Monday, January 09, 2023

Passage to India 2023

I have traveled to India a number of times.

1972 - My mom took me when I was a baby
1977 - Family trip for Vimal Uncle's wedding
1981 - Family trip, not sure about date
1984 - Family trip, not sure about date
1987 - Family trip, not sure about date
1993 - Family trip, definitely went in college
2001 - Family trip, definitely went after moving to Colorado
2008 - Family trip with Ratna and Diya - Gautam's wedding
2011 - Family trip with Ratna, Diya and Nisha - Delhi and Ahmedabad only
2022 - Family trip with Ratna, Diya and Nisha - Delhi, Amritsar and Ahmedabad

The dates kind of blur together and we never did much site-seeing during family trips.  I do remember the pictures from the Taj Mahal in 1977.  I also recall going to the caves near Mumbai.  Finally, we drove to Kashmir when I was in high school (probably the 1987 trip).

With that pretext, we planned a trip as we were long overdue to connect with family and people are getting older.  Since 2011, my last grandparent died, two uncles on my Mom's side have passed away and my wife has lost several aunts and uncles.  Also the kids are older and we wanted to make a trip that they could remember.

Pre trip we all had typhoid immunization and we were prescribed malaria medication, but did not take them.  We also verified that our OCI cards would still be valid for the trip.  We electronically stored all of our travel information as well in case anything got lost.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022 - Day 1

After packing for several days and trying to button up the house, we finally turned the water off, provided the neighbors with keys to the house, locked up and hopped in an Uber XL with (4) checked bags, (4) carry on bags and (4) backpacks.  I will touch on packing in a future post.  It took an hour to get to the airport, check in and security took a long time, we grabbed Einstein bagel and Pizza Hut as a snack.  The 9 hour flight to Munich took off on time at 1630.  We flied Lufthansa on a A350-900 wide body jet.  They served chicken or pasta for dinner and then egg salad on a croissant for breakfast.  We were very fortunate to just beat the blizzard which snarled travel across the country.

Thursday, December 22, 2022 - Day 2

We disembarked around 1000, did passport check and collected our luggage.  We dropped off bags at left luggage and then took the airport shuttle to Le Meridian.

In Munich, we walked to the city center, visited two churches, snacked on roasted chestnuts, mulled wine, donuts, apple fritters, warm nuts and a giant pretzel.  We had dinner at 35mm (meh).  We had pasta, chicken patty and fries.  Ratna ordered a beer.

Friday, December 23, 2022 - Day 3

We slept in the next day and caught the 915 shuttle back to the airport, we arrived to find that left luggage was on break until 1030, we collected our luggage and got our bags checked by 1100, we then went through passport screening by 1115 and security by 1130, keep in mind, we had to remove belts, laptop and toothpaste, it was chaotic as we all separated to try to get food, move bags around and get situated.

We arrived at the gate and then had another ID check and then waited to board.

The flight ended up boarding late and we actually had new seat assignments, but we were all still together, unlike some other families.  Flight was otherwise easy, they served chicken or vegetarian dinner and a vegetarian sandwich for snack about an hour before landing.  We arrived in Delhi and got through passport control, collected our bags and then went through customs without incident.  It took a little bit to find our driver as we got mixed up between gate 6 and pillar 6, there were two Nescafe landmarks, but fortunately only one KFC landmark.  Arriving in the middle of the night, there was no traffic getting back home.  My Uncle's house is very comfortable with two guest bedrooms.

Saturday December 24, 2022 - Day 4

We slept well and had paranthas,  papaya and rice for breakfast.  The girls planned a salon day and I got to relax at home, while my Uncle and cousin went to the office.

Chakshu arrived and we had lunch of rajma and then they headed to the salon for nails and mendhi

When everyone returned home, we had chicken dish, veg dish and pasta for dinner

Sunday, December 25, 2022 - Day 5

On Sunday, I was supposed to do yoga with Lakshay, but ended up working out on my own with calisthenics followed by some dumbbell work,  We had pav bhaji for breakfast and then got ready for the holiday party. Monicka Mommy hosted a party for the Delhi cousins and Summit, Pooja, Nikhil, Nitin and Ankit were able to attend.  Raj and Nancy stopped in as well.  We also went to the local temple and walked to the park.

Food started with soup, pakora, spring rolls and fried paneer starters, Main course was rice with vegetables, paneer dish, channa dish, gobi dish, yogurt with puffed danias and roti.  Dessert was halva, galab jamen, and brownies, Ratna gave out her gifts and the cousins had fun chatting

Dinner that night was homemade thin crust cheese pizza and we ordered popcorn chicken and tandoori chicken from Nazeers which was very good.

Monday, December 26, 2022 - Day 6

Monday was our trip to Agra, we packed snacks and water, had tea and headed out at 7 am.  There was heavy fog and one tire was low on air which slowed our drive.  Around 1000 we stopped at a roadside rest area which featured Pizza Hut. KFC. south Indian, coffee bar and Subway.  We had south Indian.  The restrooms were clean.

We arrived in Agra and met our guide, Abdul, who fast tracked us around the school trips and general admission crowd.  It took a little over 2 hours to tour the grounds and the mausoleum.  We then headed to a marble inlay craft shop for a demonstration, coasters were around $35, but we did not buy anything.  Then we headed to a souvenir store for postcards and magnets and the girls tries on some leather jackets that were around $100.  Then we had snacks at the Salt Cafe and met up with our driver.  We drove back in about 4.5 hours again stopping at a different roadside rest area for snacks and a bathroom break.  We had sweet corn in a cup and popcorn.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022 - Day 7

Today was a planned rest day, the girls got wash and blow-dry and we ended up tagging along with Ratna and annoying her while she went to the post office, look for lost hat and the outdoor bazaar.

I started the day with Lakshay's yoga instructor who was very good and put us through a 13 pose sequence, followed by static holds which he pushed to expand range of motion and finishing with breathing exercises over the course of an hour.

Breakfast was uthma and fried dough savory potato filled pastries.  Lunch was a turnip dish, potato dish and rice and chapati.  Dinner was pani puri and veg burgers topped with cheese and a wonderful cucumber, tomato and onion relish.  We also ordered ice cream from Gianis which has been in business since 1956.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022 - Day 8

Wednesday was travel to Amritsar by plane which will include an hour drive to the airport ahead of a 3 hour prior to flight check in.  Baggage check in and security screening were very fast and we could have arrived 2 hours prior to departure.  The airport is very modern with plenty of shopping and dining options, clean and well appointed gate areas with abundant seating.  We bought McDonald's fries and veg surprise, Subway veggie sandwich, and Krispy Kreme plain glazed donuts

The flight to Amritsar was a quick 50 minutes and they served a puffed samosa snack.  We traveled via Vistara on an Airbus A320neo.  We collected our bags in a few minutes and met Akhil at the baggage claim and it was a quick 10 minute ride to the house.  We met Purnima and Neena Masi and had lunch with a paneer dish and also had coconut water and enjoyed the garden which had a lemon tree, aloe Vera plant, Tulsi plant as well as decorative flowers.  

That evening we drove to the Golden Temple, they have a parking garage, you check your shoes and socks and cover your head before crossing the water to enter the compound.  The sense of peace is hard to describe with the prayers being broadcast, the water, and the splendor of the temple itself.  We walked around and read about the history and saw the temple from many angles.  We also looked into the Langar where food is continuously served 24/7.  We took Prasad,  made a donation and headed out.  We also stopped by the memorial for the Jallianawala Bagh massacre.  We did not go in as it closes at 6.  We also missed the partition museum.  Before leaving the Golden Temple area, we stopped at the Jalabiwala stand and tasted the world famous jalabis

We came home and had drinks and dinner which had a aloo mutter dish, paneer, and rotis that were brought to the table fully puffed up.

Thursday, December 29, 2022 - Day 9

We slept in and started the day with tea and then breakfast of cauliflower parantha and sweet porridge.   The girls are enjoying going through Sonia's stock of custom jewelry, they will also shop for outfits in town.

The plan tonight is to see the border retiring of the colors at the Waga border.

After lunch of aloo gobi and palak paneer, we headed to the border about a half hour away.  Traffic was heavy and vendors were selling India hats, flags and face painting

We arrived at the border a little late and were quickly ushered to the pre-arranged VIP seating.  The border security force was already whipping the crowd into a frenzy in a show of national pride.  The ceremony itself was very well choreographed and fun to be a part of the celebration.  There were easily 60,000 people on the India side and 30,000 on the Pakistan side when the flags were retired.  We took pictures near the gates and headed out.

On the way home, we stopped at Biba so that Diya could finalize a dress purchase and then home.  Dinner that night was traditional Punjabi food at Haveli with Dahl, chole, pathura,  and parantha.  We also has Lasi which is made from sweetened yogurt.

Friday, December 30, 2022 - Day 10

For our last day in Amritsar, we had kulcha for breakfast which was very spicy and cream of wheat idle and veg burgers them we were off to the memorial for the Amritsar massacre which was well done and included details on Indian freedom fighters, we were back home for a light lunch of paneer dish, peas and potatoes dish and milk roti (train food), then it was off to the airport where we scanned checked bags and got through security relatively quickly.  Security is done well with metal detector scans, belt removal, jacket removal and electronic devices removed from luggage.

The Air India flight (Airbus A320) was pleasant and a quick 45 minutes, they served a cheese sandwich snack.  We collected out bags for the 90 minute drive to my Uncle's house.  Dinner was a pleasant dinner or rice, Dahl, palak paneer, and aloo gobi.

Saturday, December 31, 2022 - Day 11

Our last day in Delhi was easy with packing.  Breakfast was noodles, idli, and sambar and for lunch we had paneer Dahl, rice, curd.  We packed up and being heavy on weight opted to courier one bag to Ahmedabad.  The trip to the airport was the usual chaos, but we got to terminal 1 without issue.  ID screen was quick, bag check was a little longer and our bags were right at 60kg.  Security screening was tough with belt and electronics removal and my daughter had duct tape and a tape measure confiscated.  I had a power bank that I thought was in my carry on, but then I struggled to locate.

We got through early enough for Diya to get a biryani bowl from KFC.  It came with a chicken wing which she seemed to enjoy.  Ratna ordered dosa from the Dosa Factory

The Indigo flight (Airbus A320) was uneventful and served sandwiches and juice.  We arrived, collected our luggage and had a 40 minute drive from the airport.  Prior to ringing in the new year, we made cucumber, tomato, and onion sandwiches.  We rang in the new year with Sprite and ice cream cake.

Sunday, January 1, 2023 - Day 12

We slept well taking advantage of the guest room and Rohans room. The next morning we headed to the Rajpath club for some badminton and a walk on rhe track.  The facility is amazing with a lap pool, card room, multiple badminton and table tennis courts, squash court, hard court tennis, volleyball,  cricket grounds, and a turf soccer enclosure.  The gym was well equipped with Hammer Strength equipment, machines and free weights with dumbbells going up to 50 kg.  There was a belt squat and a posterior chain developer.  We had snacks of fafra and dokhla, omelet, veg burger, and garlic crisp

Returning home, we met up with Raj and Nancy and there parents and had lunch at the house of idli sambar.  That evening we did a driving tour of the newer part of Ahmedabad, had bhel for dinner and then visited her Aunt's house.

Monday, January 2, 2023 - Day 13

The following day, I had a chance to go by the Rajpath club for a workout.  I opted for squat, bench, deadlift plus pull-ups and seated db oh press.  Top weights were 70, 60 and 90 kg, body weight pull-ups and 12, 14, 16 kg press, finished with 4 laps walking around the track.   Then home for breakfast of eggs and uthma with tea.

I ordered a ping pong paddle from Amazon India for 1000 rupees and the plan for the rest of the day is shopping at the mall.

We had lunch of aloo mutter and then drove to the Nexus mall where the girls tried on clothes at half a dozen stores.  I milled around the athletic stores and found the prices about 75% of US prices and a different selection catered to local tastes.  We had a snack in the food court and also purchased handicrafts.

As the girls were wrapping up, I took a rickshaw to the AA meeting.  It was a very unique experience with 6 people in attendance.  we started with the serenity prayer in English and then read the preface, how it works and the traditions rotating Gujarati, English and Hindi.  We then went around introducing ourselves as alcoholics.   For the book discussion, we read 2 pages 29-30.  The same section was read in English, Gujarati and Hindi and attendees were invited to share their experience.   We passed the can about halfway through the 90 minute meeting.  I shared at the end and it felt really good to connect.  We closed the meeting with the responsibility pledge in Hindi.  AA had only come to Ahmedabad in 2008 and the current state is similar to the US in the 1940s.  There are some rehab centers and psychiatrists know of AA, but it is not well known.  GSO of India is very active.

Getting a rickshaw home was slightly more difficult, but I caught up with the family in time to go to sizzler for dinner and ice cream for dessert.  It was spicier than I am used to, but otherwise OK.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023 - Day 14

Tuesday was site-seeing.  After a light breakfast, we drove to the Adalaj stepwell.  It was truly remarkable.  Built in 1498, it was important for life in the semi-arid region.  We then drove to the Ghandi Ashram, where he lived and established his thoughts and guiding principals.  It has been well maintained and there is a gift shop with books and cloth products.  Arriving home, we had a lunch of chole and aloo tiki which ws perfect for us.  The plan for tonight is another dinner out with family.

We hosted a nice dinner at Neem for about 20 family members.  My wife is fortunate to have a very close group of cousins,  We also put together small gifts for the kids.  I enjoyed talking to Manish about the Indian space program.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023 - Day 15

Wednesday, I was back at the Rajpath and did front Squat, overhead press and bench press with max weights of 50, 40 and 50 kg respectively.  I also did some back extensions and pull ups before heading out on the track.

We shopped for housewares mid morning with Ratna getting an idli pan, dosa pan, and a couple of tiffin.  I got some steel containers for dry snacks.

While Ratna and Sajal went to collect the altered dresses, me and the girls started House, MD and enjoyed two episodes.  Then we went shopping near Law Garden which was kind of chaotic (the picture is street corn that we actually got from a street vendor).  From there we went to Ami and Neeraj house for dinner of pani puri followed by dessert at another Masi's house.  She brought Havmor ice cream.

Thursday, January 5, 2023 - Day 16

The plan for Thursday is more socializing.  We stopped to get chocolates, bangles, and bindi.  Then we went to Manish house, the Cellad Eatery for lunch (western and Indian food), then over to her Aunt's house,  Afterwards we headed home for some downtime prior to a larger gathering with about 25 in attendance with traditional Gujarati food including undhiyu and some western dishes like pizza and pasta.  It turned into a late night, but we will be able to sleep in with no morning plans.

Friday, January 6, 2023 - Day 17

Our flight was unfortunately delayed and we ended up departing at 2050 instead of 1630, we spent some of the extra time watching House MD and the rest snacking and hanging out in the lounge which had veg and non-veg snacks and desserts.

The Spice Jet flight was on a Boeing 737 MAX-8 and had some of the most attractive flight attendants I have seen in a long time.

Arriving in Dubai, we deplaned quickly, but then spent 20 minutes in immigration.  We collected the bags quickly and went through customs.  Ankish and his brother met us at the airport and it was a quick 15 minute drive home.  They have 2 apartments across the hall from each other and I slept very well.

Saturday, January 7, 2023 - Day 18

In the morning, we started the day with breakfast at Venus and it was excellent South Indian food.  Then we went over to the gold shop (Kannattu Silsila Jewelery) and selected several items (including an Au Finja 916 ring for myself, it is similar to Ring 88)  .  Then it was site-seeing, driving past the 7 star hotel, the Palm and Atlantis, the Barg Khalifa, the Museum of the Future.  We had lunch at a Falafal place that was amazing.   Then we purchased dates and tries Filli coffee.  Arriving home, we freshened up, packed and had a nice light dinner of rajma chavel.   We headed to the airport and got through baggage check, passport check and security quickly, then we got our VAT refund and finally made it to the business class lounge which we could access with our Priority Pass cards.  It was comfortable and had great food and drink.  We avoided shopping at the airport with the exception of a fridge magnet.

Sunday, January 8, 2023 - Day 19

The Air France flight (Boeing 777-300) fell short of our expectations for International travel.  The food was meh and the cabin hospitality below average.  The Paris Airport was ok.  We had to switch terminals and repeat security.  We stretched our legs, window shopped and waited for our next flight which was unfortunately delayed.

The Delta (Airbus A330) flight was nice with a Minneapolis based crew that was friendly with better food options including my wife's vegetarian meal and a choice of pizza or pasta, they also served a warm cookie and then a snack of either cheese and spinach puff or chicken spring roll.

Passport check, customs and security screening were remarkably efficient and we had a chance to stop at the escape lounge, run by Amex, nice selection of hot and cold food, breakfast items soft drinks and drip coffee

Boarding for the final Delta leg (Airbus A321) was easy thanks to Ratna's military service.  The plane felt newer and the flight attendants very pleasant for our 2 hour flight.

We deplaned and got our bags surprisingly fast.  We called an Uber XL and a nice Infinity arrived 5 min later.  It was funny that our driver was Nepalese. 

We got home to a snow bank in front of the driveway, but the house was otherwise OK.  After turning the water on, we discovered a leak in the basement.  Quickly shutting off the water, we called a plumber who came by and fixed it that night.  It was expensive, but I am glad it is resolved with the exception of the dry wall repair.

No comments: