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Five Days in India

Five Days in India
via Etihad and Singapore First Class
February 2016

After breakfast, we met and our excellent guide Vijay and headed out on a gloriously sunny morning.   Driving by the iconic Hawa Mahal... 

... to the Jantar Mantar, an astronomical observatory built in 1827 by Raja Sawai Jai Singh II.

 

To the City Palace, where associate director Giles Tilotson escorted us on an informative tour of the palace.

To the fascinating Palace museum.

 

Followed by lunch at the City Palace restaurant.

Following lunch, a rare treat for the public with a visit to Jal Mahal.  This recently restored summer lake palace in the middle of Mah Sagar Lake is apparently the victim of bureaucratic tussles that has prevented the current owners from completing their planned projects around the palace and lake.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped to look at jewelry at the Silver and Art Palace.

Fortunately, Mrs. SFO agreed to "think about it" overnight... and decided the next morning that she really didn't need the jewelry.  Whew!

And back to Rambagh to rest and then drinks with Thakur Durga Singh of Mandawa, scion of the the aristocratic family of Mandawa in northeast Rajasthan.  And dinner in the formal dining room.

Getaway Day started with another delicious in-room breakfast.

We checked out around 10am and departed with our guide Vijay and driver.

Our first stop was the Jaipur "flower mart".  Fascinating experience with a sensory overload of colors.

Mrs. SFO enjoying a good laugh with one of the vendors.

Then off to the spectacular Amber Fort.

OK, yeah I know it is so touristy but I decided to take an elephant ride up to the fort.  Not surprisingly, Mrs. SFO declined and took our SUV up to the fort.

Fifteen painful minutes later, we're at the fort.  Mrs. SFO was the smart one today.

After our visit to the Amber Fort, we headed for lunch at The Raj Palace.

Setting up for tonight's wedding.

Another delicious meal.

And off to the airport for our flight to Mumbai.

 

From lunch, we headed to the airport and arrive about 75 minutes before departure.  Since Jet is years ahead of Air India, I had no problem checking in online and printing our boarding passes from the hotel.  As with all Indian airport, only passengers with tickets can enter the terminal.   Our local rep collared a Jet rep to escort to security.  Not that difficult at this small airport but what the heck.

Once thru security, we headed to Gate 1A and 1B, aka the bus gates.

I left Mrs. SFO at the gate area and headed off to explore the rest of the terminal.

The C.I.P. Lounge, perhaps open for international flights.

From the terminal to the tarmac gate positions.

And back downstairs.

Where the gate lice are already lining up.  Whoa, and I thought United gate lice was bad.

Joining the queue.

Jaipur to Mumbai
Jet Airways (9W) 2054
737-800 BSI
4:40p-6:30p
February 22, 2016
Seats 2DF
 

Three rows on Business Class seats.  Not the most comfortable but fine for a short domestic flight.

 

Today's menu.  Having just eaten, we declined as did most other pax that I could see.

 

On approach to BOM

And naturally to a remote stand.

And the short ride across the tarmac to the domestic arrivals lobby.

And outside to the chaotic domestic pick-up area.  Crazy.

And the roughly hour long drive south to Marine Drive and The Oberoi.

Not a great pic but the world's most expensive residence at the end of the street.

 

Nice business hotel in an excellent location.   Some pics from this trip and from three years ago.

 

 

Well, by now Mrs. SFO has reached her limit on exotic places.   And after two great upgrades, Mrs. SFO is not happy about the room apparently in disbelief and denial that we didn't get another one tonight.  LOL.

After we settled into to our crappy room, LOL, we headed downstairs for dinner at much-heralded Ziya and 2 Michelin Star Chef Vineet Bhatia.

Pic from the Oberoi Mumbai website.

Great setting, service and delicious contemporary Indian cuisine.

 

Our final day in India began with in room dining.

Technically, it is an Ocean View, or at least a Sea View... of the Arabian Sea.

Although a pretty ugly one...

We met our guide Nina and driver and headed out to the The Gateway of India and our "private cruise" to Elephanta Island.  But first some sights of Mumbai.  I'm thinking that the British were here.  LOL.  Some pics from this trip and my last visit.

And The Gateway of India at southern end of South Mumbai.

And our private luxury liner to Elephanta.  Private as in a regular ferry where we are the only pax.  And a crew of 5!

OK, these sea gulls are no dummies.  They know there's a meal to be had.

And the "evil eye" pic of the trip. LOL.

Meal time.

Got it.

There is a shuttle train from the pier to "town" but we were in between, so we walked while it was still reasonably cool.

Wow, let's gouge the tourists.  10 rupees for Indians, 250 rupees for foreigners.  At nearly 70 rupees to the dollar, pretty cheap.

And the caves of Elephanta Island, with a temple complex over 1,200 years ago.  Dedicated to the trinity of Indian dieties _ Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Some of the sculptures were damaged when the island was used by the Portugese as a base, where these used the images as target practice. 

You get to and from the caves by stairs/walkway lined all the way with hawker stalls, where apparently most of the island's residents work.

Now approaching +30C, we took the mini-train back to our boat for the return to Mumbai.

You probably don't want to go swimming here.

Shockingly good air quality today.  :)

And back to the hotel for a late lunch.  After 5 days of India food, we both decided to go western today.

Then up to our room to relax before our 8pm airport pick-up.

We departed the The Oberoi at around 8:15pm and arrived at the beautiful new terminal just over an hour later.

To the Singapore counter.

Our Peirce & Leslie then escorted us to the premium security area where we were the only two pax.   After passport control, into the departure concourse. 

Apparently, no airline has its own lounge at BOM.   Everyone shares the same lounges... either a contract Business Class Lounge or a contract First Class Lounge.  Not sure what the deal is by our P&L said that the lounges are run by GVK, who apparently built the terminal. 

Pleasant enough lounge with a blingy Indian-style decor.   Even the blingy EK has a more understated lounge.   Not sure how much time I could spend here.

There is a dining area, that is actually roped off... not sure who gets to sit in there as all pax here are F pax.

Lots of serve yourself food options, although nothing that looked all that exciting.  Maybe I'm just tiring of Inidan food.

At around T-45, we headed out for the 5 minutes walk to our gate.

 

Mumbai to Singapore
Singapore SQ 432
777-300ER (schedule maintenance swap from A380-800)
11:35p-7:25a +1 (sked)
11:35p-6:40a +1 (actual)
February 23, 2016
Suites 2CD
 

Boarding commenced as soon as we arrived at the gate.    When I originally booked this flight, SQ was using an A380-800.  However, scheduled maintenance for the A380 caused an old 77W to be swapped for two weeks, including our departure date.   Since it was only a 4h40m flight, just like LAX-JFK, not that big a deal. 

 

Today's menu.

And wine list.

Pre-departure beverages were limited to non-alcoholic as FA claimed that they could not serve alcohol on the ground in India. 

Once in the air, I decided to watch Premiers Crus, an entertaining wine-related French movie set in Burgundy.

While Mrs. SFO headed to sleep shortly after take-off.

But not me.  I'm always up for some food and drink.

Except that my seat controls and then IFE crapped out.  Our FA and purser had to reset it 4 times before it finally took.   Yeah, this looks like modern technology.  Ha.

Showtime.

To start, the Tandoori Spiced Lobster with chili grape chutney and dahi kachumber.  Very good.

The the Indian Style Creamy Carrot soup.  Meh. 

For my main, I went with another starter, the Trilogy of Asian Prawn.  OK, not so good.  Couple of bites and I was done.  

I finished my movie and then slept for a couple of hours before we began our descent to Changi, where we pulled into Gate B10 at the end of the B concourse.  While SQ provides great in flight service, its premium ground service is pretty much non-existent.   No car service (like AF), no buggy service (like TG), just a long, long walk to the Sliver Kris Lounge and The Private Room. 

About 15 minutes later, we're at the Silver Kris Lounge.

Finally, we arrive at the escalator to the Silver Kris lounges.  Some pics from last month. 
 

Up to the SilverKris Lounge.  One glimpse of our First Class boarding passes and we were welcomed and escorted thru the First Class (Star Alliance) lounge to The Private Room.

Today's breakfast menu.  

I had scrambled eggs.

While Mrs. SFO had the Vietnamese Pho with Beef which I had last month.

At around T-50, we headed downstairs and the 7 minute walk back to Gate B4 and more SQ non-premium treatment.   Changi has security at the gate or gate clusters.  Unfortunately, it's every pax for him or herself with no priority or premium line.  So it took 7 minutes in line to clear security.  Not so good SQ.

 

SQ's pathetic premium ground product continues with no priority security line.  After waiting an annoying 10 minutes to clear security behind a dozen Economy passengers, we were in boarding area.

Singapore to Tokyo (Narita)
SQ 12
A380-800
9:20a-5:20a (sked)
9:20a-4:50p (actual)
February 24, 2016
Suites 2CD
 
Boarding had already started by the time we arrived at the gate.
 

Finally the premium experience begins with a separate First Class jet bridge.

Once in the air, a glass of Krug.

And the always excellent satay.

Today's menu.

And the wine list.

Taking lunch selections.

Showtime.

Starting with the Parma Ham and Perigourdine Truffle salad with shaved rock melon and honeydew.   Pretty good.

The lavosh was excellent and I may have cleaned them out on that.

Salad of Baby Spinach, Arugula, Frisée, Sun-dried tomato and Kalamata olives.

For my main, I had Booked the Cook and went with Matt Moran's Seared Lamb Loin with salsa verde, Lyonnaise onion, aioli and bacon.

Unfortunately, it was awful... overcooked and inedible... with no sign salsa verde, aioli and bacon.   Not that it would have made it any less inedible.

The Warm Lemon Tart with mango ice cream and citrus salad was good.

After lunch, I moved over to 4A, Mrs. SFO to 2K for a couple of hours of sleep.

We arrived 30 minutes early and headed to security and then wait to reboard the continuation of SQ12 to LAX.

A short walk from the gate is Security.

And around the corner to the ANA Suites Lounge.  Pics from last month.

With an hour to wait, I headed to the showers to freshen up.