Monday, November 26, 2012

last day in india

On 26 September 2012, our last day in India, I started to feel like I needed a vacation from my vacation.

The day started out well enough with a nice breakfast at our hotel, The Grand New Delhi. I had a bottle of cold pistachio milk, a crispy dosa, and for the first time in five days, we got bacon!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

shopping in india

We were "forced" to visit at least one agency-sanctioned shopping center every day that we were in India. Except for the carpet place in Jaipur, they all sold the same things-- clothes, jewelry, furniture, accessories-- that all looked the same.

Now that I think about it, there are probably hundreds of carpet places in the cities that we visited. But I enjoyed this one anyway.

I have a new appreciation for expensive handmade carpets, the operative word being "expensive".

They also have a woodblock printing workshop.

As we were leaving, they gave Desmond the piece of cloth that he "personally" printed as a souvenir. But actually, there was a stack of identical ones, already pre-made, under the table. The demo was fun, at any rate.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

india: day four

The only thing I remember about our fourth day in India was dinner at Bukhara. It took a very long time to get from Jaipur to that restaurant in Delhi-- it felt like we were trapped inside the bus the whole day. But oh, was it worth it.

When I saw our itinerary weeks before our trip, I knew that the only way I would survive all those mediocre buffets without cracking up was to have something to look forward to. After consulting The Miele Guide and reading the reviews on Tripadvisor, I sent an email to the ITC Maurya Hotel to book a table for six people at Bukhara.

To say that this was my best meal in India might not mean much, given the quality of all our other meals, but it was really good. It made me feel bad for the rest of our group who didn't join us, because 1) they missed out on an authentic Northern Indian cuisine experience, and 2) that same evening they had the worst pseudo-Chinese food-- part of the itinerary-- that they ever had in their lives.

As soon as we sat down at our table, our friendly and efficient waiter gave us some light and crispy papadums to munch on. The green chutney was OK, but the sliced onions sprinkled with spice were wonderful. Good start. 4/5

Apparently, Bukhara is the most popular restaurant in New Delhi right now and they are always, always busy, but during the two hours that we were there, we never felt rushed or ignored by the staff. In fact, all the diners seemed happy and comfortable, never mind that we had to wear bibs.

Bukhara's Sikandari Raan, a whole leg of baby lamb, is famous and rightfully so. It was tender, smoky, moist and packed with flavor. Very slightly gamey, just enough for us to know that we weren't eating beef or pork, with distinct whiffs of cinnamon and cumin. Steph took the leftovers home and ate them in Manila. 4.25/5

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

third day in india: more jaipur

We spent the whole morning at Amber Fort and then we went back to our hotel Le Meridien Jaipur for lunch. Afterwards, our tour guide Mr. Singh took us to see Jantar Mantar, an observatory that was built in A.D. 1726...

And the City Palace Museum which is still a royal residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

third day in india: amber fort

After an intense carbo-loading session at the breakfast buffet of Le Meridien Jaipur's coffee shop, we set out to explore Jaipur.

First on our itinerary was Amber Fort. Everyone in our tour group decided to ride the elephants which, after my almost mystical experience in Chiang Mai, I could not bring myself to do. I just felt so bad for the poor creatures who had to trudge up and down the hill all day in the heat, carrying uncomfortable chairs on their backs, and for what? To entertain tourists who don't know better.

I had also read that some of the elephants are suffering from malnutrition.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

second day in india: lunch & dinner

When we arrived at Hotel Laxmi Vilas (yez, that's how it's spelled) in Bharatpur City for lunch on 23 September 2012, it was already 330PM.

It's actually a palace that was built by the maharajah's brother in 1887 and converted into a hotel in 1994. So interesting! Too bad we didn't stay there. We could have, since it's only one hour away from Agra i.e. Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri. Plus Bharatpur has its own attractions such as the Iron Fort and the bird sanctuary. Ah, well.

Friday, November 16, 2012

second day in india: fatehpur sikri

From the Taj Mahal, we rushed back to the coffee shop of Radisson Hotel Agra for breakfast-- our third meal at the same place in less than 24 hours. And then we checked out of the hotel, got back on our bus and drove for a little over an hour to reach Fatehpur Sikri.

The city of Agra has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites and this was my favorite.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

mother's taj mahal outfit

Thanks to our shutterbug travel companions, here are some more pictures of my mother at the Taj Mahal. After all, she did buy an outfit especially for that day. It is now hanging in the black hole/ treasure chest/ Pandora's box that is her closet. Will it ever see the light of day again? Will we ever go back to India, or perhaps attend an Indian wedding? Who knows? But if we do, she will definitely be ready.

From Karen:

Our tour guide Mr. Singh tells us the story of the Taj Mahal.  So serious.

From Desmond:

Posing in front of one of the four 40 meter tall minarets.

Monday, November 12, 2012

second day in india: taj mahal

I don't think I can say anything about the Taj Mahal that hasn't been said before-- about its majesty, its beauty and the immortal love story. It's so famous that everyone has heard or read about it and tend to think of it as familiar. But the truth is, nothing can really prepare you for the first time you meet her.

We arrived at the Taj Mahal complex at 730AM on 23 September 2012. Our tour guide gathered us in front of the main gate (darzawa) for a briefing, but you could tell that all of us were just itching to go inside.

After a 20-minute history lesson, we finally went through the gateway and there she was. My first view of the Taj Mahal, bathed in golden morning sunshine.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

agra fort: other people's photos

We were in and out of Agra Fort in an hour and a half. It pained me to treat a UNESCO World Heritage Site like a McDonald's drive-through. It took about 20 minutes just to get from the entrance to the center of the complex. Our tour guide then gave us the super-short mandatory history lesson that I couldn't pay attention to because I just wanted to start shooting. When he finally let us go, the sun was setting and we had barely 40 minutes to see everything. Of course it wan't enough and I missed a lot of details.

Herein lies the advantage of traveling with a group of people who all have cameras and who don't mind giving copies of their stuff. Sharing is caring.

While going through everyone's JPEG files, I found out some things about my friends. Such as...

I now know that Jerry likes to take pictures of signs and maps, and he was the only one whose entryway and garden shots were properly exposed.

Friday, November 9, 2012

india: day one

Our Philippine Airlines flight left Manila at 6:40PM on 21 September 2012. With a stopover midway in Bangkok where we had to stay inside the plane while the clean-up crew did their business, we arrived at our hotel in Delhi, The Claridges Surajkund, about ten hours later, which to us was 5AM the next day.

We had to have breakfast, check out and board the coach by 9AM, Delhi time. Since Manila time is actually 2.5 hours ahead, it wasn't so bad because we still managed five hours of sleep. That didn't give me enough time to take decent pictures of our hotel, though. Suffice it to say that The Claridges had the nicest beds, bathrooms and toiletries of the five hotels that we stayed in. You'd think that it's not worth paying for five-star accommodations for such a short stay, but I really appreciated it after being contorted inside a plane for so long.

I was quite apprehensive when I saw our itinerary because all our meals would be at hotel coffee shop buffets, but our first breakfast was not bad at all. Half of the spread was Western or continental food, while the other section featured local eats. All of our meals turned out to be like that. Of course, I avoided the non-Indian dishes as much as possible.

A hearty and somewhat spicy breakfast put a smile on my face and prepared me for the five-hour drive to the city of Agra. All we saw of Delhi was the airport and our hotel, but it was fine because our flight back home would be from Delhi anyway and a city tour was included in our package.

Our tour guide said that we came to India at the right time because they had just completed the Yamuna Expressway which significantly cut travel time.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

views from inside a bus

Before I start on India, let me get this out of the way first. I am cringing as I type this because I never thought that I would ever do something like this, but what's done is done...

I joined a package tour.

There are so many reasons I don't do package tours. I could go on and on, but my biggest beef is the complete lack of interaction with the local people. No, asking the tour guide insipid and asinine questions does not count.

Sunset at India Gate, New Delhi, 25 September 2012. We didn't even get off the bus.

Monday, November 5, 2012

food in the 'hood

Actually, it's my parents' neighborhood.

About ten minutes's drive from my folks' home is the Tomas Morato area which is where most Quezon City people go to eat.

Last week, I went to Amici for the first time. Taste-wise, the food was just average. Price-wise, Amici is kinda expensive. As a whole, I feel it's overrated.

Maybe in the good ol' days when Amici was the only authentic-ish Italian place in town, I wouldn't complain. But given the much-improved food scene now, I'd much rather spend my calories and moolah at Aria or Italiani's, or even Luna Ristorante Italiano in Camiguin.

Still, Amici seems like a nice, wholesome place to take the family. The menu is very safe and is sure to satisfy the pickiest eater. Kids will definitely like the gelato and cakes. I know I did.

Apple prosciutto salad with zesty lemon dressing, P188+. 3.5/5

Ragu alla Bolognese, P298+. 3.75/5

Prosciutto e portobello arrotolata (rolled pizza dough), P418+. 4/5

Mint chocolate gelato, P90+. 3.75/5

Sunday, November 4, 2012

book 15

Speaking of my father... A friend of his wrote a memoir and invited him to the book launch on 27 September 2012. Too bad Pop and I were both out of town. Everyone who's anyone in this country was at that shindig. It would have been the perfect opportunity for people watching.

That friend is the president of the Philippine Senate. And the oldest living politician in the world, it seems.

happy birthday, daddy!

My father's birthday was on 29 October 2012, but we celebrated the day before which was a Sunday.

La famiglia sempre, Oct 2012. The youngest member was upstairs, playing.

I have given up trying to organise the food during family occasions. My father wants to eat what he likes to eat. Best not to argue.

Same old, same old from the reliable Red Palace Seafood Restaurant. All yummy except for the bland, mushy noodles.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

he's coming

I collected the tickets of all the concerts, plays and assorted live performances that I've seen in Manila this year. Well, all except one which I remember chucking into a filthy public bin and then yelling, "No-ooo!"