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Air India is the flag carrier of India. They recently joined the Star Alliance network, resulting in a standardized experience across all Star Alliance carriers. In doing this network of carriers, Air India had upgraded its lounge offerings to allow for consistent access and levels of service. We had the ability to visit the Air India Domestic Lounge in Indira Ghandi New Delhi Terminal 3 on our travels through the city.


This post is one chapter on our third Round the World trip via South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, the Maldives and India. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport (World of Hyatt) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.


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Review: Air India Maharajah Domestic Lounge, Indira Ghandi International Airport Terminal Three, New Delhi, India

“Air India elevates its lounge offerings as a result of joining the Star Alliance network. Their new domestic lounge in New Delhi Terminal Three was among the newest and cleanest Star Alliance Lounges in the system.”


Getting to Indira Ghandi International Airport:

Our next day, we checked out of The Leela Palace New Delhi. We were sorry to leave after a nice stay. We enjoyed a cup of Masala Chai tea in the Royal Club Lounge while the bill was prepared and we completed check out on the ninth floor. 

We were transferred to Indira Gandi Airport in a white BMW X5. After forty minutes drive, we arrived at the New Delhi Indira Ghandi International Airport Domestic Terminal Three.

The Leela Hotel Car Transfer

Checking Into Air India:

We passed the elephants in the departure hall and checked in with Air India. I had debated purchasing a business class fare, but the price difference for the 40-minute flight didn’t seem to justify the fare difference. Considering it was to be another “dry” experience and that it seemed you could buy your way into the Air India lounges for around $10, it didn’t seem worth the four times the price upcharge. We had only 15 Kg of baggage allowance on the stripper fare but presenting an expired Air Canada Star Gold Card seemed to satisfy Air India enough to waive the excess baggage charges. It also seemed that the reservation grabbed our Air Canada status at the time of booking our ticket (which was indeed Star Gold). We were also issued a hand written lounge invitation for the Air India Lounge. 

Elephant Sculptures in the New Delhi Domestic Terminal
India Ghandi Departures Hall

Locating the Air India Maharajah Lounge:

We were quickly screened in the segregated by sex screening checkpoint (the security checkpoints in India are segregated by sex) and headed over to the Air India lounge. The lounge is located above most of the retail and can be accessed via convenient escalators or a sole elevator.

Indira Ghandi International Airport: Terminal Three Domestic
Map Courtesy of India Ghandi International Airport Website

We passed through a very London Heathrow like departure concourse complete with shopping, WH Smith bookstores and other shops. 

Indiria Ghandi Domestic Retail Zone: Lounge accessed by the back escalators

The Air India Domestic Lounge is immediately above the departure shopping concourse. As you approach the entrance, you just have to look for the Air India dancing maharajah that’s about the height of a 4 year old.

The Entry to the Air India Maharajah Domestic Lounge; as viewed from the main concourse

Accessing the Air India Maharajah Lounge:

We gained access thanks to Star Alliance Gold Level Membership courtesy of the Air Canada Aeroplan Elite program..

The Air India Maharajah Business Lounge is designed as the departure lounge for all Air India passengers in addition to Star Alliance Business Class travellers. Access is provided for

Air India / Star Alliance members departing on regular flights:

  • Business Class passengers
  • Economy Class Air India Flying Returns Golden Edge Club Member plus one guest
  • Air India Maharajah Club members plus two guests
  • Star Alliance Gold members plus one guest

At the time of our visit, Air India was offering the ability for paid lounge access to this location for 500 Indian Rupees or $10 USD per person, regardless of carrier.

As mentioned earlier, today’s access was granted courtesy of a Star Alliance Gold Level Membership in the Air Canada Aeroplan program.

The Dancing Air India Maharajah Awaits
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Inside the Air India Maharajah Business Lounge:

Once we were admitted inside, we discovered a much more attractive space than our past experience at the Air India Maharajah Chennai Madras Domestic Lounge. The Air India New Delhi Domestic lounge appeared to have recently been refurbished with new furnishings, clean fixtures and a comfortable environment. In fact, it was probably one of the nicest, cleanest Star Alliance lounges I’ve ever been in.

Any chances this refurbishment was to come in line with Air India’s joining of Star Alliance? Either way you decide, the hard furnishings were a great value for a lounge that was only $10 USD to enter. The seating areas were clean and the lounge didn’t get a whole lot of traffic while we were on our visit.

Comfortable Loungers styled in Browns and Beiges
Ample Space Available Today
Televisions and Flight Screens served as entertainment

Unusually, the lounge offered couches for seating. We haven’t seen a lot of couches in lounges since lounge seating is usually on individual chairs. However, it’s always nice to be able to sit together on a couch if you happen to be travelling with your significant other.

The Unusual Air India Lounge Couches

Food and Beverage:

Unfortunately, the food and beverage offering was not the lounges strongest feature. Like our Air India Maharajah Domestic Lounge Chennai Madras, it was another dry location, with only Pepsi, orange Fanta and water to drink. Some Indian food was available on the buffet, although it was nothing too appetizing after the wonderful breakfast and lunch at we had experienced earlier at The Leela Palace New Delhi.

The Bottom Line: The Air India Maharajah Lounge New Delhi:

Our visit to the Air India Maharajah Lounge was a basic but super clean operation. While the interior of the lounge was nice, the food and beverage was not too exciting. Would it have been worth $10 a pay visit? Maybe. It’s probably cheaper than purchasing a wifi pass from the airport authority and you’d get a free samosa at the same time. All in all, it was a nice lounge but not a big reason to get to the airport early.


If you’ve visited the Air India Maharajah Business Lounge in New Delhi, did you have a similar experience?

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The second half of our time in Agra, India was spent at the other great attraction in Agra; the Agra Fort. The two locations are interconnected in the history of Agra, India. While you’d never mistake the Agra Fort for the main attraction in town, it’s well worth a visit on any trip to Agra. A visit to the Agra Fort will allow for a greater understanding of the local history and the symbolism of India.


This post is one chapter on our third Round the World trip via South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, the Maldives and India. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport (World of Hyatt) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.


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The Walled City of The Agra Fort, Agra, India

“The world’s greatest gesture at love that resulted in one of the world’s most iconic structures”


After our drive from New Delhi to Agra, on arrival to Agra, we spent the morning enjoying The Taj Mahal. It was well worth the trip and the highlight of our time in Agra. We continued onward to take in the other attarction in the area, the Agra Fort.

About the Agra Fort:

The second half of the day was spent across town at the Agra Fort. The Agra Fort was initially built as a military structure, but later converted into a palace and prison for Shah Jahan when he was imprisoned there by his son Aurangzeb.

Visiting the Agra Fort:

The Amar Singh gate contained a zig zag design designed to foil intruders. It was pretty imposing to say the least.

The Amar Singh Gate of the Agra Fort
An imposing exterior
A Slim Entrance way
A Red Exterior

Once inside, this center of imprisonment was fit for a king. There were opulent gardens

Designed Lawns in front of the Jahangir Palace
Gated Entryways at the Jahangir Palace
Patterned Gardens at Anguri Bagh
Ornate Arches

There were opulent detailed interiors fit for a king. The Shish Mahal (Mirror Palace) had many walls inlaid with tiny mirrors. Other halls like this one pictured had detailed tiling. 

Detailed Interiors

Sadly, the Agra Fort had views of the Taj Mahal across the Yamanua River way where Shah Jahan would have had seen the Taj Mahal when he was imprisoned. He likely had a view from this terrace during many of his days. 

A View from Jail
A View of the River

The Agra Fort also held several receiving courts where the King could receive his subjects. 

A Receiving Area for the Kings’ Subjects

After our visit to the Agra Fort, we returned our guide in town and headed back to The Leela Palace. It was another three hour drive with a touch of traffic jam once back inside New Delhi past Guragon. 

How I felt about visiting the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort:

We traveled around the world to see the Taj Mahal. Overall, I found it was highly worth it. It was a travel sight that I’d wanted to see for quite a while and it was a neat experience having checked that sight off life’s list. It was a bit anti – climatic having seen the Taj Mahal. There are details to the Taj Mahal that are best researched in advance that will allow you to appreciate it more when you do visit. I felt satisfied with the day trip there. Some great worldwide tourist attractions, such as Macchu Picchu, Peru, are better after all the crowds have gone home and you have the place all to yourself. While that may have been the case here, I didn’t feel like I needed and yearned for more time. Seeing the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort in a day trip was perfectly fine by us. I also felt that we didn’t miss much staying in Agra either, although I enjoyed the very brief exposure that we had traveling through Agra. Overall, it’s a worthy travel destination that’s worth seeing, and I’d encourage all you adventuruous travels to make it here at least once in your traveling careers.


If you’ve travelled to see the Taj Mahal, how did you find your experience?

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Our travels to New Delhi had us visiting the world famous Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is one of those locations in the world that every serious traveller has to go and visit at least once. During our visit, we were able to take in all the major features of the palace, and happened to enjoy our visit on a day that didn’t have all too many visitors.


This post is one chapter on our third Round the World trip via South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, the Maldives and India. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport (World of Hyatt) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.


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The Greatest Ode to Love, The Taj Mahal, Agra, India

“The world’s greatest gesture at love that resulted in one of the world’s most iconic structures”


After our drive from New Delhi to Agra, on arrival to Agra, we picked up our local guide Ran at the Trident Hotel. We had our introductions and a quick washroom break after the 3 hour drive. We then traveled onward to East gate of the Taj Mahal. We had an airport styled security screening prior to entry.  

About the Taj Mahal:

The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan as a memorial for his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their fourteenth child. Her death left the emperor so heart broken, he decided to build a memorial and mausoleum in her memory. Construction took about 22 years until his son Aurangzeb over threw him in 1658 and kept him imprisoned in the Agra Fort on the other side of town. He passed away in 1666 and was entombed next to his wife underneath the Taj Mahal. 

Our visit started with the outer area of the entrance of the Taj Mahal. Of most interest with the outer area, we had a description of the inlaid calligraphy. The Islamic calligraphy was carved out of marble and inlaid in marble. Most interesting, the marble of the calligraphy was enlarged in size the higher up the sides of the arch way so that it would have an even and uniform appearance on the way up- despite the larger distance from the focal point.

Exterior Gates
Taj Mahal Outer Gates
Outer Gates with Inlaid Calligraphy in the Tiles
Inlaid calligraphy examples

The islamic calligraphy was quite impressive and would have taken months if not years to complete. The work was intricate and detailed.

Islamic Calligraphy
Detailing on the Scripture was exceptionally detail oriented

Viewing the Taj Mahal:

We entered in the main Taj Mahal compound area. We were fortunate that we didn’t have a busy day. The Taj Mahal is a beautiful structure to look at. It’s unlike any other building in the world, set among a fabulous love story behind it’s creation. The grounds are set amongst Persian styled gardens. Of interest is that the minarets that grace each of the four corners are slightly angled to fall outwards in the event of an earthquake so that they won’t destroy the Taj Mahal itself. The raised position of the building means that the only backdrop of the Taj Mahal is the sky. 

We finally made it
Persian Gardens in front of the Taj Mahal
A Gorgeous Building and a tribute towards love

Despite it’s overall awesomeness, I was expecting a little bit more. I’ve been describing our visit as “similar to seeing the Effiel Tower in Paris for the second time”. You recognize it from every postcard and photograph and when you see it- there it is. The best thing to do is to notice the features of the attraction prior to visiting so you can appreciate the attraction’s nuances. 

Beautiful Domes and Minarets
Intricate calligraphy on the structure

The Taj Mahal is said to feature intricate carvings that contain over 35 different precious and semi precious stones forming marble inlay work. The “peitra dura” is found on the inside and outside of the masoleum walls. 

Prints and calligraphy detailing surround the arches
Beautiful White Structures

Like on our outer Taj Mahal visit, the calligraphy was in laid directly into the stone, making the construction of this palace all that more impressive.

Inlaid detailed mosaics featuring flowers

We had a walk around the outside of the Taj Mahal structure, and eventually made it inside through the mausoleum. Photography is prohibited but I did sneak this photograph. The actual mausoleum is a level below so the one pictured here is supposedly a copy. 

Mausoleum Replica at the Taj Mahal

Another interesting feature of the Taj Mahal is of the red sandstone mosque on the West side of the Taj Mahal property. It’s made interesting as the designers built an identical empty mosque, the jawab that doesn’t face Mecca, on the oppsite side of the Taj Mahal for symmetry purposes.

The Mecca facing Mosque on the West Side of the Taj Mahal

Along with the identical copy on the East side that is empty.

A replica copy on the east side

Our entertaning tour guide asked that I take this photograph and post it to the Tourism India facebook page. He was frustrated that tourists (and guides) have to undergo an intensive security screening for every visit. Instead, this random dog is able to enter the Taj Mahal, likely unchallenged. He thought that this might embarrass the Indian government into actually providing proper security. 

A random dog enjoying a bath

MrsWT73 continued her popularity streak by posing for more photographs with all whom would ask. 

Photographs with Westerners
More photographs with the same family

We took a final look at the Taj Mahal adjacent to the courtyards before we left. 

Lavish Courtyards
Impressive Standstone

My thoughts on seeing The Taj Mahal:

The opportunity to see the Taj Mahal is a once in a lifetime experience. Similar to seeing other landmark tourist attractions, it was a little underwhelming at first, after you’d travelled all the way in order to see it. Having spent some time enjoying the Taj Mahal, and understanding its unique features, it allowed us a greater appreciation of the site. Looking back on the day, I really enjoyed the memory of our visit and was happy we made the long worldwide trip to see one of the greatest testaments to love that exist in modern history.


If you’ve travelled to see the Taj Mahal, how did you find your experience?

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We had debated on how to get from New Delhi to Agra in order to take in the Taj Mahal. The options included taking a train, a bus or a private car. We ended up with the private car courtesy of our hotel. This option allowed us the experience of having freedom of time, in addition to being able to stop on demand for sights and scenes at a whim. It would turn out to be the right choice for us, even if the trip up was a little sterile.


This post is one chapter on our third Round the World trip via South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, the Maldives and India. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport (World of Hyatt) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.


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Overland Travel: New Delhi to Agra, India via a BMW 525d Luxury Sedan

“A private car facilitated our 160 kilometre trip from New Delhi to Agra in style”


Getting to Agra:

India’s Golden Triangle consists of the cities of New Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. The transport between the three can be somewhat challenging. There isn’t any one solid or regular way of connecting between the cities. Many travellers take the train between New Delhi and Agra. Given what I had heard through research and talking with friends, the town of Agra was nothing to right home about. Based on that, I ended up booking us a day trip to Agra from New Delhi with the plan of returning to New Delhi in the evening to minimize moving around too much. It was an expensive option but probably the best one for our circumstances. It also allowed us to save a day or two of travel getting in between Agra / New Delhi and Jaipur in that we didn’t have to line up with any train schedules. 

Getting on the Toll Road:

At the early hour of 7:30 AM, we departed The Leela Palace New Delhi for the three hour drive to Agra in another nice hotel supplied BMW 525d sedan. There was a bit of traffic leaving, including an accident not involving us almost right outside the hotel. The accident was dealt with by all drivers within view of the accident abandoning their cars and standing around looking at the situation.

We were on the Yamanua Expressway before we knew it and headed out of New Delhi. The Yamanua Expressway was a new toll highway that has shortened the usual drive to Agra. It was built and opened for the year 2012 at a cost of $1.8 billion USD. It is currently the longest controlled access highway in India.

There were some entertaining signs that were along the way. Some of the signs would have been an issue for civil libertarians back at home. The drive was pretty rural, given that agriculture is an Indian industry. It was also pretty flat along the way. 

The Fast Lane on the Yamuna Expressway
Empty Toll Highwys

Our three hour trip up had us pass through several toll booths. The Yamuna Toll highway was similar to the routes chosen by Europe’s high speed trains- they skirted most local towns and led for a sterile travel experience as you sped along to your destination.

Caution Signs
…speeding with invite prosecution… (laughing)
India’s state surveillance on a highway near you
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Arriving into Agra:

Agra itself is not a pretty town. I had read about it being a less than appealing place and it’s fair to say that aside from the river and the Taj Mahal, it didn’t have many redeeming qualities to it. The one thing that it did provide was an insight into local Indian life outside of the big city of New Delhi. There were families at the cross roads of commerce, people changing transportation and local markets set in a rural environment. Anything goes here and from the windows of our car, we were able to pass by and see some of how the rest of India goes about their daily life. 

Local Tailgate transport
Goat Transport by Motorcycle
Packed Tuk Tuks
Horns
Colourful Tata Transport Trucks
Streets of Agra
Bridges over the Agra River
Old fashioned horsepower

As we got to see more and more of Agra, it turns out that we were way beyond the “land of no sidewalks”. Agra isn’t a place where I’d want to be stuck on my own without any money. I could probably make it out of there alive and in one piece, but it wouldn’t be a pleasant experience. Those working in this area, or at least the people out on the street during our visit, appeared to have the harsh reality of heavy manual labor, exceptionally rudimentary infrastructure and an existence that didn’t look all to promising from our western perspectives. 

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Street Life in Agra:

Looking at people on our travels by, I initially thought that they didn’t look all too happy. But after I thought about it, the difference is what makes travel through India all that more interesting. It wasn’t that people weren’t happy, it’s just that everything was different from our western lives. I’ve never traveled anywhere where every part of daily life is out on the streets. I’d never consider carrying around carrying my infant child on a motorcycle riding side-saddle next to a garbage truck but that’s exactly what happens here. It seemed that every aspect of daily existence intersected at Agra. Families ate, people stocked up on food, shopkeepers people fed monkeys. All of this occurred all over, in front of you, as you went on about your daily lives. It’s one of the blessings of travel in India and if you don’t look for it, you’d miss it in a heartbeat. 

A Family Roadside Feast
Streetside Cart Merchants
Potatoes and Onions in Locally made Baskets
Family Transport
A Hard Uphill Climb

One other feature of Agra to get used to was the amount of wild animals that were located on the city streets. With cows and other animals being sacred in India, it took a little getting used to seeing cows intermixing on payment and among city streets.

Sacred Cows Trooping on the Highway
Wild Monkeys Enjoying Some Bananas as a treat
Side Streets of Agra
Cows Resting Amid the smog of City Streets

My thoughts on travelling by car to Agra:

We were fortunate enough to travel by car from New Delhi to Agra. While the drive up was on a sterile toll highway, it was the street scenes at each end that were the most interesting. While we may have missed out on the experience of riding on India’s trains, it was super comfortable way to get from city to city at your own schedule not having to have worried about time tables or schedules.


If you’ve travelled overland from New Delhi to Agra, would you travel by car or train the next time you’d visit?

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New Delhi’ sights got richer after an experience getting a pedi cab ride through Chandi Chowk; New Delhi’s greatest market. Our adventures took us through Raj Ghat; Mahamatra Ghandi’s final resting area, the Red Fort and over to the India Gate. Our day was full of sights from traditional New Delhi.


This post is one chapter on our third Round the World trip via South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, the Maldives and India. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport (World of Hyatt) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.


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Stepping into Chandi Chowk, Paying Respects at Raj Ghat and the India Gate, New Delhi, India.

“The sights of Chandi Chowk, Raj Ghat and the India Gate completed a great tour around New Delhi “

On this visit to New Delhi, India, we visited Jama Masjid, took a pedi-cab through the markets of Chandi Chowk, visited the Red Fort and Raj Ghat (the memorial site for Mahamtra Gandhi), and took in the India Gate.


Leaving a safe haven:

After Jama Masjid, we stepped out into our first taste of the streets of the real New Delhi. With no protection from fenced walls or other hotel security guards, we got our taste of the first real street life. It seems everything goes here and everything is hauled around on wagons or pedi-cabs. My corporate job working away at my computer at the office back home seemed pretty mundane compared to the back breaking work that these guys had to do to earn a dollar.

Stepping into Chandi Chowk
Push and Pulling to make a dollar (or a rupee)
Pedalling Cargo
A Hive of Activity in Chandi Chowk

Our tour guide from The Leela Palace negotiated and arranged for us for a 20-minute rickshaw (peddle cab) tour around Chandi Chowk. Chandi Chowk was the local market outside of the Red Fort area. Our guide did make a joke that we might not come back safely to the car and it was a pretty entertaining experience – for us and for him I’d imagine after seeing all the reactions on tourists over the years. It was an excellent experience and the highlight of our visit to New Delhi. 

A Pedi-Cab Ride around Chandi Chowk:

Our ride led us through old Markets, tiny alleyway streets, through various smells and fabrics areas. The work conditions for this poor driver were dreadful; peddling our 350 lbs combined weight around smog and carbon dioxide filled streets that were stop and go and completely clogged with traffic of all kinds. I paid the negotiated rate of 500 Rupees ($8 USD) including a tip and our driver was super satisfied. 

The Chandi Chowk market place was a crowded area in a mostly pedestrian zone where mostly everything was for sale.

The Streets and Wires of Chandi Chowk
A Mostly Pedestrian Zone
An Otherwise Crowded Space
Vendors between locals and customers alike

The perimeter streets had much busier cargo and traffic. Everything and everyone was going to a destination, along with some creative transport methods.

Chandi Chowk arterial streets
Transporting the Laundry
Pedi Cabs Looking for Fares

Each area of Chandi Chowk had different items for sale. We traveled through the sari area, the food area and even the textiles area. We were in some different territory and off the general tourist trail when people started really paying attention to us. It wasn’t in a dangerous way, moreover in a very curious way. It was especially prominent with the children that seemed to be just getting off of school.

Curious Looks from the Locals
Inquisitive looks from kids getting off school

The exterior of the Chandi Chowk neighbourhood looked just as I’d expect urban India to look like. Once you travelled into it’s quieter streets, you had a more intimate neighbourhood and market feel.

The Streets of Chandi Chowk
Chandi Chowk Transport Hubs
Transport by Horse
The Textiles Area of Chandi Chowk
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The food stalls of Chandi Chowk:

We wandered through the food stalls – New Delhi’s equivalent to the food fair. I wasn’t adventurous enough to eat items right off the street (more on this later) but most items looked relatively clean.

Sugar Cane Drinks and Lime
A Vendor Selling Nuts
Produce for Sale
Green Beans and Scallions for Sale
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The Red Fort:

After our ride, we left Chandi Chowk and headed over to the Red Fort for a brief history lesson. The Red Fort interior was closed for extensive renovations so we had to enjoy the view from the outside. The Red Fort was a massive fort that was converted to a barracks by the British. Shah Jahan founded the fortress between 1638 and 1648 to protect the new capital city of Shahjahanabad but later got imprisoned by his son Auragzeb in the Agra Fort. 

Viewing of the Red Fort
The Grounds Near the Red Fort

Visiting Raj Ghat

Mahamtra Gandhi’s Resting Grounds:

We were given the opportunities to design the rest of our tour depending on what we wanted to see. We were slightly ahead of schedule so I had a list of things that we might be interested in seeing during our visit to New Delhi.

Based on a discussion, we headed over to Raj Ghat. It’s the memorial site for where Mahamtra Gandhi was cremated. There are celebrations here during birthday and death of every year. It was a moving spot to see a leader of Indian history and a particularly stoic spot of significance. It was made more significant by us brushing up on Indian history before we left by watching the 1982 film by Richard Attenborough “Ghandi” before our trip.

The Entry to Raj Ghat
The Viewing Area of Raj Ghat looking towards the street
The Remains of Ghandi
A Popular Meeting Spot to Pay Respects

The location is almost a pilgrimage of many Indian residents to pay tribute to the final resting place of this worldwide icon.

The resting place of Ghandi
Ghandi’s final words “Oh God”

The inscription on the stone is supposed to read “Oh God” which were Ghandi’s last words before he was assassinated.

Script and Statements: Mahatma Ghandi
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India Gate:

We headed on to the India Gate. We were not able to stop immediately at the gate thanks to a special event so we went onto the government buildings at Rajpath. The government buildings are quite impressive overall with typical British architecture.

The India Gate
Indian Parliament Buildings
Parliament Buidlings

We also got the opportunity to take a closer look at some Hindustan Ambassador Classic’s. According to wikipedia, this model has been in production from 1958 to 2014 and is a favorite with Indian politicians and taxi drivers. 

Hindustan Ambassador Classic Motor Vehicles
Ambassador Classic

At one end of the Raj Path was the Rastrapti Bhavan and the official residence of the president of India and former home to the British viceroy. We couldn’t get close but the gates were impressive. At the other end of the Rajpath’s eastern end was the India gate. It’s a memorial that paid tribute to 90,000 Indian army soldiers who died in World War I. 

Rastrapti Bhavan and the official residence of the president of India
Looking East towards the India Gate: a Memorial to 90,000 Indian Soldiers who passed in WWI.

My thoughts on our visit to New Delhi:

Overall, it was a pretty spectacular day with the sights that we saw. New Delhi doesn’t quite have a natural beauty or any one great world renowned attraction, but our pedi-cab around Chandi Chowk was the most fun, interesting, and unique thing that we’ve done traveling in quite a long time. It allowed us to get a bit off the Hop on Hop off bus tourist path and get just a bit closer to the locals. I felt the half day tour was enough to get a short feel of what New Delhi was all about.


If you’ve visited New Delhi, did you find it an interesting place to visit?

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New Delhi is a wonderful city for a visit on a trip to India. We were able to do it right with a stylish guided tour provided by The Leela Palace hotel. The first day of our tour exposed us to the street life in New Delhi on our way to Jama Masjid; the largest mosque in New Delhi. We had an authentic experience wandering through the mosque and interacting with it’s visitors.


This post is one chapter on our third Round the World trip via South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, the Maldives and India. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport (World of Hyatt) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.


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Delhi’s Most Famous Mosque, Jama Masjid, New Delhi, India.

“The Jama Masjid mosque in New Delhi was our first gateway as visitors into interacting with Indian locals “

On this visit to New Delhi, India, we visited Jama Masjid, took a pedi-cab through the markets of Chandi Chowk, visited the Red Fort & Raj Ghat (the memorial site for Mahamtra Gandhi), and took in the India Gate.


How toured around New Delhi, India:

On our first day in New Delhi we took it easy, setting up a guided tour for our first day in India. As I had mentioned, our arriving flight Air India Business Class Chennai – New Delhi flight the night before had us to bed by 2 AM. We had a tour planned through the hotel using a guide and a car supplied by The Leela Palace Hotel, New Delhi.

While I was checking emails at breakfast, I found it pretty entertaining that Uber Bajaj’s (Auto Rickshaws / Tuk Tuk’s) are now arriving on a smartphone near you.

After breakfast, we met our tour guide in the lobby at 1 PM. The tour guide was arranged by The Leela Palace but not employed directly by the hotel. We were provided a hotel car for the 4-hour half day tour. In lieu of a Tuk Tuk, they supplied a lovely white BMW 525d from their fleet and a driver for a flat tour rate. You can just tell the service level of The Leela Palace based this impromptu candid shot by how the uniformed staff are properly waiting on people based on their attention to detail and to their guests. 

Our hotel car and tour guide awaits

As we buckled into the car, we set off into the labyrinth of activity that is the city of New Delhi. As the capital city of India, a country now surpassing a 1.2 billion population, people were everywhere. It was slightly different than busy and crowded China; the other heavily populated world country. My experiences of China were that the cities were crowded, and everyone gets around on infrastructure that’s already been built that’s capable of high density and high quantities of people movement. In India, people had no infrastructure and every one was getting around with whatever means possible. People were out in bajaj’s, coaches and on foot. Although the streets were busy, it’s wasn’t over the top packed. Part of the thrill of traveling in India is just taking in the street scene that appears all around you.

Children travelling on rickshaw’s
Local Tuk Tuk Transport
Tuk Tuk Fleets

There was something to see around every stop. Each stop included vendors for sale, people to look at and sights to see foreign from my usual life in North America.

Traffic Vendors
A Rickshaw Operator Napping under the Heat of the Day
On the way to the Market
Vendors Selling Peppers
Flowers for Sale: even in impossible spaces under New Delhi’s Freeway Viaducts
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Touring the Jama Masjid, New Delhi:

We drove New Delhi’s elevated freeways to Jama Masjid. Jama Masjid is one of the largest mosques in India. It was built sometime between 1644 and 1658. Its courtyard was designed to hold 25,000 worshippers. MrsWT73 had to use one of the provided shawls to cover up during her visit – even to the main courtyard area. There was also a small camera “fee”.

The Masjid was evenly balanced in a square format. It wasn’t glossy like the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi or seemly rich in history like the Al – Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Egypt. Instead, it was much more discreet and subdued with minimal flair. It was interesting as it was constructed of the red brick that was so typically common around the historic buildings of India. 

Climbing the Steps of the Jama Masjid from Changi Chowk
The exterior walls of the Jama Masjid

Once inside the courtyard of the Jama Masjid, it is an impressive area with space for twenty five thousand worshippers.

Inside the Jama Masjid Compound
The front facade of the Jama Masjid mosque
The prayer hall entrance of the Jama Masjid mosque

The inside of the prayer halls featured elaborate chandeliers set against islamic calligraphy set in stone.

Chandeliers Contrasted against Islamic Callligraphy
A Side gate to the Jama Masjid courtyard
corners

The centre of the courtyard at the Jama Masjid featured a pool; which was a popular attraction for many visitors. It was a popular gathering place with many worshippers stopping by.

pool
Reflecting Pool against the contrast of the entry gate
Visitors sharing a laugh
Taking it all in at Jama Masjid

The space was a quite a welcome area to hang out in and take in the people watching of it’s visitors.

Jama Masjid Courtyard

There seemed to be quite a few domestic Indian tourists visiting, more so than there were worshippers. Many children were curious and followed MrsWT73 around thanks to her light Ukrainian skin. And so, the celebrity treatment started. . . 

interested kids

 MrsWT73 should have started charging 500 Rupees a photo but we missed out on that opportunity. She had participated in no less than a dozen impromptu photo sessions throughout India by the time this trip was over. I actually think she enjoyed all of them. 

Taking part in another family’s photos

My thoughts on our visit to Jama Masjid:

Our visit to the Jama Masjid in New Delhi was a great start to our guided day tour around New Delhi. The mosque is a grand but functional space that set up a traditional but historic mosque.


If you’ve visited Jama Masjid in New Delhi, did you find it an inspiring place to visit?

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For our stay in New Delhi, we were looking for a hotel that could provide an end to end experience, including safe and secure tours around New Delhi along with an option to visit the Taj Mahal. After substantial research and several recommendations, we ended up at The Leela Palace New Delhi. The Leela Palace New Delhi was an outstanding pick and our needs were certainly met and fulfilled through our three day stay at this property.


This post is one chapter on our third Round the World trip via South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, the Maldives and India. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport (World of Hyatt) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.


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Hotel Review: The Leela Palace Luxury Hotel, New Delhi, India

“A classically designed, but exceptional luxury hotel in New Delhi with world class services levels featuring unrivalled levels of attention and hospitality”


Booking and Getting There:

I had chosen The Leela Palace New Delhi hotel for several reasons. It had favourable reviews on FlyerTalk and a colleague at work had recently stayed here on a trip home and had raved about it. Lastly, the hotel advertised private tour services through their website. We were looking for a hotel where we would be led on tours, including an option for the Taj Mahal, as opposed to our usual independent self guided adventures. It was also a member of the Global Hotel Alliance Group (Pan Pacific, Anatara, Kempinski chains). All of this fit the bill and with excellent reviews on trip advisor, and ratings as one of the Top 100 hotels in the world by the Robb Report and Travel and Leisure magazine, we were all set. 

We were met on the public side of the arrivals hall by several Leela Staff whom were attired in three piece suits. You could tell it was “showtime” as the staff were professionally attired at the hour of midnight, above a level of the typical but somewhat dis-interested airport meet and greet service. 

We were led out to a crisp white BMW 525i for our transfer to the Leela Palace. Of note, the hotel offered BMW 5 series car transfers included the Royal Club room rates. The staff were exceptionally professional. The driver asked if we wanted radio music (or not at all) and advising us once seated in the car that they had placed 4 bags in the trunk and not to worry about any details.

BMW 525i Transfer from Indira Ghandri to The Leela Palace Hotel

As perhaps expected arriving to New Delhi, India, there were a few horses running around the road on our midnight drive in. It was mostly quiet except for a few commercial lorries. Our driver indicated that New Delhi has restrictions on commercial trucks during the day, and that most are forced to drive at night. 

Arriving to The Leela Palace:

The Leela Palace New Delhi Hotel
Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110 023, India

After a short twenty minutes transfer from airport to hotel, we arrived to The Leela Palace at the Diplomatic Enclave in Chankayapuri, New Delhi, India. The hotel is well guarded with a security check of the vehicles and trunk for hazards amid a high wall and multiple security guards. We had our effects security screened and entered the lobby. 

Our first impressions on arrival were outstanding. It’s absolutely fabulous looking hotel. Even MrsWT73, the road warrior these days, was thoroughly impressed commenting “it’s not too often you enter a hotel that takes your breath away”.

Lobby of The Leela Palace Luxury Hotel, New Delhi
Beautiful Fresh Flower Accents
Inviting Lobby Spaces

The beauty of The Leela Palace continued through the lobby and arrival area. It was dark when we arrived and we finally got to take a look at it in the day light of the morning. There was of course a lobby bar for tea and many people waiting for their appointments. The lobby was opulent and full of fresh flowers. Surprisingly, the reception and bell desk are practically invisible. I actually had to ask where they were. You know a hotel is doing well in the service department when you haven’t had a need to go to the front desk to get anything. Everything was brought to us and taken care of us in a pro-active manner by staff approaching us the minute we stepped off the elevator. 

Getting back to our arrival, we were met at the front door by a member of the concierge team. We were immediately led up to our Royal Club room on ninth floor. The check – in formalities were completed in the room. I also arranged and confirmed our New Delhi tour for the next day. The simple ability to be able to do this from the comfort of your room immediately after a late arrival was a fantastic service touch. I had visions of running around in the lobby at 1:30 AM after arrival looking for a concierge tour desk at 2 AM trying to confirm the departure time. The bags were also brought up immediately and without delay. 

Elegant Hallways of The Leela Palace
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The Room: A Royal Club Room

One King Size Bed:

The Royal Club room was exceptionally well appointed for a standard club room. It has a beautiful ceiling, nicely patterned carpet, which set the tone for a traditional but elegant stay.

Royal Club King Size Bed
A Club Royal King Size Bed
Royal Club Room Looking Towards the Living Area
Conveniently Placed Bedside Slippers

The hotel offered more amenities that we had initially expected, including placement of comfortable slippers bedside.

A Couch for Room Lounging

The room also contained a beautiful marble inlaid desk. The desk had two chairs for convenient in room dining.

Desk and Television Area
Seating for Two
A Beautiful Working Desk Space

A first for me, the room’s pillow menu didn’t disappoint; horse hair, neck supporting or down?

An in room Pillow Menu
Horsehair, Down or Spelt Pillow?

While we were on the topic of sleep, I also found the room to be exceptionally quiet. It was at the end of the hall and was completely isolated from hallway noise from other guests.

Aside from the pillow menu, the room also featured a half fridge, mini bar, and 24 hr room dining. It was a very impressive and competent and professional arrival considering what a disaster Air India was on the way up from the Maldives. 

The Bathroom:

Even the bathroom was over the top. It had comfortable robes, clean tiles and a television for the bathtub in a tasteful old world setting.  it even had a TV in the bathtub.

An Elegant Old School Bathroom
The Bathroom Featured Separate Shows and WC stalls
A Televised Bath Tub
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Around the Hotel:

Visiting the Royal Club Lounge:

We took it easy the next morning and enjoyed breakfast in the Royal Club Lounge. Every area of the hotel was well appointed with high end furnishings. Wainscoting on the walls, marble in the hallways, and fresh flowers were all around The Royal Club lounge was an opulent place with comfortable tables and couches in a nice “men’s club” type of environment with a royal flair. 

Reception: The Royal Club
Fresh Flower Displays Accent Most Public Spaces
Fresh Flower Displays
Elegant Seating Spaces
A Gentlemen’s Library Feel
Various Seating Areas
A Beautiful Rose Display
Spectular Red Roses
A Combination of Lounge and Dining Tables for Dining or Working
Classic and Opulent Surroundings
The Royal Club Lounge Food and Beverage:

While there were a few buffet items, we ended up ordering a la carte menu items. We were promptly attended to by wait staff and served breakfast to order. We started tame with Eggs Benedict, and before the end of breakfast, we were sampling Indian favorites that were out of this world. 

Buffet Items
Eggs Benedict Breakfast (with and without hollandaise) with fresh orange juice and coffee

We were brought a sampler plate of Indian Specialties was nothing like I’d ever had tasted before. The food was exceptionally fresh with excellent flavor and depth.

Indian Breakfast Selections
Indian Paratha, Dosa, Idlis and Uthappam breakfast items

The Royal Club offered prompt attention and really attentive service. We couldn’t get up at any time to get anything, with everything brought to us. All of the food in the Royal Club was included with the room rate, with 5 separate food offerings and menu themes per day (breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, happy hour with cocktails, dessert buffet). The majority of the food was made to order and we took little of the food offerings that had been set out (ordering off the menu for most snacks and light meals).

Outdoor Pool and Recreation Center:

After breakfast, we took a look at the pool on the roof top of the building. The pool was an infinity pool surrounded by a green wall and a view of embassies and embassy residences. This was a neat place with an interesting view of the surrounding area. 

A Roof Top Infiniti Pool
Outdoor Infiniti Pool: A Space to Cool Off
A Pool with a Skyline View
A roof top view of the Diplomatic Enclave at Chanakyapuri, New Delhi

The hotel gardens:

Before we left on our New Delhi tour, for the day, we took a look at the gardens outside Cube, their international restaurant. The ground floor offered a patio for drinks outside in a nicely landscaped restaurant. I would imagine that this also doubled as a wedding area. 

Hotel Gardens off the Lobby
Hotel Gardens by “Cube”; the all day dining restaurant
The Cube’s Patio Spaces for Outdoor Dining.

The Qube Restaurant: All Day Dining

We returned to the hotel and had dinner one evening at the Qube (international themed) restaurant on the Leela Palace hotel property. We were aiming for the fine dining Indian restaurant but it was completely closed for the night due to a private function celebrating the life of the hotel founder that had recently passed away.

The Qube International Dining
Contemporary Dining at The Qube

I don’t have any exciting food shots for you tonight – we ended up splitting a pizza. The interior was pretty interesting with a neat contemporary flair that was much more exciting than the usual general hotel dining restaurant. 

The Bottom Line: Our stay experience with The Leela Palace New Delhi

Our three day stay at The Leela Palace was flawless. It was easily one of the top ten hotel stays of my life; perhaps even within the top five. It’s easy to have things go well on a hotel stay when you are staying one night, or are spending most of your time outside of the hotel sightseeing or for work purposes. It’s harder to leave a good impression when you’re using every feature of the hotel (breakfast, restaurants, lounge, concierge etc…) By using every part of the hotel, you in essence test each part of the operation. The hotel was exceptionally well appointed, refined and super comfortable. Every need we could have possibly wanted was taken care of, even when arriving at 2 AM in the morning after an international flight. The service by all the staff members was excellent and the treatment we received as Royal Club guests was outstanding. I couldn’t recommend this place more highly.


If you’ve stayed at The Leela Palace, did you experience exceptional service like we did?

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Continuing on what was already a very long travel day, we were looking forward to our third flight with Air India today. It would be the first on a two class aircraft with and actual business class cabin. While we did end up with the larger business class seat, the service was pretty much the same as in economy. We did end up with a pre-departure drink and a nicer meal, but the business class upgrade did not offer too much more in the way of bells and whistles.


This post is one chapter on our third Round the World trip via South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, the Maldives and India. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport (World of Hyatt) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.


Read More from This Trip


Review: Air India Business Class A320-2, Chennai Madras International Airport – New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport

“Air India Domestic Business Class features a proper meal, along with a little more space and occasional priority services. That seems to be it.”

After flying Air India Male – Trivandrum, and having a short technical stop in Trivandrum, we were about ready to get going again.

Air India
Business Class
MAA – DEL (Chennai International Airport – Indira Gandhi International Airport)
AI43 – Business Class (I) 
9:00 PM – 11:45 PM
April 14, 2015
Booked: Airbus 320
Flown: Airbus 320

We had started the day flying Air India Male – Trivandrum, followed by Air India Trivandrum – Chennai and visiting the Air India Chennai Maharajah Lounge. After a few hours of existing in the Air India Chennai Maharajah Lounge, we left and went into the departure hall.

India, where anything is possible, of course has things backwards from normal airports. The departure hall was downstairs in a dark basement whereas most airport departure halls are upstairs. The consequence was that the departure hall space was sterile, drab and dark. The bright lighting over compensated for a departure hall that wasn’t too impressive. 

Chennai Departure Hall
Chennai Departure Hall
A Dark Underground Mall Like Space

While we were waiting for the flight, you’ll never guess what came next. It was another flight delay; announced again courtesy of the Flight Track Pro iPhone app. This time it was another +45 minutes from the scheduled departure time. To make matters more frustrating, there doesn’t seem to be any appetite to operate on time, nor any effort on the part of the carrier at communication with flight delays.

All in today, we had 3 Air India flights today, with three of these delays longer than 45 minutes. It was a cumulative total delay time of over 4 hrs and 15 minutes. Add this to our needless early wake ups at the Park Hyatt Maldives, our last minute flight re-schedule and we were pretty much done with Air India by this point (laughing). If I wasn’t really impressed, you could imagine MrsWT73’s delight. “You are never putting us on this carrier again.” All right. I guess that’s settled! 

When boarding was called, we entered into a long line. There was no priority board or boarding by zone but I sent MrsWT73 to the front of the queue to ask ground agents about priority board and she waved me up. We bypassed the long boarding line

Boarding Queue at Chennai for Air India
Which Extended Down to the Gate

On Board Air India Business Class:

With our last flight of the day, we finally settled into an actual real business class cabin. We were looking forward to a better experience than our last two economy flights. As we settled in on board, the first thing that I happened to notice was that the carpets were showing a lot of wear without much effort in cleaning them thanks to stains that had been ground into the carpet. We settled into a nice off olive colored barca-lounger seat in a 2 X 2 configuration with a total of three rows (twelve seats) in this configuration.

Air India Business Class A320
Air India Business Class A320

Pre – Departure Services:

A pre-departure beverage of apple or orange juice was offered. Not completely unexpected, but there were no bubbles available on Air India domestic services. Water was also not offered; presumably as they would typically provide bottled water as the tap water may not be safe to drink?

Pre Departure Juice or Apple Juice
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The Meal: A Dinner

Shortly after takeoff, dinner service was offered. Tonight’s serving was butter chicken on proper plates. It was complete with your own serving of curd. It seemed to be the exact same economy meal we had earlier today between Male and Trivandum instead plated on business plates. No celebrity chef here! 

Butter Chicken for Dinner
Actually Fairly Tasty for Airline Food

 It was indeed tasty but not super fresh. 

I was looking forward to a beer – a Kingfisher or anything else by this point. Unfortunately it was another dry aircraft. This alcohol free condition was announced via the public address system that alcohol was prohibited on board. At his point, MrsWT73 sternly reminded me that “You are never flying me on Air India ever again”. Yikes. I later learned that this dry rule is an Indian government regulation that all domestic flights remain alcohol free. 

Rounding out the meal, I enjoyed a dessert with coffee. The catering was by TAJ hotels of Madras. This seemed to be a theme of our Air India flights in that the food catering was executed by a local high end hotel chain. 

Dessert sponsored by Taj Madras Flight Kitchen

In flight entertainment:

I was looking forward to catching up on a movie since there was no entertainment or television on the earlier legs. Unfortunately, the in flight entertainment system was inoperative. There was no change in that condition for the entire flight.

A Dead an in-operative in flight entertainment system

This equipment type featured some very dated IFE systems and their related controls. It was reminiscent of the Boeing 747-200’s I used to fly when I was very young.

In Flight Entertainment Controls

I attemped to relax a little after the dinner. Unfortunately, my seat was also busted and there was no recline. I didn’t bother to move a different seat at this point as our flight and day were almost over. 

Arriving at Indira Ghandi Interntational Airport

We landed at very remote gate at Indira Ghandi Inernational Airport. As we arrived at the Customs Hall (in the international arrivals hall, despite it being a domestic flight) we arrived at the mudras hands. A mudras is a spiritual gesture and an energetic seal of authenticity employed in the iconography and spiritual practice of Indian religions. These are among the coolest sculptures I’ve seen in an airport that are representative of the country that they feature.

Welcome to India: Arrival at New Delhi
Mudras Hands above the Arrivals Immigration Desks at New Delhi
Super Cool Mudras Hands above the Immigration Desks at New Delhi

Thankfully, our bags arrived in Delhi one piece. I probably should have just been happy that they arrived. The Indira Ganhdi New Delhi arrivals hall looked more like arriving to London Heathrow than it did arriving to India; High ceilings, relative cleanliness, Costa Coffee franchise and various other high street retail outlets along with ample space and elbow room dotted the public side of the arrivals hall. 

We eventually located our luggage and made a bee line for the exit.

Baggage Claim: New Delhi, India

Our experience on Air India A320 Business Class Short Haul:

The day being almost over it came time to sum up my feelings about Air India. Air India is obviously very proud to be in Star Alliance. The Star Alliance logo is featured almost everywhere and mentioned at almost every opportunity. Surprisingly, the service levels, as with many aspects of Indian culture were quite high in that staff genuinely appeared to want to assist and accommodate you. Every time we had an interaction with staff, we were greeted with warmth, sincerity and compassion. They also feature some unique branding with their friendly Maharajahs’ characters that greet you at almost every opportunity. 

Unfortunately, Air India has a very long way to go to get anywhere near the levels of the other members in Star Alliances. This may sound elitist, but it’s true. Their reputation of being less than a stellar carrier was well earned. It’s planes and lounges are atrociously tired and their hard product seems to have been badly neglected and worn. There appears to be no appetite or interest to run on time. Delays must happen so often that staff don’t even bother announcing them. Even Egypt Air appears to have things much more together with proper cleaniness, functioning hard product and prompt flight timings. Needless to say, flying Air India is not a way to impress your wife or significant other!! For us, it was a way to get from the Maldives to India on the same award. Ultimately it’s short haul product, is a very mediocre product with a very long way to go to improve to get to international levels. It’s worth while to come prepared with what you’ll expect.


If you’ve flown Air India, did you experience the ever present rolling delays like I did?


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On arrival to Chennai, India we proceeded through India arrival immigration. India has this mixed category arrival situation where you have domestic passengers arriving in the same concourse area as international passengers. Domestic passengers were able to use the Domestic lines upon showing a boarding pass with the giant printed “D” on it. These lines are immediately adjacent and off to the side of to the international check in lines. This strange set up seems to occur at several airports throughout the system. 


This post is one chapter on our third Round the World trip via South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, the Maldives and India. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport (World of Hyatt) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.


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Review: Air India Maharajah Domestic Lounge, Chennai Madras International Airport Terminal One, India


Connecting from International to Domestic at Chennai International Airport:

Getting back to our Back to our international arrival in India. The immigration officer checked our visas, asked us a few questions about our routing, took a digital image of us and stamped us in. At this point in the long day, it’s probably worth mentioning the adventures of getting an Indian Visa. I don’t usually use a visa handler when I get my visas at home and take matters into my own hands. This meant lining up at the Surrey, British Columbia, Canada BLS International outsourced Indian Visa office one morning. When applying for visas, sometimes you’re able to get in and out quickly without much effort or paperwork (the Indonesia consulate in Vancouver comes to mind). Instead, I arrived at 10 minutes after 8 AM opening on Saturday morning and ended up waiting 4 1/2 hours. Fortunately, from that point on, process went relatively smoothly, and my passport was mailed back to my house by courier within 14 days.

We didn’t get any instructions surrounding the transfer of our bags from Air India in Male other than the helpful “you don’t have to worry about them”, so we waited around on in the arrivals area and located our bags on the belt. We cleared customs with our bags and headed out to follow the signs for the domestic transfers.

Adding a good dose of Indian drama to the day, the Chennai Airport is in the middle of construction. The sign posting for connecting wasn’t very good, and the signs for domestic transfer led us to a dead end enclosed hall with an x ray machine that was guarded by a sole military guard. The area looked like it was once a domestic transfers area, but the entire area had been gutted down to the metal studs with bare electrical exposed, missing drywall and temporary construction lighting flooding the hall. It wasn’t in any operational shape. 

I asked the military guard where the domestic transfer was and he told me to wait. He left the area and I happened to note that the passageway that you’d typically take towards the departures concourse after you dropped your bags on the usual conveyor belt was boarded up and didn’t lead anywhere. There were times when you travel that your’ spider senses get tingly and this happened to be one of them. I was a little worried he was going to get some people to shake us down for a bribe since we weren’t in public view of the terminal since the passenger flow had been reconfigured away from this old transfer desk area. Perhaps this was unfounded, but we ended up quickly leaving the area before he got back – thinking that we could do better ourselves.

We headed outdoors and started to wander towards what looked like the departure hall. 

Finding our own way in no man’s land
Walking in between terminals in Chennai International Airport

We headed up to another terminal down a long outdoor walkway. It was a pretty desolate area underneath a viaduct accompanied with a walk past a stinky construction rubbish tip. There was an elevated subway that was under construction and not yet operational. I approached another military guard to ask for directions. We were told to head back the direction that we came (at the opposite end). It seems the building that we arrived in was in between 2 terminals in various stages of life and use. I flagged down a random golf cart driver and we loaded up our bags. After a courtesy donation and a few rupees poorer, we got dropped off at the correct terminal and were able to bag drop without any issues. The arrival experience was sort of what I expected. The stereotypes of Indian chaos were alive with the dis-organized directions. Thankfully, we had some time to get it sorted.

Arriving to Chennai International Airport Domestic Terminal One
Chennai International Airport
Air India Departures at Chennai International Airport

Locating the Air India Maharajah Lounge:

We headed up to the departures hall and checked in. After a military check of our printed itinerary, we were led into a sterile and mostly clean departures hall. There were high ceilings and plenty of space. There was a viewing gallery that appeared to be a blocked off and segregated regular entrance that someone was charging 100 Rupees for entering. Adding to the confusion was that our “domestic” Air India flight from Chennai to Delhi was departing from the “international” terminal. We bypassed the international exit customs stamping lanes using the bizarre domestic lane and found the Air India International Maharajah Lounge by Gate 11. We found the Air India Maharajah smiling at us again at the entrance. 

Air India Maharajah Lounge
Air India Maharajah Lounge

Accessing the Air India Maharajah Lounge:

We gained access thanks to class of service and we were warmly greeted by two lounge hosts wearing sari’s.

The Air India Maharajah Business Lounge is designed as the departure lounge for all Air India passengers in addition to Star Alliance Business Class travellers. Access is provided for

Air India / Star Alliance members departing on regular flights:

  • Business Class passengers
  • Economy Class Air India Flying Returns Golden Edge Club Member plus one guest
  • Air India Maharajah Club members plus two guests
  • Star Alliance Gold members plus one guest

Today’s access was granted courtesy of an Air India Business Class ticket.

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Inside the Air India Maharajah Business Lounge:

We settled into a very tired but colored place. It was pretty dingy on the corners. Initially, I found it no worse than a worn United Club but after the first impressions had passed, it was a pretty rough and tired place. It was easily the most tired Star Alliance Lounge that I’ve ever been in. I can’t imagine actually ever paying to use this lounge if it was a pay per entry place. 

Air India Maharajah Lounge Space
Beige Colored Lounge Seating
Lounge Seating overlooking Lounge Reception
Lounge Seating with Food at Rear

The bathrooms in the lounge (no showers available by the way) were atrocious but what were we really expecting? I’ve had cleaner washrooms at a soccer or football stadium. Needless to say, the bathrooms here are not the high point.

Food and Beverage:

There was a small buffet on offer, featuring traditional Indian foods. I was initially a little skeptical about eating Indian foods off of hotel grounds but I needn’t had worried. The food appeared fresh and well cooked and prepared.

During our time in the lounge, we well taken care of by the hosts. They were exceptionally attentive and offered to refill drinks, suggested and recommended foods and promptly cleared plates. There wasn’t the usual disinterest on the part of the typical older flight attendants and the Air India staff genuinely appeared to enjoy their jobs.

There was also a tired looking bar area that was completely shuttered. As before throughout our Air India journey, there was no alcohol. Drinks were limited to tinned coca colas’ and orange Fanta’s. Of course, there wasn’t any ice and it probably wouldn’t have been safe for us to drink anyway. 

A Shuttered Bar Area
A Bar that had seen better days

The Bottom Line: The Air India Maharajah Lounge Chennai

The bottom line: a pretty shockingly tired international lounge masquerading as a room to hang out in, with a television and quasi-room temperature drinks. I wouldn’t attempt to get here early for the sole purpose of visiting. The closed bar made me feel like I was a youngster in my parents’ basement before I was old enough to drink. The bright spot was that the staff were exceptionally attentive and aiming to please. I felt like I was being taken care of by two mothers and made to feel at home.


If you’ve visited the Air India Maharajah Business Lounge in Chennai, did you have a similar experience?

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We were originally scheduled to fly from Male, Maldives to New Delhi, India on an Air India Airbus 320 in regional business class via Bangalore. At about fourteen days before the flight, we were hit with a schedule change cancellation. Our ticket was booked as an Aeroplan Business Class Award, and they only offered existing available reward space to chose from. If we wanted to keep the same date of travel, we would end up having to downgrade to an economy flight and re-route via Trivandrum and Chennai. Since we were on a bit of a schedule, we accepted the re-route and the downgrade.


This post is one chapter on our third Round the World trip via South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, the Maldives and India. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport (World of Hyatt) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.


Read More from This Trip


Review: Air India A320-2, Trivandrum – Chennai

“Air India is the newest entrant to Star Alliance airline network. We used them for a quirky International short haul flight between The Maldives and India, experiencing delays, messy aircraft and great views out the window”

After flying Air India Male – Trivandrum, and having a short technical stop in Trivandrum, we were about ready to get going again.

On Board Air India:

For those that are just joining us, our flight was in a single class of service aircraft, with the usual economy class 3-3 configuration. The red and gold colors were really prevalent through the flight, and made a very strong color statement.

Air India A320 Economy Class
Air India Economy Class A320
Air India A320 Main Cabin

Departing Trivandrum:

At about one hour behind schedule, we departed Trivandrum. Again it was another seaborne departure and a nice view of the coast line. We flew over some really rural hills on our climb to altitude.

Departing Trivandrum
Views of the Trivandrum Coastline
Greener Landscapes on the Climb
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The Meal: A Snack

We were served an additional snack. I wasn’t expecting all too much as this was the continuation of our earlier Air India Male – Trivandrum flight that carried the same flight number. This time, the meal service was a cello wrapped sandwich along with a piece of fruit cake. Air India was quite through with the protective saran wrap as it was featured on almost all of their in flight catering. It went a little ways to relieve any concerns about eating contaminated food. By the time our fifth Air India flight came around, I was tearing into these wrapped snack offerings without a second thought. 

A Cello Wrapped Snack & Fruit Cake

The in flight meal featured promotional material of Air India Bazaar. Every sheet was a winner. We were directed to scratch off the portion to claim your rice cooker or sari at a discount. Just pay the shipping and handling fee with Western Style Delta Airlines Sky Mall pricing.

Air India Bazaar Buy on the Go Promotional Sheet

We kept the same seats for this leg and had an empty one next to us in the 3 – 3 configuration. 

In Flight Entertainment:

Looking at the In Flight Magazine

Passing the time, I looked at the air map. It was a little different in that Air India doesn’t really use the hub and spoke method commonly found in Europe or North America. Instead, the routes look more like a rail map with lines going out everywhere. Every flight is a milk run. I initially thought that there would be easy traffic between the Maldives and Delhi or Mumbai. If Emirates, Ethiad and Singapore Airlines can bring people from around the world to the Maldives, then Air India would be likely to get in on that action as well? Right? Well, it seems that Male isn’t a big market for the populations of North India. It’s not a big market as almost all flights take 2 – 3 stops to get to Mumbai from Male. Even as a hard core mileage runner, I think I’d be crazy to voluntarily try this routing again, it would have been a smoother process to fly Singapore Airlines Maldives – Singapore – Delhi or Sri Lankan from Male – Colombo – Delhi.

Air India Route Map Similar to a Train Map: Stopping Everywhere on the Way
Air India International Route Map

Arriving to Chennai:

We had a quick approach into Chennai. We over flew what appeared to be a Daimler Chrysler factory complete with test track, some western looking luxury apartments, and some smaller Indian homes that didn’t appear to have super clean streets surrounding them. 

Luxury Homes in Chennai
Leafy Compounds as Seen from the Air

We arrived to the gate at about 55 minutes late and disembarked. It was dusty and hot out. We were pretty tired by this slow “direct” flight as well, especially after that 3 AM wake up call. 

Jet Airways B737-8 at Chennai International Airport
Our Air India A320 at the Gate in MAA

Our experience on Air India A320 International Short Haul:

All in, flying Air India was an interesting experience. Our flights were delayed substantially. The food was clean and edible but the planes were downright filthy. The service was just average and things just didn’t seem to run smoothly. Furthermore, the service levels were apathetic regarding the delays. It’s as if the staff and airline have completely given up trying to run any type of on time performance. The worst part was that our journey wasn’t over all just yet as we had yet another leg to get to our final destination. It was, at least, a highly entertaining travel experience.


If you’ve flown Air India, did you find travelling in India as slow as I did?


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We were originally scheduled to fly from Male, Maldives to New Delhi, India on an Air India Airbus 320 in regional business class via Bangalore. At about fourteen days before the flight, we were hit with a schedule change cancellation. Our ticket was booked as an Aeroplan Business Class Award, and they only offered existing available reward space to chose from. If we wanted to keep the same date of travel, we would end up having to downgrade to an economy flight and re-route via Trivandrum and Chennai. Since we were on a bit of a schedule, we accepted the re-route and the downgrade.


This post is one chapter on our third Round the World trip via South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, the Maldives and India. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport (World of Hyatt) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.


Read More from This Trip


Review: Air India A320-2, Male – Trivandrum

“Air India is the newest entrant to Star Alliance airline network. We used them for a quirky International short haul flight between The Maldives and India, experiencing delays, messy aircraft and great views out the window”

We headed down to the gate from The Leeli Lounge Male, after waiting away flight delays in the lounge. We were about two hours and twenty nine minutes late by this particular point, having had a 3:30 AM wake up from the Park Hyatt Maldives. It was fair to say that it was already a long day.

Our Air India A320 arriving to gate in Male
Air India Departure Signs at MLE
Boarding on the Apron at Male Nasir Ibrahim
Air India
Economy Class (Single Class of Service)
MLE – TRV (Ibrahim Nasir International Airport – Thiruvananthapuram International Airport)
AI264 – Economy Class (X) 
Scheduled: 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM
Actual: 1:20 PM – 3:00 PM
April 14, 2015
Booked: Airbus 319
Flown: Airbus 320-2

On Board Air India:

On board the plane, they had us board by the rear of the aircraft using stairs. It was my first Air India flight of several and there are no mistaking the company colors. Everything is red and orange. 

Air India Single Class of Service Economy Cabin
Economy Class Seating
Air India Economy Class Seating
Air India A320 Economy Class Cabin

They had ripped out rows 1-4 on the right hand side of the plane to accommodate a flat medical stretcher. The ground agents spent about 15 minutes attempting to board the medical condition patient that seemed to have a severe leg injury. In hind sight, I suspect this was the reason why we had a two and a half hour delay. Our plane was performing double duty as an international medi-vac. The rows two to four on the right side of the cabin were completely missing thanks to the stretcher spot.

Air India Medi-Vac

On closer examination of the Airbus 320, it was a really old model. It was actually really filthy and hadn’t had a good clean in a while. It probably won the award for the dirtiest plane I’ve ever been on. I don’t mean the odd dust ball. I mean the entire thing needed a deep clean scrub. There were left over newspapers and water bottles from the past flight left in the seats on our arrival, fixtures and tables were covered in deep seated dirt, and fasteners were worn and tired. The seats were also filthy! I wasn’t completely put off by the experience. Rather, I just note that it was a stark difference from many other carriers that I’d flown on where a reasonable attempt at cleanliness was made.

Dusty Seats
Worn Seatback Holders

Departing the Maldives:

We finally departed the Maldives on the sole Maldivian runway 36 N. The airport only has one runway and no taxi ways. On the climb out, I took some photographs of the Sheraton Full Moon Resort Maldives which is getting ever closer to the man made island. It seems as though there is a massive land reclamation project that is underway and the islands are almost attached – at least almost attached by Maldivian standards. Take a look a the right hand side of this sandy photograph…

The Sheraton Full Moon Maldives is getting closer and closer to another reclaimed island
North Male Maldivian Atolls on the Climb to Altitude
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The Meal: A Lunch

Lunch was served on this short 90 minute international leg. Today’s Air India food offering was a chicken curry, with rice and an unidentified yellow sauce that my palate was not able to easily identify for lunch.

Chicken Curry Lunch

Arriving to Trivandrum, India:

After the lunch service, we were on approach to Trivandrum. It was a quick right turn in to the airport on the coast. The spotting was really great from the window as there were some great churches on the sea board which would have been really interesting to visit. 

On Short Final: Trivandrum’s Beaches

As we landed at Trivandum, we stayed on board for the 45 minute stopover. A good number of local travelers got off. The military boarded to conduct a carry on bag inspection and asked all travelers to identify which bags were theirs. The check was quite through and I spotted them checking the bathrooms and tapping on all the cabinetry. The plane was also groomed and vacuumed.

Staying on Board on our Trivandrum Stopover

Our experience on Air India A320 International Short Haul:

It was my first Air India flight. To be realistic, I wasn’t expecting all to much. Our flight was very late (well over 2.5 hours), the plane wasn’t super clean, and the flight lacked the usual amenities that you’d get on an International service with some of the more major carriers in Asia Pacific that usually feature wide body jets. Despite this, we got to our destination in the end, and also had unique flying experience that was quirky, fun and once in a lifetime.


If you’ve flown Air India Short Haul, was your experience as quirky as ours?

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