharajas and their lavish lifestyle. The Pink City of Jaipur exudes such charms, painted so to welcome the Prince of Wales in 1876.

It is a bright and cheerful city where camels and painted elephants have as much right on the roads as motorised vehicles do. There is beauty to be found in its arts – blue pottery, semi-precious stone jewellery and block printing; and wonder to be found in its culture - snake charming and traditional Rajasthani puppet shows. As always, colours play a major role in giving Jaipur its identity.

Amber Fort - Jaipur

Shopping is a major sport for all who visit Jaipur, with rows and rows of enticing shops beckoning eager shopping enthusiasts and their less enthusiastic partners. Bargaining is the name of the game but deflecting the never ending advances of persistent traders can be exhausting and infuriating at times. Just be careful not to wander too far in.

Fascinating stuff at the bazaars

Oh bought loads of Himalaya products. Think Mazlan bought the whole store. You can get a herbs bottle here for RM6 when its RM46 in KL!! What a rip off in importation cost. Bought some herbal hangover pills too. Not sure if it works though. Deep says it doesn't.

Himalaya galore

Although the tourist attractions such as Amber Fort, Hawa Palace, City Palace and Jantar Mantar have its own individual appeal, it would be the unplanned visit to a small village on the way to Agra that I cherish the most.

As we disembarked from our tour bus, word got around that ‘foreigners’ were in the vicinity and so a horde of school children in blue uniforms came rushing out to gather around us. They were as much fascinated with gawking at us as we were fascinated with them.

The children followed us into the village, eager and curious, coming very close to the verge of touching us. We saw the humble homes they live in and the animals that shared the same compound. Women in colourful saris went about their business, tending to their kids and carrying out household chores. Their hard life was apparent but they stopped to share a smile.

Further in was a private school where young children in red uniforms were sitting cross-legged on the enclosed roofless compound. It was a scene straight out of the 1950s P Ramlee movies. My heart went out to these kids who despite their learning conditions, seem determined to seek knowledge. Their discipline was a stark contrast to the public school children in blue uniforms.

The private school kids

Uttar Pradesh

The state of Uttar Pradesh is better known for hosting one of the most beautiful Seven Wonders of the World. And what a wonder it is. The Taj Mahal in Agra is every bit as mesmerising as people paint it out to be. Words can’t do this magnificent white marble justice as its glorious beauty is simply breathtaking.

Watching this monument of love gleaming in the reflective rays of the early rising sun would be one that I would cherish forever. I looked on in amazement taking in the hushed audience, as though an unspoken rule required them to appreciate this marvellous beauty in respectful silence.

The Taj up-close is even more amazing as it reveals intricate carvings inlaid with 43 different types of semi-precious stones. You just have to marvel at the elaborate complexity of the artists’ skilful work. Later on, I took the liberty to do some yoga at the Taj’s grounds.

The magnificient Taj Mahal

It would be a pity to visit Agra and not travel a little 40km further west to the fascinating Mughal ruined city of Fatehpur Sikri, a World Heritage Site.

This magnificent red sandstone city was the capital of Emperor Akbar between 1571 and 1585. Its grounds are airy and peaceful with fascinating structures to explore, such as the palaces he built for his three wives of Islam, Christian and Hindu faith.

There was something different about this place which I only realised after a while. It was the freedom to soak in the sights without being hassled by pesky traders! Alas, that peace was short-lived as the darn touts returned in droves at the nearby Jama Masjid.

It was hard to appreciate the beautiful mosque and the spectacular 54m-high Victory Gate there when there are kids following closely at your heels everywhere you turn. If only they understood the concept of personal space.

Despite the annoying peddlers and the summer heat, India is a fascinating country where its rich history and vibrant people will sure to be calling you back for more.

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