Saturday, January 7, 2012

Max in India Part 3: Beauty does lie in the eyes of the beholder, and Taj Mahal is no exception!

The three of us were soooooo glad when our trip to Agra from Jaipur was so hassle-free we did not complain about going on an empty stomach knowing that the train would depart at 5.10pm from Jaipur and only arrived Agra at 9.40pm. Yes people, we survived the ultimate Indian train ride for about four and a half hours and if you asked me; well, it was not too bad lah. I mean Hazriq and I did get to see a woman chasing a train at Agra Cantt and her two feet almost fell into the train track while the train was moving as she held on to the railing! No kidding. So a man pulled her up and I thanked God profusely that she was safe boarding the train in the end. It was like a Bollywood scene right there for a moment.

FYI we were on air-conditioned, second class chair car (CC) in this Jaipur-Agra leg and we paid only 324 Rupee, or approximately RM21.60 each for the journey. There was nothing much to see outside as it was dark and there was nothing much we could do but to take a nap and hoping that we would get there on time...because we were sooooooo hungry. Word.

Once we arrived Agra, it was cold and less than a minute a man quickly approached us and asked us if we needed a taxi to our hotel. Again initially we were so hesitated because we did not want to get duped again for the second time (lesson learned alright!) but we were so tired and we finally gave in.

On our way to the hotel, somehow this sense of trustworthiness on this man was slowly building from the inside of me and bear in mind! We just knew this guy barely few minutes ago and pronto!

He was to become our driver-cum-tourist-guide in Agra. :D

We stayed at Amar Yatri Niwas. After we checked in and kept our stuffs in our rooms, we had a very late dinner at their restaurant and it was a very pleasant Indian feast:

We love this!

We could not get away from paratha!

Yours truly and Hazriq showing off our beautiful intricate-looking hennas :) We took off the henna paste along our way to Agra and the result was just unbelievable.

After dinner, we went to bed early to see the sunrise in Taj Mahal the next day, as suggested by Hazriq.

Aiight so the moment that you avid readers have been waiting for. I bet if you have read the first and second part of my trip to India you might have been wondering if I have ever visited the prestigious Taj Mahal. FYI Taj Mahal is located in Agra; and since there is no direct flight to Agra from anywhere in the world the best way to come to this place is to fly to Delhi first (don't forget to tour Delhi also!) and perhaps you may want to go to Agra either via train, bus, or charter a driver. As for the three of us, we did the golden triangle tour (Delhi first, Jaipur second, Agra third and back to Delhi again) because we wanted to save the BEST for the LAST!

I was still pretty tired waking up to catch the sunrise in Taj Mahal, but boy when we got there with our Indian traditional costumes we bought in Jaipur I suddenly felt energized all over again knowing that I was about to see one of the legit wonders of the world.

The morning was cold and there were already a lot of people lining up for tickets. Ticket price? 750 Rupee or about RM50. And I'm telling you the rupee you have paid for is worth it! Security is pretty tight; you cannot bring food nor lighter in as far as I can remember so I suggest you go light visiting Taj Mahal. You need not to bring any water bottle because it will be provided to you; they will also give you covers for your shoes/slippers when you walk into/around the mausoleum.

You may say it's a gate or the main entrance of the Taj Mahal; I say it's the appetizer to my main course (to be captivated by the Taj Mahal)!

I remember when I first had this image threw right into my eyes; I was like 'OMG!', covered my mouth with my hands, and put on a failed falsetto scream. My good friend Natalie knows how to do it!

Indeed it is magnificent. At first the Taj Mahal looked like paintings in the sky, and I told myself that I have to touch it (like literally touching the marbles of the Taj Mahal) to signify that I am actually there not to just see it and keep saying it's unbelievable, but to come to my realization that it is real and not bogus! Another word.

The sunrise was simply unbelievable. God's beauty at its best!

Too good to be true. Just like paintings in the sky.

Namaste all the way from Taj Mahal ;)

And also, doing the sumazau like you just don't care all the way right in front of the Taj Mahal! :D

Postcard from India for you dear readers! :)
Hazzy & Steffy, I truly dedicate this post to you. :)

Woohoo! Hazriq we finally conquered Taj Mahal! :D

Them admiring the beauty of the mausoleum.

Yours truly stamping his marks on the Taj Mahal, period.

Worth the effort of waking up early to catch the sunrise. Worth the effort to don the Indian traditional costumes. No one can stop us!

Apart from admiring the beauty of Taj Mahal, we had a lot of fun doing one very stress-free photoshoot. One photo a la Street Fighter, two photos a la Bollywood.

Can you actually spot Steffy & Hazzy in this photo? :P

Ever wonder what is actually behind the Taj Mahal? Yamuna River.

Hazriq pumping his fists as he has only few more wonders to go towards 100% compliance of visiting all seven LEGIT wonders of the world. I have six more to go.

I just can't stop looking at it, period.

We spent about three good hours taking photos, admiring the beauty, projecting our thoughts and senses, freeing our minds and most of all having fun at the Taj Mahal. In Hindi, Mahal means amazingly or extremely beautiful and you actually pronounce it as "may-hey". Steffy was right about even taking photos of it will not capture the beauty nor the essence of the mausoleum; you have got to see it in your own eyes to believe. Up to this time as I write, I still remember my "OMG-covering my mouth-putting up a failed falsetto scream" moment.

Love is unconditional. Love knows no boundaries. And Shah Jahan could spend years and years of meticulously building this beauty in memory of his consort Mumtaz Mahal, while giving birth to their 14th child. Rumor has it that people who were involved in building and carving the Taj Mahal had their hands physically cut off after it was completed, as it was so beautiful that Shah Jahan did not want any other building to be re-modeled after it. True or not true, it is still and will continue to mesmerize the people who come to visit and see it in their own eyes.

Phew! After Taj Mahalling, we had breakfast at another rooftop restaurant; came back to the hotel to check out and visited Agra Fort before leaving Agra for New Delhi.

And yes, like Jaipur, we spent two good days in Agra.

See? Another paratha! We could not get away from it.

The main entrance of the Agra Fort. You probably would take note that we changed our clothes because the costumes were exclusively for our visit to Taj Mahal! :)

I asked our driver-cum-tourist-guide if we get to see the Taj Mahal from Agra Fort. He said yes, and there you go Hazzy admiring the Taj Mahal from a distance not too far from Agra Fort. :)

The garden at Agra Fort is amazing. Loving the fact that they plant beautiful flowers to make the place more lively! Or else it's just another ordinary fort.

Obviously when we visited Agra Fort it was completely overshadowed, hands down by Taj Mahal. Everyone knows the reason why.

Taj Mahal from a distance.

We always get creative when it comes to taking photos in another country :D

After visiting the two places, we rewarded ourselves with a very good Indian lunch and yes, parathas were always on our table. I am missing this for real! :D

The trip back to New Delhi from Agra (thus achieving the ultimate Golden Triangle) was smooth and more comfortable than the one we had from Jaipur to Agra. We were on first class and we paid about 772 Rupee, or about RM50 each for the journey. The journey was so comfortable that they serve food on board (and ice cream too! I had butterscotch, no kidding!) just like the photo you are looking at right now. It took us about 2 hours to get back to Delhi and that was it; one memorable trip that the three of us are to cherish for the rest of our lives.

The Golden Triangle. JYEAH!

Putting aside all the negative comments about India; I had a blast there. Truly an amazing time. Honestly, little did I realize that I would eventually step foot on that land in December last year. Travelling with Hazzy & Steffy made it even sweeter and I could not ask for more wonderful memories with them, as far as this trip is concerned. I really hope I can come back sometime soon (probably I should visit other places; Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad...) and yes you need a tourist visa to come to India! :)

Before I end this post, here are two tips for you when you're in India:

1. Indians love tipping so be sure to have extra money with you when you are on the go!

2. If you are approached by people trying to sell you souvenirs especially at places of attraction, if you're not interested (most of the time you're not buying them because it can get pretty annoying because they will make you feel obliged to buy them) just nod your head sideways vigorously a few times/back and forth and politely say 'NEHI!'. It means 'No' in Hindi.

Dhanyavad India for the inspiration!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Max in India Part 2: Jaipur Oh Jaipur!

The second part of the Indian series I will bring you to the beautiful city of pink Jaipur. We were supposed to go there via train from Delhi but we were duped hastily on board the train, as we did not have proper tickets. We were EXTREMELY fumed. It was very ugly at first as we were told go to this so-called legit "tourism center" in hopes of sorting out our journey to Jaipur. In the end we missed the train and forked out about US$300 (mind you it's not in Malaysian Ringgit!) for chartering a car to Jaipur.

We were reluctant at first but once we were thinking about living, breathing and embracing Jaipur, we put our fumings aside (well they died down along the way anyways) and pronto! off we go to the pink city.

And hey, it turned out to be a pleasant journey after all :)

We were all napping when our driver woke me up and said "Max! look, monkeys!"
I woke up and I got this image. Ha!

OMG A camel! Who says only Egypt has camels? Who? Apparently the state of Rajasthan is very famous for camels. They are everywhere, period.

We stopped by for breakfast making our way to Jaipur and let me let you see what India has to offer, gastronomically:

The breakfast we had is pretty much Westernized; except for the paratha. Now that's something Indian. Goodness thinking about eating authentic paratha in India is making me hungry now as I write!

Once we arrived Jaipur, Jaigarh Fort is the first place we visited:

Breathtaking isn't it?

See? Another camel!

The state of Rajasthan is also very famous for their maharaja maharani dolls. I spotted them at Jaigarh Fort. With a man playing the tabla, they put on a puppet show.

Once we finished touring Jaigarh Fort, we made our way to the city and as we slowly descended down the hill, we told the driver to stop the car and just admired the beautiful view. That's the Jal Mahal by the way in the middle of Man Sagar Lake. Keep reading and scrolling down if you want a close-up of the majestic Jal Mahal! :D

When we finally arrived Jaipur, off shopping we went to buy us some kurtas, punjabis, pashminas, Indian fabrics, and the list goes on; souvenirs from India basically.

Us donning the kurta in Jaipur. Awesome!

Since we could not stop spotting camels there, Steffy & I decided to ride on it!

The place where we had the camel ride is not too far from Jal Mahal; in fact the lake where it is located is just right next to it so we went as closest as we could and took a photo with us three in it.
To top it all off in what to be a challenging and trying day in the beginning and turned out to be a great one towards the end, we had a great dinner, Rajasthani style.

After we had our dinner, there was a small performance going on and the dancer invited us to dance along with her. Again the Rajasthani style! What a great way to end the day.

The following day we visited these places:

The beautiful Amber Fort.

And who says only China has Great Wall? India has it too!

I had the chance to see snake charmers live in my own eyes, and I got to perform with them too! :)

I had all the courage in the world to kiss the snake!

I know henna is for the ladies but since we were in India and we didn't have anything to lose, why not give it a try?

Jantar Mantar.

The Albert Hall. It's actually a museum exhibiting a collection of arts and crafts. Worth the visit if you are an archaeology enthusiast.

The magnificient Hawa Mahal. Actually this is the reason why I wanted to include Jaipur in the itinerary so badly!

In Jaipur, we stayed at the wonderful Krishna Palace. The hotel exceeded our expectations; the room is clean and tidy, friendly people at the reception counter (especially the owner of Krishna Palace Mr. Vivek, he greeted us personally!) and we love heart love dining at the rooftop restaurant! Hazriq and I only paid about RM93 for the deluxe room that we stayed overnight. I'm not kidding! Click the photo below for the link to their website :)

Dhanyavad Krishna Palace!

I really miss this. My breakfast at the rooftop restaurant.

I lie if I tell you I don't love Jaipur. We spent two days living and breathing and embracing there. Not only the places of attraction are beautiful and inspiring; Jaipurians are very friendly and love to greet you at their best. This is also the city where I have begun to love drinking and sipping masala tea. And yeah, you really do see pink everywhere in Jaipur!

I will definitely miss the dancing, camel ride and performing together with the snake charmers.

I ♥ you Jaipur! Dhanyavad Jaipur for the experience!

Chele jao Agra hai! :)