Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

A warm welcome at Noi Bai International airport, Hanoi.
12.30pm with ground temperature 25 degrees celsius. Current season is a transition from autumn to winter. The usual temperature is ranging around 20++ degree celcius in autumn. It can drop to below than 10 degrees celsius during mid of winter. Coincidently, today is comparatively warmer than the day before.
About 20 - 30 mins taxi drive from Noi Bai International Airport to Hanoi main city. Vietnam 4 wheeler vehicals operated on left side driving panels.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Adventure of India Return

As nature lovers, we love to travel and treasure any part of the earth. This time, our adventure journey was to discover the north part of India from New Delhi, Agra, up to the mountains in Himalaya, Himalchal Pradesh state.  Hope all of you enjoy this article. Forgive me if there is any mistake as the articles is written from my general observation.
                                                  Adventure mates: Rahah, Kaifa, Salhana, Azah, Fahmi & Intan


The Himalayan Queen, Himalaya Toy Train
 

21st Jan 2012

We departed at Indra Gandhi International airport, New Delhi around 1.30pm local time after 6 hours journey. The temperature seemed low, the airport crew were wearing thick, long sleeves multiple clothes and jackets in the afternoon. The modern and gigantic airport was impressive. We went through custom check, followed by army check before entering metro express train.Straight to the New Delhi station to get to main city, felt puzzled crossing sea of local people, taxi driver, auto rickshaws and dogs. We tried to find our hotel in Pahar Ganj near Main Bazaar. With the help of local people, army and the policeman we managed to reach our hotel at the back street of the city. It wasn't so easy to find it...hehe..Some of the rickshaw drivers and local people did not familiar with English words. But, they are helpful. We tried to use some Hindi keyword to survive. It's true, it was cold and breezy..


The crowd
Boarding time, New Delhi train station

We met Alam in our backpackers styled hotel. He was kinda a strict guy... :p The hotel requires some verification such as passport to scan and each visitors' profile. Well, we just followed the registration process, performed jama' prayer, refresh ourselves and ready to explore the city at night!The temperature dropped even lower at night. We got ready with jackets and gloves, just imagine reaching the city by rickshaw. Windy! Crazy rickshaw drive to Janpath market near Connaught Place, but it was really fun and considerably safe :)

The city look good. A lot of bargain at Janpath market for the winter
coat shopping (to survive at Shimla later days), we became the main attraction of the night!
By walking, finally we reached Halal KFC restaurant in the middle of the city to feed these 6 hungry carnivores ...:)
Night view through Auto Rickshaw


 22nd Jan 2012

In the early morning about 7.30am, we went to New Delhi Tourist Centre to get HOHO tour bus to get around the city. It was a freezing and foggy morning (Temperature about 10-15 degree). We waited for 8.30am HoHo bus. These places colored our days as a 'kick start' for New Delhi tour. Here we go:
  • Feroz Shah Kotla


  • Purana Qila

  • Sacket Mall - International food, window shopping, Hard Rock Cafe - for shirt hunting

 


  • Qutub Minar

  • Hauz Khaz Village -cultural home and traditional hand made clothes.
Then, we took auto rickshaw to catch HOHO bus, rushed as we almost missed the bus. We enjoyed the night view of New Delhi government buildings, parliament and president office  by HOHO bus. We stopped at HDFC Bank near Cannaught place to withdraw some rupees. Walking around Connaught Place for window shopping was as good -Mark &Spencer, Palika Bazaar.

The Last destination before sleep - Café Coffee Day (CCD): A treat for tired legs and hungry stomach, this coffee lover's escape which has been our favourite local coffee since a few years ago. The addiction was then spread to our 4 new members.

 
       


23rd Jan 2012

We rushed for train at New Delhi station by the auto rickshaw. The fare was ‘pacas rupees’ (INR50). Shahtabdi Express train to Agra scheduled at 6.40am. We performed Fajr Prayer in the train because we had to leave the hotel early morning. A lot of meal and treat in the train:
  • Hot drink & biscuit, Vegetarian Meal (vada) & packed soft drink, 1 bottle of mineral water (Rail Neer), and Hindustan Times newspaper.
We reached Agra Cantt station at about 8.40am. There was a group of Malaysian travelers to continue their journey from Agra to northern India. It was rustle hustle and bustle in Agra Cantt train station. People looked for guests and visitors, taxi and auto drivers were searching for passengers. We stopped at one corner to check our travel document for contact number and address of our guess house’s owner, Yusof Khan! Temperature was still cold, breezy but thanks god it was a bit sunny.

The Agra Cantt Train Station, Agra

Yusof assigned a taxi driver to take us to the guess house, Mr. Apo!, a fatherly travel guide who finally take us to Friend Paying Guess House. It was near to the Taj Mahal’s east Gate about 10 minutes walking distance. Undergone visitors registration at the guess house, ordered some menu for lunch – Chicken Briyani & Masala Chai. We had opportunity for Taj Mahal view from the guess house’s roof top, far away. Apo took us for tour to Agra Fort. Agra consist of a few villages, not an urban area. The reason being is for nature sustainability to protect Taj Mahal. Few scenes along the journey- green basmati paddy field, cows, cow’s shit for fire used by the homeless. 
The journey to Agra Fort, Agra
Agra city remind me about Mysore
The local


   
Add ImageAccording to Apo, sometime they see a faily of tigers crossing the road. Can I hug them? The next mission was to discover the Agra Fort, a fort used by Shah Jehan’s dynasty.
Shahjehan's bedroom
The Agra Fort
In the evening, Fatehpur Sikri and the ritual activity by local people was discovered. There was also a funny, cheerful child which was an illegal souvenir seller attracted us. We called him Alibaba! Deep from the hearts, we pray for a better future for this boy.
Alibaba!

At night, there was a visit to a marble manufacturing place which also contributes to Taj Mahal preservation work, owned by Ali. Diligent and dedicated workers spend long hours to produce a single piece of decoration like a flower. All decorations were engraved and pasted with different colors of stones from Rajastan to form tones of colors in a single design such as a flower or leave. There was no painting work at all! The marbles are translucent to lights.This concept is used for lighting system in Taj Mahal. Here, the hindi drama began. Ali demonstrated us a lot of thing, how miracle the marbles and stones which used to decorate taj Mahal. Well, this visit was like a 'tutorial' for better understanding of why Taj Mahal is listed one of the 7 wonders of the world.

Finally, Apo took to a few shops for winter clothes shopping. Even though there's no suitable warm clothes for shimla trip in Agra, but APo tried his best to find it. Shop by shop. That's why we called him 'father'.



24th January 2012

This photo describes better than words.

Caption is not required here. You know it!

The sunrise in Agra welcomed us to a place remarked as one of the 7 wonders of the world, a symbol of eternal love for a beautiful wife of Shahjehan, Mumtaz Mahal. Taj Mahal gate was only 10 minutes walk from us! We reached Taj Mahal's tourist centre for bag checking, redeem travel kit and briefing. Shiva, a tour guide introduced himself to assist us discovering Taj Mahal. From the east gate, Taj Mahal can only be reached by horse chariot, golf cart or battery car. Few minutes journey from the east gate, the picturesque Taj Mahal could be seen by our own eyes.

The East Gate of Taj Mahal & the Travelers :P
Environment friendly - to protect Taj mahal

Taj Mahal from far

The Yamuna river view beside Taj Mahal was soothing. Across the river bank is the base of black Taj Mahal, was planned to be constructed by Shah Jehan as a mirror image of the existing Taj Mahal.

The Yamuna river. The photo is taken from one side of Taj Mahal

In the evening, we visited Taj Mahal west gate, near Fatehpuri Masjid, enjoyed the scene where large crowd flooding the Taj Mahal entrance. It was closed from 11am-4pm on that very day to honor princess of Thailand visit. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the evening breeze with the local people. Lot of chats and jokes among us, just appreciated anything.

We checked out from hotel, catch auto rickshaw to Agra Cant for next journey, Agra – Delhi. Meet Apo at train station we had photo session with him. The train to Delhi delayed for safety purpose, due to heavy fog in New Delhi. Dragged bags to hotel, crossing Pahar Ganj area throughout the freezing night! Upon reaching Smiley Inn new building, we met Aki, the receptionist. He shared some tips for our next destination - Shimla! Thank you Aki..


DAY 5: 25th January 2012

The Shahtabdi Express train from New Delhi – Kalka, Himachal Pradesh was scheduled at 7.40am. We ran fast to catch the train like in hindi movie. Thanks god, we managed to get in. This time we got nice seats, we can sit as 1 group, enjoying the breakfast and scenery along the journey. The train passed through Punjab area before reaching Kalka, a gateway to Himachal Pradesh by train. Himachal Pradesh, means land of snowy mountains in Hindi. From Kalka, we could either take toy train (a train used as light transportation uphill) or taxi to reach Shimla. The Himalayan Queen toy train ticket was no more available for us except for standing coach. Luckily there’s taxi available and the cost is INR1250 for Innova which can accommodate 6 of us. Our journey took 3 hours to Shimla through the curvy national highway all the way uphill. Beautiful hill view scenery and snowy Himalayan mountains amazed us.

We reached Shimla! The taxi driver stopped at the drop off point as public transport is not allowed to pass by the main city of Shimla. Everyone must walk in the city! The lane was steep and we needed to climb those before reaching The Mall (main street) area and reaching our Hotel. An old man who was also a porter took us to the hotel by walking. He is from Kashmir. It took about 30 minutes to reach the hotel. The hill was steep. We stop every 5-10 minutes for rest. Finally we reached out Hotel, Greenland Hotel. The temperature was low, we could see snow once we open the balcony door. Another 2 rooms were at level 4 even more cold and foggy which 1 heater wasn’t enough! However, the scenery was good.

At night, we walked around the city trying our level best to survive from the freezing night. We stopped at ICICI bank, then at our favorite CCD for coffee, and stopped at a few shops for winter coats, sock, thermal wear and gloves hunting!! Our dinner meals were mashed potato, vegetarian sandwiches and Chai! Then, we tried our best to sleep, battling in the night with the decreasing temperature.





 DAY 6: 26th January 2012

We booked train ticket for Kalka - New Delhi by Himalayan Queen toy train, watched India Republic day celebration - progression, the main road is closed. After had breakfast at CCD, we met uncle@ HPTC looked for a jeep and driver for Kufri trip, for ice skating about 20-30 km from shimla.

View of the Himalayan mountains amazed us. There were a few yaks. Snow was all over. Reached Kufri Car park after passed through narrow, snowy road. The next adventure was to reach the hilltop for ice skating &sight seeing of the higher part of the Himalayan mountains.



Reaching the Hills by horses

To reach Kufri Hills for ice skating, the travelers need to go by horses or walk as the path is unreachable by motor transportation. We decided to go by horses. There were 6 horses for our group with 3 guides to the hill top. Along the journey, there were also other visitors and guides mostly local people. Everyone rode horses, only the tourist guides walked on the snowy path. We were given rubber boots for horse ride and ice skating. There were hundreds of horses climbed up and down the hills. I only remember two horses name for our group, they were Shabaz and Chakku. They know Hindi words as the tourist guides only say 'Chalo', they know where to go! Impressively, the horses were only given minimum instruction because they are familiar with the route! After about 20 minutes ride, we reached Kufri. We had about 1 - 1 and half hour to enjoy ice skating and snow. 

The horses and the guides waited us for the return journey. We enjoyed Ice skating and Boya. A lot of photo snaps to keep the beautiful Himalayan scenery in the memory.





At night - the temperature dropped again which we couldn't stand. Some of us were getting sick. Immediately, we searched for another expensive hotel with centralized heater- willow bank hotel. The hotel reception predicted there might be a snowfall at midnight and the temperature could drop until negative degree.


27th January 2012

'Tattapani' means hot water
 
On our 3rd day in Shimla, the next destination was 'Tattapani'.
Initially we thought it was just like a normal local hot water spring as can be found anywhere in this world. Well, the journey took about 50km from Shimla, down the Himalayan valley to another part of Himalaya with lower altitude. Please do not ask me how was the road. It was extremely narrow 2 ways road, with few kilometers depth down the cliffs. I was the person who was suffered most because I have height fright (but well I think it is reasonable). The good thing is, none of car accident found along the journey and all drivers helped each other. Indeed, the drivers were good, every single  turn made was just perfect.

We passed through few mountains, villages along the valley to the lower part of the mountain. Upon reaching the area, the crystal clear blue river can be seen from top. It was amazing. The driver told us, that was our destination! We reached Tatapani around 5.30pm.

Satluj river is the name of this beautiful river, the water falls from Tibet flows through Himalaya, Punjab, Pakistan and finally terminates at the Arabian seas. Subhanallah.
The view was picturesque. The special thing about this river is, the hot spring (hot water) is along the river banks. However, the water temperature turned decreases up to 5 degrees towards the middle of the river.

According to one of one of the tourist guide (he is from Punjab), there are variety levels of water rafting activities available near this area. From the most dangerous and aggressive level to the leisure water rafting.

Compared to this panoramic view, the 50 km scary road journey was far, too much than worthy.

                                         



28th January 2012

Our last day agenda were to clear up the shopping lists and to give a kiss goodbye to New Delhi. We returned to our beloved country, Malaysia with bags of memories.



All praise is due to Allah. Hopefully, this travel contribute as part of knowledge.