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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sweet as gulab jamun & varied as thali!

I have always wanted to go to India! Having Indian best friends and been loving their food has made me even to consider myself as half Indian (at times)! XP
So from 22nd - 30th July 2011, was a chance not to be missed when World Dental Congress 2011, organized by International Association of Dental Students (IADS) and Young Dentist Worldwide (YDW) was held in New Delhi, India! Because this event was publicized a year ago, I bought my flight tickets way way back then at a price of only RM550 (tax applied) for a KL - New Delhi return ticket (Air Asia lah)! Talk about a good deal! Haha...
The whole conference fee was about RM1600 with food, transport and accommodation provided, quite similar to Asia-Pacific Dental Students Association (APDSA) pricing I would say.

And of course on the 22nd, like everyone would, I was an hour early at the airport waiting for boarding. Checked-in, luggage handed in and ready to fly. My flight was at 5.40pm, so I waited at a cafe for the rest of my coursemates who are flying together to arrive.

At 5pm......they have YET to arrive, the boarding gate closes at 5.10pm and last check in was at 4.50pm! I was like "Shit man! This is not good. Where the hell are they?". Received a few calls saying that they were close, a friend of mine Renette tried to buy time at the check-in counter. Of course, the front desk said it was too late to do anything and knowing we can't persuade him more, all we hope is that those $%&@! get their asses there as fast as God-knows-what-is-the-fastest-thing-he-created! At that point of time, I was feeling.....................nothing at all! Absolutely numb; not anger or panic, as I've never experienced this kind of thing before!

And after less than a minute of cursing under my breathe, they finally arrived. A couple of minutes of denying them entrance (as expected), the management finally let them in as they've checked in online. Everything was going smooth again until one staff from the front desk announced, "Everyone can board the plane except for Chong Wai Sim"! And we were like WHAT THE FARK?!!

Like I was saying earlier, I was feeling numb..... after hearing that, I went double, if not triple numb (if there's ever such a term)! I WAS DUMBFOUNDED man! Imagine someone saying that to you when everyone in your group gets to fly! How would you feel???

So what actually happened? Well apparently, Renette and Wai Sim bought their tickets together. Because Renette checked in without her, the staff assumed Wai Sim is not coming thus cancelled her ticket eventhough she had had went online to check in! Now I won't be arguing who is wrong and right because both parties are at fault here.

We tried arguing for Wai Sim of course. But Air Asia staffs threatened us that if we continue doing so, we will be left behind. Feeling all farked up, we have to leave her alone in hope she can settle her problem on her own. "Keep in touch through phone", we said while dashing to board the plane. We ran like mad holy cows (with respect to Indians :P) from the immigration all the way to the plane! Our names were announced for final call. And to make things even better, they HAVE to park the plane RIGHT AT THE END OF THE RUNWAY! #$%*@

With clothes drenched in sweat and panting, we left Malaysia and Wai Sim, to New Delhi.

*On the plane. I am NOT digging my nose! Nor am I pointing the middle finger. :P*

***

We reached Indira Gandhi International Airport at 7.45pm local time, 40 minutes ahead of schedule. The airport is pretty cool, modern, clean and brightly lit.

*Beautiful art at immigration gate of I.D.I. airport*

Not bad I thought, till I encountered a rude immigration officer who doesn't smile, greet or say thank you. He even slap my passport on the desk when he has done stamping! So much of a first impression to give to foreigners! >:-(

I got myself an Indian phone number after collecting my luggage so I can contact Wai Sim and also the committees of IADS. Second impression of India: s-l-o-w...... It took them almost an hour to get me a new sim card. An American guy said to the staff, "In my country, I can buy a car faster than this." LMAO!!!!!!!!
By the way, a sim card from Airtel costs 400 rupees.

Contacted Wai Sim and she got her ticket replaced by Air Asia free of charge. She will fly down on her own the next day and I arranged transport to pick her up from airport to our hotel. Phew~~~ problems solved.

***

The actual conference starts on the 24th. We came 2 days earlier so that we can visit one of the 7 Wonders of the World - the Taj Mahal on our own. That night, we checked in to a 3 star hotel in the heart of New Delhi city which I've booked through a tour agent in India. The place is called Hotel Pablas International, located at Karol Bagh. Just 5 minutes away from the nearest train station. And man! Is New Delhi hot or what?! The moment I step outside of my room, I start to sweat! The weather is similar to Malaysia, humid but hotter with NO WIND at all!!! My shirt was wet the whole day, like totally!


The room was quite clean and comfortable, air-conditioned and attached bathroom with hot water (which requires you to call the receptionist 15 minutes prior to showering for the water to heat up). F&B was quite reasonable. Food from 50 rupees and a 1L bottle mineral water costs 30 rupees (market price at 15 rupees only). We had 3 person in a room with additional bed, at 800 rupees per person per night.

The next morning we had breakfast at hotel (complimentary) and head off to Agra, where Taj Mahal is, for a day trip at 6 in the morning. The whole journey took approximately 6 hours! Word of advice: try taking the train, it only takes 2.5 hours from Delhi - Agra.

*Travelled from Delhi - Agra on this mini bus*
*The Taj Mahal lah....takkan tak tau? LOL!*

The Taj entrance fee is 750 rupees for foreigners which comes with a goodie bag of bottle water and shoe cover. Because this was booked through a tour agent, we had our own tour guide which explains the Taj and its surroundings in detail. Spent about 2 hours there, then we were brought to a marble handicraft shop, textile shop, lunch and back to Delhi!

 *Marble handicraft in process.*
 *Bought this mini Taj Mahal made from pure marble at 600 rupees. Somehow we felt cheated! :S*
*Typical North Indian cuisine known as Maharaja Thali or vegetarian thali; with naan, basmati rice, yoghurt, dhaal, palak paneer, vegetables, lentils and lassi! Costs 400 rupees, that's because I had this at a high end restaurant. Normally costs 120 rupees. North Indian cuisine are generally less spicy compared to South and Malaysian Indian food. But they are super healthy! Loads of protein and bifidus bacteria! And their lassi is thick and A-W-E-S-O-M-E! :D*

***

We checked out from Hotel Pablas on the 24th and head on to our congress venue, Hotel Radisson Blu at Dwarka Sector 13, New Delhi. Took a train to that area. The security was quite tight, luggage scanners, metal detectors and body scan was done at every entrance be it for train stations, hotels, malls and historical and attraction sites. Maybe it was due to a bomb attack in Mumbai previously. 

*Security at train station*
*Our congress venue*
*Sneak peek of my room*

I don't really wanna talk about the congress in depth, after all it is just a congress. Met with a few exceptionally nice people there and would love to visit their countries should the chance come. Here are some pictures to summarize World Dental Congress 2011.

*Lecture, lecture, lecture*
*Students' paper presentation - with Indian participants Amey and Sameer*
*Namaste - with Taiwanese beauty, Hsuan Han*
*Yes! Disco party every night*
*Hungarian sweetheart - Karolina*
 
*Malaysian booth during Cultural Exchange Night - siap dengan iPad to show Cuti-Cuti Malaysia videos! LOL!*
*100 delegates from 20 countries*
*Super cool and nice Czech dude - Petr*

All work and no play makes William a dull boy! Haha... we sneaked out from boring agendas and went sight seeing and shopping on our own. Of course, the organizers do have tours for us too. New Delhi is quite a convenient city to travel around. Its railway is quite extensive, linking almost all major tourist sites. If it is not, then you can always opt for auto ricksaw called Tuk Tuk (yes...just like in Thailand and Indonesia which are called bajai). An unlimited day pass on train costs 150 rupees (50 rupees refundable when return card). For Tuk Tuk, price can range from 20 - 30 rupees per person, just bargain for the lowest price! According to locals, it only costs them 5 - 15 rupees. Hmmm... Maklumlah kita ni tourist..... :-/

*Tuk Tuk*

Sight seeing places in New Delhi:
*Red Fort - entrance fee: 250 rupees*
*Qutub Minar - entrance fee: 250 rupees*
*Lotus temple - seen here are Malaysians with Hongkie, Jack and Taiwanese, Erin & Hsuan Han. Entrance fee: free*
*Humayun's tomb. Entrance fee: 250 rupees*
*Indian Gate. Free entry.*
*Akshardam temple - world's largest Hindu temple. Simply amazing! Entrance fee: free*

Places to shop in New Delhi:
*Dilli Haat. Entrance fee: 20 rupees*
*Janpath market. Free entry*
*Palika bazaar. Free entry*

Now, because my birthday was at the end of the congress, my "beloved" coursemates planned a surprise birthday "party" for me. During the Cultural Exchange Night, they suddenly belted out a Happy Birthday song which caught me by surprise. I was like "Oh shit! Not now! Darn!". 
But you've guessed it, everyone there sang along! Haha... talk about the world celebrates with you! XP
And they didn't just stop there! They played a prank on me by giving me a fake present which is a BLOODY 2KG DENTAL STONE!!! And oh... I've entertained them all right until they are finally satisfied and gave me the real present - a T-shirt that is printed DRAMA KING on it! =_="
Haha.... but still... I like that t-shirt. It's cool! :)

*2kg dental stone and birthday "cake" made from Rocky biscuits and dodol*
*Drama King t-shirt worn with pride*

All in all, this trip to India New Delhi is really an adventure with quite a lot of good and bad stuffs. But I had fun and enjoyed myself. Now what I really miss is the people I've met at IADS and the clean food in India! To finish off this post, here are some random pictures! :D

*Famous masala tea by the road side*
*Braving myself to drink it! Costs 5 rupees and taste like tea tarik with ginger*
*Asian room party? Or pajamas party? LOL!*
*No comments :P*
*On the way to airport from New Delhi station via Airport Express. Takes 20 minutes. Costs 80 rupees*
*We love IADS - all the way from Czech Republic*

PS: Some advice for those who plans to go to New Delhi in the future - 
1. Do NOT trust anyone who offers to bring you to your desire place especially shopping centers. Because these "good hearted" people who assure you they don't need payment will bring you to shops they work with in order to gain commission! So PLEASE, if you must, ask directions from police, guards or shop keepers. And ladies are generally more trustworthy compared to Indian men.
2. Have LOTS of small change with you (1 / 2 / 5 rupees) to give to beggars that WILL DEFINITELY follow you wherever you go because you being a tourist! And they know you are generous. ;P
3. Drink bottled mineral water! 15 rupees for a liter of water. People said filtered water are safe but I've never tried them. No, not even water from hotel. :)
4. ALWAYS bargain! Food maybe no need lah. But from clothes, taxis, souvenirs and even tuk tuk are overpriced JUST because you are a tourist! Normally they will be set 10 times the normal price. So pandai-pandai lah! ;)
5. Travel in groups. Trust me, for a grown up man like me, it's scary to travel alone. People there WILL STARE AT YOU like you are E.T. or something.
6. Be firm and say no! Ladies, this is especially useful. Little girls WILL come and snatch your hands in order for them to "decorate" them with henna. Once they start drawing, it's always money! ;)
7. LEARN some Hindi for God's sake! Not everyone speaks English yet. Young people in cities are more English educated. But if you are travelling away from city, sorry.... your English will not be useful anymore.
8. If you are thinking of tipping, anything from 20 to 50 rupees is enough. Please don't be like us and pay 100 rupees (it's only RM7 after all) to a hotel staff and realized how much 100 rupees is worth later! LOL! You can have 2 meals on the street for 100 rupees and get a quality shawl at 200 rupees. So you do the maths.

4 comments:

Liz said...

Waaaa, I'm super jealous! India, and also Indonesia? Niceeeeeee :D

~WilL!@m~ said...

Lisa: You should go to India too, should the opportunity comes! :D It's very rich in culture!

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Wil Liam Choo said...

Thank you! But this post was written years ago. The price may need to be updated. :)

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