India Calling - Delhi


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Asia » India » National Capital Territory » New Delhi
March 13th 2018
Published: March 13th 2018
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Who is on this trip:

The writer - Mother/Organiser/Travel ‘Project’ Manager/Sponsor/Financial Controller. Referred to as: Me, myself or I

The husband – referred to as: himself/Dad/hubby/the man

The daughter – referred to as: the girl/7yo/princess/whinger/puker/punk/card sharp

The son – referred to as: the boy/5yo/boy wonder/whinger/puker/punk/ card sharp

Itinerary:

Sydney-Delhi (for city break)–(Main trip Kerala state) : Cochin/Kochi– Alleppey/Alapuzha- Kollam/Quilon-Varkala- Thekaddy-Munnar-Cochin/Kochi-Delhi-Sydney

Dates:

20 Dec 2017- 10 Jan 2018

Season in India:

Winter

Average temps:

17-30 degrees

Exchange rate to AUD:

46-50 rupees per $1aud

Day 1

Getting there

Flight

12.5 hour flight from Sydney to Delhi (after 2 trains over approx. 90 mins)

Thankfully uneventful. Seats were in rows of 3, so the kids alternated window seat (as 4 flights in total by the time we got to Cochin) and Dad sat in aisle seat across from us.

7 & 5 yo (girl & boy) are good ages to do long haul with as they like the computer games & movies provided and the 7yo also watched a lot Indian cartoons so was obsessed with the god Shiva & his wife Parvati. Also they had their own devices available to them too.

They ate practically nothing as cute kids meals for vegetarian kids still don’t exist and of course they didn’t like anything in the lacto-ovo meal. Bread rolls & yogurt was most I could get into them and at least the 5yo boy loves fruit but not the 7yo girl!!

Movies for me: Wakefield (my favourite, Brian Cranston), My cousin Rachel (good enough), The young Victoria (good but no Crown), Jersey boys (Frankie Valli story)

Arrival in Delhi airport

Landed around 6pm local time but seemed to take about 1.5-2 hours to disembark, get luggage, get visas checked & change money (which went fast).

Don’t go to line that says foreign visas if it is in fact an online visa you have even if you are a foreigner! It wasn’t very busy but the supervisor still had to kick ass to make the guys not go on breaks. Welcome to India time!

We changed our money with Thomas Cooke who gave a better rate the more you changed. Aussie Dollars no problem They were handing me out 69,000 rupees in 2000 notes so I asked for smaller ones too & they provided loads of 500’s and 100’s. 100’s great to have for tipping so worth asking for smaller denomination notes.

Next we got a prepaid taxi so no need to worry about getting ripped off. Many kiosks to choose from, we used Meru on recommendation from colleague in Sydney. Car was total shit box banger but we didn’t care. Cost 515rps (about $11aud) to go 10km but it also took 45mins!!

1. cause the crazy traffic/smog that is Delhi and

2. driver kept missing turns and there was some back tracking. So just goes to show, as this was prepaid, they (any foreign taxi driver) sometimes don’t take the long way to rip you off, they get lost! Using English language GPS in American accent could have been a factor too

3. did I mention insane traffic?? OMG

Check in at the Leela Palace, Delhi

So we rock up to the 5 star (possibly 6 star) hotel in this terrible car but no one batted an eyelid and for security everyone reasons everyone has to pop the bonnet at the gate for all hotels. Also there’s airport type scanner for bags going into hotel. Am presuming this was all brought in post the Mumbai Taj Hotel bomb a few years ago.

So immediately there’s a concierge and bell hops etc. and bags are no longer your concern. A lady greets you with a jasmine flower necklace and dabs your forehead with red powder. You are invited to sit down in comfy chairs in the lounge and brought a welcome juice. To check in all you do is hand over the passports and sit back and enjoy your drink – no queuing at reception desks or anything so tiresome. Can’t remember if I had to give a credit card too but they already had details from booking.com (some hotels hit me up for 1st night before arrival so no need to talk about vulgar payment methods again!)

Fairly quickly we were shown to our rooms; we had 2 business rooms next door to each other. I had enquired about interconnecting rooms in advance via booking.com and that was a no. Whether actual family suites exist I never got to the bottom of.

The man who showed us around sent up some masala tea (yum) via room service and by that stage it was well after 9pm and body clock time was 5.5 hours later so after showers in very nice double sinked marble bathrooms, and a quick bit of Wi-Fi time we each took a child and settled down for sleep in lovely comfy beds in our respective rooms. Did I mention there was a pillow menu? That’s how comfy the beds were. Loads of fresh fruit and bottled water provided too by the way. Woke up a few times but that’s jet lag for you.

Day 2

First full day in Delhi

So hello as many courses as you like (especially in our 5 year old’s case) buffet vast breakfast. OMG yum. All types of food available: Indian, S.E. Asian, European, Savoury, Sweet, Hot, Cold.

Followed by hardest morning ever (not) - digesting, relaxing, reading, drawing, gaming, lying down, figuring out Delhi itinerary etc.

Then it was time for (more extensive buffet) lunch. This one hit wallet a bit (breakfast was included) but OMG so lovely. We even caught the attention of head chef Mr. Jolly Singh. Well the 5yo boy who loves his food did!

Then it was explore the hotel time – life size ginger bread house, gardens, Christmas tree and finally we waddled up to the roof top pool at 3:30pm. We were the only ones there apart from the very lovely staff. Pool was a heated infinity pool overlooking smoggy city, so view not great that day, not that it mattered particularly. The kids were happy playing & splashing, parents were happy reading “The Times of India”, sipping lime sodas and having the occasional dip and play. Kites (eagles) swooping overhead all the while. One even came down to look at the 7yo – she was not impressed, reckoned he pecker her on the head! (After, there were beautiful change rooms with special swim suit squeezer/spinner.)

A few hours later back at the rooms the housekeeping staff had been in and arranged our cuddly toys very cutely, kids loved this, also more fruit & water had arrived.

Later that evening while I was at the gym the butler came and identified himself to the family, 7yo loves the butler! Butler delivered chocolates and biscuits while we were at dinner and gave the kids a gift of a teddy each on the last night!

Yes you read that correctly, we also had sumptuous buffet dinner that night. Think the boy had 1 plate with 4 desserts! Followed by another good look in the ginger bread house where they choose what overpriced baked German delights (possibly imported from Germany) they’d like me to buy – think Stollen and the like. I said maybe not today, seeing as we were full as ticks!

You see why I had to go to the gym? Which was standard hotel gym but had personal trainer available all day! Spa looked good too but I managed to hold off! Sauna & Steam room were great and there was shower head in the steam room so it was awesome to cool down while still in there! Naturally I had it all to myself.

At some point that day I managed to convince the hubby to do a day excursion to Agra (176km away) to see the Taj Mahal, leaving early the next day. He had been resistant to the idea (as more travel & I already had 675km planned by road plus internal flights) but I think a private car and guide might have swung it.

Naturally I didn’t say much about the cost 40,000rps ($850aud) because I was justifying it my head that we didn’t go the last twice we were in India and I <em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">really really wanted to go, plus this was easy and anyway divided by 4 sure it was only $212 each, bargain!

But guess what?? It’s not bloody open on a Friday. It’s a Muslim mausoleum not a place of worship so I was surprised I never noticed this in my research. When I told my Indian colleague (non-Muslim) back in Sydney he was surprised too so at least I feel less stupid now!

But I was raging with myself. This was the only available day we could go apart from today which was spent gorging ourselves! But no one in this family would have wanted to:

· Get up at 5am

· To go out for a whole day in car for a 400km round trip

· Lasting at least 8 hours

· After a long haul flight

So there’s that.

Day 3

Out and about in Delhi

Starting the day with a 7 course breakfast and Chef Jolly personally waiting on the boy with waffles, pancakes, cereal, croissants, fruit, yogurt, hot chocolate you name it...

We met our independent tour guide Rahul (called in by the hotel) and took a hotel car at 10am. 800rps per hour for the car plus 1500rps for the guide was actually relatively reasonable (when it turns on departure out they will charge me 10 times the cost of a regular taxi to the airport!!)

So the itinerary I decided on was based on:

1. Traffic situation

2. Location of our starting point

3. Distance to top 10 places (and from previous place)

4. Recommendations from Delhi-ites who live in Sydney

5. Patience of children looking at sights & sites

First stop I requested:

Akshardam temple (Hindu)

<em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Why:

It’s a modern temple, opened 2005 and as we have seen older temples on 2 previous trips one of my Delhi friends recommended we do this. And it was great idea.

<em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Summary:

Beautiful building, no photography allowed inside (hurray), plenty of signage, having our own personal guide as good too. View from distance outside didn’t do it justice as quiet smoggy in Delhi mornings.

Ladies go in one entrance, men in other. Shoes off but there’s a storage/ticketing system in place.

Lots of school groups there, so nice for the kids to be smiled and waved at. You could spend hours there and do a boat ride but pretty sure our 5yo’s head would have exploded if we did that.

The driver & guide however took us via the parliament buildings, Nehru’s house (1st president after independence), India gate (war memorial) etc. Guide explained that Delhi is like Washington and Mumbai is like New York. And there is Old Delhi too in case you wondering. This was a great idea. We flew by Connaught place but didn’t stop as it’s pretty much a CBD area. But you know being from Connaught we wouldn’t have said no to a photo opp. Back in the car the 5yo loved monitoring the paper map, so he was happy.

Stop 2:

Humayun’s tomb (Muslim)

<em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Why:

It’s the blue print for the (never let us speak of it again) Taj Mahal.

<em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Summary:

Very beautiful building, the smog cleared in the middle the day too so visibility was great. Lovely stone work. The tomb is actually underground and overground is replica so it’s good to be able to wander around and not be desecrating graves! Not sure why it’s open on Friday’s though when’ you know where’ is not!

Stop 3:

Lotus temple (Baha’i)

<em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Why:

· Architecturally beautiful. Built of 27 free standing marble clad petals arranged in clusters of 3 to form a 9 sided lotus flower.

· Recommended by another Delhi colleague in Sydney. Again modern building 1986.

<em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Summary:

Empty inside. Open to all religions. Reminiscent of our Sydney opera sails only they are tiled not huge pieces of marble!! Beautiful, you see why it is award winning and one of the most visited buildings in the world. Huge queues though. We viewed from outside which is what I wanted.

Stop 4:State run Kashmiri shop

<em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Why:

I love the Kashmiri’s! Also cause they have some political strife up there they don’t get as much tourism are they should so the government helps them out with shop in other states.

<em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Summary:

We had lovely tea and viewed many beautiful handmade carpets. As we hadn’t bought any art in a long time we purchased 2 beautiful silk wall hangings, so one for each kid to inherit who were involved in the selection process. Shipped back via DHL but the Sydney customs took a cut! We had 23kg spare in the luggage so we didn’t think that out properly, d’oh.

I also got a beautiful pashmina which I had mentally planned to get in advance J so happy I found a classy one I love.

Then we went back to base for ($10) expressos, cheaper than lunch (ha ha) and a quick jewellery shop for the 7yo and to the pool for a *beer for the big people and for “the kites” to stalk the 7 year old! The rest of the family took great pleasure in teasing her every time we saw an eagle for the next 3 weeks. After more sumptuous dinner we saw that the butler left personalised iced biscuits and jars of sweets for the kids!

*On the beer front it was a very low alcohol consumption holiday which was refreshingly nice. Reasons:

1. There’s only so much Kingfisher beer you can take esp. after acquiring a taste for craft beer

2. Indian wine is not good – esp. if you coming are from Australia

3. Alcohol is relatively expensive

4. Didn’t particularly feel the need to drink on child friendly holiday

Departure from the Leela

So I wanted to fly with a decent airline to Kochi 3 hour away as I am so done with cheapo airlines where possible (Ryanair to Dublin-Pisa in 2011 finished us with that caper) and Vistara were airline I picked (Tata/Singapore airlines conglomerate) but unfortunately the times I could choose was early morning or late evening. So I choose 6am which was actually brought back to 5:45am (they updated by text before I left Sydney) which meant we had to cut short our beautiful hotel by like 8 hours and miss pre-paid super buffet breakfast.

I didn’t see how I could a get taxi that easily at 3:30am from our gated “gilded cage” so opted for a hotel car. They were very proud it was Mercedes and charged me 5500rps for 10km, that’s $11.70 per km or $117 aud!!! Make of car has zero care factor for me. As Europeans we have been in a Mercedes many a time!

I stupidly didn’t think to point out that I had already paid for breakfast which was probably the same price and try to make a bargain. So after all its loveliness I did feel kind of ripped off.

I said it was the one thing I didn’t like in my booking.com review and they replied with some stupid answer about security and that had they had other options – eh B.S. they didn’t offer any to me, other than a smaller car for 1000rps less which wouldn’t have fit us all plus luggage! So a disappointing end. I did the maths and compared other 5 star hotel car costs we used and this was by far the most expensive road journey we did.

Otherwise we did love it. It’s the boy’s favourite hotel.

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