Visa on Arrival in India

After spending a night in Bangkok, Kat (my travel buddy friend) and I finally flew to New Delhi. The flight took 5 hours and I survived this with the help of the Death Note animated series. Thanks L, N, Missa, Light and Ryuk! =)

Bangkok to New Delhi via Air India
unlimited bollywood movies on board!

So after 30 episodes of the Death Note, we finally had our first glimpse of New Delhi.

 hello New Delhi!

Indira Ghandi International Airport is amazing! While most people talk about India being dirty and chaotic, this airport stands as their pride. It's so clean and efficient. Yeah, I wish we could improve our main airport too.

 carpeted airport with functioning walkalators (moving walkway)

Travelers from the Philippines are required to get a tourist visa for India. Fortunately, the government of India offers Visa on Arrival for nationals of the Philippines, Cambodia, Finland, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Luxembourg, Myanmar, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam.

This Visa on Arrival can be availed at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata international airports, not sure though if this has been extended to other international airports in India. Anyway, the validity is a maximum of 30 days with single entry.

Visa on Arrival is offered at New Delhi

The requirements are:
○ passport size photo
○ $60 (can be paid in USD or Rupees)
○ return ticket of course
○ and fill up the visa on arrival form

This process would just take 15 minutes, or less. The assigned officer was quite helpful and jolly.

After we secured our visa, we went straight to the immigration and we passed thru the Diplomat Lane, as per the instruction of the immigration officer.

Immigration Lanes at New Delhi
very much in character!

everything looks so India. hehe

The airport is impressive, even getting out is efficient. For me this is the basis of what a good airport is.

get out of the airport by metro, taxi, car

free inter terminal transfers
just present your boarding pass

our free transfer to the domestic terminal

 wide and clean road in New Delhi

We reached the domestic terminal and I had the same amusement when I saw it. Maganda and efficient as well. Imagine they have a 6D Cinema inside the domestic airport. Awesome!

6D Cinema at Delhi's domestic airport

The government of India really made a good job of bringing comfort and entertainment to the passengers. Lots of restaurants and fast food stalls are available too. And oh, I've also seen reclining beds in the waiting area. What could be better than that.

Chicken Tikka Pizza and Spring Roll
our first Indian meal, and we loved it!

First impression definitely lasts. What welcomed me is not the India everyone has been warning me of. I never felt the fear and the risk that the media has been displaying all over the news. What welcomed me is the impressive airport, efficient transfers, and the good food. It was actually a nice way to start this India trip.

Up next: Varanasi

India | A Whole New World Experience

Namaste blog! I'm alive and I'm fine. Sorry for not updating you since September. I've been lazy and busy honestly. I didn't even have time to plan my India trip efficiently. Anyway, it turned out amazing despite my unpreparedness.

After my South Korea trip, I'm actually thinking Japan or India for my next destination. Since I haven't got my new ITR yet (that would possibly cause my visa to be denied), then I chose to visit India first. As they say, India is not for the faint-hearted so might as well do this India trip while I'm still young, or rather while my body still can. =P

Taj Mahal is 4,646 kilometers away from Manila

Summary of my India Trip:

○ Philippine Airlines offers direct flight from Manila to New Delhi, but this costs P33,000. Obviously that's too expensive for me so I opted for another route. Air Asia offers cheap flights from Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, but these airlines will not land at New Delhi. India only allows India-based low cost airlines to use the newly built international airport at New Delhi. Fair enough. 

I have no doubts I wanted the Manila - Bangkok - New Delhi route, so I booked a Cebu Pacific's piso fare to Bangkok, for P4,000 (no baggage allowance).

For my Bangkok - New Delhi flight, I originally planned to take IndiGo airlines, one of India's newest low cost yet efficient airline, for the price of P12,000. Unfortunately, I tried all the cards I have but my bookings cannot be confirmed. To make the story short, I ended up booking a flight with Air India. The cost? P15,000 for a two-way ticket. Not bad specially meals are included and it was a comfortable flight. Could be cheaper only if we booked this months ahead or if only we chose to travel on a rainy season. Oh well, we experienced India with a very nice cold weather and this route is still way cheaper than a direct flight - P33,000 vs P19,000. 

a comfortable and morning flight from Bangkok - New Delhi flight via Air India

○ Indira Ghandi International Airport is amazing! While most people talk about India being dirty and chaotic, this airport stands as their pride. It's so clean and efficient. Yeah, I wish we could improve our main airport too.

Indira Ghandi International Airport (arrival area)
ang ganda!

Indira Ghandi International Airport (departure area)
mas maganda, in character pa!

○ So aside from I wanted to land at this fabulous airport, I chose New Delhi as my port of entry because of the Visa On Arrival service. I do not have time to prepare my itinerary, what more apply for a visa. This Visa On Arrival is so efficient compared to securing my visa in Manila.

Visa on Arrival is offered at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata airports only

○ Even getting out of the airport is efficient. They have bus, metro, and free transfer to domestic terminals. 

 Free Inter Terminal Transfers
just present your boarding pass

○ I tried to find a money changer here in Manila that sells Rupees. Unfortunately, none of the money changers I went to have this currency. So we bought USD instead and exchange them in India.

1000 rupees = 700 pesos

○ The Golden Triangle (New Delhi - Agra - Jaipur) is the usual route for tourists, but instead I planned something different. My route is New Delhi - Udaipur - Varanasi - Agra, so my point of entry which is New Delhi is perfectly located at the center of it.

If there's one place I really wanted to see in India, that's the Ganges River in Varanasi. For some reasons, Im not actually crazy to see the Taj Mahal.

 my route is New Delhi - Udaipur - Varanasi - Agra in 10 days
i would love to include Dharamsala, Amritsar, Khajuraho and Mumbai if I have more time

○ New Delhi to Udaipur via train would take 13 hours, so we chose to fly instead. Same thing we did for Varanasi which is also 13 hours if we did it by train. For domestic flights, we booked flights with Spice Jet, a low cost carrier. Don't believe the bad reviews, this airline is mostly on time.

 the airfare from New Delhi to Varanasi costs the same as a First Class train ticket

○ Varanasi is definitely the highlight of my trip. The experience is amazing and there's nothing like it. The holy river of Ganges is where the locals dump the cremated bodies, wash clothes, take a bath, pray, and everything else! Despite being polluted, all Hindu wish to die around this river in belief reaching heaven. If you want to experience the rich culture of India, go to Varanasi.

the burning ghat of Ganges River
saw at least 3 bodies being cremated that day

..and i cannot miss the chance of soaking my legs into this holy river
pinaghandaan ko yan, di ako nagpapedicure for 2 weeks para sure wala akong open wound! haha

○ Udaipur is a lovely city, far different beauty from Varanasi. This is my 2nd favorite spot, particularly the the Jain Temple in Ranakpur. The marble carvings are so great! This is much better than the interiors of Taj Mahal.

Khumbalgarh Fort, the 2nd longest fort after Great Wall of China
opcors, di namin yan inakayat. ang layo!

there are 144 carved pillars and amazing ceilings in the Jain Temple. carvings are made intrinsically

○ Indian Railways is so efficient. Tourists will have no problems traveling from the northern to the southern part of this country. Booking your train tickets is a pain though. Thank you Marx for letting me use your cleartrip account.

Lots of scams happen at the train stations. Basta wag lang maging tanga at uto-uto, and you will be fine.

First Class seats to Agra
meals are served

○ Agra is lucky to have the Taj Mahal in it. Hehe There's not much to see except this world famous landmark. Hehe kidding! But I must admit I got breathless the first time I saw this. Entrance fee for foreigners is 750 rupees. Local fee is 5. Some locals will ask to have a picture with you. To stop this, tell them you charge 10 rupees per photo. Haha

living in a postcard moment at the majestic Taj Mahal

○ New Delhi is the capital of India. Getting around is easy because of the metro rail. Fare is cheap! Don't worry about the number of people because trains arrive every 5 minutes or less.

 Delhi Metro route map

○  As expected, people here are more modern. Women go to offices. Anyway, being fed up with temples and forts, we decided to have a break and visit an entertainment area in Gurgaon called Kingdom of Dreams. Afterall, what's an India trip without experiencing a live Bollywood musical show?

the indoor streets of India at Culture Gully

 Kingdom of Dreams

So how much did I spend for this 12-day India trip? 
P30,000 for the airfare + train tickets.
P25,000 for the hotel, food, tour, and misc expenses in India.
P2,000 for the departure tax and terminal fee at NAIA.
P3,000 for the 2-day Bangkok shopping and lots of food! 

Total budget for this trip is around P60,000. Of course it depends on which hotel you will stay, and what food you will eat. Could be a lot cheaper too if you will take AirAsia and be sure to book a promo fare.

Is it okay to bring a luggage instead of a backpack?
Absolutely! I never felt that bringing this luggage is a hassle. Even locals carry a trolley on the train stations. Gumagana ang elevator at escalator sa kanila so walang hassle. Hehe So, if you prefer to carry a luggage, do so.

 no more big backpacks. just a handcarry luggage for this 12-day India trip.

What should female tourists wear in India?
Basically, the rule is that "you are a guest and you need to make the people around you comfortable". As long as you dress up decently (having your legs covered at all times), then you'll be fine. No need to wear extreme cover ups from head to toe. Hehe It's totally up to you. As for me, I had 2 long sleeves, 2 tshirts, 2 loose tops, 2 tank tops, and 2 jackets. Short or skirt is a big no. I haven't seen anyone who wears short, not even males. I brought scarfs with me but in reality, I was not required to wear them. I just use it as a sun shield. I cannot find a single store which sells umbrella! Actually, I didn't even see a person who uses an umbrella in India. Hindi uso. ^_^

And for the record, there is no dress code in Taj Mahal. 

what I actually wore in India
again, scarf is not exactly required. I only use it in Varanasi as a sun shield.

Realizations, Tips, Interesting Finds and More!

○ India is not for the faint-hearted. If you cannot control your fear, then India is not for you. Im a carefree person, but I admit I felt at risk when we walked down the alley towards the rail station at 10PM. To add, you will be dealing with men 95% of the time. In Udaipur, Varanasi, and Agra - women just stay home. Men are all around the markets, streets, ghats, restaurants, etc. If you go paranoid when these men talk to you, then I'm not sure how you can survive India.

there are 1.21 billion people in India and 655.8 million are males
and for the record, isa lang ang nakita kong bakla. hehe

○ It's absolutely unfair to generalize that India is an unsafe place. Yes there will be people who will try to scam you, but scams are everywhere in the world! Indians are actually harmless, they are not even violent. They drive recklessly but I haven't seen a road accident or even two drivers screaming or fighting with each other. Again, wag lang maging tanga and uto-uto, and you will be fine.

○ It's unfair to tag Indians as dishonest people. It's so heartwarming that the vendors actually gave back the excess money I paid them. Yes there would be abusive drivers but more people are genuine to help you without asking for anything in return.

○ Hindi mabaho sa India! This is a common false belief. Well it's time to educate yourselves and never say na mabaho sa India unless you have actually been there.

○ India is not as dirty as what other people say. Ang aarte ng mga nagsasabi neto. Imagine Manila, ganyan ang kalevel. There are places which are dirty, and there are places which are clean. Difference is - India has an impressive airport and efficient railway system. And oh, gumagana ang mga CCTV nila.

 wide and clean road in New Delhi

○ I cannot count how many times I've been warned not to use my camera. As a tip, bring a digicam so locals wont be bothered to see you in your big bulky camera. I ended up not taking any photos and just enjoy India with my own eyes. Afterall, India's most photographic people, scenes, and characters can never be captured thru my lens. It's so much different when you actually get there. India is "for your eyes" only.

India's most photographic scenes are not the landmarks but the interesting people on the streets

○ Women are not pampered in India. Don't ever think that males will give way to you in the train station or the elevator. To avoid being pushed, get out of their way. Well lucky us, women are pampered in Pinas!

○ Arranged marriages are so common that ladies are being advertised in the newspapers!

daughters are advertised in the newspapers

○ Mehndi or Henna is typically applied during special Hindu weddings and Hindu festivals like Karva Chauth, Vat Purnima, Diwali, Bhai Dooj and Teej. In Hindu festivals, many women have Henna applied to their hands and feet and sometimes on the back of their shoulders too, as men have it applied on their arms, legs, back, and chest.

nakikiuso lang ^_^

○ I love Indian food. We had countless orders of biryani, masala, curry, roti, naan and some more. But of course, I got tired of having the same taste after 9 days. By the way, milkshakes are the best! I had coffee milkshake, banana milkshake, vanilla milkshake and mango milkshake when I have the chance! These tasted excellent.

And for the record, hindi kami nagkasakit! Ang tibay ng resistensya namin! Haha!

home-cooked meals: cheese naan, biryani, eggplant something, and spinach something

"If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home"  -  this stays true with India.

Only if you can ignore the faults and look at India in a different way, then you are ready for India. It's a totally fascinating country that you cannot even capture its character in your lens. All you need is to keep your eyes wide open + an open mind to have a whole new world experience. ★

Dhanyavad India!

Silk Road - Thai Bistro at BGC, Taguig

It's no secret I have a love affair with Thai cuisine. I've been to countless 'hole in the wall' restaurants just to have a taste of authentic Thai food.

So it's a good news when another Thai resto opened in my work area at The Fort, BGC, Taguig. Even when Silk Road has not opened yet, I already informed my housemate that I would love to try their food. So imagine how delighted I was when I received an invitation for a blogger food night. Yey!

Note: Food photography using my S4. Eh tamad lang magdala ng dslr na mabigat. ^_^

 elegant dining area at Silk Road

Cecil Chang, the owner of the restaurant, made sure we felt welcome and made an effort to discuss why there could be no authentic Pad Thai here in Manila. Close to authentic, yes, but not 100% authentic. I like the honesty and humility, specially from someone who studied Thai cooking for years. Come on, she's the queen of Thai cuisine, and she really deserves it.

Anyway, upon arrival of the drink, the food never stopped coming!

Pandan Milk Tea and Thai Milk Tea
it's sooo good!

Crispy catfish is my favorite appetizer, but not until I had a taste of this Thai Ravioli. This is awesome!

Thai Ravioli
sesame beef and shitake mushroom wrapped in freshly made steamed rice paper
my newest favorite Thai food!

Son-in-Law Eggs
traditional dish being cooked by Thai mothers for their soon-to-be-son-in-laws. it is slightly deep-fried eggs drizzled with a sweet sauce.

Salmon Cone
salmon cubes infused with lemongrass, lime and herbs and filled in ice cream cones. 
salmon never goes wrong. =)

So much for the appetizer, next comes the main entrees.
Without being biased, I can honestly say Silk Road's Pad Thai is the best I've had in the Philippines. It's the closest thing to those pad thais in the streets of Bangkok!

Pad Thai
the closest thing after the street pad thais in Bangkok!

 Chicken Basil
 minced chicken, string beans, basil and fried egg

Lamb Shank Massaman
delicately cooked for 8 hours and served with crispy noodles and sweet potato chips and shallots

 Crispy Tilapia with Tamarind Puree
 i love this!

Siamese Pork Ribs
grilled cinnamon caramel pork. super like as well!

And for dessert, nothing could be more heavenly than this Mango Sticky Rice.

 Sticky Rice with Mango
heavenly as expected ♥

And of course, wines are available to compliment these great food. They have an extensive collection of wines.

wine bar

Overall, I liked it! Honestly I went back to Silk Road just 2 weeks after and I dragged my friends along. They agreed how amazing the Thai Ravioli, Pad Thai, and Sticky Rice with Mango are.

 thank you Silk Road for satisfying my cravings! ♥
i will definitely come back (again) and recommend this to my friends

SILK ROAD Thai Bistro
Net Quad Corporate Center,
4th Ave. cor 31st St. Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City

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