Christmas of 2011 was by far the strangest Christmas experience for my family. Since my sister lives in India, my mom decided to fly us all out to India to spend Christmas together. While I was only able to run one day (5 miles on a treadmill in a open, polluted gym) it was still quite an experience. Even if you follow all the rules about what not to eat and drink, there’s a good chance you’ll get a stomachache. Mine is a little oversensitive as is, so I ate a lot of granola bars on this trip!
My brother, Greg, and I arrived at Hyderabad airport in the early morning hours after spending a couple of days in the lovely city of Lisbon, Portugal. The rest of my family had arrived a few hours before. I was lucky enough to get a much-appreciated upgrade to the Business Class cabin on British Airways. Incredibly appreciated! We visited a few places and attractions while I was there, and my sister’s driver drove us anywhere we needed to go. I would NEVER want to navigate the crowded streets of India! It seemed like nobody followed any kind of traffic laws, nobody stayed within a lane, and the traffic cameras at intersections consisted of uniformed men with digital cameras, just trying to get snapshots of wrongdoings. We also saw rickshaws with like 10 people in them!
Of all the places we visited, we spent the longest time here. We had a nice tour guide take us all around the fort and explain the history and architecture. He seemed especially proud of the plumbing for drinking water, and my dad was definitely interested in all the history of the place. During the educational part of the journey, I took some pictures of my sister.
This was our first real experience in India. Lots of kids and even adults gawked at us, with our pale skin, western clothing, and expensive cameras. Greg and Alex had fun as celebrities, and my Dad got quite a bit of attention himself.
I think my Dad would get that kind of attention anywhere though – check out his getup below. :)
The coolest thing about Golconda fort was the hand-clap feature. If you clap your hands together at a certain point in the bottom dome, the sound travels up to the highest point of the upper pavilion. This spot is something like 1K away from the dome, which is some pretty advanced stuff for a 14th century structure. We could hear the clap clearly from the top point, and it served as a warning system in the case of an attack.
Our First Indian Meal!
After Golconda fort, we headed to a restaurant in Hi-Tech City for our first Indian meal. Palak paneer, butter chicken, garlic naan, lamb, and all kinds of other soupy, creamy, ghee-filled dishes were included.
We didn’t spend a lot of time at Chomawalla. By the time we got here, we were pretty much over the sightseeing for the day. Instead, we got yelled at by a security guard for climbing up the statues to take pictures. Pretty standard thing to happen on one of our family vacations.
Taj Falaknuma Palace
On Christmas Eve we enjoyed British Afternoon Tea at the Taj Falaknuma Palace. It was super fancy, and this is apparently where all the ruling white Brits stayed back when India was still under British rule. Moving from the crowded Indian streets to this huge expanse of luxury makes you feel guilty to be a white westerner.
It was really pretty cool, and we all enjoyed Masala Chai and Assam Orthodox teas, as well some British bites. We had several little sandwiches, salmon with caviar, and little bites of Tiramisu!
The Laad Bazaar Market at Charminar
We went to a textile market near Jayme’s apartment, and my mom tasked us each with buying a fun gift at the market for under $10. There were some nice Pashminas there, which I wish I’d checked out, but Alex and I just wandered around on our own for a while, checking out the stalls. Most of them sold a lot of the same stuff, so it was about going to whoever would give you the best price. We found a section with some pretty interesting ikea-esque ceramics, but most of the other items were random trinkets.
The best part of Charminar was the entertainment! We saw lots of colorful dances – definitely a cool cultural experience here.
This was really cool, mostly because of all the wild monkeys at the entrance to the fort. When we arrived, someone was feeding them, so they were jumping all around, playing, fighting, and glaring at us. That was a quite a spectacle, and it was incredibly entertaining!
Christmas Brunch at the Westin
We rounded out our stay in Hyderabad with a lovely Western brunch with all of the other Expats that my sister knew. Lots of food here from a variety of cultures, and plenty of champagne, mimosas, and tea for all. This was the only place in all of our time in India where we were served beef, and the only time we could eat fresh or raw vegetables. I still got a stomachache after this though!
Even though it was crazy packed here at the Taj Mahal, it was really cool, and we had a lot of fun. It would have been cooler to go when there weren’t so many other people around though.
It was SO CROWDED, and apparently it’s a big thing for people to go at dawn. We were there in the early evening just before sundown on a Monday, and it was crazy packed. It’s pretty crazy to think that this was built long before the industrial revolution here in the states, yet it’s one of the more magnificent structures on the planet. Made of marble.
We all had to cover our shoes with these little baggies because the Taj is kind of a sacred place. This pictures shows another one of those crazy sound features. If you whisper into one corner, people in the corner across the room can hear you, even when nobody else can.