A day in Delhi and the road to Agra

These blogs from my India and Singapore trip at the start of 2017 are so far behind. As I’m now on my way back to South Asia, I thought it might be time to get them up! They’re written and ready to go – so here you are! I’ll also be posting everyday from Nepal – so it’s going to be a whole lot of South Asia on the blog right now.

After spending a lush night in the Holiday Inn, Delhi Aerospace, we had a half day of hectic Delhi sightseeing planned. We were meant to head straight off from Agra in the morning but the drive is just 3-4 hours. As Matt would only have this one night in Delhi, I thought it was important to see the capital of India. So, our half day tour began.

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Red Fort, Delhi.

Oh, a note. Holiday Inn knows how to do breakfast! This is just the pastry bar. Wonderful service and amazing chefs ready to make you eggs any style or your favourite Indian breakfast dish. They also had cold coffee on tap – heaven!

Our first stop with our helpful guide, Sanjeev, was one of the oldest and best kept monuments in all of Delhi, possibly India, Qutb Minar. I had been on my first ever trip and on another of my stays in Delhi. I just love the structure of this minuet and also the grounds surrounding it. It’s a magnificent sight to see and once you hear the history of the area, it’s even more impressive.

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This monument signifies the triumph of the Mughal empire over the Rajputs, the hindu kings of India. It was a new era and the Mughal kings wanted to make sure this was forever remembered. Construction started in 1192 and didn’t end until (date), three different dynasts added on the different parts. My partner Matt was blown away by the shape and the history of this area. I knew this was important for him to see.

 

We strolled around asking questions for some time and really enjoyed our time. We got there before the real crowds came. All students of Delhi at age 15 come to these important monuments as part of their schooling and history classes. All paid for by the government. I will write a blog on this area- it’s too fascinating not to. We were also quite fixated here on the wildlife. Fern squirrels (so cute!) green parrots, eagles and black kites all roaming the grounds

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Next stop was Jama Masjid, the largest Mosque in India. I don’t think I’ve actually been to this site before. It was very interesting and beautiful inside the main archways. Our guide didn’t come in with us so we just roamed around looking at the architecture and enjoying walking on the stones and marble with no shoes on. We got quite a few interested looks here. The mother of this little girl asked me for a photo and I was happy to oblige. So lovely!

The mosque is situated next to Old Delhi. This is one of the largest markets in Asia for electronics. Largest Spice Market in Asia. It’s got some modern parts, but a lot of it has the older buildings and markets are still structured in old alleyways as they would have 100’s of years ago. You can buy pretty much anything here, though there are sections for particular goods. We caught a battery powered rickshaw (trying to reduce the impact on the environment) and got a quick taste of the area.

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We hopped down at the Spice Market. You instantly can spell the wide array of spices on offer. Weaving through passageways past so many shops offering all the spices, nuts and sweets you could imagine. Whole stores dedicated to chilli. Another dedicated to turmeric. It overpowers the senses and definitely was an experience I hadn’t had.

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We went to one store where they could explain to us the different spices and they actually had pre-packaged spice mixes. They are made by the Master Blender A. Kumar who has been visited by World famous chefs including George Kalamatis from Australia. We couldn’t resist and decided our Indian cooking adventures start now! Aloo Gobi, Butter Chicken Masala, Dal Makhani and some Mango Tea.

Our hectic tour ended at the Red Fort. We weren’t going to go in as it’s reasonably similar to the Agra Fort which we would see tomorrow. It was also difficult to access due to Indian Republic Day the following day, January 26th. We got o see some concerts going on at the fort and some of the setup for the parades near the India Gate earlier too. Here we parted with our guide and started our journey to Agra.

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The road has been rebuilt since I last travelled to Agra and what was a seven hour journey can now take just 3-4 hours from Delhi. We caught the train the first time as it as much faster than car at the time and very possible to do a  day trip. WE did unfortunately pass an accident on the way which certainly had killed people. Many people stopped their cars and ran over to see – I couldn’t look even in the direction. The unfortunate result of a fast and straight road.

Highway masala - highway spice

We arrived to Agra by early evening, still in the daylight which was good. Our hotel, only built in the past two years, was the Four Points Sheraton. It was lovely and we were welcomed by our local tour operator and the manager of the hotel. Take Me To India really know how to care for their guests. Again a lovely room and a sweet welcome.

 

For dinner we went to Pinch of Salt, as recommended by our driver. It was certainly catering to the tourists as it was packed at 7.30pm (Westerners eat early, locals eat late.) The service was a bit odd, they seemed either distant and disengaged or there was the manager who kept creepily peering over customers shoulders to see if they were enjoying. The food was delicious, though there was A LOT of it. We enjoyed some meat which we had been abstaining from in rural parts. Very good.

Shattered again by night, we enjoyed the luxury of watching TV in the hotel room bed. I never do this at home, I’ll never allow a TV in my bedroom. Keep it as a treat when away.

 

Tomorrow…. TAJ MAHAL!!!!!!

If you would like to check out our journey on Instagram, please check out @Lovellyem and search the #tag #EmmaMattyIndiaSing2017.

Written on Day 10 of our 24 Day trip in India with stopover in Singapore.

 

Leaving Cherrapunjee and onto the next stop, Delhi!

We have loved our time in Cherapunjee so much. Exploring the state of Meghalaya and all its beauty has been an experience of a lifetime. The travel however, not so pleasant. Be prepared in this area for long drives, winding roads and a lot of down time in the car.

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We started our journey early from the hotel as it was at least a six-hour trip by car to the airport in Guwuhati. We did it in exactly six hours on the way. Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, is on our route and it can sometimes take more than one hour alone to get from one side of the city to the other. Our flight wasn’t until 5pm but it’s not worth risking it.

I had planned to spend the car ride diary writing and blogging. The scenery and my sleepy head wouldn’t allow me that. I just happily stared out the window and observed the daily life of the people in this region. It was so nice to just let my mind wander. It’s something I miss about commuting by public transport at home, the time spent gazing out the window pondering the world at large.

As always with me, a toilet stop was required. Fortunately, it also offered an excellent view and was an activity point we had passed many times but never stopped. Click the photo and back in the car.

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Random cows were spotted out the windows – spot the cow is a fun and fruitful game to play when driving along the roads of India.

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We made good time and were able to stop for lunch much closer to Guwuhati, giving us more time for the airport if we needed it. We went to a traditional restaurant filled with Bamboo scaffolding, furniture and even table mats seemed to follow the natural theme.

When ordering, I’m trying to mix up the dishes so Matt gets to try a wide variety of cuisines. We decided in the more rural parts to go veg only and stuck with that theme. Veg Pulao (a  rice dish), malai kofta (dumplings of sorts in a crème sauce – my friends absolute favourite so I ordered in honour of her) and aloo ghobi (potato and cauliflower curry). I over ordered, or perhaps they were too generous in their servings. Either way, all was delicious and the service, as so often it is in India, was wonderful! We also got to try Thumbs Up (I love the sugary indian version of coke) and water…. Fosters water!

 

We reached the airport well ahead of our 5pm scheduled flight. We farewelled our lovely driver Bablu and began the hustle bustle of the Indian airport experience.

Our flight on Jet Airways was wonderful. I’ve flown them so many times over the years and I think they have to be my Indian airline of choice. Lovely service, delightful food that comes around very quickly, and comfortable seats. It doesn’t look that great – but it tastes good!

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We reached Delhi and it was nice to see the familiar arrivals hall. I haven’t been to Delhi for quite some time but used to spend a large majority of my trips here staying with friends in their homes. I got to see the day to day life of Delhites. We only have one quick night here but I’ve arranged to do a half day city tour which our tour company Take Me to India kindly obliged. I think it’s nice for Matt to experience the history of the capital of India.

Our lovely tour operator Pankaj from Take me to India met with us. I cannot recommend them more highly and will continue to mention their wonderful service throughout my blog. If you would like to see a sample of my AMAZING itinerary, please do email me via the contact page. It was nice to meet face to face after so many emails and calls.

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We were put up in the Holiday Inn near the airport for convenience. It happened to also be a 5-star hotel. I am not complaining! We enjoyed a bit of luxury after our humbler, yet wonderfully serviced, hotel in Cherrapunjee. We dolled ourselves up and enjoyed a few cocktails and snacks at the hotel bar for an exorbitant fee. Go on, splurge a little! We collapsed into bed, ready for the Northern part of our adventure to begin!

(Yes, the pillows even said FIRM and SOFT! Luxury!)

 

If you would like to follow our journey on Instagram, please check out @Lovellyem and search the #tag #EmmaMattyIndiaSing2017.

Written on Day 10 of our 24 Day trip in India with stopover in Singapore.

Truly, this is Incredible India

Today is my last day in India. Cannot believe it’s been 3 weeks already. I don’t feel sad though, I know I’ll be back. It’s been another wonderful trip once again showing me why my heart fills so full in this country of rich culture and beautiful people. Truly, this is Incredible India.

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Temples and rocks in Hampi, Karnataka, India.     Sunrise on top of the World at Hunaman Temple.
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Making incredible new friends who show you their beautiful country and share magic moments.
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A wedding in Goa at sunset on the beach of my beautiful friends – a moment to treasure.
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Overnight bus rides on winding roads to wake up in the Mountains between Mumbai and Goa.
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A maid dresses in finery to keep the dusty house in Mumbai clean.IMG_3778
A friends company prospers in IT as I update my iPhone with a fun new look and freshen my hairstyle.IMG_3902
Relaxation is part of the wedding celebrations as we enjoy the spoils of tropical Goa at Dona Sylvia ResortIMG_4894 IMG_4855
A joy to visit the Anganwadi Project in Ahmedabad and see the amazing transformations that education can give a community in this area. Lovely to meet Australians here helping these local communities and to celebrate with them the Diwali festival. Arts and crafts with this little sweetie was a blast.
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From Classrooms and colourful decorations, to the local elephant walking through the streets this was the experience of Ahmedaband, Gujurat, India. A great surprise stop on my travels.
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To the majesty of Mumbai and the regal history of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Sunset spectacles.IMG_5584
Finally, simple, delicious and authentic Indian cuisine in the comfort of a friends home in Mumbai.
Welcome! NAMASTE! This is my India.

Top 10 Moments of my first month in India

India 2012 has been a big trip and it’s only been 5 weeks so far. With 4 more weeks to go and many more locations, there is a whole lot more adventure in store. I’ve been blessed to attend weddings, conferences, parties, stay in 5 star hotels, homestays with families, laze on beaches and hike in snowy mountains.

Although there have been many great moments and too many to name, I’d like to share the top 10 that stand out in my mind at the moment and really signify my trip experience:

  1. Presenting awards to delegates and speakers at the Air Cargo India Conference 2012 (without pre-planning or practice, asked at last minute.
  2. Staying the weekend in Mumbai instead of travelling to Hampi to go swimming with my sweet friend Jeh cos “ruins are boring, swimming is much more fun.”
  3. Having a romantic Valentines day in Fort Kochi with my friend Caity from Australia who I only realized was arriving in India 2 days before.
  4. Having the warmth and peace of a Siro Dhara massage in an Ayurvedic Centre in Varkala Beach.

    Varkala Beach, Kerala

  5. Dancing to my song “Sheila Ki Jiwani” at my friends pre wedding party as his friends and family now know me as “Sheila” from Australia.
  6. Attending the marriage of my dear friend Avi and seeing him and his beautiful wife Sughanda so happy.
  7. Being gifted a Saree by my dear friend Sue as we were getting a blouse made for my other stunning saree that was gifted to me the previous year.
  8. Getting my Tanzanite, white gold and diamond ring made after having the stone from Tanzania and representing my Kili Climb. Now it represents India and Tanzania – countries and experiences I love.
  9. Dancing bollywood style in the ski area of Gulmarg with the Himalayas as our back drop with my new friends tom, Jackie and Fayez

10. Sitting here writing this blog next to a stunning waterfall in Baghsdu. Dharamsala – feeling peaceful, happy and at ease.

 

Many more moments to come.

India Trip 2012 – The Itinerary

India Plan for 2012 is a bit vague at the moment and with so many places yet to explore there and so little time,I’m trying to get a bit more organised.

 

I’m off to India by myself for the 6th time. I love it so much and I can say with ease that it is my favourite country in the world. Big call for a traveller like me but it’s true.

 

See attached my Map and rough idea of where I’m going.

Orange = definite, by road or train

Yellow = maybe

blue dotted line = flying

numbers indicate the order in which i will be visiting these places

 

I arrive 31 January and the adventure begins.

I’ll be at a conference first 4 days. The Largest air fright conference in the world – Air cargo India.

AIR CARGO INDIA 2012

Conference & Exhibition

February 1-3, 2012

Bombay Exhibition Centre, Mumbai, INDIA

www.stattimes.com/aci2012

4-8 Feb – Staying with beautiful friends on Napensea Rd Mumbai, with 2 little boys and an incredible view.

9-13 Feb Approx – Goa or Kerala for the beach with friends.

14-17 Feb Approx – Chennai and Surrounding villages visiting Red Hands Org and the amazing work they do with women in the area.

 

 

 

 

http://www.red-hands.org

18-21 Feb Visiting Bangalore and Hyderabad, I hope – 2 days in each.

Fly or overnight train to Delhi.

21-26 Feb – A wedding of my dear friend Avi, I can’t wait to see all my wonderful friends from the 2010 wedding again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the wedding I will spend time exploring the city of Delhi and catching up with good friends who I’v enow known for 6 years.

 

26 Feb – 2 March – Fly to Srinigar in the volatile state of Kashmir for skiing with a wonderful group run by an Australian man. I can’t wait to be on guided ski tours in powder in the himalayas every day!!

www.skihimalaya.com 

After this it gets a little hazy. Here are the things I want to do:

– Spend 2-3 days in Dharamala, visiting tea plantations, hiking and meeting the Dalai Lama 😉

– Spend 2-3 days in the most holy city in India, Varanassi

– 10 days in Vipasana – a silent retreat – location yet to be decided ( ideas and locations welcomed!!!)

– 2-3 days in Jaipur, the pink city and perhaps other locations in the gorgeous state of Rajasthan.

– 2-3 days in Mumbai before I leave.

 

Now – I have no idea how i’m getting around, where I’m staying or who I will be meeting in March and this could scare some…. but for me, I’m so excited! Who knows where the road will lead and I shall take it a day at a time and enjoy every step and every minute.

 

I’ll have my mobile and access to internet and will regularly post and let people know where I am, safety first- as well as my undying love and attachment to social media haha.

 

So any advice, tips or hints on what I should do on this amazing cultural and spiritiual adventure, please send them over.
namaste