A JOURNEY TO REMEMBER

After two long years in Mumbai, we finally decided to go for a tour around North India and the vacation took place from 24 January until 31 January 2009. I had been listening so much about how beautiful that northern part of India was but as usual before we set for the trip we didn’t expect too much.. hehehe… (only my gang in Mumbai know how it feels like touring in India).

Both of my heroes couldn’t even sleep the night before because this was the first time they’re going to snow area (not only for them but ehem… ehem… for me toooooooo!). At 4.00 am, everybody was up and had gotten ready. However, as we were about to leave the house for the airport, guess what, our driver was still asleep! Just imagine how tensed we were at that time. What more depressing was, there was no autorickshaw willing to drive us to the airport in that wee hour. So, having no choice, we decided to just drive our car to the airport, leave it there and pay the parking fee for one week. What else could be done, right?? At 5.00 am sharp, our driver came – only after our 200 missed calls made to his mobile!! We reached Mumbai International Airport just on time for departure. Luckily, we didn’t miss the flight. First lesson learned – never trust your driver especially for an early drive.

We boarded the flight which took off right on schedule and by 7.30 am we reached New Delhi Airport. It was so chilly that morning. Our tour agent was already there waited for us at the airport and he was very helpful. Well, our journey to Shimla began. Lesson No. 2 – always bring food with you when you are in India because all the shops and cafés open at 10.00 am. Good for us, we brought some cookies and bananas to eat.

Along the way our driver kept on suggesting us to try the Dhaba shop for breakfast but as usual I didn’t expect too much and yes… as I had expected, there was nothing special about the Dhaba and I definitely wouldn’t go inside!! So, we stopped at a rest area somewhere on the way to have a short break, but still, the condition of the place was not so okay! We ate quickly and headed off to Shimla. After a very long 8 hour journey with the views that weren’t so fantastic, we finally reached Shimla. It was only 7.00 pm but it seemed like midnight because of winter season. We checked-in at Oberoi Cecil and much to our relief, the foods were good!! After all, its Oberoi so you deserve what you pay.

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Next day, very early in the morning, around 7.00 am, after we had our breakfast and checked out from the hotel. We continued our journey to Manali but today we pre-packed some food from the Oberoi Hotel. Oh, by the way, we had a very good breakfast . The Danish pastries were superb!

The views for the first 3 hours were just similar to the views in Shimla but when we reached the place called Sundar Nagar we were amazed by what we saw. The rest of 5 hour drive seemed nothing compared to this breathtaking view. Just like picture speaking for itself, the view was so fantastic and this was the most beautiful place in India we had seen so far. The surrounding was so fabulous we just couldn’t get enough of it.

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We reached Manali town at around 4.00 pm and checked-in at Holiday Inn Hotel. Since all of us were so starving, we quickly went to the hotel restaurant to try out some Manali specialties. However, it was so disappointing to know that they didn’t serve any ‘halal’ food eventhough they didn’t serve pork. If anyone wishes to have ‘halal’ chicken, he or she must order beforehand so that they can order for us. To add up to the disappointment, it was Friday night and all Muslim shops were closed until Monday. The rest of the days, we just ate Manali special fish but then it was not bad at all.

Second day in Manali was full of fun. We played in the snow and enjoyed the scenery very much! Until now, the memory is still fresh in my mind and I kind of miss Manali. If there was a direct flight to Manali from Mumbai, my family and I would have definitely flown there at this very moment.

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Early Sunday, we departed to Chandigarh. Tak kosa dah nak singgah Shimla because it would only take us 4 hours to drive downhill from Chandigarh to Delhi as compared to 8 hour drive from Shimla to Delhi. Kesian kat my heroes, yang nombor 2 je kebal, alhamdullillah, but my elder son teruk muntah. Sian sangat. The best among them was my baby Akmal. He managed to go through the tormenting journeys to Manali and to Delhi but of course-ler, start je keta terus dia tido. Fening lalat kot.

Our driver kept on telling us that Chandigarh was just like mini Italy in India. Kami semua pun terasa la gak excited sebab dah experienced good times kat Manali kannn. Tetapi rupa-rupanya sebiji cam Shah Alam, semua ikut seksyen and nothing to be amazed of. Chandigarh is a well planned city which is 300% different from Mumbai, and that’s for sure… hehehhehehe

In Chandigarh, we stayed at Taj Chandigarh, a small hotel that was quite similar to Taj Lands End in Bandra, Mumbai and it was superb! Dinner at the hotel was fantastic. Masa pusing-pusing di Chandigardh sempat la gak gi taman batu. It was an interesting place but kind of eerie gak sebab asyik pusing-pusing dan takda jalan kluar. Apa-apa pun kena pusing sampai abis.

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Around 8.00 am the next day, we continued our journey to New Delhi. On the way, we snapped some photos of Red Fort, Khutub Minar, India Gate dan kawasan-kawasan Gomen India (government offices). It was a surprise to see that kawasan-kawasan Gomen dia sebiji cam Putrajaya punya setting.. setting je la, bukan building okay.. hehhehe.. but really, the area was so different from Mumbai and worth seeing. It’s rare to find clean and kempt places such as this one. Merujuk kepada perjalanan kami ke Shimla, Manali, Chandigarh and Delhi, I personally think that all these places are worth going to especially Manali.

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The following day, we checked-in at Crowne Plaza, New Delhi. We took a tour around Janpar Market but didn’t want to shop so much as we planned to do most of our shopping in Jaipur later, not knowing I was about to regret it.

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Another day went by and we continued our trip to Agra with hope to see the great Taj Mahal. Upon reaching Agra, we checked into Trident Agra Hotel before headed off for sightseeing around the city. Besides Taj Mahal, we also checked out Agra Fort and some shopping places, of course. Taj Mahal was superb. The architecture was so amazing even though it was built almost 400 years ago.

We continued our journey to Jaipur the next morning and spent the night at Trident Jaipur. Sempat la singgah kat Fatehpursikri. We also went sightseeing at Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal. Di Jantar Mantar, kami melihat teknologi orang zaman dulu-dulu bagaimana mereka menentukan waktu dalam sehari. Ada jam besar yang menggunakan bayang-bayang matahari. Menarik sungguh! When night came, we couldn’t wait to go shopping, alih-alih dapat agen haru biru ada ka patut dia bawa kami sume pergi ke mall yang high class. Memang mahallah barang-barangnya. Ada setengah barang tu lagi mahal dari Mumbai tapi memandangkan memang I nak shopping, maka hajat diteruskan.

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We had our dinner at Raj Palace, which once upon a time, was a palace and now has been converted into a hotel. Believe it or not, for a one night stay it will cost you nearly 1 lakh. Yes, you heard me right! I tried Maharaja Thali. Not bad! Maharaja Thali is a dish that is consisted of some side dishes and serving dia pun glamer… kakkakaka. My hubby jeles tengok I, mana taknya, siap ada lapik warna emas lagi. Gold colour, you! First time, I boleh puji masakan dia sedap sangat. Semuanya sedap, termasuklah ‘paneer’ yang sememangnya I tak suka langsung. Waiter kat situ kata semua tu home made. Sampai sekarang I masih teringat lagi kesedapannya… tapi kalau you all nak tahu bill for our dinner je Rs6000… harga makanan Rs 4000. Taxnya sahaja sudah Rs2000. Hah, nak sangat try yang glamour, padan muka kitorang… hehehe….

Next day, also our last day before going back to Mumbai, before the wonderful vacation was over, we managed to go for an elephant ride at Amber Fort dan sempat la gak buat last minit shopping. Another lesson learned – beli saja apa yg berkenan jangan tunggu. Sangat ralatlah jugak sebab banyak barang yang I berkenan di Delhi tapi tak beli konon-kononnya nak beli di Jaipur. Last-last, tak sempat langsung nak round flea marketnya. Well, anak sapa la tu yang bagitau I yang shopping in Jaipur was much better than Delhi, but it turned out the other way around. Sampai sekarang I menyesal tak shopping in Delhi.

amber-fort elephant-ride

Flight to Mumbai from Jaipur was at 12.30 pm so, tak de la letih sangat. But in general, my overall opinion from our experience, I can say it’s worth travelling to North India. As for me, the only place that I want to go again is Manali. Hmm… The rest of the places? Nahhh… I think once is enough. Will continue to discover India in our next plan.

* Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

Note: PERWAKILAN MUMBAI would like to thank Mrs. Waheedabi from The Consulate General of Malaysia in Mumbai for sending in this article and sharing her traveling experience to North India with us.

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