Writing Inspiration from Tribhuvan International Airport

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Time was so fast. Yesterday afternoon I was still exploring Basantapur area. But now it was four in the morning. I had just soaked myself under a warm shower of Shangrila Butique Hotel. After making sure that nothing was left behind, I immediately went to reception desk to check-out and a step later I was down on the streets of Thamel. Dark, empty and full of worries.

I continued down the street and hoping to found a taxi soon, while from behind in the dark I heard footsteps of several people accompanied by Nepalese chants that made my heart beat faster. I dared to look back, five young men quickly walked after me. I couldn’t seem to walk any faster because my backpack was weighing me down on my back. I seemed resigned if something happened when they actually caught up with me.

Plakk“, the hand of one of them tightly patted my right shoulder. “Oh, God“, I quickly thought responded.

Good morning, Brothers. Are you happy in Nepal?”, he said while accompanying my steps which were already slowing down in fear.

Hi….Yeaaa, nice country”, I said louder than usual just to show courage.

Good….Be careful, bro”, he quickly passed me while the other four friends looked at me with a light smile and simultaneously said “Hi”.

Oh, God thank you for still sending good people to greet me in the dark of the morning.

Arriving at an intersection, there were rows of taxis queuing up to transport passengers. The leading taxi flashed a flash of light at me and I raised my hand in response that I would use his services.

Airport, sir….How much?”, I curtly asked.

Seven hundreds Rupees“, he answered as he grabbed my backpack which closed my intention to bid.

Ok“, there was no other answer I can come up with.

The taxi was speeding fast without a barrier in Pashupati Road which of course was still quiet. Less than 20 minutes, the taxi arrived to Tribhuvan International Airport.

At half past six in the morning, the airport was still closed and quiet.

There wasn’t much I could do, I just waited at the airport police desk which looked empty while still staring at the international gate and hoping that its door would open soon because it was very cold outside.

Slowly the passengers arrived.

Do you Indonesian, brother?“, the joke came from behind. I looked left and right, there was no one beside me. The voice was clearly asking me. I looked back and saw a woman in her 30s smiling at me.

 “Hi Mam, how do you know I’m from Indonesia?“, I replied smiling back.

That’s it, Sir“, she pointed to one of my backpack pockets which wasn’t completely closed and slightly revealed the red and white flag which I had worn four days ago at Sarangkot.

As a result we talked to each other while waiting for the gate to open. It turned out that she was a graduate of a well-known university in Indonesia and a senior worker at an oil exploration company in Bangladesh. After traveling to Nepal, she would return to his hometown via New Delhi.

On the plane with me to New Delhi, she continued to fly with Singapore Airlines which transiting Singapore. Meanwhile I would explore New Delhi and Agra first.

The gate had been opened, I immediately went to check-in counter. The process took a little longer, I overheard the whispers between them and said the word “internet connection“. No wonder my online check-in process failed last night.

First time flying with Jet Airways.

Then in another row of immigration counters, I saw her having a warm conversation with the immigration officer. Her english was very fluent. Shee briefly explained to me in the waiting room that immigration officers in Asia tend to be more flexible than officers in Europe and America. Of course I believed that.

Waiting Room in Tribhuvan International Airport.
She treated me to a cup of chiya until the plane arrived.

I could say, she who disn’t want to be named was a person who inspired me to write and share every travel experience which I did so that I could support every traveler with information. She herself was never able to write because she was very busy, even though she had extraordinary stories. One was when she was able to survive a desert storm which hit her in Kuwait.

Jet Airways flying 9W 0263 was ready. I came out of the waiting room to apron. There was one uniqueness that I have never experienced before, namely when there was an inspection of each passenger’s cabin baggage in the extension area right in front of the plane door. Hilarious and fun experience.

OK, it was time to fly.

See you later Nepal. Welcome India.

Hypothermia Danger at Taj Express towards New Delhi

I was chased by a little beggar who didn’t satisfy because I only gave him a chocolate which I brought from Jakarta since a week ago. “No….I need money,” he said while he continued to follow me from behind. Even when I unpacked my backpack to control whether any suspicious objects which enter in it after I have put it in taxi baggage for a full day, he still stood while endlessly raving in front of me who squatted in station corner to tidy up my backpack. “Hi kid….I don’t have much money … Sorry”, I brought my face closer for about an inch from his face. He was smile while showing his rabbit teeth.

At exactly 17:00 hours, I smoothly passed a metal detector of Agra Cantt station, although a mustachioed police continuosly watched me. A step later, I headed to platform and looked for Taj Express 12279 departure information on a simple LCD board. Temperature is listed at 12 degrees….”Starts to cool”, I thought….”Delay”, my brain recorded a information. Even though I should leave Agra on 18:40 hours.

Ticket class CC (Chair Car) which its price was only USD 3.8 certainly didn’t have access to station lounge which offers warm air and good food in it. Sadly, I was scattered with ecomomic passengers along Agra Cantt station’s platform which grew colder.

Trains passed over and over again that continuously promising a hope….But it wasn’t immediately arrived.

The longer I seated, my fingers began to get numb. Damn….I brought wrong clothes, my jacket wasn’t thick enough. Sometimes toilet became a temporary place to refuse freezing. But it couldn’t be long, the paid toilet spread urine smell to everywhere.

The temperature was below 10 Celsius degrees when entering on 10 pm….”an alert” for me.

I was unable to hide panic when temperature touched 7 Celsius degrees. My socks which were penetrated cold and slowly getting wet made me feel like I’m soaking feet in ice water. While a double t-shirt under my jacket was unable to capture body heat….I started to lightly shiver in the middle of night.

Look at that Indian boy!….I wanted to take away his blanket.

Resistance used a small cup of chai (a pulled tea) and a small burger didn’t last long. Finally I just kept moving to overcome the cold.

Taj Express approached the station around 1:30 hours in the morning. I was absurdly excited to enter the coach, but my hope vanished when I didn’t feel a change in temperature after 5 minutes sat on the coach. No wonder…Apparently, there were small gaps in all train windows which put cold air into….Oooops.

Even that dirty bench didn’t disgust me because my focus was only against the cold.

Even more annoying, the train was completely motionless almost 40 minutes after arriving. Now, condition at coach inside wasn’t different from condition at station’s platform. While local passengers had fallen asleep and tightly closed with their blankets, while I was still busy to fight against to the increasingly threatening air. I began to think about hypothermia. Panic began to grow in my brain.

The coach which couldn’t save me from being cold.

I didn’t care anymore even though train continued to slowly approach New Delhi. I really huddled panting. I chewed a last burger to generate body heat so that it extended my effort to conquering cold.

The more machinist increased train speed, the more I couldn’t move. I looked like having no hope, huddled and rigidly hugging backpack all the way. Only prayer as the last weapon which I have. At 3 Celsius degrees and all feet got wet, palm puckered and lips cracked, I felt like having a hard breathing.

3 hours 10 minutes, I really looked like a statue until finally I was able to jump from the seat and made sure about what I saw across window. Yes….That was Metro Delhi train…. I arrived. Oh, not yet…. it was still half an hour before actually arriving. The last half an hour that made me able to faintly smile before entered Hazrat Nizamuddin station in New Delhi.

Goodbye Agra and welcome to New Delhi.

Thank you God.

Jhelum Express from New Delhi to Agra

It was time to execute the ticket.

11078 which was my departure number only appeared once on display board. After a long time, it didn’t appear, I sat on platform and continued to observe that display board….It’s gone!

Endless waiting on platform 4.

Me: “Sir, can you give me some information?. My train number 11078 is never appear again in that display board. Even though my train will depart on 10:15 am.”.

He: “If your train number disappears from the screen. That means your train is getting delay. “Haze storms” which routinely occur every year indeed often make many trains delay for hours.”

I went back to counter and asked about this problem. They only apologized and confirmed that train was delayed. He estimated that train will leave at 16:00….God.

To drove away endless boredom, I headed for Khan Market. Instead of being stunned, I’d better collected a tourist destination in New Delhi to share with you about it….Later, I will definitely write it.

A corner of Khan Market, New Delhi.

—-****—-

On 14:00 hours…. Ensuring every bond and lock in backpack, I immediately headed to New Delhi Railway Station to ride Jhelum Express which would soon come to pick me up.

An extraordinary curiosity to immediately mingle with Indians in an economy class train, making me be the most impatient person in the world that afternoon.

Portrait of inequality in India’s Capital.

The dull red locomotive shrill screams when approaching me, grimacing and bite the rails to precisely stop on platform 4.

The locomotive hadn’t completely stopped each wagons yet, passengers were running….crowding in front of wagons. I just smiled and was stunned by uniqueness of Indian citizens. While they crammed, I was still busy understanding the wagon numbering because there were wagon numbered 10 and 10A. Very unique person who has the idea of numbering system like that. After back and forth, I finally found my wagon….Yups, Wagon S3 seat No. 41 Low Berth (lower seat).

It was true, the complexity which I imagined from the beginning when buying a ticket occurred. The train inside was very crowded and made it feel cramped.

The allocated seat of three passengers facing each other plus one long folding stool above my head which is used as a sleeper seat (Upper Berth)….Ah, I loved it. an amazing condition.

Hello Sir, excuse me“, a young man passed in front of me holding his wife hand and sat facing me. A sinless smile makes my lips do the same thing. How not, now, in front of me has sat 4 passengers on seats which should for only three passengers….Haha.

While the train was running, I hear faint bluff which is either angry or just normally like that. A fat and whiskered conductor checked his guest tickets one by one. A passenger in opposite side of my seat was scolded, He was unable to showing his ticket, then he showed a laminated card from his wallet. And I didn’t know what was that, It was being able to effectively drove out that fat conductor….Damn.

A office worker in front left of me took out a something from his bag. Like Indian films, their culture is still upheld. He held up high a long stack of four stainless steel dinner box with curry scented. If he knew my heart’s face, he would have smiled when see it was roar laughing….Oh God, this was an original Indian. As if it was be a trigger, another passenger on my left and right was doing the same thing.

Their generosity emanated when they offered me to eat together as a family on train. Did I accept? Nup….I also brought out a local burger package with price about USD 0.75 which I purchased at station’s platform that afternoon. Let’s eat together….Ahhaaa.

A passenger at window seat became the busiest person on our journey because he had to keep closing a wooden window whose locking hooks were worn out. Every few minutes, that window would automatically open and put super cold air into wagon.

Maybe that condition was used by “chai” seller to focus on my wagon to sell his wares. “Chai“, another name for “pulled tea” which be legendary in Dhaka, be favorite in India and spreading to Malaysia. Excited, the stack of paper cups which he held was getting shorter. He would go home with a multiple profit this time.

Cuteness of a children’s toy seller made whole train passenger endlessly burst out laughing. He throwed a rubber spiderman every where as he pleased. Amazingly, the spiderman could perfectly stick….Haha. It was be an entertainment to forget many problems at that day which they have faced.

Guys….When did the last time our trains (Indonesia’s trains) still had sellers of all kinds inside it?….Hahaha….I forgot. It was long time a rule about seller restriction in our trains.

The train which stopped….brought down its passenger….took its passengers….Then drove back and kept repeating it at each station made me realize that there was never an announcement where did the train stopped?

Me: “How long will the train run to its last destination?”

He: “Jhelum Express will stop in Pune on 6 am tomorrow morning

Me: “Thanks Sir”, I bitterly smiled with worry.

Now, my enemy was one….i.e Information….the absence of data packets in my gadget further strengthened my mortal enemy that night. I had to asking questions a lot to defeat it.

Me: “Where will you stop, Sir?”

He: “At Mathura Junction Station

Me: “Do you know Agra Cantt Station?

He: “Sure, 2 stops after my station

Me: “Oh, nice”, I was relieved…. Once he got down, I just had to count 2x stops. That was Agra Cantt.

He: “Are you from China?

Me: “No, I’m Indonesian”.

He: “What for do you go to Agra?”

Me: “Taj Mahal, Sir

He: “Oh, very happy to hear Indonesian goes to Taj Mahal

Me: “Taj Mahal….My dream to visiting it

He: “Nice”. Shaking my hand with his happiness which can’t hidden.

That was 10 minutes conversation before he got off at Mathura Junction Station. After that I would get off at next two stops namely Agra Cantt Station.

A side of Agra Cantt Station.

I finally arrived in Agra on 20:30 hours.

It was time to go to hotel….Then slept.

SCAM….Something Real in India

Hotel Staff: “Go to New Delhi Railway Station platform 1 floor 1!“, a short answer was spoken by beautiful staff who still looked busy in accepting traveler from various nations.

Me: “Thank you, honey Ms”.

Oh yes, looking for the nearest dormitory from MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) station is a habit which has been in me.

I started to open GoStops Delhi Hostel’s door and passed a few disadvantaged citizens. It was touched when the sun’s rays were the only thing which could help warm them who were still asleep curled up on an old foam mattress which I couldn’t know how they got it.

300 meters later I arrived at Delhi Gate Metro Station. Passing a X-ray gate every time when I entered MRT station in New Delhi made me feel safe while using train on its track.

Let’s see inside of subway station in New Delhi….This is Indira Gandhi Airport Metro Station when I first time arrived in India.

Going through Delhi Metro Violet Line and then transferring to Yellow Line at Kashmere Gate Metro Station, so at third station I arrived at New Delhi Metro Station.

Arriving at final destination, I had to move between two modes of train which weren’t integrated. Leaving clean and well-maintained New Delhi Metro Station to New Delhi Railway Station which is more than just dirty. The distance between them is only around 450 meters.

Walking 6 minutes, I arrived in front of New Delhi Railway Station.

From a connecting bridge between platforms, I noticed that Indian Railways officer sprayed water on railroad track. I thought they were so disciplined to reduce dust rate in air, it turns out some time later I knew that they were cleaning railroad tracks from human waste …. # unique.

Upss….The incident arrived:

Scammer: “Where will you go, Sir?”

Me: “Agra.

Scammer: “Let me help you to get the ticket.”

Me: “Oh thanks. Based information from my hotel that ticket counter is on platform 1 floor 1.”

Scammer: “Oh, yes. But It’s Friday. So, the counter is closed. You can get the ticket at left side of this station.

Me: “Oh, OK.

Either “Unknow” or “Stupid“, I followed all his instructions. A handsome young man didn’t accompany my steps, so there wasn’t slightest suspicion in my brain. Amazingly, there was a person at a station gate who seemed to directing me about where ticket sales counter was located. He was obviously directing me to an office at end of road on the left.

Oh, this is a travel agent’s office, not an Indian Railways office“, I thought. I canceled to going up the next step and turned to leave their office. Even though one of them continued to chase me, I smoothly insisted by saying that I would postpone my departure to Agra until tomorrow, so that I could reduce his emotions that seemed to be rising.

Huftt….I was safe now. Second scam which happened to me after the first one which happened in Bangkok at end of 2013.

—-****—-

Relieving which felt doubled because in addition to being able to find International Tourist Bureau ticket sales office on platform 1 floor 1, I also got a bonus for protect mysely in this office from New Delhi’s cold weather that made me feel frozen.

The modest office is beautified with excellent ticket sales officer consulting services for every tourist. So you have to be patient for waiting for your queue number to be called by sales officer because one buyer could consult for about 10-15 minutes, some even more. Not a problem for me, a longer queue time would be better because I didn’t need to be cold in out of office.

Jhelum Express ticket for about USD 2.9 was already in my hand.

Let’s go to Agra….Visiting Taj Mahal….Yuhuuu.

5 Agra’s Tourist Attraction in 10 Hours

SEVERE……….

A fog storm in northern India has robbed more than six hours of my time. But my aggravation was defeated by my own vulnerability against India’s cold air .

Fog calamity in India

Jhelum Express pulled up at Agra on 8:30 pm. Do you want to hear my story in using their economic train….Just wait….HORRIBLE !!!.

There was nothing I could do that night. Temperature almost touched zero degree Celsius, even air quickly cooled fried noodles I bought at street food stall. Even Indian spices which are stinging, I still couldn’t feel because a frozen began to hit my tongue.

I was like a coward hiding under the blanket of GoStops Hostel while waiting for the electricity to fill all my “electronic friends”.

Hotel staff: “You must be grateful to be an Indonesian. You can easily go everywhere. Not like me, getting a passport is very difficult. Our government protect their citizen from getting difficult life at out of our country. I had waited for two years to get a passport, I hope I will get this year. I want go around the world like you

Me: “Don’t worry, you will get it, my friend. You will go to my country also sometimes.  One thing that should made you proud with India. Your currency is more stronger than my currency…..Aaannnnddddd, Your country have great histories and cultures in the world.

It was a bit of a serious conversation before I entered room, and a slightly intellectual conversation after previously I only talked to Jhelum Express’ passengers who sitting in front of me and also to taxi driver who transferred me from Agra Cantt Station to hotel.

—-****—-

OKAY….A morning has came

Automatically, I only had 10 valuable hours to explore Agra starting on 7:00 in the morning. This time I wouldn’t justify myself to use public transportation….Too tight….Luckily, I did sharing costs with fellow backpacker roommates for a taxi services which was willing to be chartered until afternoon. Because in the afternoon, I would go to New Delhi. I just needed to spend USD 4.4 for my entire transportation fee.

1. Taj Mahal

Didn’t daring to touch water to wash myself, I rushed into a taxi which was ready in front of hostel. That morning….Fog was so thick which even the morning sun was unable to uncover it.

Yes, finally….I headed for dream destination of tourists all over the world….Taj Mahal

Taxi moved north along Agra-Bah Road. Not far away, only 3.5 km which is traveled in 15 minutes. Taxi stopped at edge of road, I was only remember a sign “Malik Tour & Travel” as a marker.

Bajaj service for USD 2.9 became a next connector toward Taj Mahal West Gate Ticket Office. I spend USD 7.25 to get a entry ticket.

Every inchies in Taj Mahal always carried an impression, a only thing which really disturbed all tourists was fog which made them feel annoyed because they couldn’t capture themselves with this historical building.

Taj Mahal was captured from Mehtab Bagh.

This mainstay of Uttar Pradesh State Tourism is truly impressive. A tomb which is dedicated to Mumtaz Mahal (wife of emperor Shah Jahan) is able to attract 8 million tourists from all over the world each year. One of UNESCO World Heritage Sites which you must visit if you enter Mahabharata land.

2. Itimad ud Daulah Tomb

Two hours of absorbing and enjoying the beauty of Taj Mahal which is almost entirely wrapped in white marble had carved a doctrine in my brain that the world is really beautiful.

Let’s go back to hostel to took a bath and ate a simple free-breakfast which was served by hostel. I immediately packed my backpack for check-out and put it in taxi luggage. After enjoying Agra Fort later, I would immediately go to New Delhi.

Located at 4.5 km north of Taj Mahal, this site offers tranquility and comfort. Unlike with Taj Mahal which is noisy with visitors. Similar but don’t as big as Taj Mahal which make it known as the “Baby Taj“.

A building which inspires architectural style of Taj Mahal.

If Taj Mahal is dedicated to Mumtaz Mahal, the construction of Itimad ud Daulah is dedicated to Mumtaz Mahal’s grandfather named Mirza Ghiyas Beg.

I don’t want to tell much….Visit it, yes!…Yuhuuuuu !!!!

3. Yamuna River

An hour moved quickly. My intention to immediately rushed to next destination ran aground. I was stunned by appearance of a dry river which stretched so broadly, as if showing off its beauty to all who were seeing, crossing or even living in it.

Located at west of Itimad ud Daulah.…Nice.

Guys….That’s Yamuna River….All my life, It was first time to saw a river which very wide like it.

Considered by Hindus as the Goddess Yamuna.

The river which is originating from Yamunotri glacier at Uttarakhand State looked receding and exposed to various forms of waste such as plastic and liquid waste which are easily guessed from its smell. .

4. Mehtab Bagh

Next two kilometers to south….

Licking, sipping and gently swallowing French fries with curry-flavored salt became my next unimportant activity….Set aside for about USD 0.7 to try some street culinary in India! I guarantee that you will be impressed.

Guys, I was already on a side of wide and romantic park….Mehtab Bagh is its name.

Mehtab Bagh” itself has a meaning which is similar to a meaning of pair of words in English i.e “Moonlight Garden“…Yes, how romantic is it?

It was said that….Shah Jahan would build a Black Taj Mahal in this park. But it was never achieved..

It is often been King’s stopover to enjoy beauty of Taj Mahal which is located at opposite it and is only separated by Yamuna River.

The price of admission ticket for USD 2.9 is nothing compared to the beauty of park which you can safely enjoy. Safe?….Yes, park was guarded by two fully armed soldiers who always walk around park.

5. Agra Fort

Masala Tea = 90 Rupee….This is USD 1.2

Egg Fried Rice = 150 Rupee….This is USD 2.1

That was my lunch menu at “The Master Chef” Restaurant at Fatehabad Road before heading to my last destination in Agra….#sad.

Located 2.5 km northwest of Taj Mahal, Agra Fort is also a World Heritage Site which is very prominent in its red color.

The walled city of Agra Fort….Amazing.

You have to pay USD 7.2 to directly imagine how is the Mughal emperor living in Agra Fort.

Walking around as much as you can in Agra Fort before parting with Agra city. I traced one by one of part in this fort.

Entering Diwan-i-Am like Mughal people who are complaining, or entering Diwan-i-Khas like an important royal guest who is being entertained by the king.

Feel the luxury of Jahangiri Mahal, which is a special palace for king’s wife then sat down to relax in Anguri Bagh which was used by women member of kingdom as a royal garden.

And as a Muslim, I also feel obliged to visit Moti Mosque in Agra Fort as a worship place for all kingdom members.

—-****—-

A short time that introduced me to an ancient city in northern India. City whose its architecture influences many building creations around the world.

Make sure that you visit it longer than me because historical values of this city are so high and can’t be enjoyed in an instant time.