Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Back in Delhi

thali lunch

17 January 2012
I arrived back in Delhi Monday afternoon and met the cab I had arranged to pick me up from the airport to bring me to my hotel. My hotel for the final 3 nights in Delhi is in the same neighborhood as the last time I was in Delhi but seems to be in a busier and better lit part of that neighborhood. There is also WiFi available in the reception that was fast enough to support Skype phone calls without interruption and uploading photos at a decent speed. My room is kind of a dump. The bed is softer than my bed in Jaipur was but the sheets have some stains on them - I’m glad I brought my own to use. The door has a wide gap at the base which I don’t particularly like and it just overall seems like quite a rundown room. There appear to be nice rooms within the hotel but I am sure those cost more. I figured it was only for a couple of nights and I would be able to bolt myself into my room so it would do. I just relaxed on Monday night and got in touch with Bernie who was still in Delhi for one more day before heading back to Australia. We made plans to meet up on Tuesday morning at the Red Fort and do a bit of touring together.

Red Fort
Tuesday morning I got up and had breakfast then made my way to the New Delhi metro station. The metro station is on the opposite side of the railway station from where my hotel is and the quickest way to get there is to go through the railway station and over the tracks. It was a quick trip to the Red Fort in Old Delhi. As I got off the metro, I found myself again confused about which way to go to get to the Red Fort. The Delhi metro is nice and pretty clean, but I think it would be really helpful if they would indicate which gate to exit out of to get to the various historic/tourist sights. Perhaps they don’t anticipate that many tourists will use this system for transportation. Thankfully, I saw a couple of obvious foreigners and asked if they were heading to the Red Fort and if I could walk with them. They were two guys from the US who were in India for business and doing a little sightseeing before heading back. We walked to the Red Fort and I easily found Bernie at the entrance gate. 

Red Fort
The Red Fort was pretty similar to the other Mughal forts I have seen while in northern India. It was more impressive from the outside due to its massive size then from the inside. It was worth seeing but I had been more impressed with the Agra Fort and Amber Fort. I think if I were to do this trip again, I would cut out a few of the forts that I visited because I felt like once I had seen a couple, I had seen them all.

Next we took a rickshaw to Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi. This tomb was the model for the design of the Taj Mahal. Unfortunatley the tomb was undergoing some restoration work so large green sheets covered parts of the tomb which took away some from it’s effect. I wish it had been a nicer day to see the tomb as that would have also added to the impressiveness of the tomb. Part of the problem is Delhi itself. The city is so hazy that I have rarely seen more than just a peek of blue sky. The haze also causes a lot of my pictures to look somewhat blah as well. It was still a beautiful and impressive tomb. The information section provided at the entrance of the tomb was very well done. The most interesting thing I learned was the reason for the beautiful lattice-work screens that I have seen in many of the tombs. Apparently, when Mohammed was being chased by his enemies, he hid in a cave and spiders weaved a web over the entrance of the cave to keep him hidden from his enemies. In this way, he was kept safe through the night. The screens over the windows of the tombs are to represent the webs of the spiders that protected Mohammed from his enemies. 

Red Fort
After visiting the tomb, we were quite hungry. Bernie suggested a place called Rajdhani for lunch that was mentioned in the Lonely Planet and is reputed to be a delicious place for thalis. Thalis are sort of a sampler platter of various Indian “curries” with unlimited refills. I put “curry” in quotations because curry is really a term the British used to lump the wide variety of Indian dishes together to simplify them. Each region has its own distinct “curry” using different ingredients and spices to provide a unique taste experience. Calling it all “curry” fails to distinguish between these individual dishes. In addition to the curries, you are given unlimited refills of roti or chapati to dip into the curries. For about $5, we had a fabulous and filling meal. After finishing the bottle of water that I ordered from the restaurant, I pulled out my own bottle which I had added Crystal Light to. One of the restaurant managers approached me and asked if I had brought alcohol into the restaurant. I told him no - that I had just added some juice mix to the water to give it flavor. From what I have read, it is really frowned upon for women to drink alcohol in public in northern India. It actually may be frowned upon for women to drink alcohol at all - even in private. I just hated to waste plastic bottles which is why I had pulled out my own.

Humayun's Tomb
Bernie and I talked about going to see the Qutub Minar as well for sightseeing but we were both a little tired of touring and wanted a more relaxed afternoon. I still had one more day in Delhi and could go to the Qutub Minar on Wednesday. Rajdhani was in Connaught Place which had some interesting shopping that I had planned to check out if I had time. We spent the afternoon going through various shops including The Shop, The People Tree, Fabindia, and Central Cottage Industries Emporium. I also finally found a copy of Lonely Planet South India. It was a pretty successful afternoon of shopping although I really don’t have weight and space room to bring much more to Bangalore. I’m hoping that once I get there, besides shopping for things I need on a daily basis, I won’t do much pleasure shopping. Otherwise I will have to figure out the postal service to mail some things home!

Qutb Minar
After shopping we were still full from lunch and so concluded our day with a coffee at Cafe Coffee Day. Both Bernie and I were so glad that we could meet up and tour Delhi together today. I hope we are able to keep in touch and perhaps when I make it to Australia, I can go to Melbourne and visit!

18 January 2012
Wednesday - my last day in Delhi and my last day of my two week tour of the Golden Triangle. I am definitely ready to be done touring and to settle in to a routine in Bangalore and actually start doing some work. It’s been a great couple of weeks, but I get tired of traveling and touring and not being able to unpack. My only plan for the day was to see the Qutub Minar and to meet up with Sarah when she returned to Delhi later Wednesday afternoon.

Qutb Minar
I spent the morning lazily - I caught up on my blog posting through my trip to Agra and called my parents. Just before noon, I left my hotel and took the metro to Cafe Coffee Day in Connaught Place to have some lunch. I enjoyed the quiet buzz of the coffee shop and did some reading while eating my lunch and drinking my coffee. After lunch, I got back on the metro and headed to Qutub Minar. At the metro station, I took a rickshaw the rest of the way to the historical site. The Qutub Minar is the site of the first city of Delhi after the Mughals took over during the 11th century. The tower itself was built in the 1100s and is made of red sandstone and marble like much of the Mughal architecture during their several hundred year rule over northern India. It has five stories demarcated by projections and intricate carvings and inscribed verses from the Koran beautifully decorate the minaret. It reaches a height of 72m. The tower itself was created as a tower of victory for the Mughal takeover of the region from the Hindu rajputs. It was started at the end of the 1100s but didn’t reach it’s current height until the last stories were added in the mid 1300s. Also part of the complex is the remnants of the first mosque in India which was created using pieces from Hindu and Jain temples and created by Hindu artisans. The original mosque was expanded over time and one Mughal emperor had plans to build a larger tower than the Qutub Minar but his tower only made it to 27m before construction stopped with his death. The ruins of this tower are a disappointing pile of rocks compared to the beautiful work of the nearby structures. Another wonderful example of Mughal architecture is with the tombs and the south entry gate. Made of red sandstone and marble with the beautiful carving work throughout as well as the very pretty lattice screens covering the windows, both the tomb and the entry gate are impressive to spend time looking at when you can take your eyes off of the Qutub Minar. 

Qutb Minar
The oldest piece within the complex is a 7.2m tall Iron Pillar. There is a Sanskrit inscription on the pillar which dates it to the 4th century. The Iron Pillar is a wonder because it has never rusted which apparently has baffled scientists because the technology of the 4th century did not seem to allow for rust-proofing iron. 

This was a great way to end my touring of the north. I felt like I had seen quite a lot and at a certain point it becomes difficult to really take anything more in. I made my way via metro to Sarah’s hotel in the hopes that perhaps her group had checked in early and I would get some more time to spend with her. I was in luck! Her group had checked in, and I asked the receptionist to ring her room for me. It was nice to talk about our adventures since we had last seen each other a few days before and also to talk about some plans. Sarah’s group was finally getting some free time to explore and she didn’t really know what exactly to do - there is so much in Delhi. I was so reliant on my guidebook to help me decide what to do and see and was very pleased with what I was able to accomplish so I gave her my suggestions based on what she and her roommate were interested in doing/seeing. We then went and had dinner together at a short walk away from her hotel then took the metro back. I was very excited about the matching rings with the “Ohm” mantra inscribed in them in Hindi that Sarah found for us at a market she had been to in Delhi. It’s nice to have a physical reminder of family on me at all times. I left to return to my hotel and repack all my things before having to catch my flight to Bangalore Thursday morning. We hugged goodbye. If I am not able to make it home in March, I won’t get to see her again until the end of June/early July :( It was great fun to be able to meet up in India and although we didn’t actually get to see any sights together, it was still fun to meet up and swap stories. I hope she has a great last few days in Delhi and a safe trip home! I look forward to joining her there in a few more months... Namaste.
sun salutation at Delhi airport

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