JIPP's WORLD

…….The World Without Boundaries

Hello India!

Written By: jipp - Aug• 19•11

INDIA – There are just so many things to write about this marvelous country I don’t even know where to start. The idea of traveling to India had always been there but it just kind of solidified after watching Eat Pray Love in which Elizabeth Gilbert went on a self-discovery journey that begins in Rome, India and finally Bali. Instead of doing Rome first, I did it quite the opposite. I already did Bali a couple of months back and now it was time to hit into – Indiaaaaaaaaaaa!

Since India is so big and it was impossible to visit all the places in the very limited time that we had there, we decided to cover New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur at least on this visit – a combination that is famously known as The Golden Triangle among travelers to this second most populated country in the world.

I don’t know about other countries but entries to India require you to apply for a visa if you are a Malaysian. The application fee of RM168 had taken me quite by surprise because I remember paying only about RM30 when I applied for a visa to Australia. I didn’t know that visa application had become such an exorbitant business nowadays.

Good thing about staying in KL is that – I can always go directly to India Visa Center (one of only 3 centers in Malaysia) in Jalan Lebuh Pasar to do the application myself and avoid paying extra to any of the money-sucking agents. It’s a very simple process although I was quite hesitant about leaving my passport there at first. But then I thought, I am in my own country so losing my passport here is not going to kill me anyway. 😀

You fill up the form today, throw in the RM168 and you are free to collect your visa the next day. India has already surprised me with their not-so-cheap visa application fee and again I was surprised that applicants only have about 30 minutes to collect their visa at the counter – and it begins at 5pm!

Walawei, imagine the rush of driving right into the heart of traffic jam in KL after punching your card out at the office! Imagine you arrive 5 minutes after 5.30pm and you have to come back again the next day. And probably again the next next day.

So, time passed by almost unnoticed. Before I knew, I was already boarding an Air Asia X flight to New Delhi – the capital city of India.

I remember how I once asked a stewardess friend of mine who was working with SIA – off all the passengers that you have to serve for on board, who are the most difficult to deal with?

And she was fast to say – Indian people. Being in a flight which was dominated by people from India, I could see why she said that. They DO seem so difficult to deal with. Despite being repeatedly warned by the crew, they always find a way or two to sneak around even when the plane is already moving on the runway and the lights had already been switched off!

One auntie was so eager to show her balancing skill by reaching up to the overhead compartment to get her bag out even when the plane was already moving fast and ready to take off.

But then, I admire them a lot because they really know to pass the time by turning the flight into some kind of hotel lounge or something. They’d walk around to each other, standing around in the corner, chatting and swapping stories and that actually makes the flight look so casual and less-boring because there’s always something to be amused over. I remember how my flight to Melbourne was so dead silent because everybody would whisper instead of talking to each other.

So – 5 hours was not the longest traveling hours that I’ve ever experienced but still it was long enough to torture my physical beings and passengers at the end of a long flight are certainly the happiest people. The Indians who are probably on their way home were ecstatic. We had arrived in New Delhi!

New Delhi Srinagar Airport that I knew as a brand new airport. It had only been completed a few years back and I could still smell the ‘plastic wrappers’. LOL.

After being cleared at the immigration check, we went directly to one of the money changers inside the terminal building. India is known to have a strict control over their flow of currency. If you’re a nobody like me, you can’t bring any rupees into India and vice versa. Of course it is advisable to change your local currencies to US Dollars or probably British Pounds (or any other well-recognized currencies) first before changing them to Indian Rupees when you get there.

Changing money in India is apparently not a 5-minute business. It involves a lot of checking and rechecking and keying in and all kind of shits and they even get a copy of your passport and all.

Unlike most other countries that I went to before, I had actually pre-booked our accommodation – at least for the first night. The idea of rambling in the unfamiliar streets of New Delhi in the middle of the night didn’t sound quite appealing to me. We even paid another 440 rupees for airport pick-up.

My definition of an airport pick-up service was an easy come-out-the-exit-and-hop-into-a-waiting-taxi business but no, in a country like India, do not expect things to be that easy. Instead, we were led to a long walk across roads and walkways and stairs and even an elevator before we finally got to the taxi.

And do not expect a dust-free air-con taxi. We had to keep up with the free flow of dusty air in Delhi since the taxi driver wouldn’t roll the window panes up, although I wasn’t really sure if the air-con was functioning.

We arrived at the hotel some 40 minutes later, in an area called Pahar Ganj which is packed with back-packers lodges and budget hotels.

Quite expected, the driver asked for some extra – reasoning out that we made him work at night and all – but of course having experienced so many taxi scams in past, we wouldn’t let this one fool us this time.

I’ve never had to go through such a long wait just to be checked into some budget hotel before, but as my days passed by in India, I had come to realize that long waits are the most normal things here in this country.

Despite the on-line booking, the recipient just shrugged off when I asked them why we were checked into a room with a double-bed instead of TWIN beds as I had booked for. I already kena that one when I went to Bali and the hotel admin had been so apologetic and they did all they could do to put us into a room with twin beds – which in the end they managed to.

Here at Smyle Hotel, that was quite the opposite. They knew the money was already in so they wouldn’t bother to offer you at least one single word of SORRY let alone offering you another room or at least some discount for the wrongly booked room. I had to insist on giving us an extra mattress for free but the damage had already been done. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Having not eaten a single shit since KL, we set off into the dark streets of Delhi to look for at least something edible. An encounter with an elephant came quite too soon. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw it.

I mean, who could have imagined an elephant roaming the street of a metropolitan city like New Delhi? Imagine an elephant strutting her butt off along Chow Kit Road in KL and asking for food from the vendors in the middle of the night. I can already imagine the commotion. LOL!

So, we had our first meal in India at a restaurant called Mt Everest Restaurant. Quite true to its name, we had to climb up a high and steep stairs to get there. The high elevation of the restaurant offers a view of the famous Main Bazaar Road which had by now become dim and silent since it was nearing midnight. Most if not all the shops and stalls were already closed.

Then came a bunch kepoh tourists who were clearly craving for attention. They danced and yelled on each other as if New Delhi belonged to their uncle or something. Seriously, I don’t know what they were trying to prove.

Since it was my very first meal in India, I had to go easy with my stomach by ordering what appeared to be the most edible-looking thing on the menu. And it was nothing like how I wanted it to be. But of course, it was only the beginning of my food disaster here in India. I CAN’T WAIT to write about it but things have to come one at a time right. Heh.

So – we tip-toed our way to the Main Bazaar Road in the wee hours of the next morning before heading to the New Delhi Railway Station to catch a train to Agra. Despite all my pre-Delhi worries, getting onto a train at New Delhi Railway Station turned out to be very much hassle-free and quite straight-forward. A giant digital board would be waiting for you at the front patio, ready to facilitate you with the necessary info especially on which platform (PF) to board your train from.

A little bit of info on how to purchase the train ticket to Agra – you have the choice of buying it at the station which is quite risky considering the possibility of a sold-out OR you can buy it online and put your worries to rest. I did the later via www.cleartip.com. Take not that their website can get quite unstable at times when they show ‘Could not get current availability. Please try again’ so you may need to keep on trying.

There are several trains that connect New Delhi and Agra but the most popular one is probably Bhopal Shatbadi may be because it has the shortest traveling period because it only stops once in between.

Thinking that the train journey only takes about less than 2 hours, I decided to take the AC Car Chair at Rs 417 (RM 28/ USD 9.30) instead of AC First Class which is sold at about double that price.

To tell the truth, I was half- expecting the train to be wholly compressed with humans where mothers are trying to sooth their crying babies down with milk and people lay scattered all over the floor together with their over-sized luggage and everything, and that I may have to squeeze my way in to make it to my seat and all.

I had come to find out that I had wasted too much time worrying. It turned out to be one of the most comfortable train rides that I’ve ever been to – even better than being in an Air Asia flight. Ouch! LOL!

Everything was perfectly in order. A conductor would come checking on the passenger row by row. He had a list of passengers in his hand and who would have thought that the RM27 that I had paid for the train ticket was inclusive of these?

FotorCreated

I felt so ashamed for underestimating the train in India. In fact, it was so comfortable that the 2 hours had passed by almost totally unnoticed and it wasn’t long before the train slowed down and finally shuddered to a halt.

We had arrived in Agra – the city of Taj Mahal! Yippies!

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23 Comments

  1. ken says:

    nice.. cant wait to read more! 🙂

  2. Aud says:

    Wooooohoooooooo! Great 1st post! I haven’t mustered the motivation to blog about it yet and my muse has gone AWOL. Hahaha 😀

    Indiaaaaaaa! Love it or hate it 🙂 or you can sit in the middle.

  3. Aud says:

    I think … I can *love* India! 🙂

  4. Ayeen says:

    wow ..it was great. ::::)))

  5. Julie Lim says:

    RM168 for an Indian visa is daylight robbery IMHO. How long does the visa last?

    • gbeejipp says:

      Haha. Very true. I couldn’t believe it at first. It lasts for 6 months but who knows if we’d by any chance come back to India within 6 months right? I doubt it. 😀

  6. angel says:

    hi, im planning backpack to india, would like to around how much you had spend for this trip coz me n my frez are doing budgeting. thanks for de repply =)

  7. angel says:

    thanx alot for de reply =)

  8. angel says:

    how many days u hav spent for this trip?

  9. angel says:

    oh ic, and do get any immunization before go there? =)

  10. zul says:

    wow.. thank god i’ve read yr blog. i’m going to golden triangle this month end. and i’ve already change the money here. look like i’ve to sell back the rupees…

    • gbeejipp says:

      Hi Zul. Thanks for dropping by. I don’t know if that is really necessary (to sell back the rupees) but that is the rules and regulations set by Indian High Commission. They are quite strict at the airport that I remember. Enjoy your trip anyway.

  11. Hi,
    I have gone through the material about Smyle Inn and do apologise for anything unpleasant. I really mean it.

    Actually in July 2011 the things were very different and the staff now is very well trained. Least to mention that a lot of faces are new and we are back to listening to our customers complaints.

    I do hope that you read this comment from Smyle Inn

    Regards
    Harish

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