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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fatehpur Sikri


We went back to the hotel to check out and check in to another hotel. The reason why we changed the hotel was due to unavailability of the same room for 2 days.

“I saw the other hotel yesterday…just few buildings away from here…” Chawana said.

We took out our bags and walked down the hotel and headed to Daawat Hotel. We were right, the hotel was at most 100meters away from the first hotel. We checked in and guess what? Our rooms were at roof top! The only two rooms with its own compound and above these rooms, there were open space with table and stools that allow you to enjoy the great view of Taj Mahal. And the room was quite Mughal era. Hehe.Tips : This hotel is a so-so to stay.

We had a break for a while before we continued our journey. I called the hotel reception and asked how much it will cost for a rented car, to go to Fatehpur Sikri. We know that the place is far and the journey will take around 3hours, so the fare won’t be as cheap as those places that we went via tuk-tuk. And we know that the previous cab driver charge us for Rp800=RM56.00.

The hotel charge us for Rp1200=RM84.00!

We rejected the offer and asked them to help us to call the previous cab driver. They “looked” refused but they still dialed the number. Hubby talked to the cab driver and he came 30 minutes later.

Tips : Try to negotiate with few cab drivers when you arrive in Agra. Make comparison and trip to Fatehpur Sikri should be less than Rp1000=RM70.

Chawana came down and Aqilah was in the middle of finding her own sweet position to take a nap. I carried Aqilah back and forth while singing nursery rhymes to her face and she kind off enjoying it. During our trip in India, Aqilah was attacked by running nose and watery eyes. Must be the dirty air. So while putting her to sleep, I also managed to swipe her mucus away WITHOUT any objection from Aqilah. Hehehe! Aqilah must have love Auntie Biq aite, mummy?

She finally slept in my arms, on my lap. Aww…

And so the cab has arrived. We got in and enjoyed the trip. Getting out of town, approaching outskirt areas gave different scenes. Green fields and…traffic jam?“Why? Why?” We wondered.

The cab driver then drove aside and the car was a bit slanting to the drain!

“Ya Allah! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeiiiiii!” We shouted!

But the car was back on the road. And stop. Before us, there was a major intersection with no traffic lights. The traffic was SUPER BAD. All cars stuck at the middle, regardless from any direction they came from. On the left side, there was a long line of trucks. Same goes to the right side. I looked at the signboard, these roads head to Delhi and Jaipur.
Few drivers came out from their cars and tried to direct other cars to give ways. Luckily, they opened a way from our side, and our cab driver quickly started the engine and drove through. We finally escape from the chaos and reached Fatehpur Sikri two hours later.
40km distance, 6 lives in a small car without A/C, do your own imagination.

We stopped at one car park and the cab driver told us, he can’t drive us to the entrance. Those petrol-consumed transports are not allowed in there. We were opted for tuk-tuk or rickshaw or walk.

Tips : If you are adventure enough, you may try to walk. But based on my judgment, it is not a walking distance. So tuk-tuk is a best transport to choose.

“Hmmm…this is how they make money huh…”

We decided to rent a tuk-tuk and paid Rp50=RM3.50 for a return trip. The tuk-tuk then stopped us at the entrance and gave us his mobile number. We then need to walk another 100meters of downy road towards the great monument. Along this 10minutes walking, we saw locals fascinatingly looking at us, especially Aqilah. We saw none of foreigners at this place.
“WOW! SO HUGE AND BEAUTIFUL!”
“How to get up there?” We looked around, no other route to go up there except for the steep stairs in front of us.

We walked up the redstone stairs towards the huge and tall gateway, Buland Darwaza. I started to have a thought, those people during that era must be giants until they had to build this super enormous gateway. Hmm. Maybe it wasn’t the height…it could be the pride.
Beneath the dome, there were bee hives sticking on the ceiling. On the floor, locals were selling souvenirs and fruits. Goats and dogs were everywhere and I found it so fun and funny to see the shoe keeper tried to shove the goat away from him, for quite many tries. Hahaha!
We took off our shoes and walked into the compound.

Tips : Entrance fee is free.

This compound consists of Salim Chishti’s Dargah, Nawab’s Tomb, Badshahi Darwaza, and Jama’ Masjid (mosque). While walking around this area, we heard a group of men singing a Qawwali song in front of the white marble shrine.
We just walked around and didn’t enter any of these places. There were tombs scattered in front of the Nawab’s Tomb and I didn’t bother to find out who were these late people. While walking, there were school kids and locals who enjoyed the same scenery as us and some of them sat around the green filthy pool in front of the Salim Chishti’s Dargah, paying some respect to the unknown holy man.
I then saw Chawana talked to one small boy in white shirt, probably 7-8years old. Hubby and I approached Chawana and said, “Why?”
“No…this boy is clever you know…he has 20 Malaysian cents, don’t know who gave him that, and want to exchange with us in Rupees.” Chawana explained eagerly.

“How much did he ask for?”

“…like Rp20=RM1.40…”

“WOW! Nice try…hahaha!”

We continued talking to this boy and played some barter system with him. We told him that we will give him Rp2 for that 20cents and guess what, without any hesitation, he said no, no, no. Hahaha! See, he knew the exchange rate!

“So, are we going to the Palace?” We contemplated.

“Hmmm…dunno where and maybe it looks the same…” Still contemplated.

Tips : Entrance fee for palace is not free. You need to pay Rp200=RM14 as a tourist. Rp10=RM0.70 IF you think you can ‘be present’ as a local.

We decided not to proceed with the palace and walked out from the compound, leaving this homeless behind.
We walked down the stairs and met two kids who didn’t stop selling bracelets and anklets to us, not even a minute. They ushered us along the downy road and begged us to buy from them.

“I have no money left…only hair…can I pay with my hair?” I joked around.

He just smiled and kept asking me to buy one…actually, ALL. Despite the fact that he kept on selling it, I kept on rejecting it, until he finally handed me one anklet, FOR FREE!

Tips : Beware. Judge wisely. Street kids MIGHT be purely honest or vice versa. I did receive free bracelet from a very cute kid in Cambodia, but in India, too good to be true.

I handed back the anklet to the boy but he insisted me to have it. I still handed back coz WHO KNOWS, at the end of the road, he might ask money from me or accuse me for not paying. So, I need to avoid that complication.

We couldn’t find our tuk-tuk driver, so we stood by the police officers who were on duty at the entrance. Once in a while we saw tourist bus that charge Rp5=RM0.35 per trip from the car park to the monument. Hmmm…why didn’t we notice it before…

It was already half an hour and our tuk-tuk still missing. We asked for help and one local teenager helped us to call that tuk-tuk driver. In 10 minutes, he came and fetched us back to the car park.

We headed back to Agra town and asked the cab driver to drop us at our official India-trip-dining-place, Pizza Hut.
We took the same dish, arrabbiata spaghetti and pizza, and walked back to hotel, to enjoy the moonlight…with some interference by monkeys that attempted to break into Chawana’s room! Scary ok!
Co-travelers:
For history element, read Travelista's version here (in English)
For trip experience, read Chawana's version here (in Bahasa)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Biqque's March Lucky Follower


It's time for Monthly Lucky Follower againnnn!


OMG! Been SUPER tight with India posts and office works and new house and and and, fiuuhhh!
(Nadiah, will try to post your's by this weekend yah?
Dok jadi minah indon bancuh simen kat rumah baru ni haaaa! Adeh!)


Ok! I bet everyone knows by now...

1. Create an entry "Biqque's March Lucky Follower" as your entry title.
2. Find your profile picture in my follower list and circle it.
(Those who have submitted for Jan & Feb, as usual, you may use the same picture.)This month kita guna sample bukan-muka Ako plak. Hehe! Lencana skolah kot?
3. Leave your entry link in the comment section.

Yeah...you know the catch...
Lucky follower will get
ONE mystery gift.
Stay tune on 4th April 2011 at 9.00am,
to know who got lucky!


P/S: No, its not April Fool :D

Friday, March 25, 2011

Taj Mahal


“Must be Aqilah…hahaha!”
We heard Aqilah shouted in her cute little voice from the other side of the room. What a morning person she is. She must have been overexcited to visit the great Taj Mahal today.

All of us didn’t take any breakfast at the hotel. We need to chase time since we haven’t bought any ticket to get into Taj Mahal and we have no idea where the counter was. The earlier the better coz morning is the best time to visit this monument, skip from the hectic.

We stopped one tuk-tuk and negotiated with the driver. After few minutes of discussion, we agreed for Rp60=RM4.20 coz the distance was too near.

Hubby instructed the driver to bring us to the East Gate since all transport must stop here, before the entrance hurdles. From here, we had to walk 50 meters before we saw visitors started to queue in front of the gate. While queuing,
“Eh…why everyone has paper bag with drinking water and…ticket?” We wondered.

Two, three kids who earlier approached us to buy souvenirs from their shop told us that we have to purchase the ticket at the information center, a kilometer away from here.

“HUH? 1KM? Why they have a separate counter far away from the entrance? ARGH!” We complained to each other.

Before we finished complaining, they also told that Aqilah’s giraffe (soft toy that dangling on Chawana’s camera bag) was not allowed in Taj Mahal.

“GREAT! Then where should we put this poor Mr. Giraffe?” I questioned Chawana. But looking at those kids who willing to help to keep Mr. Giraffe in one of the shops, Chawana had no choice, which indirectly ‘forcing’ Chawana to get something from them. Why not huh?

Hubby and I later decided to purchase the tickets without having Chawana with us. At first, we walked…coz the charge for rickshaw WAS TOO HIGH! After walking few meters away, the rickshaw finally reduced the fee to Rp40=RM2.80.
We hopped on the rickshaw and trust me, the information center WAS DARN FAR! It was a good decision to take rickshaw instead of walking back and forth.

Once we reached the information center, there was one big buggy with 6 rows of seating, waited in front of the building.

“AHAH! There’s a free transport here!”

We ran into the building and looked for the counter. There were two separate counters for ladies and gents, but we saw no difference. Hahaha! Hubby purchased two tickets while I did the same. Each of us had to pay Rp750=RM50, THE MOST EXPENSIVE entrance fee so far.

Tips : Remember, make sure you purchase the tickets BEFORE you head straight to the East Gate.

Once we walked out from the ticket counter, one local guy started to follow us, show us his legitimate guide ID, and tell us that he can guide us throughout the visit to Taj Mahal. We had to skip him, as well as the free buggy, coz we would like to have our own sweet time, and the buggy will only send visitors when the car is full. Plus, we had an agreement with the rickshaw, earlier.

Tips : See, if you find the information center BEFORE the East Gate, you will not do useless/unnecessary thing. Save rickshaw fee, save time.

We quickly jumped onto the seat and head back to the East Gate.

“Eh, where’s Chawana?” We saw no one at the entrance. The long queue was gone!

“Halo! Halo! Your friends, here! Here!” A boy came to us and pointed to his shop. With a little bit of doubt, we followed him. And there Chawana, looking for magnets and postcards. Haha!

We had to undergo a security screening, separately. We hid few things like cigarette and lighter. Anyhow, Chawana and I, passed with flying colors. Thanks to Cik Aqilah for her cute face. Meanwhile, Chawana’s hubby had to throw away Mr. Giraffe and take out ALL baby’s food from the bag, and had to painfully watch the security guy ripped off those biscuits!
“What’s a soft toy can do to Taj Mahal???”

Chawana’s hubby finally had to turn back and asked the shop boy to keep it. And the opened biscuits? We ended up eating the chipsmore! Hahaha!

Tips : Think smart to hide things that aren’t allowed. Or else, you’ll have to see that things being taken away from you.

It was still early and the weather was quite foggy and gloomy. The first thing that we saw was Darwaza-i-rauza. The gateway was really HUGE and MASSIVE, till we can’t see what’s behind it…which everyone knows that, it should be the great Taj Mahal lah.
From this gate, it was the best spot to capture Taj Mahal’s dome beneath the silhouette archway. At this point, I can’t believe that Taj Mahal, the sign of true love, was there, right in front of my eyes.
BUT IT WAS FOGGY! I CAN’T SEE THE WHITE MARBLES, CLEARLY! HUMPH!
We started to take pictures, one after another, like what other visitors did. ONLY CRAZY TOURIST won’t spend his/her memory card on this beautiful monument! Hahaha!

We had to intellectually look for sunlight while posing, just to avoid underexposure. By this time, I didn’t waste any time, to pose stunningly in my newly bought green skirt. I started to strike Indian dance pose, showing the eyes make-up, dangling earrings, silvery anklets, and blooming skirt…AND I HAVE THIS THICK *showing the great wall of China* FACE! Everyone was looking at me and at that point, I DIDN’T CARE at all! Hahaha! Hey, I don’t visit the same place, twice maaa.
The closer we approached the stunning white marbles, the more we felt how great the Shah Jahan was. His enthusiasm, his passion, his obsession, his craziness, has led him to build the one and only, Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world. The marbles were really white and the blocks were enormous. The Islamic calligraphy, flowery ornamentals, symmetrical pillars, AWESOME!
There were famous benches right before the Taj Mahal but too many visitors queuing, just to have a memorable photo of sitting on it. Hubby tried to imitate one. Haha!
“So, are we going in?”

“Definitely!”

There was a place for you to put your shoes.

Tips : You are not allowed to walk in your shoes around Taj Mahal compound. Either you take off your shoes and hold it while walking, or keep it at the shoe shelves which later you have to chip in some tips, or use the free red shoe covers that you get when you purchase the ticket earlier. Remember, the paper bag?
Chawana had to leave the stroller at the shoe shelves, while all of us had to wear that funny red shoe covers. Right after I stepped on the compound, I saw three Chinese teenagers in ‘sarees’. Cute!

I approached them and said “Can I take photo with you guys?”

“Can.” They smiled.
I had a quick conversation with them and my guess was right, they were from China. The conversation became more interesting when I told them that I’ve been to Beijing. Well, everyone likes to talk the same channel huh?

We walked towards the mosque, located on the left side of Taj Mahal. Here, we started to play around with picture posing, and jumping. Hahaha! I was really surprised and come to think of it, how did Chawana jump so high while carrying Aqilah??? That's what I call, WONDERMOM!
We continued walking behind Taj Mahal and we saw the same Yamuna River, filthy and stagnant. We stopped at one bench and ate chipsmore, again. Hahaha!
Tips : Eating is not allowed in Taj Mahal compound. If you really hungry, hide as smart as you can and avoid Taj army from catching you (yes, they put soldiers as guard). Be alert, they are located at each side of Taj Mahal towers.

On the right side of Taj Mahal, I set the camera on the ground, testing the jumping pose. We tried to strike 3-4 jumps and results were satisfied. Once in a while, locals passed us by and laughed at us for acted silly and funny. Hahaha!
After made a one big round of Taj Mahal, we climbed up the stairs to the upper level. It’s time to pay a visit to the great couple, Shah Jahan and Mumtaz.
Tips : There is only one way in and one way out. No picture taking is allowed in this area.

Anywayyyyyyyyy, there were visitors who still overwrite the rule and took pictures of the two tombs…including me. Peace! (Why should I miss this chance right?) I can see clearly that Shah Jahan didn’t plan to get himself buried in Taj Mahal, as Mumtaz’s replica’s tomb was right in the center. That was the only un-symmetrical thing that was found here.
I squeezed myself in between of visitors who were listening to their tour guide, tried to pinch few historical info from them. Hehe! All wall decorations in this area were actually hand carved and the color of the marbles reflected differently when it is torched by light. Superb huh?

Hubby and I walked out from the tomb area and met Chawana. We joined others by sat on the floor for a while and guess what, the floor was actually cold, even it was in the afternoon. Chawana's hubby then told us of what he had overheard from the tour guide regarding the optical illusion of the design on pillars. Interesting!
After a long ‘lepak’ session, we finally made a move and walked down the upper compound, and went to pick up Aqilah stroller.

As expected, the shoe keeper asked for some amount of money, which we strongly disagree and paid none. When you say donation, it should comes from the heart…so, there was nothing came from our heart at that point of situation. Hahaha! Bad, bad sense of humanity.

And so we left the compound, waving to the great Taj Mahal, which I don't think of revisiting it.
Owh, remember Mr. Giraffe that we left at the shop boy? He is safe and sound…less. Hahaha! In return, we bought two magnets from the shop, and this time, it came from the heart.

Co-travelers:
For history element, read Travelista's version here (in English)
For trip experience, read Chawana's version here (in Bahasa)

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