Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Golden Triangle Part II - Glamping & the Pink City

Hey guys! This is Part II of my G Adventures India Tour. You can find Part I here

Happy Easter Weekend everyone!! 

So where did we leave off? After seeing majestic Taj Mahal, it was time for a change of pace. We go for a brief "camping" experience in the Indian countryside. After a restful night in a super nice "tent" where we had running water, electricity and nice beds, it was time for a hike at sunrise.

We actually started a bit after the sun rose which was good since this was an unmarked, unlit path in the Indian countryside with lots of loose gravel. 

After about half an hour of hiking, we were at the top!


At the time, there were some riots in the countryside disturbing our itinerary so we went back to one of the oldest stepwells in India that we had missed the day before.

Apparently, this was how people used to get water in the desert since water was such a scarce resource and the stepwells made it easier for lots of people to access the water. It's interesting since they've also made the place a temple and a place of learning as well.

I love how well built and preserved it was. Ancient people are so smart ^^.


Finally, we get to the 3rd destination- Jaipur, also known as the Pink City since there's a terracotta wall surrounding the old city. According to my friends, Jaipur is an important historic city where you can find more of the traditional Indian crafts. And this was also the place for spotting huge nose rings!!!! So I have to let you guys in on a secret...ever since I saw Shreya's nose ring at the wedding , and I found out that she ONLY wore a "small" version with much larger and more elaborate ones worn by people in everyday situations...I was obsessed with seeing one in real life. And I was told that Jaipur was the place to find such ...sights. Unfortunately, I didn't see anyone sporting a giant one like this :(

Driving into the city, you get greeted by the traditional buildings everywhere. What a lovely site to behold...

Everything is so cute!

We spent a day touring the city sites and I actually saw a snake charmer in real life! I had always thought that this was something that was fake but I was surprised to learn that it is a traditional craft here! Although, the snake wasn't so much dancing to the music when the guy was was still a cool sight to see.

The working city palace was a delightful place to visit and I loved all the elaborate decorations.

Overall, I had a blast in India! From getting to see my friend get married to seeing such amazing cultural sites, I hope you've enjoyed looking at my photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.  Now that I've had a small taste of the country, I want to go back to see other parts like Goa, Varanasi and maybe celebrating Holi?   We'll see where adventure will take me next... Have a great week!!

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The Golden Triangle Pt I - Madness in Delhi & Gems in Agra

Hey guys! This is a continuation of my trip to India. You can find the first part of my time in India here

I will be giving a brief summary of my trip with G Adventure's Golden Triangle tour in India. This was my first G Adventure tour and I had a blast! I look forward to doing other tours with them in the future.

After we leave the relative comfort and safety in Shreya's, Esther and I hopped on a plane and arrived in Delhi , greeted by a scene like this...

This was pretty calm already but traffic was soooo intense

There were so many people, tuk tuks, rickshaws and cars everywhere! It was probably the most chaotic place I've ever been in. There was beeping everywhere and people drove ridiculously close to you. Yet, despite it all, people still got to places and everything... worked.  Later on in the day, we were wandering in the markets near our hotel and we found a McDonald's!

OK so at this point, I have a not-so-secret confession to make. I love going into different McDonald's in different places to see what's different on their menus! They have a regional specialty and if I can, I usually try it out. I know a lot of people hate McDonald's and their business practices worldwide. But I don't know, something about how they adapt in each region to embrace the local taste just seems so... fascinating to me. Anyways, so for years, I have been hearing about the Maharaja mac at McDonald's in India which uses chicken in the patty, rather than beef and I finally got to witness it for myself!

Also a vegetarian version available

They also had a bunch of vegetarian wraps on the menu which I thought was pretty cool. Unfortunately, I had Delhi belly at the time and didn't eat much that day so I didn't try it but it was still a cool thing to see!

The next day was the official start of the tour where we went to see some landmarks around Delhi. The one I thought was most interesting was the Jama Mosque in Old Delhi, where a lot of muslims still lived.

You had to wear a robe to get in

The place was well preserved, and architecturally interesting.  It was built a few hundred years ago and still functions today as a mosque so people can come in to pray. The fact that this mosques still functions today after oh-so-many years  shows me how different religions are tolerated and respected in India and that is something I have an immense amount of respect for.  I 'm so thankful we live in a place that is so diverse like Toronto and sometimes I forget that when I go abroad.

To get back to our tour bus, we got to ride in a rickshaw!

Look ma! No hands!

I was really surprised at how fast we were going, considering the rickshaw driver seemed very skinny and the traffic was crazy. But it was a lot of fun! 


So the next day was the main event (for me) of the trip (other than the wedding). We went to see the Taj Mahal!

OK, here's my 2nd not-so-secret confession to make... the whole reason I picked this tour was because I wanted to see the Taj Mahal. Given the fact that India is a huge country and I pretty much know nothing about it... I figured I should go see its most famous landmark. 

If you didn't know, the Taj Mahal was built in 1632 by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan for his second wife Mumtaz. She died giving birth to their 14th child. It is mausoleum and a monument to their love.  It's a sad story but sometimes, I can't help but feel sorry for the first wife. The second wife gets the guy and the love monument... what does the first wife get? But I guess life is unfair sometimes eh?

Anyways... the Taj did not disappoint! It was awe-inspiring to see the structure up close in real life and so much fun to explore the expansive grounds! I'm truly amazed by the amount of thought they put into the design and construction of the monument. There is a west facing mosque to the side of the main structure, and an identical building to the east to preserve the symmetry! And since I work in plant design...I know the amount of things that can potentially go wrong during execution...which makes me appreciate this place even more!

According to the guide, the structure on the outside is actually an imperfect octagon while the inside is a perfect octagon. 

Still very cool

In the afternoon, we visited the Baby Taj,  Mumtaz's parents' tomb, which was an inspiration for the Taj Mahal. 

Here, you can see more clearly the details of the gem inlaid in marble that is present in the Taj Mahal. The colour you see below is NOT paint but some kind of gemstone. I'm so impressed by this ancient technology... I only wish there were better conservation efforts at these sites :(.

Anyways, I hope you have enjoyed my little write up of the first part of my trip. Have a great week!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

A Wedding in India, Pt II- The Wedding

Hey! This is the second part of my time in India, you can find part 1 here

So where did we leave off in the story? Ah, I believe we had just finished the Sangeet, where the two families celebrated with dancing and gifts. After countless prayers, ceremonies, and rituals, it was finally, finally time to get married. 

But first, we must be dressed for the occasion. It was time for Esther and I to wear the sarees that Shreya had bought for us. This was my first time wearing traditional Indian garb and boy, was it tough to figure out.

Our beautiful sarees hanging on the rack

The saree as you can see, comes in three parts. The top, a hidden petticoat and the giant 6 foot long scarf. The two of us were able to put on the top and the petticoat with no issues, but wrapping the scarf was another problem. Apparently, it was considered inappropriate to run around with just the top and the petticoat and since we were alone in our room, we hastily wrapped the scarf around us and dashed off to find someone to help. I swear if someone saw us, the probably thought we had just stolen the sarees from a saree shop since it was so horribly wrapped. 

Thankfully, one of Shreya's many aunties helped us and here's the final product.


Once we were done with our outfits, we hung around with Shreya and the others in case they needed help. I was bored so I started photographing some of her jewelry.

Finally, it was time for the groom and his family to arrive. And what an entrance he made. There was a big dance party, a marching band to announce his appearance and he arrived on a horse and carriage! At this point though, I have to say, I 'm a little disappointed that he was not on an elephant given all the pomp and circumstance I had witnessed up to this point. But I guess we'll have to save that sight for the next wedding in India I suppose.

still super fancy though

All of Shreya's family was ready to welcome them with flowers.

Kind of feels like the Oscars 

The actual wedding ceremony itself was something very different. The priest read an entire book of prayers after which the bride and groom walked over the sacred fire four times. I believe each rotation was supposed to symbolize a promise/vow? I guess this is the Hindu version of vows??

Finally they were married! Of course we had to take a group pic with the happy couple.

The last ceremony that day was the long, sad send off, where the bride officially goes away. I have to admit that I did shed many tears since it was such a touching moment. I think Shreya's family probably had a good laugh though since I technically lived the closest to her and will have the most opportunity to see her, so really, I should not be the one crying. 

Stay tuned for the next leg of my journey in Delhi where I leave the comfort and safety of Shreya's family and begin to explore the ancient sights of India.

Have a great week guys!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

A Wedding In India- Pt I

As some of you know, I have just returned after two weeks in India for a friend's wedding. It was my first time to India and it was, in many ways, a trip of a lifetime. Not only was it my first time ever in India, which can be a very overwhelming place filled with culture shock, it was an experience to see my friend get married , and it was a university reunion since Shreya (Bride), Esther and I had met in first year in undergrad, and don't get to see each other often. I want to re-cap my time there, and to share with all of you my thoughts from this trip. 

The trip can be broken down into two segments. The wedding and then a tour of some of India's famous landmarks. I spent 5 days in my friend's hometown Vadodara ( aka Baroda) before going on a weeklong tour. I'm kind of really glad we did it this way since I felt like I got to see more of India , and got to go outside of the touristy parts.  You can see the approximate locations in the map below. 


My journey began when I met up with Esther in Frankfurt and the two of us flew into Mumbai together. I actually got somewhat "scammed" on our first day while transferring airports in Mumbai. There were these guys "helping" out with the luggage and demanding tips from unaware tourists. Since they asked me for a tip, I gave them 10 ruppees, which was apparently not enough. But in my mind, since they didn't do much in the first place, they don't deserve much of a tip.

Thankfully, we managed to make it to Shreya's house without anymore hassles after that, and good thing too because there were lots to do. One thing that I was taken back by was the number of ceremonies, prayers, activities, and gifts that had to be prepared for the wedding. It really takes a village to get married and it seemed like her whole family came to help out.  On my first day, I was mostly helping out with making some of the gifts to guests. Shreya's mom made some homemade chocolates.

They look so professionally done :)

And we were responsible for wrapping the chocolates with custom wrappers for guests. 

There were lots of gifts to be made, which Shreya's aunts and cousins helped make. I really have to say that I had a great time making the gifts and getting to know her family. They really made me feel so welcomed and even though we had a short time together, I somehow felt like I, too was a long lost cousin. 

Henna Day

Another important event was getting henna on your hands. A team of ladies came in and did such lovely designs for everyone.

This was pretty much a full day event since you couldn't touch anything until after the henna had dried and started flaking off. The longer you leave it on, the darker the colour would be the next day.  The drying process took up to 3 hours, and even after that, you were not supposed to wash your hands until the next day. Poor Shreya had to keep it on for six hours to let the colour get even darker.

The bride's lovely henna details
The bride gets extra henna on her feet


Before the wedding, it's customary to hold a big party known as the Sangeet. Shreya's family went all out and rented a part of the local palace as the venue. 

So grand.
They had catering outside which served fresh dosas and other Indian delicacies which were really good.

Speaking of food, I was on a vegetarian diet for my entire trip. I did sneak in some beef jerky into the country for the trip since I thought I would miss meat but surprisingly, I was not craving meat at all!

A typical meal 
I hope you've enjoyed the first part of my adventures in India. Stayed tune for the next part - the Big Day.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Winter Getaway

Hey guys! Happy 2016! Hope it has been a good year for you so far :). I haven't been blogging as much , mostly because I've been lazy. I have been trying new recipes but I just haven't found the time to talk about it here.

I've always loved road trips as a kid but I have not gone on too many as an adult. This is mostly due to the fact that I don't drive and most of my friends prefer not having to drive on their off days. So when my friends proposed the idea of driving to St.Catherine's and renting a place for the weekend for some "Winter Fun", I said yes right away. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't co-operating so there was nearly no snow, and the ground was very muddy but we ended up having a blast and that's what matters.

One of our main objectives were to go hiking and we chose Short Hill Provincial Park as our destination. It started off pretty good and we saw their half-frozen waterfall. 

Flow rate is low and frozen!
 It was just nice to walk about in the forest and for the most part, it wasn't too difficult.

Crossing a stream-no big deal
 We were just being our derpy selves and taking lots of selfies.

Apparently Christina and Annie have been doing some mad reps at the gym.

It was just really nice to walk around in a quiet place and be amongst friends.

But soon, our adventure took a wrong turn and now we're slipping down this horrible mud hill. Thank god I had my walking stick there since it was so slippery.

The brilliant Ameele who first picked up the stick

We did eventually made it out of there alive and decided we should try some wines to reward ourselves. It was super crowded at the winery though and nobody really tried anything at all.  Eventually, we got super hungry and visited a local restaurant in wine country.

The food turned out to be super amazing despite it being a toursity spot!

We all had something different from the menu and I must say it was one of the best pizzas I've had in a really long time.

Annie's burger looked super amazing as well. 

For dinner that night, we decided to make our own tacos. We prepped all the shells and the ingredients so we can make our own customized tacos. I must say Christina did an excellent job at the prep work since it's hard to work with a dull knife.

Ready ...set....Taco!

Someone even made a salad bowl...Chipotle style.

We ended the night with some pampering and face masks.

Even the boys got into it! Here's Ameele, ready for his first face mask experience.

He wanted the caviar mask

Look at the two of them pondering life with their masks on.... 

We even got a group selfie!

Check out Lucas' scary face in the middle...very horror movie worthy
Overall, I'd say this was a great weekend and I can't wait till we go away again! Have a good week everyone!

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