Would you believe I already began going through photos and videos from my India vacation? I don’t think I’ve done that. Ever. Although the video might take time because I plan to do it on Premiere, which I have no idea how to use yet. 😛
There are so many things I want to share, so I will have to separate posts and will include many information that could be helpful if you plan to go to India. In this post will be my flight to India and initial thoughts and observations on my first day there. 🙂
There are other flights to India, but I chose Singapore Airlines because of mileage and they have very good service imo. (The staff at their check-in counters are another though.) Mileage is important if you have more plans to travel. It can save you money and get perks.
We had some heavy snack and coffee before we went to the gate. Our flight was at 6:30 in the evening that was slightly delayed due to air traffic. We still arrived in Singapore earlier than the expected time.
One of the things I look forward to when I travel with Singapore Airlines is the layover at Changi Airport because–DUTY FREE SHOPPING! I only look at tech/gadgets and makeup there. Oh, books too because they do have titles not in local bookstores like this.
I didn’t leave the shops empty-handed. 🙂 I bought a couple of lipsticks from Dior and a 64gb Sandisk memory card.
Indira Gandhi International Airport
We arrived in Delhi around 530AM with no Shangri-La Hotel service in sight. I was tired and it didn’t help when I suddenly had my period. I also felt anxious because the atmosphere in the airport was unwelcoming, to be honest. So I didn’t get to take photos in the airport. With heavy security around, it felt as if that wasn’t allowed.
We waited and searched for almost an hour until we confirmed that Shangri-La didn’t send anyone to pick us up (which their front desk seemingly blamed us for not providing details when we did). The other options were airport cabs, bus, and Uber. We’d take the last option if we had internet connectivity. Since we were already outside the airport, we couldn’t get good wifi signal anymore. Bus is not an option either because we don’t know how exactly to get to the hotel. So we took the last option. The airport cab was like, hmm, riding a speeding jeepney only with aircon and it’s CNG. I even discovered an insect in the cab that I’ve never seen before. It landed on my arm and I flicked it to my brother. 😀
The drive to the hotel was almost an hour. There was no traffic; they have well-paved roads (that seem better than here in MM), but pedestrian signs and lanes were on risky and bushy (!) areas; and I remember we passed by almost 10 or more embassies on our way. I also lost count of the roundabouts we went through.
Shangri-La’s Eros Hotel
After settling in our room, we finally got warm breakfast at Tamra Restaurant (also in Shangri-La’s Eros Hotel). Because I saw dosa from another table, I had to get an order too. 😀
Dosa is South Indian food similar to a pancake; made from rice and black lentil or urad dal and served with with sambar and chutney. Tamra serves it with mildly spicy sambar and three types of wet chutney. I wanted the tipi-shaped dosa, but I asked for fried and looks as such in the photo. It’s stuffed with, I think, vegetables. (See here how to make dosa.)
Not wanting to waste a day in the hotel, it was decided we’d go to the mall for lunch and buy snacks for our whole stay in India. Because hotel food is most often expensive.
Our tour guide was supposed to be Chaman Duggal Private Tours. As seen in their website, they have many “excellent” reviews in TripAdvisor. I chose them out of the countless options in TripAdvisor in spite that there others with high ratings too. Unfortunately, being that the person I talked with requested an advance payment, we had to decline. We made an offer to pay more than half upfront to which the contact didn’t agree with at first, but eventually changed his mind. But when I asked for a driver that afternoon, he asked again for an advance. I was probably talking to different persons.
I know where he’s getting at with the assurance we won’t find another tour guide at the last minute, but I didn’t have the final say. We don’t trust them and we have to be wary when the contact is fickle-minded. Too late to look for another and hotel car is expensive af… Guess what we took instead? 🙂
Select Citywalk, located in Saket, New Delhi, was recommended by my dad’s friend. The ride to the mall was 40 minutes long by Uber.
We had lunch at Punjab Grill. They have extensive choices of vegetables, chicken, and lamb. I have no photo of our entire meal because the waiters put the food on our plate as soon as they served it and even refilled our plates as much as they can (saying no is unacceptable-LOL!).
I didn’t choose anything from the menu except naan.
For the onion lover. 😀
Dum Ki Biryani (rice with chicken and spices)
Most of the food were very good. I loved the naan particularly because I ♥ bread. 😛 My issue with the restaurant is when they wanted a review in Zomato on the spot. I said I didn’t have internet connection, so the waitress took my phone to give it to her boss to put in the wifi password. It took very long for them to return my phone and that’s because they installed the app without my permission. I was so worried about what else the manager could have possibly done. They even actually chose the 5-star rating before they returned my phone and the waitress watched over to make sure I put on a review. I hate to bitch, but remembering that is just…!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If they’re on TripAdvisor, I’ll need to post there.
Anyway, lunch won’t be complete without coffee.
The Starbucks was no different from ours–also full of people.
For dinner, we got Burger King to-go. Takeout has additional costs. The way I see it, they would prefer you to just dine in. 😛
I should have tried mutton, but got chicken instead.
Taxes and Cesses in India
A couple of things to keep in mind when going to India are taxes and cesses. When I saw our Starbucks receipt, there were VAT, service tax that’s almost half the VAT, and two cesses. The supposed cheaper India Starbucks coffee than in the Philippines became more expensive because of the additional fees.
We left the mall before 7PM. None of us had mobile data/internet access, so we couldn’t get an Uber ride. Delhi has many modes of public transportation–buses, taxis, auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws–and in the busy area of Select Citywalk, there were mostly taxis and buses. A taxi would be our best (and most likely) option, but they were all occupied and the one I got to hail turned out to be booked.
I saw a parked cab with a seemingly resting driver. Apparently, he was waiting for possible passengers that, like what we know so well, he could charge a higher rate. But desperate times call for desperate measures.
Our ride back to the hotel was a bumpy one. The driver drove on the sidewalk, which is wider than the main road it seemed, along with buses and rickshaws. I took a video of that experience. I hope I was able to capture the thrill and also to show you the beat-up the taxi.
As for our fare, the ride cost us INR900+. Crazy! Because our Uber was only INR50. Driver insisted he drove far and had to return at Select Citywalk. (There will always be drivers like that, huh?) We haggled, of course, and paid him INR500 just so he would leave.
So that’s almost everything from our flight to and our first day in India that I can remember. Not much activity on day 1, but we’ve seen and experienced interesting, exciting, and even vexing things. 🙂 Oh, another tip when you have any service requests or transactions like airport transfer, .
Expect a photo spam in my day 2 post. 🙂