The trip to India is for my sister’s wedding. I traveled from US while others from Malaysia or Singapore. I flew with Continental Airlines from Houston to Newark and then a direct flight from Newark to New Delhi, India. I went all out on this trip and upgraded myself to Continental’s BusinessFirst class. I paid USD$1300 for the original flight and USD$400 and 40,000 miles each way for the upgrade. It was totally worth it. I arrived Indira Gandhi International Airport late at night, head to the hotel right away for dinner and call it a day after a long flight. You will see me use Delhi and New Delhi interchangeably.
I would totally recommend either taking a train or plane to travel between the cities. We had road trip from Delhi to Agra (5 hours), Agra to Jaipur (5 hours) and Jaipur to Delhi (8 hours). Riding in a car in India was totally an exciting experience for me because I was definitely surprised or even scared by the driving skills here. One more thing, I would strong suggest you brushing up your negotiation skills. Rule of thumb: whenever you are approached by sellers at the attractions, make sure you negotiate the price by 80% and go up from there.
Here’s some general information about travelling to India.
- New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur is about 10.5 hours ahead of Houston during Daylight Savings Time (DST).
- 40 rupees approximately equal to USD$1.
Day 1 (October 10, 2010)
New Delhi – Qutub Minar
We started our first day in India by visiting Qutub Minar. The admission fee was 250 rupees (approximately USD$6.50) for foreigners while local pay 20 rupees. You will see a big difference on the admission fee charges between foreigners and local in tourist attractions in India.
More information about Qutub Minar is available on wikipedia.
Agra – Sikandra
After spending about 2 hours at Qutub Minar, we started our road trip to Agra from Delhi. The drive was about 5 hours. We stopped at Sikandra where Akbar The Great’s tomb is located before reaching Agra city limits. It has a beautiful serene garden with wild deers running around. The ceiling carvings are exquisite. There’s an empty hall next to the main tomb where we have four people standing in each corner (like an X) facing the wall whispering and we were able to hear the sound going through the wall. It’s a fun and memorable experience.
The dinner at the hotel was one of the best meal we had during our trip. We turned in early because we planned to wake up early before the sun rises at Taj Mahal.
Day 2 (October 11, 2010)
Agra – Taj Mahal
The admission fee for Taj Mahal was 700 rupees. Taj Mahal’s exterior will present different color shade depending on the sun position during the day as well as the moonlight. The sun at different hours will render the exterior pearl white to pink-ish white shade. The moonlight however will make the wall looked silver-ish glow.
Taj Mahal was built as a symbol of love to Mumtaz Mahal, Shah Jahan’s third wife who died giving birth to their fourteenth child. However, the Taj Mahal was never intended to be the resting place for Shah Jahan. According to myths, Shah Jahan planned on building a black marble mausoleum across the Yamuna river but failed when he was overthrown by his son.
The four minarets at each corner of the tomb actually bend outwards. The reason for this design is that when in the future if the minerats do collapse, they will avoid the tomb. The plant motif carving on the wall pietra dura made from different color stones were amazing.
Agra – Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri is a big complex with royal palaces, courts, Jama Masjid, Sufi shrine, once served as the capital was abandoned due to limited water supply.
The tomb was built where the renowned Sufi mystic Sheikh Salim Chisti had his hermitage and had sat in meditation during his lifetime. People of all religion came here to offer flowers, lay a piece of cloth under the canopy of the tomb and tie cotton threads on the marble screen believing their wishes will be fulfilled. According to the guide, Angelina Jolie been there before but we weren’t that lucky to bump into any celebrity. I, of course, did my duty as a gullible tourist, bought a piece of cloth, flowers and red cotton threads from vendor there.
Fatehpur Sikri is our last stop at Agra and we then continued our journey to Jaipur.
Day 3-5 (October 12-14, 2010)
Jaipur is popularly known as the Pink City. We didn’t do any sight-seeing the first 2 days in Jaipur for we were running around Jaipur running errands getting ready for the wedding. One of the dinner was planned at Om Tower, which was the worst meal we ever had in India. Although the food was bad, we were actually having fun playing a game on crowning the worst dish on the table. The wedding reception took place on the second day afternoon. All the girls had henna done on that night.
The wedding was being held at night on our third day in Jaipur, so we actually had some free time on our hands. Our first destination was Amber Fort. It certainly did look similar to The Great Wall in China.
Below is the breath-taking panaromic view from top of the Amber Fort.
The building to the left of the entrance gate is called the Jai Mandir, which is exquisitely beautified with glass inlaid panels and multi-mirrored ceilings. The mirrors are of convex shape and designed with colored foil and paint which would glitter bright under candle nights at the time it was in use. Also known as Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), the mirror mosaics and colored glasses were “glittering jewel box in flickering candle light”. Restoration and renovation processes are in progress and you can tell the difference by looking at the quality of the mirrors.
The fourth courtyard was where the Zenana (Royal family women, including concubines or mistresses) lived. Interesting point on this courtyard is that it has many living rooms where the queens resided and who were visited by the king at his choice without being found out as to which queen he was visiting, as all the rooms open into a common corridor.
Jal Mahal, the “Water Palace” is a palace located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur city. The lake gets filled up during the rainy season; over the years, once the reservoir became full during rainy season, it got covered with Hyacinth. During this period the red stoned palace became approachable only by boat and through a causeway. The lake got polluted due to sewage flow from the Jaipur city. The palace remained uninhabited, was not maintained and hence not visited by tourists.
We were only able to do a drive-by on Hawa Mahal. Built of red and pink sandstone, the palace is situated on the main thoroughfare in the heart of Jaipur’s business center. Its unique five-story exterior is also akin to the honeycomb of the beehive with its 953 small windows called jharokhas that are decorated with intricate lattice work. The original intention of the lattice was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen.
The last attraction in our itinerary was Albert Hall Museum. It is one of the oldest museums of Rajasthan.
We left Jaipur late afternoon on the 14th. The drive from Jaipur to New Delhi was long and we were in the car for almost 8 hours. The traffic was bumper-to-bumper due to the final day of the Commonwealth Games happening in New Delhi.
Day 6 (October 15, 2010)
We started our day with Humayun’s Tomb. Before entering the compound of Humayun’s Tomb, we stopped at Isa Khan Tomb just right next it. Isa Khan Niyazi was a noble in the court of Sher Shah Sur. Both his tomb and a mosque were built 20 years before Humayun’s Tomb and within an enclosed octagonal garden. It has striking ornamentation in the form of canopies, glazed tiles and lattice screens. Along the western side of the enclosure, the three-bay-wide mosque has a grand red sandstone central bay and striking mihrabs. The 16-meter high West Gate is the main entrance to the Humayun’s Tomb. The tomb was built by his widow and housed over 100 graves within earning it the name “Dormitory of the Mughals”.
The India Gate is the national monument of India. Burning in a shrine under the arch of India Gate since 1995 is the Amar Jawan Jyoti (the flame of the immortal soldier) which marks the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The surface of the India Gate is engraved with name of Indian soldiers and British Officers who died in World War I and the Afghan wars fighting for The British Empire and British India.The names are grouped based on the Regiment the solder belongs to.
After India Gate, we made a quick stop at Raj Ghat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. It is a black marble platform that marks the spot of Gandhi’s cremation and is left open to the sky while an eternal flame burns perpetually at one end.
We took a rickshaw after we parked the car to go to the Red Fort. Red Fort is a complex constructed by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the walled city of Old Delhi. The British used it as a military camp until India became independent in 1947. Red Fort showcases the very high level of art form and ornamental work.
Beyond this gate is another, larger open space, which originally served as the courtyard of the Diwan-i-Aam, the large pavilion for public imperial audiences with an ornate throne-balcony (jharokha) for the emperor. The columns were painted in gold and there was a gold and silver railing separating the throne from the public.
To the west of the hammam is the Moti Masjid, the Pearl Mosque. This was a later addition, built as a private mosque for Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan’s successor. It is a small, three-domed mosque carved in white marble, with a three-arched screen which steps down to the courtyard.
The entrance through the Lahore Gate leads to a retail mall with jewellery and crafts stores. There is a museum of “blood paintings” depicting young Indian martyrs of the 20th century along with the story of their martyrdom. There is also an archaeological museum and an Indian war memorial museum.
We finally stopped by Hard Rock Cafe for our late late lunch and I bought my usual souvenir to add my collection. That’s the end of my trip to India. I flew out of Delhi that same night.