Friday, July 03, 2015

2015 So Far - June

Well, this happened.

I somehow found myself on a business trip to Gurgaon for a couple of weeks. It's the first time I've traveled alone - as well as the first time I've gone out of the country in a very long time.

I had a six-hour layover at Changi Airport in Singapore. It was a fairly bittersweet experience - Changi was a reminder of the nice things one can enjoy because of massive investments. It was such a far cry from NAIA and is somewhat of a landmark in itself.

I've heard quite a few warnings about India from recent news. There have been some heat waves recently, with scores of people succumbing from the heat. It's alarming news - especially for a country of over a billion people.

I arrived at Indira Gandhi Airport on a late Saturday night. I've been booked to stay at The Oberoi, which is probably (or definitely, if we're being honest) the most luxurious hotel I've had the pleasure of staying at.

I would have preferred to stay indoors, but I managed to take a few shots of the surrounding area.

Pool with Yellow Blossoms at The Trident

Garden and Pool at The Oberoi
The hotel was almost too luxuriously maintained. The staff - from the front desk staff to the housekeepers and chaffeurs (fancy!) - were nothing short of excellent. I know I sound like a paid shill for saying these things, but impressions do last and those folks at the Oberoi set an extremely high bar that would probably be difficult to top (unless I become a billionaire and hire my own wait staff).

I had one weekend free - unfortunately I didn't have the time (or inclination) to plan a visit to Agra (where the Taj Mahal and Red fort are located) or New Delhi itself (where a ton of monuments would have provided a good amount of photographs).

I settled for the next best thing - a visit to a cultural entertainment complex called the Kingdom of Dreams.

The first stop was the Culture Gully - a hall where the various cuisines of India were featured in separate kitchens.

The Culture Gully is a sprawling, air-conditioned complex. Apart from food, one can buy souvenirs and enjoy performers as they impressed the crowd at regular intervals.

The entrance to the Culture Gully was in the shape of a lotus.
Another petal pool.

My personal highlight, of course, was the food. Majority of the food in India cater to Hindus, who primarily observe a vegan diet. I just had to try a meat dish, so I settled for Arbi Gosht, which was a goat meat curry from Hyderabad.

After that meal, I headed for the Nautanki Mahal, where I bought tickets for a Bollywood production entitled Zangoora.

Nautanki Mahal and Showshaa Theatre.

Assembly Gates.

Nautanki Mahal.

Lotus Fountain.

Showshaa Theatre.

Second Lotus Fountain.

Stone Elephant.

Random Camel.
Zangoora was a play about a classical story - a baby prince was separated from his royal birthright after his parents were betrayed by their royal subjects. Pursued by assassins, one of the kingdom's last loyal subjects managed to send him off to a gypsy camp to be raised incognito. A string of events would eventually lead him back towards a path to the throne.

The production value of Zangoora was absurd. The actors made use of the entire theatre, with multiple set pieces located beneath the stage as well as high above the audience. With a mixture of CGI and elaborate sets, this was probably one of the best plays I've ever seen live.

Overall, I think that my two-week trip was somewhat a rite of passage. There are very few reasons I'd have to get out and try to travel by myself, and my experience (especially the last couple of days) not only taught me a lot of things about myself, but also a lot of things about people who have to travel to make a living.

That in itself is worthy of a separate post.


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