An Unexpected Trip To India (LX, LH) – Part 2
At the end of Part 1, I had just got to Ludhiana, Punjab. So this part picks up from there. The next few days were quite emotional for the family as me being the only grandson in the family had to take care of all the necessities / rituals for my grandmother. Part of that included going to Haridwar. In our culture, after cremating the body, the ashes (also called flowers in hindi) are to be deposited in the Ganges, which is considered to be the holiest of the rivers in our culture. Furthermore, the city of Haridwar is where this would take place. We set off on a road trip to Haridwar. I will exclude all the emotional details, but if anyone has any questions regarding this, please feel free to ask.
Early am departure for Haridwar
The National Highway from Ludhiana to Ambala
After Ambala, this is the national highway one takes to go to Haridwar. Pretty much single lanes throughout
Amazing passing maneuver
This was awesome
Passing a city
On the banks of the Ganges
The crowded market
Lots of people taking a dip in the Ganges. I also did that. It was a nice reprieve from the scorching heat.
My father engaged in prayers
Heading back to Ludhiana
Near the Rakh Baag
Neighborhood where my grandmother lived
A richshaw in scorching heat
After all the necessities were completed, I had just about 2-3 days to catch up with old friends and try to relax a bit. This was the first time since 1997 that I had visited India in the month of June, and boy, was it Hot. Everyday temperatures would reach a blistering 45 degrees C. It was almost like you couldn’t have enough fluids. This restricted my movement during the day. Because of the heat, it was almost impossible to go outside, especially since I had no vehicle to roam around in. I had to rely on my cousin to come to/from work so that he could take me places, or I had to rely on a rickshaw. If only there would be an Avis / Hertz so I could rent a car. I don’t think that has arrived in India yet; although I was told that you could rent cars that came with a chauffeur. I got to know about this information a bit too late, otherwise I would have hired one for the stay in India. Nonetheless, I had some things to buy, and I did just that. The evenings consisted of hanging out with my childhood friends, a couple of them who I met after 14 years. It was amazing that we still remembered old times and except for them getting married, none of them had actually changed. Friends being friends, they were after me to stay another week or two so that they could find a girl for me. Hehe. Maybe next time boys!!!
Thanks to my friends, my last 2-3 evenings in Ludhiana were very relaxed. It was good to get away from the atmosphere at home and a welcome change. As much as I love India, the blistering heat, and boredom made me want to come back to the US. That departure time couldn’t come fast enough. I wanted to just get on a plane, head back. In all the midst of activities, I had forgotten to get a ticket booked back to New Delhi. I had a few options to get there.
a) Try and get an overnight bus that would drop me off at the airport
b) Try and get to Delhi a bit early; meet up with a friend for a little bit, who would then drop me off at the airport
c) Try and get a ticket on Swarna Shatabdi, get to the airport by midnight and then head straight to the lounge
Option C sounded quite viable as my friend wasn’t available that particular day. So my cousin tried to get me a ticket on Swarna Shatabdi. If you aren’t aware of the reservation system in India, you have quotas. Unfortunately, I had to get the ‘tatkal’ quota (which is almost equivalent of a walk-up fare) and that too I could only manage in Executive Class. Who am I to complain when my dad is arranging this for me?
Apparently the train route between Ludhiana & New Delhi is one of the busiest routes during the summer months and I was told that people actually get their reservations done months in advance.
LDH - NDLS
Departure – 6:58 pm
Arrival – 11:05 pm
I had my e-ticket in hand and the next day, I was all packed & set to go to the Ludhiana train station. My parents had their flight 3-4 days later. They couldn’t get the same train, so they took the Shatabdi that goes via Rohtak. Similar class of service; however the train makes a couple more stops & takes longer to get to New Delhi. My cousin showed up on time to take me to the Railway Station. My mom & dad joined him. I said my goodbyes and we were off to Ludhiana Train Station. I was actually excited & sad about this trip. Excited because a) I was heading back home; b) I was going to experience my FIRST long-haul F product and that too on Lufthansa and c) I was leaving the scorching heat; however I was still sad that I was going away from all friends & family that I saw after such a long time. No matter what you say, India is still very much a part of me and it’s always a bit tough saying bye…
The trains in India are quite punctual. This particular train only stays on the platform for about 4 minutes. So boarding has to be quite rapid. I being the dumbo that I am didn’t read my e-ticket correctly. I mixed up my seat number and the berth number. So I boarded the wrong berth. I got to my seat and there was someone sitting there. I whipped out my ticket and bam, my seat was in another berth. Fearing that I would miss my train, I had to move all of my stuff without leaving the train. My father was on board to see me off and he had to get off. The train started moving and I quickly said my byes to my cousin and my parents. I then started walking to my berth and finally got to my seat. The executive class was definitely a notch above the AC
Chair Car I had traveled on the last train. It was spacious, and furthermore, the leg space was enormous. There was hardly a spare seat in the berth and I even spotted a few expats traveling to DEL
Swarna Shatabdi Executive Class Cabin
The Leg Room Shot
The train service was quite similar to the AC
Chair Car; however there were a few more courses to be precise. I was given the 1L water bottle to start things. The next course was a piping hot tomato soup. I thought this wasn’t such a good idea since trains in India aren’t really the smoothest of the rides. Because of turbulence, I spilled some soup in the tray table and I literally had to hold my tray table with one hand so I could consume the soup. It wasn’t anything special. I didn’t finish my soup and then I turned to my entertainment system (iPad to watch a couple episodes of House).
While watching some TV
, the dinner service started. Again there were three options: Indian non-veg; Indian veg; and continental. I selected for the Indian non-veg and it came with butter chicken, rumali roti, rice and raajma (kidney bean curry). Needless to say, the dinner was quite delicious and I finished all of it except for the Yogurt (dahi). Dessert & coffee service was next. I opted for the dessert and was given some butterscotch flavored ice-cream. Quite delicious.
The Non-Veg Dinner Option
While reviewing my documents, I asked my seat-mate which exit I should head to (Delhi Train Station has two different exits) so that I can take a pre-paid taxi to the airport. My seat-mate who was kind of looking at my ipad all the way, asked me where I was from and where I was going. So I said I was heading back to Columbus, OH
and he started talking about how he has been to various cities in the US because of his work. It seemed like a pleasant conversation until he started talking about how he gets to travel business class & first class and his company pays for it. All I could say was, ‘that’s really good for you!’ and then he asked me why I was traveling on the 8:50 am flight. Literally he wanted an explanation as to why I couldn’t take the flight via FRA
that would leave that same night. I told him that a seat wasn’t available. So he said that I could pay Rs. 300 and get into a ‘guest’ lounge at the airport where I could spend some time. I said I’m traveling business / first so I will have access to a lounge at the airport and I hope to spend my time there. He didn’t really communicate after that.
The train arrived in NDLS on time and once I got out of the train, it was a mad-house. There are usually porters (coolies they are called) who will carry your luggage for you. I was approached by one, and after some touch negotiation, he started walking me to the taxi stand. On my way there, I was hoarded by a lot of taxi drivers asking me where I was going. I’m quite fluent in hindi/Punjabi so I let everyone of them know that someone was picking me up. That seemed to do the trick and my ‘coolie’ helped me out as anyone who approached, before they could ask, my ‘coolie’ would answer that someone’s picking him up. I was dropped off and then I had to walk a little bit to the pre-paid taxi stand. There was quite a big line for the pre-paid taxi stand. Guys, this is where your patience is tested. Even when you are standing for the pre-paid service, there will be a lot of ‘post-paid’ taxi drivers that will try and get your business. They will say that their car is A/C, and that there aren’t any pre-paid taxis available, etc. etc. but you have to keep cool and decline them. I chose to just ignore and give them a ‘huh?’ look. As if I had no idea what they were talking about. I finally got to the window and I was assigned a taxi. This is awesome. If anyone is traveling from NDLS to Airport, please select these taxis. They are tracked by the company. They have to log in any unauthorized stop; they wear proper uniforms and are metered. Probably the safest way to travel if you are a bit paranoid like I am.
My taxi-driver was one of the nicest people I chatted with. He told me about the entire pre-pay taxi network and how it has made their jobs easier. He said that the other post-paid taxi drivers quote you a price, but in the middle of the trip, sometimes they will either hike the fair up or make stops to put in gas which you have to pay for. Since I haven’t experienced that, I won’t comment, but it seemed like this guy enjoyed his job. We made a stop for gas, and he had to call it in. He called and told that he was stopping at the gas station close to the airport. Once we filled up, he called again to let them know he was on his way. I was impressed! I was also in no rush whatsoever because my flight was the next day at 9 am. I had almost 8 hours to kill at the airport.
I was dropped at the airport and when I tried to get in; I was told that they only allow people to come in within 3 hours of their flight time. I was asked to head to the guest lounge, where if you are a passenger, you get in for free. Otherwise you have to pay Rs. 30 to get in. There is also a security guard post inside this lounge so that people can directly enter the airport through the lounge. Trying my luck again, I tried to enter via that security guard. He told me the exact same thing and told me to sleep. He said he would even wake me up when it’s time to let me in. What a nice gesture! He he. I tried to argue to say that I can go sit in the lounge inside as I’m traveling business class. He said that I needed a lounge pass or invitation. I didn’t have either so I tried to go to the Lufthansa counter to see if they could get me one. To my surprise, I was told, “Sir, your flight doesn’t open till 5 am. We won’t be able to provide you with a lounge pass till that”. (This is while they were still checking in the last few passengers for the flight leaving to FRA
). No problems, I picked a seat and took a nap.
Entrance to the lounge. You can see the airline counters beyond the sliding doors. I was already inside the lounge
This is the security guard area where you can directly go inside the terminal
The relaxing chairs that one can sleep on
A better view of the lounge
The lounge emptied as more and more flights departed
The busy FIDS at DEL
(My flight finally listed as Open)
Check-In counters being prepped
Inside the terminal
No lines at all at Lufthansa Check-In
Economy check-in getting busy
This was the first time I was visiting T3
. I was more than impressed by the sheer size & cleanliness of the terminal. The facilities were very clean, and the entire terminal was quite airy & modern. I really couldn’t believe this was a terminal in New Delhi, India. A much much improved & better terminal than the predecessor & dated T2
I finally decided it was time to go check-in. I walked to the First Class check-in Area and again was told that this wasn’t the economy class line. I smiled and said, “My flight from MUC
is in F, and DEL
is J, does that count?’. The gentleman laughed and said, ‘I’m sorry sir! Please continue on.” I got to the counter and the cheerful lady welcomed me, thanked me for flying Lufthansa and asked about my trip while she plugged away on her computer. I thought this was nice of her. After a few more strokes, she handed me my boarded passes, the lounge pass, and also informed me that there wouldn’t be anyone sitting next to me on this flight. I was more than happy. I headed towards the immigration control line. I had to fill out a departure card and there were pens / flat surface provided where people could fill them out. I filled one out, headed to immigration. I went to the premium class line which was empty and once again I was met by a person who’d rather be in bed than doing this job. There was no smile, no greeting, no questions asked. Some examination of the documents and a stamp saying I had departed India.
International Departures (You can see people filling out departure cards)
Upon clearing the security, I was in the duty-free shop which led to the airport’s rotunda that’s filled with a lot of top name brands and a lot of food options on the 2nd floor. I made my way to the lounge and while waiting to enter there, there was a family with a friend who were trying to get into the lounge by paying their way. They were asked to wait (apparently one guy had status so his Mrs. & child could come in; but their friend wasn’t being allowed) and I presented my lounge pass. I was let in without any issues and I guess a few minutes later, I saw all of them in the lounge. They must have been allowed in.
After immigration / clearing security
It’s like a shopping mall. Quite impressive.
Turkish A330 to IST
Heading to the lounge now
The Lounge that Lufthansa uses at DEL
The clean bathrooms
Pretty deserted at 6 am
After freshening up, I went and got some breakfast. I was quite hungry at this point and could use some food. There were quite a lot of options (such as small sandwiches, pastries, cookies), but I settled for Idly with Sambhar and some fresh fruit. I hadn’t had a soft drink in India and I thought before I would leave, I at least have to have one. So at 6 am, I went with Mirinda!
Yummy breakfast at 6 am
The sambhar was actually quite good. The idly’s could have been a bit softer, but I wasn’t about to complain at this hour.
Some more seats
After spending a lot of time in the lounge, it was time to head to the aircraft to board my flight. While heading there, I wanted to check out rest of the T3
. So I started to walk around and see if there were any interesting stores to check out. I found a couple, but boy were they expensive. I decided that I didn’t want to purchase anything; rather head to the aircraft and relax.
Kid’s playing area
Snacking Options (most of them closed at this hour)
The central seating area. Sort of similar to LHR
This was the store I was talking about. Very interesting; however super expensive
The Delhi DareDevils Sports Bar
Nice fancy chairs inside
Near the gate
Quite a large terminal
By the time I got to the gate, boarding had begun. There was a HUGE line for Economy. Luckily there was no line for the premium passenger boarding, so I quickly proceeded to board the plane.
DEL - MUC
Departure - 08:50 am
Arrival - 1:30 pm
My ride to MUC
First Class – I would experience this soon enough
My seat 6A
The vast leg room
Other J Class Passengers settling in
Once I was settled in, a welcome drink was offered. The choice was: water, champagne, or mango lassi. Obviously I went with the Mango Lassi and it was quite delicious. We were also given hot towels once boarding was complete.
The Welcome Drink
Soon enough, boarding was completed and we set off for an 8 hr (approx) journey to Munich. I had been to Munich before so I was familiar with the airport. I was looking forward to the service I was going to receive in LH
J Class. The FAs seemed quite cheerful / friendly and genuinely wanting to be there. We started, for what felt like an eternity, taxiing. Being that there weren’t a lot of flights departing at this hour, we were #2 on the take-off list. The A346 fired up those engines and we were thundering down the runway. Once again it seemed like an eternity before the plane rotated and we were airborne.
A private jet?
View from my seat
747 to LHR
overview after take-off
Already quite bright outside
Some high-rise apartments
The visible haze
Anyone want to guess where this is?
After we were level. The haze made it almost impossible to see what’s down there
Once we were level, I had to use the lavatory. I did just that. It was nice & clean and there were quite a lot of amenities available in the lavatory.
The Amenities inside the Lavatory
Soon, it was time for the service to begin. Here is what was on offer.
The service started with a drink service. I opted for the champagne again and was given this.
Logo on the Champagne Glass
Next, it was the fresh fruit with Granola and a Croissant & Indian bread.
It was quite delicious and the end result was:
I also tried the Bitter Lemon for the first time and let me just say it won’t be the last time. It was quite a refreshing drink and next time I’m on LH
, I will definitely try it again. On this flight, however, I had some bubbly to drink
While having some champagne, I turned to my entertainment, which was the moving map and looking outside the window. It was still quite hazy & sunny, so sorry about the picture quality.
A lake (can you spot it?)
Next, the main course came.
The chicken was made to perfection. Couldn’t say the same about the Veggie portion of the meal
After having food, I put my seat in a relaxed mode to get some sleep. I was quite tired and dozed off immediately.
The seat in the sleep position
When I woke up, we were about 1.5 hours from Munich. The FA
asked me if I was ready for some food. How could I say no? So after a few minutes, the FA
came back with this:
I started to look outside the window again to see if anything interesting was there…
Can anyone guess this region?
The massive engine
Another guess at this region?
Anyone wanna guess this airline?
We were now on approach into MUC
Another opportunity for guessing the area
We landed and started making way towards our gate.
A380 while Taxiing
A closer look
Overall, I’d say this was a great flight. Top Notch service, a very friendly crew along with the comfort of the Business Class seats. I would say that this flight was probably a notch above the ZRH
J class flight on LX
. And this is only because I felt the crew was slightly better.
After this long journey to MUC
, I was in dire need of a shower. I also wanted to stop to pick up a couple of bottles of Scotch for my dad. So I stopped in the Duty Free store and picked up a bottle of Glenrothes and The Dalwhinnie. I made my way to the LH
First Class Lounge. Upon entering, I was asked, “Yes Sir! Can I help you?”. I showed my boarding pass that had a big F on it, and the lady say, “Ah yes! Please give me your passport”. So there is a little window with a guy behind it who keeps your boarding pass and passport while you enjoy the First Class Lounge. Anyone know why this is?
I found the shower and after some time, felt amazingly fresh. It was time to grab a snack and a drink or two. I went to the bar and ordered myself a shot of Glenrothes on the rocks. Had to try what I just bought
and I wasn’t disappointed. The food selection was quite amazing in this lounge. There was a menu. Seeing a lot of the currywurst pictures here on A.net, I decided I had to try it and see what it was all about. Boy was it delicious. I didn’t really eat the French fries as I was quite stuffed. But it was good nonetheless. I got another shot of Glenrothes and by the time I finished my snack, boarding was being announced for my flight to ORD
. and I had yet to clear security.
The shower in the LH
First Class Lounge
My snack at the lounge
And the CurryWurst
MUC - ORD
Departure - 3:35 pm
Arrival - 6:20 pm
I quickly made my way towards security. Being that this was a flight to the US, I had to clear security once again. And boy is it strict. They x-ray your bags, and then they actually open them up again and look through them. What’s the point of x-raying them if you have to look at them anyways? Kind of redundant isn’t it? Then you get the pat down, which is almost borderline molestation. How did I leave a secure area at MUC
airport? Sorry, but Rant Over…
I made my way to the boarding area and went to the premium boarding line. I boarded and was greeted by a beautiful FA
by my last name. She showed me to my seat 1K and while I was still putting my stuff, she asked what I would like to drink. I went for bubbly again, and when she brought it she introduced me to my seat. Showed me a few things and greeted other fellow passengers. The F class today had a total of 4 passengers.
While I got settled in, the purser came and introduced himself and asked me about my travels. Once again, calling me from my last name. I was impressed already. He asked my size and then went and got me my pajamas and slippers along with my amenity kit.
The First Class Cabin, FINALLY!!!
My seat for the next 9 hours
The Welcome Drink with warm nuts
My huge TV
The Bubbly open with roses
The pilot came on and told us that they were still waiting for some connecting passengers due to late incoming aircraft. The purser came to me and said, it would still be about 15 minutes before we would take off and topped off my champagne glass. Needless to say, I didn’t have to ask for champagne. As soon as the glass would be close to emptying, it would magically be filled again. That’s what I call service. I had already consumed about 3 glasses and the Purser came and kiddi