Nice Trip

I was so worried about the trip to India, that everything that happened to me was like a blessing during the trip. My expectations were lower than a zero, I was only waiting for the worst case scenario to happen. But thankfully, the trip from the moment I planned till the moment we arrived back  -  there were no obstacles or show stopping dramas. We had our own fair share of drama here and there, but they were all good and not as bad as it was in 2015.

Kid at the airport
 After work on Friday night, I was at home packing all the remaining stuffs on my packing list (yes I have a travel packing list). Hubby came an hour later and packed all of his stuffs. My BIL also dropped by. Though as much as I tried, I was not able to get the kid to sleep. So I tried to sleep a bit along with Mum. 2330hrs -  we got up, changed and tried to make sense of the packing mayhem ( hubby forgot his stuffs, my mum forgot her medicines, I forgot my shawl). After saying bye to BIL, we got in the van arranged by hubby and arrived at the airport.

The flight was at 2.35am -  so we were on time. My sis along with her kids were at the airport ( at that ungodly hours) to send us off. A quick supper in the departure terminal, a slow and steady walk to almost the end of the gates -  we were on time to board the plane.
Us inside the plan

The flight journey was 5 hours and 55 mins, and most of the journey -  and I will say at least 5 hours and 30 mins of the flight was uneventful and smooth. All four of us slept well. Just 15 mins into landing, our flight ran into some turbulence and I will be truthful in saying that I thought I was going to die. The kid went into fright mode too, but he held on to his pillow while his grand mother held his other hand and consoled him.

Saturday -  Ajmer
Upon landing, I think we spent an hour in the terminal itself -  to get the bags, exchange some currency for JIC and we managed to find our driver once we came out of the terminal. You know, since I did most of the planning ( or I was the only one who planned the trip), I knew the weather as well. I went around warning my mum and hubby that the weather was 16 degrees C and they should be dressed accordingly, and guess what? I didn't bring  the necessary clothes to keep me warm. I was like -  what the hell was I thinking? I only had a shawl to warm myself. I also forgot to pack proper shoes for the kid. He was wearing slippers throughout the trip. So there we were at the airport terminal  - cold and all -( me cursing myself) had coffee and some snacks. Driver -  or Sonu ji -  told us that we will be seeing food in the next 3 hours only. So we stocked up on the mineral water and started off on our journey.

Since the main objective of this trip was to observe the vow my Mum made to the  Ajmer Dargah Shariff, we did not start the sightseeing till after the vows has been fulfilled. So our first stop was to Ajmer in Rajastan. Sonu ji was kind enough to lie to us that the trip will take five hours. We arrived the hotel eight hours later. We landed wee hours in the morning so eight hours later- local time, we were still on time for the dargah. We rested for an hour, showered and met up with Sonu ji who dropped us at a parking sport 2km from the dargah.

From the parking spot, we hailed a local auto ( different than the ones in the South were passengers can sit both side here) and traveled a rocky 2 kms uphill to the back of the mosque. The video is in my Insta feed. It was an adventurous ride for my son! We have been told what to expect at the dargah itself, but no one told us about the road journey before. We had to walk through dark corners, small walls and heavy traffic to reach the dargah. I will write more about this in detail in my next posts.

Once the vows has been fulfilled, we were free to start on the sightseeing. Up to this point, I was laser focused on getting everything right. I even told my parents to think of getting sick or dying only after fulfilling the vow for the past three months.

Sunday - Jaipur

The following day -  we checked out - and traveled 3 hours plus to arrive Jaipur also known as the Pink City. (A small note here not all of Jaipur is pink. They have old Jaipur and new Jaipur -  and its the old Jaipur that's pink in colur.) We did the same thing -  checked in the hotel, freshen up and changed, back to the car again and started the sightseeing. Sonu ji arranged a tour guide, Mr Nayak in Jaipur, whom we met next to Hawa Mahal, There we went to Jantar Mantar -  which is a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments, built by a Rajput kind Sawal Jai Singh and completed in 1734 CE. Hubby was impressed. After Jantar Mantar -  we went to City Palace. We paid the high price to tour inside the royal residence actually and we liked it. There were seven floors in that palace and each floor has specific name. I could only remember one or two, hence I googled the rest here. And yes all four of us went to each of the floor and we loved it. Felt like a Royal till I reached the ground floor.

1st floor -  Gardens and Museum
2nd floor-
3rd floor - Chandra Mahal
4th floor - Shoba Nivas
5th floor -  Chhavi Nivas
6th floor - Shri Niwas
7th floor -  Mukut Mandir

And we ended the day visiting the Amer Fort. It was a hilltop fort and palace, spacious, old and nice. There were lots of monkeys in which my son became an ardent fan and wanted one back home. They have the elephant rides up to the fort I was told. But my driver was able to drive us up anyways. Why bother the elephants? And since the weather was so nice, the place was beautiful and cooling. Mum didn't make it to this one, Instead she stayed in the car and chatted up with Sonu ji. She couldn't handle the climb up the steep stairs.

Monday -  Agra

After the trip to Jaipur, we checked into the hotel to rest. We were told by Sonu ji that Monday is a holiday since all Indians were celebrating Holi. So the traffic is sort of closed ( they have toll booth where people are inside small boxes collecting money). The toll booth people were out celebrating and will not be back till 10.30pm.

Hubby and I had a small walk around checking out if there were any stores outside. He wanted to get something, but most of the stores surrounding the hotel were shuttered and closed. And all the people were covered in florescent pink and yellow and multi colors.

I think by the time we were ready and out, we were kind of late to check out Birla Temple in Jaipur. Apparently they close early. But we saw it from outside, it looked nice and then continued the drive to Agra where the famous Taj Mahal resides.

We didn't get to see the Taj there and then. We were arriving Agra but Taj closes at 6pm and we didn't want to rush checking it out. So on the way, we took a diversion and checked out Fatehpur Sikiri. The tour guide there -  Mr Mohammed Shaheed, told us that the gates were the biggest in the world and that there are a couple of gates. I was kind of taken aback to see a number of Muslim tombstones all around and in the palace. I was told that there were the descendants of the saint, Salim Chisti some named and  some unmarked. It was a big, serene environment, I liked it there actually - more than anywhere I have been. We spent some time walking around, listening to the live music by religious men and then headed back to the 3rd hotel of our trip.

Tuesday - Delhi
Come morning, we packed up for good, checked out the hotel after having breakfast and drove to the Taj mahal. Since its my 2nd time round, I sort of knew what to expect. I chose that damned hotel in the first place because it was walking distance to the Taj, The guide chosen by Sonu ji however took us a longer direction away from the Taj and ended up in the other gate of entrance which I didn't know exist. But nevertheless, we went though the long queues at the ticketing counter, at the entrance and at the security and checked the Taj out. My mum was so excited she was squealing away.
Actually Mum was so tired she couldn't walk too much, but she managed to walk alot in this trip. Though Mum said she didnt want to go inside the Taj, she went in. She didn't check out the tomb, but walked around the Taj to check out the Yamuna river. All in all -  she finally saw that place and we were ready to move on.

We walked out and an hour and half later ( after checking out the souvenir shops, buying stuffs for home and all, we travelled all the way back in Delhi. I think we arrived somewhere after 7pm Indian time. I specifically chose Hotel Grand Godwin because it was in the same vicinity as the previous hotel I stayed in 2015, I know the area and it was hugely recommended online. The rooms were large, airy and comfy all of us were more than happy with it.

Wednesday -  Delhi day 1 -  No sightseeing
We had no plans to sightsee - but Mum insisted on shopping for churidhars for my nieces back home. So we went to some shopping area -  I have no idea of the place's name now. Most of the shops were not opened, and the shops that were -  did not have churidars for seven year olds. I think we checked out maybe 5 or 6 places till we found the right shop. Mum got some and I bought maybe 5 tops. They don't sell a complete suit these people. I bought a salwar and dupaata set and 4 tops. All different prints and colors.

Met up with my cousin brother and his beautiful wife for lunch, then headed to some bazaar to find some more dresses for the nieces and for my sis, had dinner with them at Pandara Road and booked a Uber cab back to the hotel.

Thursday -  Day 2

Sightseeing started at 9.30am. We visited Humayun Tomb, Lotus Temple, Qutub Minar. Very hot and tiring the weather seem to be increased a bit but I didn't sweat a bit. Please google all about it, they are pretty standard touristy spots. Lotus Temple is a place of worship where there is no idol worshiping. Anyone can go there and meditate and be there as long as they want. We were in the hall for 20 minutes or so and then we decided to leave because I was dozing off.  We drove along the Parliment road where Mum wanted to see Rashtrapathi Bhawan. She saw got happy and we drove off for dinner. We wanted to eat South Indian, so Sonu ji dropped us at Connaught Place -  a very hip place to be, where we had dinner at Saravana Bhawans. We walked around quite a bit at Connaught place, and wanted to check out Palika Bazaar, but it was closed. Took a auto back to the hotel and rested.

Friday -  Day 3

We checked out India Gate first, then Raj Ghat (Gandhi memorial). Then we ended up in Red Fort. Here, all four of us went in to the Red gate and walked around within 30 mins later hubby and son left us there and went for their Friday prayers at Jumma Masjid. So mum and I walked around, checked out the place, took pictures, sat here and there wasting time as much as we could and then met up with the boys. We had spicy Hyderabadi biryani at Connaught place, much to my hubby's delight. I -  only had prawn biryani. Anyways -  ended the day checking out Akshardam. A really nice place to visit and the best highlight of the trip. All of us really loved it. We only spent maybe two hours the most. But it requires a day at most to check out the place. The artwork is fantastic and beautiful around the mandirs.

Our flight back home was scheduled at 9.05am, and we were advised by Sonu ji to leave the hotel by 5.30am to arrive well before 7am, But hubby told us to be out of the hotel by 5am.  So after the last sightseeing, I went back to the hotel to complete my side of the packing. I used the extra folding duffel bag i bought for $6 to bring in the 100g quilts my hubby bought (in Jaipur) along with the soiled laundry. Hubby and I went to the nearest Haldiram restaurant to purchase sweets for my colleagues back home and some for Dad and then print out flight confirmation and headed back to the hotel to rest.

Saturday  - Flight day
We actually woke up on time and was out on time. But as usual hubby came out late because he thought he could finish his military style shower and pack up within 20 minutes. It didn't by the way. Of all the days we were in all the hotels, my hubby was the last one to come out of the rooms.
So we were in the car by 5.15am and reached the airport 5.50am. Way too early...yes I know. We checked in our luggages, had hot drinks and snacks and then went in to the immigration. Inside the departure terminal -  the shopping was nice. It was almost like Singapore. By the time we walked and strolled, we had to board in. I still feel I hadn't had much time shopping inside the terminal. Mum bought the Taj Mahal book at the book store there and I bought a Indian themed Pandora Charm (elephant) and rushed to the boarding gate.

All in all - we arrived safe and sound of course and this time, the flight back home was safe and uneventful. As I mentioned before, this trip went well and I have to be grateful to God for allowing us to have a good time with such good weather.

Only mum had issues here and there. She hurt her knee on the first day she was on her way to Ajmer and the rest of the trip, she was hurting. But she did a lot of walking-  i was amazed she could ever walk that far. The chillness of the weather dried her lips and she had chapped lips throughout. My lip balm did little help. It was on Day1 at Delhi when shopping with my brother she bought a proper Nivea lip balm and she was fine the next day onward.

Food wise -  I am proud to say - all four of us were unlike the typical tourist who complained of food. The staple food was roti, or chappati and anything made of wheat flour. They had so many varieties of naan and rotis and their gravies were rich and delicious. Mum could not find good cooked steamed rice, but she fell in love with Butter Naan. I thought she would miss the South Indian variety - but nope. She was a good spot. We has Rajastani cuisine, Jaipur cuisine and typical Delhite meal and they were all lovely. I loved their savory poha the best. Its flattened rice flakes cooked like uppuma. They have that for breakfast there.

I am glad that this trip did not end up chaotic and fiasco as my first trip in 2015. In Summary -  the North was beautiful and nice weather permitting.

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