Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fairfield Park Boathouse

My friend, A asked me to go for a walk on a Saturday morning and she suggested Fairfield Boathouse. It was an easy walk from home and I met her there. Umm.. despite it is more of a walk but we always end our walk with at least an iced coffee. There were once we had brunch there too. If we are planning to lose weight, we have definitely failed our objective. :P

One can also rent a rowboat out, to which we have not done that yet. Just walking around the trail, and having food at the boathouse, of course.

Side note: Another working day to a break!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Delhi: Qutb Minar

My second stop in Delhi was Qutb Minar. This was the only day I skipped lunch, somehow I wasn't hungry and was probably worried that if I eat anything, it would disturbed the otherwise only mild throbbing pain tummy.  Our driver dropped me to Qutb Minar from Humayun's Tomb. After letting me know where to look for him thereafter, I proceeded to buy tickets. There were bag checks and if your bag exceeds certain dimension, they would request that you deposit it. As we did not engaged the service of a guide in Delhi, I decided to get an audio guide. I was required to leave a form of ID and if you look at top right of the photo below, you'll see a time limit. The audio guide is to be returned to in two hours' time.

Audio guide loaded in a tablet
I sat on a bench to listen to the introduction of the audio guide. This Qutb Minar audio was presented in the form of story telling. There is one main character, a girl asking questions about the place and she was duly answered some elderly.

After getting through the entrance

View from first bench (I think) on the left after passing through the entrance
Qutb Minar is a soaring tower of 73 metres in height, making it the tallest stone tower in India. It was built in 1193 by Qutbud-Din Aibak immediately after the defeat of Delhi's last Hindu kingdom. 

The tower has five distinct storeys, each marked by a projecting balcony. The first three storeys are made of red sandstone, the fourth and fifth of marble and sandstone. Qutbud-Din Aibak has only managed to complete the first storey. The second, third and fourth storeys were completed by his successor Iltutmish. The fourth storey was dismantled and reconstructed with an additional storey after it was damaged by lightning.

Even though Qutb Minar is the highest stone tower in India, its height is 5 feet lesser than that of the Taj Mahal.

The has been some debates on the origin of Qutb Minar. Some said it was erected as a tower of victory to signify the beginning of the Muslim rule in India, while some believed it was served as a minaret to the muezzins to call the faithful to prayer. 

Next to this stone tower is the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque. Beautiful carvings decorated the pillars of this mosque. Even though this was a mosque, there were motifs of Hindu influence, such as tasselled ropes and bells. 

Aside from a stone tower, there's an iron pillar near the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque. This iron pillar is from the 4th-century, originally made as a flagstaff in Vishnu's honour. It is a tribute to ancient Indian metallurgy. 

If you think Qutb Minar is not tall enough, Ala-ud-Din Khalji has had the same thought long before. There is an unfinished minar started by him, twice the size of Qutb Minar named Alai Minar. The construction was not completed due to his demise. 

This is hardly the first storey...
And this last one, not of any historical story to it, but an Indian man requested that I took a photo for him at this site. He was doing those pose where he looked away to the left, those cool-posing thingy. Somehow after I helped him to take his picture, it ended up with we had a photo taken together as well. Another photo in some stranger's facebook page...

I left just before my two hours' was up. Mr driver was surprised I was away for so long. LOL. He drove me to see the Lotus Temple but it was already passed visiting hours so I only took some photos from outside the gate. The photos were not any good, in fact most parts were blocked by trees so I won't put it up here. 

Thereafter we stopped by a shop and I picked up a couple of magnets. I decided I should try to eat some food before flight but it was a bad, bad idea. By this time I was walking at some 45 degrees due to the ongoing cramp and just wanted to get to the airport. (Read: At least airport has easy access to heaps of toilets!). I was surprised I managed to hang on all the way to the airport. It was a long journey as it was pouring with rain and we were stuck in a bad traffic. I had to present my flight itinerary before they even let me in to the airport! = ="

I hereby extend my heartiest gratitude to the complimentary premium lounge. It made all the difference being able to have a shower after going on the road for the whole day and I was in such bad pain at that time. Such a shame I wasn't able to try all the food! :(

Grin, I actually left India in food poisoning mode. 

Side note: Back to pistachio cravings...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Delhi: Humayun Tomb

After dropping Little P to the airport for her domestic flight back to Mumbai before connecting to the international leg, I had the day to spare as my outbound flight was not till night time. Due to the lack of time in Delhi, I figured I would only have enough time for two sights. Initially I wanted to see Red Fort but it was a little further away, so I abandoned that thought and decided one of the two places I wanted to see was Humayun's Tomb.

The first tomb as I entered the compound was Isa Khan Tomb Enclosure. This tomb is an octagonal tomb, pre-dating Humayun's Tomb by 20 years. There is a three bay wide mosque in red sandstone.

As you can see from the above picture, the tomb was surrounded by two walls, a smaller and lower one nearer to the actual tomb, and another one higher. There were steps if you want to walk around it, which I did, that was where the two pictures were taken.

Once you moved out of this tomb area and continued to walk on the main path, you would come to the the main entrance of the Tomb-Garden of Emperor Humayun which is the West Gate. This West Gateway stood at 16 metres high.

Humayun is the second Mughal Emperor of India. His tomb, yes, named Humayun's Tomb (nothing fancy) was built by his widow, Hamida Banu Begam or Haji Begam 14 years after his death. The construction cost of this tomb was 1.5M rupees.

Humayun's Tomb-Garden is described as an example of a char bagh. In Persian, 'char bagh' means four gardens with four streams). It is also said that Humayun Tomb inspired the architecture of the world famous tomb, Taj Mahal about a hundred years later.

The tomb stands in the centre of a square garden. There's a shallow water-channel right smack in the centre too.

The Tomb Chamber showed of a plain white marble sarcophagus stands on a simple black and white marble platform. The grave itself lies in the rather dark, bat-filled basement below.

Throughout the building, one can see fine trellis work in stone.

Not far from Humayun's Tomb lies the Barber's Tomb. The compound is said to include the tomb of Humayun's favourite barber! Though the information slate stated as, "Folklore refers the building as the 'Barber's Tomb'". Somehow, it feels like it is a folklore, instead of really Humayun's favourite barber...

See the couple at the side of the steps? The girl was crying while talking to the man when I was visiting, I did feel like I was intruding but then again, this place must be really therapeutic if someone paid an entrance fee to sit down when feeling teary... mmm...

Also has beautiful trellis work
My last stop before exiting Humayun's Tomb compound was Afasrwala Tomb & Mosque. It is said that both this building dated from the Mughal period, and likewise the rest of the tomb, covered with red sandstone.

Side note: Got to curb the snacking after dinner habit!!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Dinner in Agra - which was the "culprit"?



Mushroom with cheese

Garlic naan

Fish masala

Gulab Jamun
We were in Agra a day before we traveled home from India and only stayed a night in Agra, departing for Delhi early next morning. I fly home from Delhi but Little P had to detour back to Mumbai before flying back to Melbourne.

As usual, we were brought to at least a mid range restaurant instead of any road side stalls. Trouble kicked in the next morning before I had breakfast, so this must be it. I had a bout of diarrhoea before breakfast and a mild tummy pain followed. It was those pain that I get if I am too hungry. Be assured that I ate very well in India and did not skip any meal. I didn't put much thought to it, and I walked about in Delhi the whole day with the mild pain... till a few hours before I get to the airport that the pain became bad cramp and the diarrhoea restarted, that was when I knew it must have been food poisoning. Given that I was travelling to India, I brought along Imodium which was a life saver, alongside with complimentary lounge access!
Little P also had food poisoning symptoms but hers started a little than mine.

So - back to the question, which was the food that caused our food poisoning? No prize for guessing because I actually don't know which was the culprit. It could be the ice on the drinks as we usually ask for no ice but have forgotten to do so that day, or it could be the fish? I don't think Agra is popular for seafood.

Side note: Craving for pistachio...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Agra: Taj Mahal!

This basically sums it all - how can one NOT take a photo of this building?
The one building that determined the travel from Mumbai to up north. One of the world's most famous buildings - the Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal commemorates both the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, and Mumtaz Mahal, his favourite queen. This garden-tomb cost nearly 41 million rupees and 500 kilos of gold, took around 20,000 workers laboured for almost 22 years to complete it in 1653.

As a foreign tourist, we paid for the highest entry fee at 750 Rs, so the shuttle fee to the entrance is included. We still had the soft spoken guide with us for this building. Not only he didn't help us to send the peddlers away like the one in Fatehpur Sikri did, he even conveyed messages from the peddlers to us. = ="

After entering the compound, we lingered a little in front of the Royal Gate to wait for our guide to get his pass.

Royal Gate

Once we met up with our guide again, we passed through the main gate and the majestic building was right in front of our eyes. That was when the first picture was taken.

The pool inside is named The Lotus Pool
The four minarets stood at each corner, at 40 metres high and crowned by a chhatri, framing the tomb. Did you realise that this building at perfect symmetry? In fact, this is a symmetry complex. Speaking of symmetry, it reminded me of the first Detective Conan movie - The Time Bombed Skyscraper where the architect character in the movie wanted to bomb all the non perfect symmetry buildings that he had designed. Anyway, I digressed.

Our jacked-up price ticket also included a pair of plastic bag to cover our shoes. Without the shoe covers, we are to remove our shoes before entering the tomb.

If this fully covered our shoes, I could wear it when I ride my motorbike on rainy days eh?
Entering Taj Mahal
Photography is prohibited inside of the tomb. So out of respect, I have not taken any. In the middle of the tomb building, Mumtaz Mahal's cenotaph, raised on a platform, is placed next to Shah Jahan's. The actual graves, are closed to the public, lies in a dark crypt below. The interior of the building is dim, assuming to protect the interior decorations. There were decorative flowers, embedded with precious and semi-precious stones. Our guide requested one of the guards to shine his torchlight (with a fee) on one of the decorative flowers. The precious stones on the flowers lit up beautifully.

Taj Mahal mausoleum is flanked by two buildings, a mosque and a guesthouse (Mehmankhana).

We sat down and took time to enjoy the building during the sunset.

Then those photo taking started again. A little girl wanted to have her photo taken with me, according to her father. I hope it was really the girl wanting to have a photo with me instead of her father.. that would be scary. Anyway I obliged. Then a couple of Indian men wanted to have photo with us, I can just imagined our faces plastered over Facebook. = ="

After a few (or many more) photos, we finally left this absolutely stunning building. This mausoleum, is definitely worth the travel!

Side note: Addicted to chilli oil! Specifically dumplings in chilli oil.. yumm