Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Delhi-Agra-Jaipur - Final Part (Taj Mahal)

Going to India without visiting the Taj Mahal is like missing the big important agenda. When you are going for a trip or having a stopover, always make the opportunities - like what you do with Petronas Twin Tower, Kuala Lumpur for Malaysia, or Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia or just a quick glimpse of Mount Fuji in Japan. "Been There, Done That" should be the motto, whether you travel as a normal tourist or just for business purpose. 

True to most people, even until today, photos taken with new friends or alliances at these iconic buildings would bring many warm memories throughout a lifetime. We are connected throughout these pictures in our own closed social network groups. Every picture has its own story and everytime the stories resurface when the members meet online, someone from the group would come up with a newer, funnier and sort of unbelievable version (newer sub-plot to add to the main story)

In my own account, the Taj Mahal trip was always associated with "Samosa". I did not know how it came about, with a few members kept associating it with my Taj Mahal pictures. I kept asking everyone and nobody would tell why. Only recently when a Delhi coursemate, Mr.Baharom, an Uzbek came visiting me in Kuala Lumpur for his three week course here, we had a long chat. Ah, memories were rekindled with a real face to face mini reunion, not online mode anymore. Funny when we had our coffees during the meeting, these Samosas was the choice for an afternoon snack. Since I earned my brownies to get him here, the story resurfaced again and he felt oblige to tell me the story -  The Samosa Saga. What a simple twist of a funny incident which I wasn't aware at all. Itu jer ke..ingat kan apa. ahahahhahahaha...

A mini reunion with Bahrom in KLCC after one year from the TERI retreat, Delhi. We must be lucky people!

Ok, enough of my bebels. So as promised, before i embark another great adventure somewhere outside Malaysia (chewah), I would finish my previous encounter. And this is the final post. The reason why I was in India because the iconic building is one of my bucket list, in which also my "berangan" future Lego buildings if I have enough money to buy the Lego Kit.Talking about visiting the place first and rebuild by your own imagination later!

The Taj Mahal, situated in the state of Agra, would take about 2-3 hour journey if you are travelling from Delhi and using the Highway. I can say this trip was smooth since the connectivity was superb right from the highway until we stepped out from the bus, at the entrance of Taj Mahal. 

The name of a highway R&R stop. Like the font and cool name. So Broadway!
Early and empty highway. However the speed limit is kept at 80km/hour and many speed cameras installed along this highway. Takder nak lelaju macam highway Malaysia OK!
One of the R&R stops. There are about 2-3 stops you can find along the way, err I think. Word of advice - number of toilet cubicles may not be as many as you think to cater the population. Beratur  itu mesti!

View you can see during the journey. Plantations, field and many open areas.
Finally we are out from the the highway. Yeay.
The view from a bridge. Notice the bridge is enclosed with a steel fence. U go figure! At the river bank, you can see thriving laundry activities using Yamuna River as the source of water.
The road towards Taj Mahal. Next is Yamuna River.
A first glimpse of the city. Still early in the morning or we just plain lucky?
Green Agra, Clean Agra. I like! We should have motto like this for cities in Malaysia.
Once we have arrived, the information of the Taj Mahal, the fees and rules etc is clearly written for visitors.Details are in the image.No explanation needed :)
While waiting for the tickets to be issued, we came into this area. It reminds me to some sort of a local hospital. Well maintained and offering some cool atmosphere from the outside's dust, smoke and the scorching heat during summer. You can have a seat.
My lovely friends waiting for the tickets to be purchased. They are very nice people to be with during the trip and the rest of the course!
Outside of the complex, camel ride for those who want to experience some exotic transportation. The camel looks even regal! Unta Diraja katanya!
From the waiting area, we have to wait our turn to board on the buggies. Yes, like the tagline "Green Agra, Clean Agra", all mobiles transporting people from the waiting complex to the first check point are electrically powered. No gasoline or whatsoever. We are lucky since not too many people were at this point, yet.
My friends after the first check point. Please do not bring any food inside. Otherwise it will be thrown into the disposal bins.Bottled water, however is allowed.
The spacious area surrounding the Taj Mahal.We had not reach the actual entrance yet!
The Taj Mahal has 4 main entrance in which, back in those days, there would be one specific door for the King and the Queen. 
A closer look at the top of the entrance wall.
There is no word to describe how I felt when I saw theTaj Mahal for the first time in my life. It was the most perfect symmetrical structure built in that era which as one of the 7 wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal truly lives to its name. A truly "Mahal" experience.
Closer look at the white marble walls. I wonder how these people maintain its pristine condition. Kalau gigi susah nak putih walau gosok hari hari, apatah lagi bangunan macam ini. 
More closer look at the dome section. Notice the flowery design on the wall which our guide explained the technique.

Ms.Suad, Edinia, Pedro and Reem at the side of the Taj Mahal. 
To preserve the marble floor from stain and dirt, visitors may have to wrap their shoes in shoes cover (provided) or just walk barefoot.

There was a story behind this shot. Sayed, our Afghani friend had googled some suggested pose by the past visitors to make this shot perfect and memorable, prior to this Agra trip. He made a special request for me to shoot exactly what he wanted!

The more distant shot. Awesome.

Nothing is great when you have someone whose native language is Arabic, translating the Quran verses engraved on the Taj Mahal wall. It is like having a living poet reciting the beauty of a place and you get so into it. Alhamdulillah, friends and dreams come together and it was marvellous.
In the mosque. It was said that this mosque was used by the Sultan to perform prayers.  If you notice, the prayer mats motif on the floor speaks how the mosque was built for sustainability and practicality. Something i could not find elsewhere!
The mosque dome with red painted wall, a stark contrast to the white mausoleum. Somehow it reminds me to the one mosque in Putrajaya.
On our way out to the exit.
Emen, the Tunisian girl.

Outside of the complex, there are souvenirs shops where you can still bargain for the price of these items. Professional cameramen were also available for those who need a pro touch of their photos. They are really efficient photographers!
Besides the Taj Mahal, there are lots of attractions in Agra which not to be missed. Unfortunately due to short of time, we managed to visit one spot and some local marble manufacturers.
The exuberant vibe of people surrounding the Taj Mahal. We truly enjoyed the moment!
Favourite photos of my friends having good time.
Finally, the group picture. A lasting memory for visiting one of the wonders of the world. Till then!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Delhi-Agra-Jaipur - Part V (Jaipur, Rajastan)

When we were in Rishikesh, I had this urge to  book a bus ticket from one of the travel agents with the leftover allowance. Destination? Jaipur, Rajastan.

A must see. No regret.

I had about RM300 to splurge for this short trip. We took the bus trip back to Delhi, and on the way back to the hostel, I parted with all the coursemates of TERI in Qutb Minar Metro Station. Reason? Since Gurgaon IFFCO Chowk Bus Station is the last bus stop to go down south of Jaipur located within Delhi, it was feasible to get the bus from there just in case my bus from Rishikesh got stuck in the jam. So taking the metro would help me to save time instead getting a taxi from the hostel itself. Yes, my hunch was right. We reached New Delhi at about 10.30 pm and my bus departure was at 12 midnight.

 Yes, I took a sleeper bus, a deluxe type, Rs650/ RM40 one way. The conductor boy took my heavy backpack, i settled down and just stared at my own cabin. 

My cabin was completely like a coffin on the go. I tell you next time if you have the chance to have a sleeper bus, just go try to board this type, no regret! My experiences with some express bus in Malaysia were horrendous so this bus was a life saver. I could have a long rest before one day tripping in the whole Pink City, ala express mode.

I got down somewhere near the stadium area of the Pink City in the next early morning and looked for a place for a day's use. The plan was to cover as much as I could and to board a bus back to Delhi on the same night because I had to attend the class the next day. No ponteng ponteng ok. Going to Jaipur had caused my course instructor to worry on my safety, so just be sensible.

Lucky the hotel I took charged me about Rs.500/RM30 from 8am to 8pm. The hotel was kinda new. I like the interior, the cleanliness, the coziness inside despite the heavy and noisy traffic outside. Location? It was sandwiched between two block of buildings, a hidden gem for any traveler who stumbled the path.

Finally, I met a cosy place after 6 hour journey!

The hotel's bathroom.

After some rest, I decided to find any cab people for a day's tour so I requested the hotel's receptionist to find one. A rickshaw driver would be accompanying me around the city for Rs800/RM50.

The first location? 
Here goes my simple itinerary:

8.00- 11:00 : Amber Place tour
11:30-11:50 : Jal Mahal photo stop.
12:00 : Hawa Mahal photo stop
12:30 - 2:30 : City Palace tour
2:30 -3:00 : Lunch nearby Hawa Mahal again.
3:00 - 4:30 : Free n easy window shop @souvenir stores.
5:00 - 8:00: Go back to the hotel, rest and ready to go!

One of the famous landmarks of the Pink City. 
I am kinda impressed for this structure with its old time charm. Jaipur is a historical version of Disneyland. A happy place to visit. Touristy but well maintained.
On our way to Amber Fort. I wished that I had more time to visit Jaigarh.
My cab driver for that day. I could not remember his name, but a cool person to wait for me throughout this day's tour.
A glimpse of Amber Fort. The road heading to the place is well maintained and clean.
Scenic view of Amber's Fort from far.

I met Mr. Illyas at the entrance of Amber's Fort. Immediately I appointed him as the tourist guide for this attraction. We took a bike ride all the way to the palace, to save time and effort!
Block of buildings between the path taken to go up to Amber Fort. Oh my they are used to hiking!
View from the top.
The staff in charge to play the welcoming music anthem. I was so impressed with Mr.Illyas - he gave a signal to them once we entered the court and they started to play. Oh dear, I feel like a Queen already hahahahhahaha

The fort entrance for the court area. 
Posing at the middle of the court. It was said this area was filled with many soldiers and the army's horses.
The Dining Area.  Very grand!

Outside Dining area. It is a day's restaurant. 

The corridor towards the Banquet Hall.
We did not enter the palace since we were short of time. How I wish I spent more days in Jaipur!

Later, Mr.Illyas took me to this place - Panna Meena ka Kund, another attraction nearby to Amer Fort. It was awesome since there were two of us, enjoying the spot. 

I feel like a princess somehow, ahahhahahah!
A masjid name Masjid Jamek beside the Panna Meena ka Kund. This masjid was built by the king in honour to the Queen's father upon that time who is a Muslim.

Mr.Illyas Khan aka Salman Khan, my tourist guide. Not only a knowledgeable guide but he rides very well. Definitely you can have him if  you happen to be here. Just look for him at the ground entrance of Amer Fort. Insya Allah he will be there to asist you.
Mr.Illyas Khan's friend. He was kinda shy :)
The lake's side. Visitors can see the Jal Mahal from this spot.
After Jal Mahal, we went back to the Pink City.

The Pink City is surrounded with beautiful buildings. truly amazed me.

Hawa Mahal. The experience just to see this building is so "Mahal"... priceless i tell you.
Local women in long colorful shawls, on our way to the City Palace.
The City Palace is a must whenever you are in Jaipur. Located next to Jantar Mantar, which I had skipped,  for a solo tourist, City Palace offers a self guided tour, in English and some other languages. Truly convenient for you to learn many things about the origin of the kings, how the state or kingdom was administered and other historical facts. 

The entrance of City Palace.
The picture clearly explains on the cost incurred for the entrance fees. Buy a Composite Ticket please. Worth the money and the experience.

The intricate design of the City Palace.

The building used to be a living quarters for the palace officials. 
Perhaps it has been sometime for me not to visit a museum, however I really applaud the City Palace's management to house a number of local artisan, in the next building with their work for display and sale. If you are running out of time or choice, just be here to admire the work and they would be happy to show you the story of the craft they make.

The fabrics and the textile business in Jaipur is a thriving venture. I was spoiled with choices to pick one or two items, later found  myself buying cotton quilts.  

Jaipur was a mind blowing experience for me. I think the City speaks for the finesse and elegance they had even now for a kingdom.  Please do not miss the city otherwise your Golden Triangle journey will not be complete. Till then!