And so to Delhi
Trip Start Oct 07, 2007
2Trip End Mar 30, 2008
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Our travels in India have principally been on an Itinerary we organised with a local company, Savion. The tour has covered several locations in Rajasthan and Urdu Pradesh in northern India where we have moved from location to location mainly by train, at night. We started in Delhi and then went to Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Jaipur, Agra and then Varanasi. The tour finished with 3 days in Kathmandu in Nepal and then a return to Delhi. At each location we were picked up by agents at the station and taken to our hotel where we were then later collected by our own driver and a guide to visit the sights. Without exception this was efficiently executed despite the vagaries of the nationalised and inefficient but cheap railway system. The trains at night are packed. Fortunately they are air conditioned and sheets, pillows and blankets are provided. These second class sleepers are mainly two tier bunks but on one occasion we did have a three tier sleeper. Try as you may though they cannot be said to be comfortable. The hotels we stayed at on the other hand were excellent 4 star standard, many with evening entertainment in their bars and/or restaurants and most had pools. Apart from the rail journeys we were therefore very comfortably looked after, having a fair amount of free chill time, mainly by the pool.
This first leg of our second trip has been tremendously enjoyable with so many memorable sights, some very beautiful but some rather sad. Apart from a bit of scene setting relating to our first few days in Delhi I have restricted the description of sights to the main attractions since if everything of interest had been included this newsletter would be twenty pages long. Although we have never been to India before we had some idea what to expect because of our daughter Jane's trip there seven years ago. However, I do not think you can ever be fully prepared for what awaits you when you first walk into the streets of Delhi, Old Delhi in particular.
Our journey from Gatwick to Delhi went like clockwork. We stopped on route at Dubai airport. This is an impressive 21st century complex with a very cosmopolitan feel judging by the variety of dress, particularly headwear of both men and women. The airport has a huge duty free shopping mall buzzing with customers. Delhi on the other hand felt like stepping back into the fifties. The airport was very dowdy and in need of a major facelift. This theme followed us when we picked up our taxi. The car must have been over fifty years old. It had no seat belts and its dilapidated body looked as bad as its coughing noisy engine. We got to our hotel at about 3.30 am and so did not see much of Delhi until later in the day. As soon as we walked out of the hotel at about noon we were firmly hit by the reality of Delhi. We were less hit by the pleasant heat than we were near missed by several cars, auto rickshaws and motorbikes. Bedlam or disorganised chaos on the roads together with a bustling pedestrian mishmash amidst environmentally third rate buildings and roads confronted and somewhat stunned us. We felt decidedly disorientated; Barbara held my hand more tightly than I can ever remember. The early confrontation by a family of beggars did not help. We were pestered by a rickshaw driver soon after getting some money from an ATM and decided to take his offer of a ride into the centre of Delhi. This turned out to be the scariest ride of our life, better than any fair ground ride at Alton Towers. The drive became a bit of a haze amid blaring horns and near misses and the chatter of the driver who also had his young son sitting next to him in the only seat in the front. We stayed with the same rickshaw for several hours which helped us acclimatise to the mayhem and gave us the beginning of an understanding of the layout of the city.
The next day, before starting our itinerary, we took the advice of the hotel proprietor and hired a car with a driver for the day, which cost about £11. Our main destination was the Akshadham Temple in New Delhi which we expected would take up most of the day. It is a fairly recently completed monument/temple built in the honour of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. The main building is stunning from afar as well as close to. It is a multi domed building with the stonework being between the colours of pink champagne and beige. There are fine sculpture reliefs internally and externally and the whole of the external ground level perimeter of the building depicts elephant sculptures interacting with man in both spiritual and work settings. There were several other areas within the complex which we visited which added up to a very interesting but tiring day. We therefore opted to end it with a relaxing visit to the Green Park area and the Deer Park. We enjoyed the walk in the parkland setting and felt far removed from the hectic roads of Delhi particularly when we got to the large deer enclosure, which became even better when we discovered the award winning Ballushi Restaurant.
The next morning we were picked up by our tour operator, Savion, and taken to a more salubrious hotel, The Connaught, in New Delhi to commence our Indian itinerary proper. The first day was a free day but they gave us a car and driver to use as we wished. While all of our time today was spent in the more prosperous looking New Delhi there is still so much poverty rubbing shoulders with affluence in evidence. We saw makeshift tent and corrugated tin encampments in several areas with beggars cum circus children somersaulting amid the road chaos at traffic lights just to earn a few rupee from tourists. The free roaming cows on the highways meanwhile add to the cultural shock. Our first tourist stop was the Lotus Temple.
The following day we had a guided tour of several other sights in Delhi. The first stop, in Old Delhi, was The Jama Masjid, the largest Mosque in India where about 30% of people are still said to be Muslims, despite the creation of Pakistan. It was built in the17th century by the Mughal invaders.
It has a huge external rectangular courtyard which can hold 25,000 worshipers in their kneeling position. There are good views of the Red fort nearby and the buzzing bazaar adjacent to it. According to our guide the invaders tried to appease the locals by incorporating Hindu architecture alongside the typical Mughal domes.
This is generally quite a simple memorial but we found it quite a moving experience. After lunch we then went on to the Qutab complex, principally to see the Qutab Minar. This is a Muslim victory tower, made of multicoloured sandstone some 239 feet high to celebrate the Mughal's defeat of the Hindu kingdom in the 12th century.
Our final stop for the day was at the Humayun Tomb. This Mughal built mausoleum was said to be built by the senior widow of Humayun in the 16th century. It is quite a stunning structure surrounded by gardens and water channels said to have inspired the architects who later built the Taj Mahal.