Saturday, July 5, 2014

My Second Time in Incredible India!!


3rd January 2014 marked the day I set foot in India for the second time in my 25 years of existence on planet earth.

After 14 days, RM 8000 poorer, 1000 pictures taken and 35 000 Km travelled (went up to about 8,500 ft above sea level!)....... memories to last a lifetime was created.

I’ve visited India for the first time back in December 2012 and wrote about my entire experience here. For those of you who are new to my blog, I suggest you read my first post on India before you carry on with this post.

Anyway, if you’re still too lazy to read my first post on India (trust me, you’re missing out a lot by not reading it!) – let me say this for the 100th time, DO NOT ever, EVER go to India EXPECTING ANYTHING at all – you should go to India with the attitude as such: “I’m going to accept anything that comes my way – even if it’s shit. Like, literally shit."

India is a 3rd world country so DO NOT go to India expecting to see a Japan or a Singapore.

Contrary to my first blog post, I’ll let the pictures do as much talking as possible in this post.

My happy face on the way to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to board a flight to a place where I will be greeted as “madam” and have doors held open for me for as long as I’m there. Tell me who won’t be happy with this kind of treatment?


Mumbai
 I was taken around on the night I landed and the days I was in the city.



I had dinner at  Koyla Restaurant (located at the Colaba in Mumbai) which boasts awesome food, a relaxing place to dine at the rooftop of a building surrounded by a spectacular view of the city which is home to Bollywood film industry.



I went around the city, particularly to shopping malls. Coming from Kuala Lumpur, I can say I LOVE shopping in Mumbai because brands are just genuinely cheaper (and I haven't even started on discounts, offers and promotions just yet!).
I got a Levi's top for RM 95 (INR 1800)!! There's just no way you can find that in KL!!

So... I got myself one in black.


And one in white.


Verdict: Mumbai is a typical city of a third world country. It's very cosmopolitan. You have clubs, bars and state of the art fine dining places.. oh and amazing shopping malls with amazing theatres! On the downside, there's heavy traffic, everywhere is crowded with people and food can be quite pricey.
It's definitely the first city of my choice to live in, in India.



This time, my trip to India covered the Punjab region.
I know just a thing or two about Punjabis and nothing more.
I know Punjabi cuisines are one of the tastiest.
I know Punjabis love to have fun.. Chak de phattey, no?
And I heard (and from what I've experience speaking to a handful of them) that they are nice, friendly and helpful.
Sardars as they say, "brotherhood".
Oh, and they are all somehow in one way or another connected to "London". LOL.



Amritsar

Shoot yourself in the head if you went all the way to Amritsar but never set foot in the Golden Temple!!!
The Golden Temple is somewhat the 'holy land" for the Sikhs, as "Mecca" is to the Muslims.
And the similarities end just there.
So I was told that the Sikhs are the warrior clan of Hindus - they were formed in the process of preventing Hindus from converting to Muslims back when India was ruled by the Mughal empire.

 
That's me and Devam Das with our heads covered before entering the Golden Temple.
And no, he is not a Punjabi.

Me with the Golden Temple in the background.

My favourite Bengali boy with the Golden Temple in the background.


Yours truly in the "Langar" - a section in every Gurdwara where food is serve because Sikhs believe that hunger will affect one's concentration in meditation and prayers hence food is given out for free to anyone who comes to the Gurdwara.


 
My mum loves this picture of me.
(How can she not? After all, this is one of the very few times I actually look decent, innocent and pure. LOL)


Now, not far off the Golden Temple, you'll find an open field (with a very narrow entrance leading to it).
It's called the Jallianwala Bagh where about 1500 Sikhs, Christians, Hindus and Muslims were massacred, about 100 years ago.  
The rock behind me as pictured below, is erected in commemoration of the incident.





In Amritsar, I stayed at the Golden Tulip Amritsar hotel which was a great value for money. 
However it was the restaurant at the ground floor of the hotel that made it all the more worth it...

It was here that I was introduced to the awesome possum Chicken Tangry Kebab!

And other awesome Punjabi food, of course!


And it was also at this very restaurant when I first heard the song "maine pocha chand se..." which will forever bring back memories of this place along with the companion I was with =)

Ohh, and don't forget to check out beautiful, high quality materials when in Amritsar..


You'll be spoilt for choices!
I got myself a beautiful Salwar Kameez and an Anarkali in which I'll model and parade, in due course!



Chandigarh

Another state in Punjab.
This is the 2nd city of my choice to live in, in India.
It's a quaint, relaxing and a very clean and organized place. 
Nickamed "The City Beautiful", it is the FIRST and MOST well-planned city in India.

There are a few interesting places to check out in this peaceful city.
First being - The Rose Garden.







Yeap you read that right!
Those are roses named "konfetti"!


My outfit for that day:
Black Winter Coat - Lipsy UK
Bag - Prada
Jeans - Levi's
Boots - Primark, UK
Shawl - a shop in Rajasthan


Rose welcoming you to a rose garden




What's a Rose got to do in a Rose Garden?
Smell some roses, of course!


Next stop in Chandigarh, we visited The Rock Garden built by this brilliant self-taught artist,
 Nek Chand Saini.


It's a garden with figurines made of stone and other recycled items.



There you go.. some history for you.

I love the sunset effect on this photo.
I love the photographer even more! =)

It was freezing and it was already nightfall and I had to step on some slippery rocks and brave the cold water around me, to get this picture.

Some of the sculptures made out of rocks/recycled items...






Yours truly in some cave-like part of the Rock Garden


We made a pit stop for dinner at Choki Dani, a themed-park like restaurant not too far off from Chandigarh.
I thought to myself it will be a good idea if something like that was to be implemented here in Malaysia.


Anyway, what happens is that you have to purchase a ticket (which includes the meal and the "theme park")



and you'll be led in to this huge garden...



Where they have little stalls...



That serves you different type of food... These men stationed at the different stalls will prepare your food in front of your very eyes - and served warm when the weather is at 5celcius!!

I can't remember what you call this.. but please do leave a comment and tell me, if you know..

And I think this was Bel-puri...

Both were surprisingly delicious!
Other than food, there are also little stalls in the garden where you can....

Try your hand at making clay/diya/candle holder

Watch a stunt man lie on a rope..

And walk on a rope...

Have a story narrated and a magic show performed for you...

Watch a puppet show....

and more stunts...

and have a mini band playing music for you in which they'll encourage you to dance...

or look through a bioscope...

and take some pictures at the photo booth...

or find a spot to meditate....


keep walking through these little stalls...


and it wont be long before you'll (finally!) arrive at the restaurant!!


Before serving you with food, they'll make you wear a Rajasthani-like turban and apply a "kum-kum" (red tumeric) to your forehead.

As you can see, none of us were spared.

In the restaurant, they'll make you sit around the main food table, and you will individually be served with the rice and dishes.


Rajasthani food!!



I think it was on our way out from Chandigarh the next day when we stopped by Havelli in Jalandhar.
Yet another interesting theme park-like Punjabi restaurant. 
Before entering the restaurant, you'll be taken a walk through a mock-up olden day Punjabi village.

You'll walk through...

and see what the daily lives of the people were like..

what kind of houses they live in...

what fun meant to a kid at that time..

what the interior of their village houses were like...







how their wedding ceremonies and processions were like..

what their streets were like...
oh yes, they have hair saloons at the side of the street! (you can still spot a few of this at some parts of India today!)

and see how the get-up of people were like back then...

It's only when you enter the restaurant that you'll realize you're taken back to the present time and how much things have changed.



Food was splendid. Punjabi food.. what else can I say!!
Paneer (cheese) all the way for me, man!




New Delhi
Also a part of Punjab, Delhi is pronounced "deli" or "dili" and NOT "del-hee" as most Malaysians do.
This was my second time in Delhi but this time around, I covered places and important areas which I didn't  have time to, the last time I was there.

Yours truly at the Red Fort (also known as the Lal Qila) in Delhi.
I will not bother explaining the history of this place as all information, concise, can be found here.

This is the bazaar at the Red Fort. 
I saw alot, ALOT of good bargains here but someone just had to stop me from spending.. which, anyway, was for the better.

Me at the front of the Peacock Throne where the Maharaja once sat majestically. 
Do not miss the sound and lights show that happens every night, in which the history of the place will be narrated in both English and Hindi.
Details here

That's the throne right behind me!



Me hanging around the Red Fort premises awaiting for the sound and lights showcase.


Me on the streets of Delhi hunting for a famous restaurant.

In Delhi, we stayed at The Metropolitan Hotel and I'm not getting paid for this, but this is one hotel I highly recommend to whoever who wants a convenient place to stay in New Delhi and a clean, beautiful, affordable room. 

This is the lobby

This was our room


And somewhere along the way in Punjab, while travelling from one place to another by car, we stopped by Havelli Restaurant where I had AWESOME PUNJABI FOOD!!!

At a quick glance it does look like a Chinese Restaurant, no?

Me waiting for awesome Punjabi food!

and.. waiting...

Yeap, they really went all out to have the restaurant decorated.. a typical punjabi truck in there yo!

On one of our road journeys.. we went to the...


Wagah Border
This is a part of Punjab which borders India and Pakistan. 
I, obviously, was on the Indian side.
I got to witness the daily (I think it happens everyday at 5pm) change of guards. 
I was quite in a state of shock to know that Pakistan was literally about 500m from where I was seated. 

I felt the spirit of patriotism from the citizens of this country when everybody aroud me yelled HINDUSTAN ZINDABAD!! (Long live India) Half the time I was very conscious about my surroundings, knowing the "good" ties India has with Pakistan. Haha!
I was also partly conscious about myself because Indians around me were looking at me and wondering what in the world is a chinky doing here...
Well.. I was.. very much enjoying myself, obviously!!

That's Pakistan right behind me!
You're looking at the Pakistani border right there!



Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh
The last time I was in Himachal Pradesh, I visited Manali. 
This time, I visited this place called Dalhousie which is less famous within tourists as compared to Manali. Hence, this was the perfect place for me. 
I had winter, I had the mountains, I had hot masala tea, I had the best companion in the world and....
I stayed in the best hotel in Dalhousie in which I highly, highly recommend. Again, I'm not paid to say so.
I stayed at Grand View Hotel, Dalhousie and this was my room....
And these.. were my views...

Located along the Himalayas and pretty near Kailash (also known as the Land of Gods), I travelled quite a bit in Dalhousie.. going all the way up (even nearer to Mount Kailash) and going all the way down to a nearby town called Chamba.

I know, they say I look like a Himachali woman here...

Oh and from this spot of where I'm stood... Devotees of Shiva will often hang about at night and try to spot a white light across the mountain (believed to be that of Shiva's).

We drove high up...
It was thrilling for me but I wasn't too worried or scared because we had a very skilful Himachali driver with us. In thick snow, I highly do not recommend driving around the mountain areas unless you have an EXTREMELY skilful driver who is used to such roads and weather conditions.

Somewhere up the Himalayas...

And down we went all the way to the town of Chamba where I visited a few places such as the museums and the Rang Mahal.
And a church!

Pondicherry/Auroville, South India
I don't mean to belittle anybody here but I have never been a fan of the South Indian culture - from the language to the food and generally the fashion. I do not mean that any of it is ugly/bad but what I do mean is that this is just a case of personal choice and preference. 
Hence, I wasn't really looking forward to taking a flight down south to Chennai.
But I must say, South India did surprise me big time.
English seems to be even more well understood in South India. People are generally more educated down in the south than up in the north - my taxi driver holds a Masters in Computer Science but drives a taxi around because he can't get a job or that the job pays way too low...!!
Also, I do find South Indians a little more relaxed and less "in your face" than in the North.
Roads are a tad bit cleaner and organized but the driving is pretty much the same! LOL!
I stayed in a nice hotel in Pondicherry.
This is the hotel lobby.
And in Pondicherry, I also paid a visit to HiDesign Hotel where I got this view while having lunch at the buffet area.
Hung out at one of the beaches in Pondicherry.
At one of the French district in Pondicherry where the houses are modelled and built with a French architecture, pretty close by to the Aurobindo Ashram.

Now, the only one thing I looked forward to when in Pondicherry was visiting Auroville.
Auroville (City of Dawn) is an experimental township in Viluppuram district in the state of Tamil Nadu. This little township consists of more than 50 nationalities and has its own government, economy and belief system. It is not at all easy to be a citizen of Auroville; to be one, one must do years of community service to Auroville, among many other requirements.
Click here to read up more about this amazing township.
In the heart of Auroville, lies the MatriMandir (Mother's Temple) where to sit in for meditation, one needs to make a few weeks of booking in advance for a slot!
But an appointment is not needed to view the MatriMandir from a far..
That.. is the majestic MatriMandir made out of a few kg of gold...
You'll find meaningful words stringed into sentences that make absolute sense on the few KM walk towards the MatriMandir.
Here's a glimpse to what the MatriMandir looks like inside...

The MatriMandir is used for the sole purpose of meditation...

Me trying hard to blend in with my bright orange Salwar Kameez.

Another thing I would like to rave about Auroville is the Auroville Bakery where I bought a Lemon Butter Cake and is probably one of the best butter cakes I've ever tasted to date!! For all you cake/pastry lovers, the bakery in Auroville is a MUST-visit.. the whiff of smell you'll get upon entering the bakery is enough to have you madly drooling!
My slice of heaven in a form of a lemon butter cake.

 I love the reading habit/culture in India. 
This is a little book store filled with HEAPS (yes, loads I mean!) of books in Chennai Airport.

The one on the left goes to my collection of Barbie and the one on the right now belongs to little Natasha.

Two very unique Anand Prakash bookmarks (I LOVEEE his designs of bookmarks and notebooks!) that I bought from Mumbai Airport.

I have travelled widely to a few countries but one of the reasons why I only write so passionately about India is because it's a country where I find unity in diversity, order in chaos and there's just so much more to explore - it's as if every corner of the street is history that is yet to be tapped in to or promoted the way they should. There's so much more to India than the Taj Mahal!

Till my next trip....

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