Wide Open Spaces...
Trip Start May 31, 2006
18Trip End Jul 11, 2006
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Where I stayed
We have made it out of Mumbai alive and have safely arrived in India's capital city. I had very low expectations as to what to expect when we arrived in Delhi...all the people in our program that had visited brought back horror stories of filth, scams and hassle. Arriving was easy as our Kingfisher flight (or "experience" as they like to call it) landed on time, our driver was there to pick us up and we were able to make it to our hotel pretty easily. I guess the only thing you could say that may have been a bit of a hassle is the car that picked us up was about the size of a Geo Metro...so imagine the four of us and a driver and huge backpacks...yeah it wasn't the most comfortable but it was fine.
We stayed at the Metropolis Tourist Home in the Paharganj region of Delhi
Once we settled in we set out to explore Delhi in a day. It was now only about 11 AM so we had a good bit of time to cover the sights we wanted to see. Delhi is sort of a unique place as it is a conglomeration of really eight versions of itself, the last being the capitol established by the British in the early 20th century as "New Delhi". Mainly it is really just Old Delhi and New Delhi so we wanted to cover parts of both.
Our first destination was an area just south of Paharganj called Connaught Place. It is a massive rotary consisting of seven streets that are divided into blocks from A to N. It seems a bit confusing at first but we found our way. On our way there we were being led initially by a couple of "friendly gentlemen" who insisted they wanted no money but had our best interests in mind
After Connaught Place our plan was to stroll down the Janpath to the Rajpath, an area resembling The Mall in Washington with the India Gate, Presidential Palace, Parliament, Museums...etc. On the way we stopped off at an amazing government emporium called Central Cottage Industries. Government controlled emporiums are all over the country and you can find great quality stuff at good (and fixed) prices. You can get stuff much cheaper on the streets, but you can pretty much guarantee the stuff you buy in these places is of solid quality. After we ventured across the street to the Janpath Tibetan Market. Justin was in his glory as he went from store to store investigating all the trinkets.
So one thing we all immediately noticed (and loved) about Delhi was the fact that it actually had a layout. Urban planning did not really exist in Bombay, especially in the areas we were in up north. So far, the areas of New Delhi had large sidewalks, massive boulevards, traffic flow and even traffic lights that people seemed to obey! It was nice to be able to walk down the street and not be actually walking in the street. We also noticed that people did not hassle you quite as much (especially since we were pre-warned how terrible it is)
So we eventually made it to the Rajpath and spent a while walking through the gardens and grass of The Mall. As you can see from my pictures with the India Gate in the background (totally resembles the Arc de Triumph) that New Delhi looks nothing like Mumbai. This was again solidified when we strolled down to take the metro. We were expecting the horrific experience that we had every time we rode the trains in Bombay...but what did we find instead? A metro system nicer that pretty much anywhere I'd ever been. It was cleaner than NYC or London and had totally modern stations. Whereas Bombay's system looked like it was still stuck in the 1930's, Delhi's is only four years old and ran like a well-made German car. We were all VERY impressed (and relieved).
On the metro we made our way up to explore Old Delhi. It was now later in the afternoon and were trying to get a few more sights in. Getting off the train in Old Delhi, we saw that vast differences that existed between new and old
Our goal for the afternoon was to see the Jama Masjid mosque and the Red Fort. We did accomplish both (quite impressively). The Jama Masjid mosque is the largest mosque in India and was built over fourteen years, starting in 1644. It was Shah Jahan's last architectural feat as the Mughal emperor as his son deposed him shortly after its completion. It is a massive mosque with two minarets both standing at over 40 meters. It is made entirely of alternating strips of red sandstone and white marble. We arrived just as prayer was beginning so the three Jews and one Asian were not let inside. We tried to get a few got snapshots however.
After the mosque we attempted to walk to the main site of Old Delhi, the Lal Qila (or Red Fort). We finally gave in and took a cycle rickshaw ride over to the fort (we finally bargained for 20 rupees with the guy). I put up a video of Jesse and David behind Justin and myself. It was a bit scary...I'm not gonna lie.
The fort is made up of many areas but the main ones that we ventured to were the main Lahore Gate (armed with Indian Military with semi-automatic weapons pointed at us as we entered) and then the Diwan-I-Am and Diwan-I-Khas. The two Diwan's were located in two large courtyards. The former was used as the "Hall of Public Audiences", the latter as the "Hall of Private Audiences". The Diwan-I-Khas was much more elaborate (hence the "private") but both were quite elaborate. Next to the Diwan's were the Hammams or Royal Baths as well as the Shahi Burj, the royal residence. The residence itself was quite modest but it was interesting to see none-the-less.
The streets were quite crowded after we left the Red Fort...we were having a bit of trouble making our way back to the metro until a nice one legged man on a crutch told us he would lead us there. In vintage India fashion he weaved his way through the crowds, stopped traffic and did in-fact lead us to the Delhi Metro. The main was promptly rewarded with a solid tip, as we were quite thankful he led us in the right direction. The trains were packed now because it was rush hour...but still nowhere near what Bombay was. It did still smell however...but that's pretty much standard operation procedure wherever you are here...
For dinner were headed back to Connaught Place and were able to meet up with Marcus, Emily and Jessica from our group
Our packed day in Delhi was quite amazing and we were able to accomplish so much. Tomorrow we are off to Agra and the Taj Mahal...