Saturday, 4 January 2014

Of curries and a lot of people

So, we're back from India, safe and sound, no diarrhoea. We didn't lose the kid either, hoho! But this must be the most tiring holiday ever. Lots of interesting things and good moments, but tiring all the same. Plenty of photos and videos, and showing off the cutest and most troublesome aspect of our trip - ZK.

Monday, 23 Dec 2013

Mum took a picture of the happy trio (ok, ZK looks less so!) just before we went past the gates.



ZK with Kai Kai the panda! Or it could be Jia Jia. Whatever..



With Spongebob Squarepants..



And the Harrods bear bear! (What's with the face, baby?)



Multi-tasker - pushing the trolley and zipping my bag.



It was quite a flight as he refused to sleep in the bassinet and struggled to fall asleep in my arms as he hadn't done that for a long time. But eventually, we got to Delhi, pulled on the warm clothing and found our tour agent, Tek. This was while waiting for the car.



It was very late by the time we checked into Country Inn and Suites. Too tired to take pictures of our room for two nights. We dropped as much as we could and fell asleep - all three of us on the king bed. And it was probably 2 am Singapore time. And I guessed correctly - ZK woke at Singapore time too! But he fell back asleep, thankfully...

Tuesday, 24 Dec 2013

ZK woke, had milk, had bread (I brought his usual bread and peanut butter along!), got changed, and the parents somehow managed to wash up before we headed down for breakfast. Tried to feed ZK some cereals etc but he was only playing. Every morning turned out to be about the same.

Random guest came up to ask me to take a photo of him with ZK - ok, sure. He was the first of many to come - teenage girls, teenage boys, aunties and uncles. One girl even ran up, said "wait wait!" and started pinching and kissing his cheeks! We were too shocked to stop her ha! Indians love children, apparently. A friend told us that children were kings in India *.* But strangely, only the first two hotels had baby chairs. The rest of the time, we had to seat him in a wide chair or on us. I guess families don't eat out much..

Should have charged 100 rupees per shot or pinch :p

Anyway, we had only this one day for sightseeing in Delhi. We had thought Tek was our guide but he said only local guides could lead a tour so we met a local guide who brought us to our first stop, the Qutab Complex.



I really liked these columns - they reminded me of Egypt and Spain somehow - but ZK wasn't impressed...



Though he liked the feel of the rough stone!



This is fees differentiation *.* It got even better at the Taj Mahal - 750 for foreigners vs. 20 for locals. We paid more but we also got priority whenever there was a queue. Ah well...



Next was Humayun's Tomb - went there with a sleeping baby.



No, this was still Humayun's Tomb though it looked very much like the Taj Mahal, which was modelled after this. The key difference is that the former was built by the wife in memory of her husband while the latter was built by the husband in memory of his wife.



The fountain behind used to be powered by pressure from water from water tanks flowing down from different directions - how cool was that! *nerd*

ZK had fun roaming the grounds and touching things when he woke.



So cute when he fell! Very cushioned by his jacket..



Still very happy! :)



We spent a lot of time in this car. ZK decided that he should drive too!



We had an Indian lunch in this posh looking place. It was our most expensive meal at more than 2,000 rupees. After that, we felt that it was a rip-off. The restaurant toilet was the worst we'd been to the entire trip.

Next was Raj Ghat. A huge garden with truckloads of students.



We didn't visit any other places - too lazy and tired by then. But we drove past a few places such as the Lakshmi Narayan Temple...



.. and the parliament area, which reminded us of the Capitol Hill area in DC.

We ordered room service for dinner - pasta at about 300 rupees each! ZK had baby cereals for lunch and dinner the whole trip - gotta wipe nua nua baby poop from Christmas day *.*

I fell asleep but Sito managed to pick ZK up and place him in the cot so we had the bed to ourselves yeah! The cot had a raisable gate that made it possible to lower him into it, phew!

Wednesday, 25 Dec 2013

Merry Christmas!

We set off for Agra this morning. ZK fell asleep on me :)



Saw this while we were waiting for the driver Rajesh to pay for the state tax when we entered Uttar Pradesh - roadside grooming!



Took many videos this trip - we spent a lot of time on the road and it was hard to take pictures. Here's one showing traffic in an uncongested condition.



And shops along the way.



Also saw something very sad along the way - the car ahead of us ran into a white cow! The cow rolled over and tried to get up and to the pavement but its right front leg was bent in an awkward position :( The driver pulled over and came out and that was the last we saw of them. Don't know what would happen to the cow...

Had a good and cheap lunch, at only about 1,000 rupees. Also checked into Jaypee Palace and Convention Centre - a large hotel with big rooms! Didn't manage to take pictures though - too tired. But though the place was big, the room facilities were old - the TV was the old bulky type and the shower head was fixed, unlike the Delhi hotel with a nice new TV and modern faucets, including a waist-height shower head holder that was very useful cos we could avoid having water sprayed over our face!

Yes, throughout the trip, we were very careful with the water - a polyclinic doctor from India told me he used to wash his hands with mineral water!! So we only showered ZK's body when necessary and just wiped his head and face. The parents didn't wash face - we used disposable facial wipes instead. We tried to buy distilled water for ZK in case the mineral water tasted gross but (a) we couldn't get to a supermarket cos they usually go to drugstore for groceries, and (b) no stall owner understood distilled water *.* Luckily, the mineral water wasn't too yucky after all. We used it for everything - brushing teeth, cleaning ZK, cleaning ZK's bottles etc and of course drinking.

Anyway, back to sightseeing - the highlight of our sightseeing must be the Taj Mahal!



So pretty! It's white when we got there. By the time we left, it looked yellow against the setting sun. Nice :) We decided that when I go, Sito will build something similar for me haha!



ZK liked it too! He ran his little hands across the inlaid gems on the marble :)



Notices on the electric bus to and fro the Taj Mahal. Due to fears of dirtying the white marble, cars have to stop a distance away and visitors could take electric buses to the entrance of the Taj Mahal. We had to walk a little from the drop-off point - it felt a little like Kaminarimon - to reach the entrance, which was a stone structure, not the actual white marble giant yet.



I had to empty our bags in the car.



When we entered the Taj Mahal proper, we had to wear white shoe covers and take ZK's shoes off too.

The local guide brought us to two workshops to see the tapestry and inlaid gems. They also sold stuff obviously. The first guy was friendly even though we didn't buy anything - probably cos ZK had a fall in his shop and hurt his gums! The second chap was downright bo chup when it was clear we weren't interested in parting with our money. Bleah. The stuff were nice to behold but in my house? I don't think so.

The guide was very good, however, so we gave him some tips as advised by Tek. But I also clarified with the Singapore agent that there was no need to as we were told to prepared tips for Tek and the driver. We told Tek and he was alright with it. In any case, the later guides were bleah.

We had dinner at the hotel restaurant that evening. Fish and chips for me, and grilled stuff for Sito. ZK refused my fish, sighs.. The cot was good though - he managed to fall asleep in the cot! Probably too tired. But he woke in the middle of the night and tried to climb out! So we moved him in with us. Ah well, half a night was better than nothing..

Thursday, 26 Dec 2013

Set off early in the morning to visit the Agra Fort - there were so many monkeys!



The fort was guarded with a dry moat and a wet moat, with tigers and crocodiles respectively!

The palace in the fort was very nice. It was the residence of the king and his family, and also where he was imprisoned by his son until his death.



Fortunately for him, he had a good view of the Taj Mahal where his beloved wife laid.



Then we set off for Jaipur. Along the way, we met another local guide for Fatehpur Sikri and the Tomb of Salim Chishti. Again, we dropped off somewhere to catch a bus to the complex - not sure why cos it was a normal bus!

There went ZK again, feeling the stone..



Clan Sito at a chess ground.



And I became a chess piece! Apparently, they used women as chess pieces back in those days *.*



I wanted a picture of this pillar that had Muslim, Hindi and Persian influences but ZK decided he wanted to be part of it too...



The Tomb was a short walk away. The guide brought us to a boy selling scarves etc and told us to buy so that we could go make a wish like these hordes of people:



The scarves were not cheap. Even though the money would go to charitable causes, we didn't feel compelled to make any wish - we're contented :) And when we saw the crowd at the wishing place later, we were glad of our decision - there was no way we could bring ZK in!

Then the guide brought us to more peddlers in the complex and encouraged us to get some marble elephants or something. We weren't too interested and he made some sarcastic remarks - people needed to feed their family etc. But well, we seriously didn't need those ornaments in our house! Then he wanted to bring us to see gems etc. We told him we saw them the day before. In any case, we weren't interested. We didn't like him at all. And his phone kept ringing throughout the tour.

We left the place and took a tuktuk back to our car instead of the bus.



We carried on our journey to Jaipur and checked into Regenta Central by late afternoon. Jaipur looked different - as we drove in, we saw mountains whereas Delhi and Agra were flat. We thought it was pretty.

Had a rest and thought of having dinner at the hotel restaurant but found that they didn't start dinner service until 7.30 pm, which was when we would like ZK to sleep. So we called Tek and had him send us to Macs which was perhaps 5 km away. Guess what, we took more than an hour to get there!! I was feeling so super unwell in the car :(

Macs was good though. Sito had the Maharaja burger - their version of Big Mac - while I had the usual McSpicy. Also had a McFlurry. Total cost? 500 rupees :)

While getting to the car, we were very harassed by a beggar family loitering outside Macs, asking for money. I would have found them pitiful but they were so aggressive - they tried to block our way and then followed us across the road and didn't give up until we drove away. Lucky we had Tek with us and he helped us fend them off.

The journey back to the hotel was mercifully shorter. Like Sito said, traffic could appear from nowhere and disappeared suddenly as well *.*

Ok, at this point, I must confess that I washed my hair only once the entire trip, on this night before meeting friends the next day! I washed it just before we left for India, knowing that it would be a chore to wash while taking care not to let water into my system. Anyway, it was winter and quite cold so my hair didn't go greasy like it would had it been in Singapore.

Friday, 27 Dec 2013

In the morning, I regretted washing my hair the night before - I woke with not hair but grass on my head *.* It was really a bad combination of the water and the hotel shampoo. And to rub it in, I found that the water was way warmer in the morning than at night! My nose was itchy throughout the trip so I wasn't very pleased about this...

We were off to an early start cos we got to queue for our elephant ride to Amber Fort! The queue led to the red part in the middle of the picture, and peddlers were everywhere along the queue with their hats (as pictured) and knickknacks.



Here's our elephant! With a painted trunk.



Some Great Wall of China-lookalike structure on the other side of the fort.



Somewhere along the way, the elephant stopped moving. The guy told us it wanted to pee and indeed, a few seconds later, we heard the loud swish! He told us it would be about 10 litres!!

Clan Sito on the elephant - ZK almost fell asleep *.*



Very active boy on the loose, touching pillars again.



I don't remember much of what we saw there except that the walls were pretty. This particular local guide wasn't very good.



Taken from a mirror.



Next was the City Palace, where the royals still live in the yellow part of this picture.



Took a picture before knowing that it wasn't allowed :p



Peacock Gate! Very pretty but two angmohs were loitering around it for the longest time before we could get our picture. Oh yes, ZK was asleep, phew!



We then stopped at the Wind Palace for phototaking.



We had some time to rest and change in the hotel before leaving for the wedding - yes, this trip happened because a friend was getting married!

It took just over an hour to reach the wedding hall as we had to ask many people along the way for directions. Took a video of the night scene near the Wind Palace in the earlier part of the journey:



Found the Kellogg bunch in their room - the wedding hall had accommodation - and had a quick chat before going down for the ring ceremony.

We turned Indian!



After the ring ceremony, family and friends danced on stage. ZK slept through most of it, and when he woke, he was so mesmerised by the performances! Here are two dances - by the groom and the bride respectively:



Heard some shots were required for the above dance to happen...! And many people waved an angbao around their heads and simply dropped it at a corner of the stage.



Attendants were serving drinks and food during the performances, which were all in Hindi by the way, including the hosting. We had some before going out to grab some real dinner. ZK had his first Indian food - papadum!

Meanwhile, people were dancing in the hall on a small dancefloor. By the time we returned, the dance had ended. But not for ZK! :p



We left after that. ZK fell asleep in our bed, and we just carried on sleeping. Just so tired...

Saturday, 28 Dec 2013

Back to the wedding hall. ZK really likes to touch statues!



There were some wedding ceremonies in the morning but it was very informal. Guests were just roaming and having breakfast. Seeing that the next important activity was in the afternoon, we left before noon. But not before we had a picture taken of our preppy little one!



Lunch was KFC! We remembered passing by one on the way back the night before so we stopped by to pack a lot of food to eat back at the hotel. ZK had dozed off in the car so we got to eat in peace, phew! Had four pieces of chicken (all crispy; they had no original), one Zinger, one packet of fries and a pack of basmati rice with curry - all for under 700 rupees.

We left the hotel again at 3 pm and arrived at the wedding venue at almost 4 pm to find a procession - groom was on a white horse!

What are we looking at?



Papa dancing!



The procession danced its way from one gate of the wedding hall to the other. Traditionally, the groom rides to the temple and back. They erected some sort of a temple at the wedding hall so the procession did send the groom to a religious spot.

The Kellogg boys:



My boys :)



ZK learnt to unscrew bottles on this trip. Made quite a mess at times...





But he was always satisfied with himself!



After the couple had taken their vows, there was this long fire ceremony. Think the couple sat in front of the fire for a long time before they walked seven times around it. It was quite cold and ZK was making quite a din so we retreated indoors where he fell asleep and stayed so for some three hours! Sito took this video to show me:



It was so tiring holding ZK on the sofa! I dozed off for a while too. When I was awake, kind family members of the couple would pass by and ask if I wanted a room to lie us down. But knowing ZK, best not to move him too much! So we rested there until dinner time, when Sito brought me some yummy food.

When ZK woke, we fed him in the hall. The couple had one last ceremony outside - garlanding each other to fire crackers! Then they were finally seated on stage and family and friends went up to take pictures with them.



The Kellogg troop - familiar faces of years past plus new JVs and a new Kellogg kid!



Sunday, 29 Dec 2013

Spent this day nua-ing in the hotel, recharging ourselves (the adults!) before two long rides - one back to Delhi and one back to Singapore, both with active toddler in tow. Here's said active toddler in the cot that could not hold him at night, asking for my camera!



So after some packing, we just took photos in the room - here are the wedding favours from the couple. The green one is from the bride's family and the white from the groom's family.



Indian candies! They are very, very sweet!



Found this in the green box. Still wondering where to place this..



Our room faced the Water Palace, a beautiful palace in water. We had a chance to stop near it to take photos but we didn't since we could see it from the hotel! And sunset was a beautiful time.



We went out for only lunch. And it was to be the last proper Indian lunch of our trip, and it was good!!! :) We had chicken tikka masala, among others yummies :) Since we had nothing much to do after that, we took Tek's suggestion to visit a local shopping mall.

It was more like a wholesale factory of local produce, from textile to ornaments and jewellery. Our first stop was at the textile side, and we spent some time looking at quilts and sarees. I eventually got a saree for myself - 850 rupees! Didn't get the quilt cos (a) the designs were very Indian and wouldn't go with our place, (b) the ones I liked had silk covers and cost upwards of 5,000 rupees, and (c) we had no more space in our suitcase.

ZK spilled water on the duvet in the morning. It was difficult to get him to nap without touching the wet spot. Thankfully, it was gone by the time we returned from lunch. So we had a good nap in the afternoon.

Sito was supposed to go out for dinner with the Kellogg people who were all staying at the wedding hall but he somehow didn't get the text message. By the time he spoke with them, it was kind of late to get Tek over (30 min) to send him to dinner (perhaps one hour). So we had room service instead after ZK went to bed - we had the spiciest curry this whole trip!

But we had super irritating neighbours. For two consecutive mornings, they would slam their doors when they got out at about 6 am - goodness knows where they went at that hour! And this evening, they were trying to open our door! Wrong door, young man! And then, they were repeatedly slamming their doors to either side of our room. And they talked real loud on the corridor, to one another, into the phone, shouting up and down the staircases just outside our room. All while ZK was trying to sleep. We were very pissed and went out many times to tell them off. But they continued for two hours! Super irritated with them.

Monday, 30 Dec 2013

Checked out and left Jaipur. Passed by Amber Fort on our way out and saw a very very long queue for the elephant ride. Ours wasn't that long after all!

Lunch was early and at this dingy place in the middle of nowhere. We were not hungry so had only soup, samosa and pakora, none of which was good. Reached within 8 km of the airport just before 3 pm. Our flight was at 9.50 pm so we took a walk through this huge shopping mall - it was the only shopping mall we had seen on this trip that was typical of the type we know.

We were first greeted by a thin Santa Claus.



After walking for a while, we sat down at Red Mango for some yogurt. ZK took some as well - with raisins of course. Then I tried to make him sleep in my arms but he refused and cried a lot until suddenly, Gangnam Style came on the sound system and he became still! He probably found it familiar as he has this car with Psy's head poking out of the roof to the tune of his most famous song *.*

So sleep wasn't coming. I decided to use the carrier myself - I haven't used that for a long time! - to make him sleep while we walked. Successful! But only for 25 min. Somehow he woke when we set off for the entrance to meet Tek to get to the airport.

We found that it had rained while we were indoors. While Sito looked out for the car outside, I stayed inside with ZK and got acquainted with this Chinese girl who was on her way out with a colleague. She struck up a conversation as she seldom saw Chinese faces around. Turned out she was on a working trip. Gave her my number and got connected on Whatsapp. How fun! :)

This airport was really quite something. While the arrival area appeared to be free access, since Tek was able to meet us there, the departure area was super high security. First of all, we couldn't go in without letting a guard check our passports and tickets. Then, when we got past the airline staff at the gate, there was a guard checking out boarding passes again!

Anyway.. So we checked in online the day before but I neglected to check the seat allocations. Turned out we were allocated seats one behind the other! We said no and after a lot of checks and discussions, we finally got seats further back, with Sito across the aisle from me just slightly behind where he could easily see me and help with ZK when necessary.

Had dinner at the foodcourt - fake Chinese food! We had chilly garlic noodles with curry. Sito chose chilly chicken curry while I had Thai green curry which turned out to be a better choice. Love the word "chilly" haha!

There was a play area on the same level so we let ZK have some fun :) An older kid was shadowing him though and generally being irritating. The mother only asked the kid to move away or take turns, which he defied, and never once apologised for her kid's actions. Later on the flight, I heard a mother tell her kid to put his feet out of the aisle lest someone hit him - I would have thought he should move lest someone trip over!

We're not racist and we have nice Indian friends, and we have met some friendly people who came over for ZK, but some of the locals have made our tiring trip even more tiring. Like the guide who was pushy. Or super persistent peddlers and aggressive beggars. And the horrible neighbours at the Jaipur hotel. And someone even stood outside the toilet handing out paper towels and then expecting you to give them money for it!

The flight was pretty uneventful. ZK fell asleep on take-off as he didn't nap much that day, even though there were three other infants on the same row and two were crying! Thankfully, the loudest baby was furthest from us. The one next to us slept on and off but the mother was terrible - she dozed off with baby in the bassinet and didn't know when she woke. I had to wake her when I saw the girl reaching for the edge of the bassinet. And she didn't even say thanks. Unless eating into my space was her way of thanking people - she slept leaning towards me or with both chubby arms on the armrests, leaving nothing for me. I nudged back - think I can be bullied?!

Then Sito and I both saw her rock her baby violently to make her sleep. Really, violently! And another parent was doing the same to an older kid in front of the toilet - violent rocking! We were quite shocked *.*

Tuesday, 31 Dec 2013

ZK woke after four hours. Spent an hour entertaining him on the plane before we landed. And he had such good timing - decided he wanted milk as we landed! So I managed to make the milk and have Sito feed him on the way to immigrations.

Had a quick breakfast at Macs before going home. The poor boy was so tired and dozed off just before we got to HV. We went straight to IFC - that was his last time there with the babies. He napped a long time that morning and later that afternoon when he got back.

We, um, let the curries have their revenge :p and took a nice warm shower to un-grass our hair. So glad to be home!!!

Today

Took me a few days to finish writing this. To end this off, I must thank my dear husband. I think I wouldn't have survived if Sito didn't rise to the occasion - by waking early, taking ZK whenever the little one was willing (or sometimes unwilling!), and entertaining him :)

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