This trip took place around the time of the SG50 Jubilee weekend and it was a trip that my mother and I took, just the two of us. My mum had to visit Bangalore to do some work so she decided to take the week off and also visit the cities of Jaipur and Delhi, in northern India. She had asked me to join her as she would like me to explore these cities. We would spend 2 days in each city then fly back to Singapore and land back on National Day.
She specifically chose two cities of Jaipur and Delhi for two rather strong and profound reasons. She wanted to visit Delhi as my great aunt and uncle both live there and it has been about 5 years since she last saw them. The visit to Jaipur would probably not have happened if Facebook was never made. In a testament to how social media can reconnect people who have lost contact, my mother had managed to reconnect with an old friend whom she had known since she was about four or five years old. Through social media my mother was able to have an incredibly long overdue reunion with her oldest friend.
We flew to India on the 2nd of August at night into the new airport in the city of Bangalore, India's Silicon Valley. The airport was a significant improvement over the old one. This time the airport had multiple aerobridges for both domestic and international flights. The old one only had two gates for the international flights and none for the domestic flights. The airport was also remarkably clean, by Indian standards, and soon after collecting our luggage we went straight for the hotel.
The next day mother and I woke up early and got a good hearty breakfast and went for a walk around Ulsoor lake. Ulsoor lake is man-made lake surrounded by military monuments from World War 2 and water sport camps. We went and visited the Ganesh temple ride on the lakeside. The temple is small and despite its noisy surroundings it had an incredibly serene feel to it. The morning temple visit was a perfect way to start the morning. The serenity provided a scene which is not Indian at all, there was no chaos and everything was at ease.
Afterwards we went back to our hotel to rest up before my mum had to meet with the realtor who was managing her property in Bangalore, near Lake Ulsoor. After this surprisingly lengthy meeting my mother and I explored some of the shops in the area surrounding our hotel.
The road which we were located in was M.G. Road, M.G. standing for Mahatma Gandhi and typically in all cities in India there is an M.G. Road. It seems in city building 101 in India, having a road called M.G. Road is the equivalent of a prerequisite. Typically it is located in a major part of the city and is probably why my mother chose the locale. The malls have changed since the last time I visited Bangalore, they offer great variety of both indian and international shops. My mother and I explored a popular Indian brand "Fabindia" to pick up some items for both myself and for my mother. After the shopping we headed back to the hotel for a quick rest prior to dinner with my mother's cousin.
Typically whenever we came to India we would usually organise a hotel to give us a car as it more convenient. Now though with the introduction to Uber in India it has become easier to travel around the city. Though Uber has come under some controversy it has been quite affordable to travel around the city. In the evening we took an uber to visit my mums cousin who had invited us to dinner. At dinner I interacted with my mother's cousin and his family and made the usual small talk and pleasantries. After dinner we took our leave and rested to prepare for the next day.
The day started with a gym session with my mother, then a hearty breakfast then we did a bit of exploring. We went around to find different handicraft stores which is where I bought my brother a rattle. Even though he's twenty-five he can still throw the occasional tantrum.
After the exploration of the craft and textile shops of MG road, my mother took me to one of the new craft breweries that have been coming up. The bar/restaurant had a range of craft beers on offer. They ranged from the traditional stout largers to lighter beers such as light beers and beers similar to the brand "Pure Blonde". The food they had on offer was your usual bar items i.e. pizzas, pastas, burgers, steaks etc. The lunch was quite good, I opted for the slightly strong stout and a masala burger while my mum had the same burger but with a light beer.
After the lunch we went back to the hotel just to rest and plan what to do in the evening. We had planed to go the the nearby park but by the time we got there, the heavens came down and we were trapped in a nearby shelter. We were trapped in the monsoon rain till it stopped. After the park visit we went to a small south Indian restaurant to have an early dinner. I ordered a paper thosai thinking it would be a similar size to the ones in Singapore, I was never more wrong. I felt it was at least 3 metres long but it was incredibly filling.
After the heavy dinner we had an early night as we had a flight to catch to Jaipur which is where the trip got way more interesting.
The next day we woke up bright an early to catch the 6:00 am Air Asia India flight to Jaipur. The ride to the airport was quick and so was check-in but at security, it became a tad time consuming. The staff were incredibly slow and couldn't give clear concise instructions. Despite the egregious staff I was not going to let this spoil my excitement in going to Jaipur.
The view from our AirAsia India flight to Jaipur
The flight landed on time and I could hardly contain my excitement. I haven't been to this city in so long and I was excited to explore it's rich history. My mum was more excited as she was gonna see her old childhood friend whom she hasn't seen since 1990.
We arrived at the hotel and checked in. Then we relaxed for a bit prior to meeting my mums childhood friend. It was about 12 o'clock when we finally met my mums old friend. I also ended up meeting her daughter and she was very kind and cool. We all went together to this Rajasthani place for lunch to try a traditional Thali dish. Thali is a type of dish where each meal time is placed in a small metal container on bigger plate. The centre of the place usually has either rice or in this case chapatti.
On the short drive from the hotel to the restaurant I made some small talk with Mudita, my mothers friends daughter. I found out she was studying to be an accountant with her CPA exam coming up in the following summer. She was also quite intrigued to learn more about National Service in Singapore and why I was doing it. I was quite amazed at her driving skills, it was quite something. The ability to navigate through Indian road traffic and talk at the same time is quite something. My mother and her friend spent the time reminiscing about their school days and the time lost in-between 1990 and now. It was quite the pleasant drive which real gave a stark contrast to the chaotic traffic.
After sometime we reached the lunch stop and I experienced my first ever Rajasthani thali. It consisted of mostly savory dishes made up with lentils and local ingredients. The dish also had two desserts which in the typical Indian fashion was incredibly filling and sweet. The restaurant also had a small performance of Rajasthani dances. One of the dances involved some of the women dancing with several pots atop their head. After the filling lunch we went to look around the city with Mudita at the wheel.
One of the many examples of clean government buildings in Jaipur
The drive around the city allowed me to admire some of the historical buildings which helped to put this city on the map. The drive also allowed us to admire the architecture of the local government buildings, which were designed in the old colonial style. One thing which I found quite interesting was the cleanliness. For Indian standards the city streets were quite clean as were the pedestrian paths.
After the drive we went to get some paan and spoke to one another for quite some time prior to heading back to the hotel. After the short break in the hotel, my mum and I decided to visit the old Amber Fort as they had recently introduced a sound and light show. The new attraction showcases the rich history of the region.
On the way to the Amber Fort, I was feeling quite peckish and had my first chance to try Indian street food. Though the wiser traveler tends to ignore such "dangerous food" I went against my better judgement and tried street food. I got some Pav Bhaji which was piping hot and fresh. Just like a lot of Indian food it was spicy and rich with flavour.
After the quick pit-stop for dinner we went to Amber Fort to take in some of the sights of the area and to enjoy the light show. The light show was offered in two languages, English and Hindi with the latter being voiced by legendary Hindi actor, Amitah Batachan. It showcased the initial construction of the fort, the many battles and eras it has gone through, all the way up to the present day. The fort has predated the Mughal era and has survived all the way through the British era and turbulent eras in history.
After the light show we went back to the hotel to prepare for the next day where my mothers friend would show us around her city.
The next day we woke up early to squeeze in a morning workout to freshen up before the busy day ahead. The hotel offered a proper Rajasthani breakfast which was very filling. I got myself an aloo paratha with some some lemon and mango pickle and fresh yoghurt.
After breakfast with some mid-morning sightseeing to the Birla Mandir temple we met with my mums friend for some shopping. The Birla Mandir temple was made by the Birla family, a powerful wealthy family in India. The style of construction of these Birla Mandir temples is similar throughout India. The main structual shapes and materials are the same but they adapt the style according to the city they're built in. We soon met with my mums old friend for an early lunch at her place. Her place was just outside the city centre yet it was quiet and quaint.
Her daughter and husband joined us for lunch and we sat and talked about all manner of topics. These topics were ranging from my plans after national service to my mums pilates classes. Then I sadly had to bid farewell to her daughter as she wasn't joining us for the rest of the afternoon. I ended up really liking her and hopefully I'll have the opportunity to see her again.
We we spent some of the afternoon trying to find scarfs and various north Indian clothes for myself and my mother. Rajasthan is famous for some of its scarfs and other textiles. After we bought some items we then went into the old city to do a tour of the old sites.
After the tour of the old sites such as the Jaipur palace we went to this famous chaat place called Lakshmi Mishtaan Bhandar or LMB as it's more commonly known. We got several popular chaat items such as Aloo Tikki and Papdi Chaat. All the items were incredibly filling and tasty.
After the chaat we went back to our hotel to prepare for an early morning flight to New Delhi. Meeting my mums old friend was a great pleasure as she was increidbly sweet and kind. I was appreciative of how she volunteered to show us around her city. After a small drink at the bar, we retired for the evening and prepared for the early morning flight to the capitial city, New Delhi.
We woke up alarmingly early at the god forsaken hour of 3 am. We had to pack our bags and take the 30 to 40 minute drive to the Jaipur airport to catch Indigo flight. When we got to the airport there was a lot more security than normal. This was due to the upcoming independence day celebrations on the 15th across the country. I have to commend the Indigo ground staff for professional and prompt service. It helped to provide a nice change when dealing with the Indian security staff who are usually quite egregious.
The flight left just as the sun was coming out and I was able to get quite a few shots of the sun rising whilst we were flying over Jaipur.
The flight was a little over an hour long and soon we were at Indira Gandhi airport or IGI for short. After collecting our luggage we met up with my great uncle who had come to pick us up to bring us back to his place. My great aunt and uncle both live in Guragaon, a neighbourhood on the edge of the city limits. Their place was about 25 minutes away from the airport.
Prior to our visit they had informed me to forgo all my previous dieting as they really wanted to treat us for some amazing food. Upon our arrival my dear sweet great aunt gave us south Indian style coffee and homemade oatmeal cookies. These helped to give us an early morning energy boost. After some resting and relaxing, my relatives wanted to take us for some shopping in the area. The Guragaon area of Delhi is the new upmarket area of the city with big malls and tech companies and banks setting up offices in the area.
We had selected some Indian style shirts for both my father and brother as a little gift. Then we also picked up some stuff from the local pharmacy before heading for lunch. We went to a Dhaba style restaurant for have some proper tandoori food. Dhaba is a series of roadside restaurants that serves the local style of food depends on the part of Imdia it is located in. This restaurant gave a sort of upmarket feel to a typical roadside dhaba restaurant. The restaurant specialised in tandoori food. Tandoori food is food that's cooked in a clay oven and the food that's usually cooked in this oven usually has a unique taste. Naan, butter chicken and other popular North Indian foods are cooked in such ovens. For lunch we had a selection of food commonly found in the state of Punjab. We had a selection of stuffed naans called kulchas, some daal, some tandoori kebabs and raita.
After this we went back to my great aunt and uncles place just to relax. In the evening I did my workout prior to dinner as I just wanted to kill time and burn off all the rich food from lunch. For dinner we had a simple meal before getting an early night in order to get up early for our segway tour of the government areas of New Delhi.
We woke up at about 6 in the morning in order to make it in time for the tour near the Presidental palace. When we got there we were quite lost as there was no proper signage for the start point of the tour. After some time, we were able to find the start point and then the tour began. Before the tour began we were given a small intro on how to operate the segway. Having riden it before, I quickly became acquainted with the controls. My mum, on the other hand, took some time to get used to the controls.
The tour took us around the main government buildings of India. We went past places like the Ministry of Defence, Home Affairs, the Office of the Prime Minister etc. We also went past India gate which was a memorial made for the soilders who passed away in WW1 and WW2.
The Presidential Palace
My mum and I riding seaways!
While the tour was informative, I did have several complaints about the company running it. Firstly they stated on their website they would give English only tours but the tour was in Hindi. Being someone who can't speaking a full phrase in Hindi I had to rely on my mother to translate for me. Then I also found that around 80% percent of the facts the tour guide was mentioning was actually inaccurate. Overall if you want a great way to explore the government area of New Delhi, I'd recommend this tour. If you want something informative about the government area of New Delhi, I recommend finding a different tour.
After the tour of the area we went to the shrine of the Mughal leader Humayun. Humayun was the grandfather of Shah Jahan, the prince who made the Taj Mahal. The area was currently under renovation as it is a UNESCO site but the main shrine was still open. It was reminiscent of the Taj Mahal. This shrine was a inspiration for the design of the Taj Mahal and similar Mughal shrines.
After the site we went to the B'ahai temple but not before getting a quick cup of coffee. The B'ahai religion is relatively new compared to other religions such as Hinduism. The temple is Delhi is one of the main temples bulit in each continent. I have visited the temple for North America, the temple is bulit in Chicago. Other locations for the main B'ahai temples include Sydney, Frankfurt, Panama and Kampala.
The B'ahai Temple
By the time we finished the morning tours it was almost time for lunch. We headed back to the Guragaon area to grab a spot of lunch. We went to one of the main malls there as my mum wanted to do some last minute shopping. We ate at Haldirams, a household name in India which is famous for their food outlets and their desserts. We ate a fair amount of food ranging from Paneer Tikka to the popular chaat item Pani Puri.
After the filling lunch we bought some snacks and sweets to bring back to Singapore. Subsequently we went back my great aunt and uncles place to relax before the fight.
Soon it was time to go back to Singapore and I had enjoyed myself very much on this trip. Typically I don't like traveling to India as I usually fall sick or I end up meeting relatives whom I don't particularly get a long with. This trip changed all that as I had an amazing time and got to sample great vareities of food. I will miss some parts of India and I am looking forward to coming back again once day.