India

Tuesday 10/23/07 - Arrival in Delhi

The flight arrived in Delhi. Our luggage was one of the first off the plane, and we were soon on our way. Inside the airport I spotted someone holding a card with our names. We met Raj, the driver, and a man from Peirce and Leslie, the Indian tour operator, who escorted us to the hotel. There was quite a bit of traffic, this being rush hour. Traffic was a bit more chaotic than at home, but nothing compared to this morning's wild ride. We passed by the section of town which housed all of the embassies, where there were pretty tree-lined boulevards and many roundabouts. We chatted about what was in store for the next couple of days. Raj would be driving to Agra tonight. Craig and I would be taking the train in the morning and meeting him there. Our guide was already in Agra. We wouldn’t want to take all of our luggage on the train, so we could just take a day pack and Raj could take the rest in the car. This seemed like a very good idea.

We arrived at the Taj Mahal Hotel New Delhi, having no idea what to expect. It was dark by now, so we couldn't get a great view of the hotel, but from outside it looked quite large and modern. We knew that our hotel in Agra was top-of-the-line, but we hadn’t really researched this one. Wow. We were shocked. The place was gorgeous! There was Mughal art everywhere in the lobby, it was incredibly luxurious and looked like a museum. There were fountains and it was truly an oasis in the city. After our whirlwind travel day, we were sure we looked like we totally didn’t belong here. Everyone else we saw was dressed very elegantly. Yet the staff was excellent to us and treated us as if we were royalty. The Peirce and Leslie representative handed us a beautiful fabric-covered folder which contained all of our travel vouchers and information.

We were told that Raj would wait in the lobby, and when we were done sorting through our luggage and keeping with us only what we would need between here and Agra, he would load our packs into the car and set off for Agra himself. They checked us in and a woman named Lata escorted us to our room to show us the amenities, explain the restaurants available to us, etc. The room was gorgeous. She asked if we wanted a wake-up call, and if we’d like a reminder wake-up call 5 minutes later. We said we probably wouldn’t need the reminder, but we would really appreciate a wake-up call. It would be an early morning. She was very sweet, and ordered fresh pineapple juice which was instantly delivered to the room. There was a very well-stocked mini-bar, complimentary bottled water, fresh fruit, and various orchids placed around the room. All the while she was telling us this information, we were anxious to get our luggage sorted out. The last thing we wanted to do was to hold up Raj. She asked if we had any questions and we explained that we would only be here until the early morning. She took her leave and told us to call her if we needed absolutely anything.

We started to go through our luggage, packing one day pack apiece with essentials, and packing away everything else into our large backpacks for Raj to drive to Agra. We were trying to do this as fast as possible. There was a knock at the door. Our turn-down service had arrived. He removed the silk bedspread and stored it in a drawer. He put little mats on the floor at either side of the bed, and arranged our complimentary slippers on the mats. He placed a small tray on the bed and it contained chocolates. He placed an orchid with a little proverb about sleep on each side of the bed, amazing! When we were finally finished shifting our luggage around, Craig went with the bellhop down to the lobby to give the bags to Raj and then came back to the room. On the way he met some really dressed-up folks in the elevator. When he got back, neither of us felt like we had appropriate clothes to eat in the restaurant, nor were we really mentally ready to do so. We decided on room service, that way we could sack out in our hotel-provided robes and slippers, enjoy the room, and just relax.

We sat on the elegant silk-upholstered sofa and mulled over the menu. This was India and Craig was up for an authentic Indian meal, so he chose the murg chicken tikka masala chawal, basmati rice, with yogurt relish. After all these days on the road, I was craving comfort food and chose a tempura battered chicken breast sandwich with herb-crusted cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce, and fries. We also ordered a Caesar salad to share as an appetizer and tawa roti as bread. I tried to shut the curtains and there were all kinds of wires attached to it, but no apparent manual way of doing it. Welcome to the control panel. You can open and shut the sheers and drapes, adjust lighting, temperature, etc from one little electronic device sitting on the bedside table. We found this so funny after the last couple fo hotels in Bhutan that we made a little video on the camera of me remotely shutting the blinds. I looked through the fancy folder given to us by the tour operator. It contained the usual vouchers, itineraries, and train tickets. If there was any doubt that Peirce and Leslie was a class act, there were several postcards in there which were pre-stamped with Indian postage! How convenient!! There was also a a piece of art in the Miughal style which was suitable for framing. We truly felt welcomed to India.

We were wondering where we would set up to eat (the two-person desk, the coffee table?) when “in-room dining’ arrived (half an hour after we had placed the order). I can’t even call it room service because it is so far above and beyond any room service I have ever gotten. Two men in stylish black suits and white gloves wheeled in a cart which transformed into a dining table. It had a warming box underneath. They extracted the food, presented it beautifully, served it, lit a candle, etc. etc.…it was AMAZING. The presentation was fantastic. The Caesar salad had large chunks of parmesan cheese, huge croutons, and carved carrots. Condiments were served in little sealed jars. Craig's Indian meal was fantastic (served with popadums and a yogurt sauce), and my chicken sandwich and fries tasted like the best I had ever eaten. Craig had a Kingfisher beer, followed by a Black Label, and I had Fanta. Our leisurely dinner spanned two hours. We were both really savoring the food. After our hectic day of travel, this was just the relaxation that we needed.

During dinner a woman called and asked if we could like tea or coffee. We chose Assam tea, as we had passed the tea plantations earlier today. We also had a cold chocolatey brownie dessert with vanilla ice cream which really hit the spot. We wanted to talk to Dorji tonight, as we knew he had been nervous about our journey and we wanted to make sure he had made it back to Bhutan safely. After several attempts we were able to get through and it was so nice to talk to him; we were missing him already. As we enjoyed our dessert and tea we chatted with him. It turned out we would both be heading out at the same time tomorrow morning, which was comforting.

When we were finished with the food, we called in-room dining to collect the cart. After they had done so, I wrote in the journal while Craig took a shower. The bathroom was beautiful - with bright chrome fixtures, a bathtub, bamboo plants, bright lighting, and even a telephone. What a difference from the Eastern Bhutanese bathrooms where the entire bathroom got wet from a shower, and there were exposed electrical wires (sure, the wires in the Eastern Bhutanese bathrooms were technically far enough away from the showerhead that they SHOULDN'T cause any problems, but with our western sensibilities about such things, we had never been fully comfortable with that situation). After Craig's shower, I took a bubble bath. It was so decadent. I finished writing in the journal and then we climbed into the luxurious high thread-count white sheets and drifted off to sleep at 12:30.
Checking out the room service menu

Checking out the room service menu


Luxurious Taj Mahal Hotel bathroom

Luxurious Taj Mahal Hotel bathroom


Orchid and Cervantes quotation on the bed

Orchid and Cervantes quotation on the bed


In-room dining delivery

In-room dining delivery


In-room dining

In-room dining




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