The big Delhi

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
1
73
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Trip End Aug 01, 2007


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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Kristen Said:
 
Ok, I really can't believe I am leaving tomorrow.  I really can't.  My time here has flown by and I'm sad to have my vacation end and to leave these guys.  I have had SUCH a great time with KT and Todd and have really seen and experienced so much - definitely not your typical American vacation but I am SO glad I came and had this wonderful, didactic (like that word??!!) experience. 
 
I have to thank KT and Todd for being a huge part of the great time I have had here.  Their perfect itinerary and logistics planning, willingness to share their travel do's and don'ts and take on a first-time-ever-developing-country traveler (plus room together with me for the last 5 nights!) is what really made this trip so good overall - I think I might have had a different perspective if this had been a trip I had to do on my own or with less-experienced travel mates.  I am definitely going to miss seeing them, hanging out and having fun - we always have a lot of laughs, which is great and one of the things I miss about KT at the office.
 
Todd describes below our last couple of days so I won't go into the same details but will leave with my (sad) last top ten list...I'll be back to being on the other side of the computer reading the travelogues instead of being a part of them all too soon...
 
Top Ten Things I Have Experienced, Part V and Final:
 
10. India really IS a land of contradictions...extreme poor and very wealthy; hot water one day - no water the next; warm, friendly people and leering, staring men; cars for hire and cows roaming the streets...I could go on and on...
9. I can effectively now ignore constant staring and continuous honking everywhere we go
8. KT and I can REALLY annoy Todd when we both sing in 'harmony' to "Fill Me Up Buttercup, Baby" (KT and I are both a bit off-key, so we're told, although we think we are fabulous singers)
7. I love Indian food but I think there is possibly a saturation point and I've hit it...I think I'm off Indian food for a couple of weeks...
6. India, for the most part, was not challenging as I had expected.  Yes, there are some really hard parts to see but I had expected things to be 10 times worse and I was glad to see that there seems to be some progress ("Green India" is an environmental campaign, "India Poised" is a campaign about India being on the brink of some great new changes).
5. KT and Todd are SO not roughing it!!  (this needs to be re-emphasized just in case you missed it the first time...and in case you didn't know that they will be spending a couple of weeks at the beach in Goa...and going to a beach in Malaysia...)
4. The TV station Star World is apparently the saving grace for KT (and probably Todd more so, since KT is occupied!) in many countries
3. The internet, cell phone reception, long-distance calls - all so much quicker and better in even remote parts of India...how IS that possible??  I'm petitioning Verizon as soon as I get home...
2. I know the dollar-rupee exchange rate is really good right now but KT and I have shown that it is still possible to spend a lot of $USD when you get us going in a strip-mall type place of all shops!
1. I have had a fantastic experience with great friends that I will have to remember for a lifetime!
 
 
Todd Said:
 
Just by looking out the window on the three-hour train from Agra to Delhi you can see a microcosm of India. As the train pulls out of the station and the dome and minarets of the Taj Mahal fades into the distance you quickly pass the stunning red sandstone walls of the Mughal-era Agra Fort followed rapidly by a series of shanties and slums on the outskirts of the town. That quickly gives way to beautifully lush green fields stretching as far as the eye can see. Some farmers tend their crops by hand, others using rather modern tractors. Occasionally the fields give way to a sprawling industrial complex or small rural village. As the train starts to draw near to Delhi, you pass literally ten miles of absolutely squalid shantytowns lining the tracks. Polluted puddles of oily water, piles of smoldering trash, roving pigs and dogs, and masses of people and rickety smoke-belching vehicles fill the dusty streets. It looks like hell on earth. As you draw near to the city center, modern buildings appear more and more often until you arrive into the middle of the metropolis. That's India for you, in the space of three hours looking out a window you can see unbelievable beauty, repulsive ugliness, amazing history, unfathomable poverty, astonishing wealth, and the full range of human triumph and frailty...
 
It is difficult to really get a grip on Delhi. It is such a huge and diverse place. In the space of a one single block I have seen an internet cafe, a trendy boutique, a number of cows sleeping in the street, someone leaving a flower garland offering at a small Hindu shrine, beggars with missing limbs, men in business suits on cell phones next to others wearing dhotis (the diaper-like wrap Gandhi often wore) carrying a bundles of firewood. Again though I guess that's India for you! We spent a bit of time yesterday shopping in Delhi's huge number of wonderful handicraft emporia. Thankfully Kristen is doing us a big favor by shuttling home some of the "treasures" we picked up. We spent most of the day today visiting a few of the big sites around town, the Mughal architecture masterpiece Humayun's Tomb, the Lotus Temple of the Baha'i religion, and the jaw-dropping ruins of Qtub Minar. Great way to spend a day!!!
 
I'm sorry to say that Kristen is heading home tomorrow. Her time here has really flown by, and there is so much more to see! We are going to be doing quite the marathon of train rides over the next few weeks hopping around northern India and working our way back south again. Our first stop will tomorrow in the northeast to the city of Amritsar to visit the Golden Temple of the Sikhs.
 
 
Katie Said:
 
No!!!!!!!  Kristen is leaving and leaving me here in India!  Noooooooooo!!!!!  I really enjoyed having her here, and I am sad to see her go!
 
On the train ride into Delhi from Agra, we passed some of the most upsetting poverty I have seen on this entire trip.  In most other countries we have been to, the impoverished areas have been at least somewhat tidy...even if people didn't have a lot, they still took pride in keeping the dirt swept, trash in a central area, and in general the sanitary conditions were at least passable.  The poor areas leading up to Delhi are absolutely squalid, and I have a hard time imagining how things could be much worse.  There is trash everywhere, housing made out of extremely dirty and ripped tarps, livestock roaming around and leaving droppings everywhere, human waste all around as there is no plumbing or sewage control, and standing stinky water puddles scattered throughout with people actually trying to bathe and do laundry in it.  It is completely filthy, and it really illustrates that it is much worse to be extremely destitute in a major city than out in the country where "camping" conditions are likely much better.  People find amazing ways to survive here, including burning cow dung as fuel for warmth and cooking.
 
The city of Delhi really seems like it is on the brink of major economic development.  There are some really pretty areas of the city, with wide tree lined streets, amazing government buildings, and nice shopping malls and restaurants.  The brand new subway system just opened in 2006, and many of the major tourist sites here have either just been restored or are currently under restoration.  It would be interesting to visit again in 10 years just to see the changes!
 
We have a whirlwind tour of Northern India starting tomorrow.  In the next 8 days we are taking 4 overnight trains to condense some of the sightseeing portion of our time, which will enable us to spend more time at the beach in the southern Indian state of Goa.  Hopefully the symphony of snores in sleeper class on the trains won't be nearly as loud as it was last week!
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