UAE & India 2015
- Make Tomorrow Today, Please
- Hello Tomorrow
- Top of the World
- Feasting Like Camel Nomads
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
- Saadiyat Rhymes with India
- Fifty Shades of Brown
- Yes They Do!
- The End Is A New Beginning
- UAE & India Extras
Having seen Charminar, we were satisfied with sightseeing in Hyderabad. But waking up this morning gave us different ideas… why not do more?
QUTAB SHAHI TOMBS & GOLCONDA FORT
We got another hotel car and asked the driver to take us to Golconda Fort. In what we originally thought was a misunderstanding due to the language barrier – later believed to be a scheme between the drivers and the tour guides – we were taken to the Qutab Shahi Tombs. It actually worked out well, as this historic site was equally impressive. Additionally, we got a great tour guide (for a cost 10x the admission) who made our morning fun and educational.
This site buried six kings of the Qutab Shahi Dynasty, with the seventh being built when the Moguls took over. The dude who founded Hyderabad and laid the foundation for Charminar rests here. Compared to the Chinese counterparts, these royal tombs had an open design, did not contain any earthly treasures, and buried some individuals outside the royal family. It was a foreign feeling to be walking into these domed structures thinking that the original builders did not try (very hard) to prevent us from doing so.
“This tomb is better than Taj Mahal because it is older” – guide
“See the reflection pool here? The design is just like Taj Mahal!” – guide. Note the floating garbage.
Asim the tour guide made an assumption that we were continuing onto the Golconda Fort next, and offered to accompany us for another fee. We smelled something shady here, but had no intention to over-complicate a $20 USD deal. We actually really liked him – not only did he speak better English than everyone else we had met in this city, his ability to recite numbers (dates, dimensions of buildings, etc) and to explain historical events was on-par with the best tour guides we had had. So we gladly accepted his proposal and welcomed him into our hotel car.
The hotel drivers’ English completely sucked.
The one yesterday at least responded “No, it’s Friday” when Hong asked whether it was going to rain.
This one today could not even pretend to understand us.
Our tour guide ended up helping us translate some important instructions.
The admission Hong and I paid ($3) was enough to get 40 Indians into this fort!
Visiting the Golconda Fort was like visiting the Great Wall. It was clearly in ruins without a current purpose any more, but you could tell from what remained in place how glorious it had been in its prime. Asim demonstrated how the building transmitted and amplified sound over very long distances, and explained the water pumping system. We really wanted to hike up the hill, but noon was approaching and our kids were fed up with the heat.
Asim was eager to show us everything but we knew we were hitting the limit.
Main entrance to the fort.
Hyderabad’s 95 degrees at noon was so comfortable compared to Dubai’s 95 degrees at midnight. Still, it was hot.
The Complete Outback Package… kangaroo in the front, koala in the back, and a camera in the hand.
East Asians were a rarity in India (odd, because we make up one in every four people on this planet). A lot of people approached us to take pictures or touch our kids.
On the way back to the hotel, we picked up McDonald’s for lunch:
Most of the menu items here were different from the U.S. counterpart.
We were on a quest to sample all sorts of McDonald’s regional specialties.
One thing that I’m still not sure how I feel about is the presence of security in Hyderabad. I thought NYC was paranoid, but it was nothing like this city. For example, to reach our lunch venue, I had to walk through this metal detector and get a thorough pad-down by the “MI-6 Security” personnel.
Never before had I needed a body-search before purchasing French fries.
Not only was fast food secure, our hotel also had its own safety protocols. Even as recognized hotel guests returning in a hotel car, all our belongings had to go through the scanner again.
Just in case you managed to sneak in what you shouldn’t, and went up to the second floor via the elevator that required a key card to operate, there was yet another security check point!
Why? Because the British consulate was there… right in between all those guest rooms.
Did a creep follow you back to the hotel? Worry not. Your friend here will take care of it.
Finally, after all the travels and sightseeing, the Big Day event was here. Hong stayed in the hotel with the kids for their nap, while a few vans shuttled the rest of us to the wedding venue.
You’d think the local drivers knew their way, but we were mistakenly taken to St. Joseph’s Cathedral, where another wedding was apparently taking place.
Thanks to Google Maps and AT&T’s international data roaming, we arrived at St. George’s Church that was merely a block away. This 170-year-old building was Hyderabad’s first Christian church.
We had a good wait with only overhead fans and no A/C. Compared to the UAE, though, the temperature here was quite comfortable.
This man was the reason so many of us were in India.
Correction… this woman was the reason so many of us were in India.
The ceremony went more or less the same way an American church wedding would, except for a slightly different order of things (i.e. they were pronounced married before the sermon took place), and there was no “you may now kiss the bride” part. The newlywed looked really happy.
After the ceremony, the crowd waited outside to shower the couple with yellow rice.
Everyone was disappointed that Dr. J did not ride on an elephant. He did get a Jaguar, though.
Congratulations Joel and Preeti!
The reception in the evening was less of a party and more of a fashion show. The guys bought sherwanis and the girls had their sarees (gift from Dr. J) tailored, in advance of heading to India. The sarees were apparently so complicated, that the girls had to arrange for local hotel staff to help each of them put it on. The result was an awesome showcase of colors.
The Bay Area buddies.
The girls forming a rainbow.
The Hou Family ladies.
Five math nerds and someone who I hope will also enjoy math.
Of course, Dr. J and Preeti rocked the most fabulous outfits of the night.
It took a lot of waiting in line for our family to have this opportunity to be photographed with the stars.
And the night went on. Hundreds of people took turns to get their photos taken with the newlyweds, that they must have sat there modeling for over four hours. As the party thinned out deeper into the night, the big group of our coworkers did the usual by starting our own after party at the hotel bar. Hong and I brought the kids. Yup, Ting at the age of 8 months went to a happy hour 🙂