After booking in we walked to the New Delhi Train Station to check on a few trains we may need to take and from there we walked to Connaught Place which is the main business area of Delhi
. On the way we saw our first dead body of the trip, we’re not quite sure what happened but he was lying in the road, rigor mortis was setting in and no-one was particularly bothered about moving him.
The first excursion was to Lal Qila in Old Delhi or as it is better known, the Red Fort due to the red sandstone used in its construction. We very nearly turned back when we saw the ticket queue, but soon realised the queue was for locals and there was a separate "Foreigners Queue" and so there should be as we pay Rs 250 to their Rs 10. The fort was commissioned by Shah Jahan in 1638 and the emperor moved in ten years later. This fort was different to the others we’ve seen as it was built as a residence as well as a defense against marauding invaders, thus there are plush apartments, beautiful gardens and all the other trappings of Mughal royalty. The Fort was eventually attacked and plundered by the British in 1857.
The next visit on the itinerary was Agra and the famous Taj Mahal, undoubtedly the zenith of Mughal architecture. We caught India’s premier train, the Shatabdi Express at 6.00am from New Delhi Station and were whisked to Agra in two hours. On arrival in Agra you immediately get the impression that it is full of con-artists determined to squeeze more money out of your pocket
. We got a taxi to the Taj Mahal, bought our tickets and entered. Is it impressive, yes. Is it the most impressive, no, Angkor Wat in Cambodia still tops that list. That said, the beauty of the white marble centre piece which changes colour as the sun rises and sets, isn’t diminished by the hordes of people that visit the site. An interesting aside is that foreigners are given “Taj Slippers” and on entering the crypt area you slip these over your footware whereas the locals remove their shoes before entering, the reason is that the white marble is too hot for our delicate western feet. On exiting the crypt area the locals are keen to get their hands on our “Taj Slippers” for what reason I don’t even want to speculate. From a practical point of view the whole complex is a little over the top as its only purpose is storing Shah Jahan and his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal’s bodies. Afterwards we caught a local train back to Delhi at a tenth of the price of the Shatabdi Express but that was the only we could do the trip in one day as we didn’t want to stay in Agra. (See earlier comment about con-artists).
Delhi has been most enjoyable and not at all as we expected. The city is modern, clean and extremely easy to navigate, so Northern India is off to a good start. Next stop is Jaipur.
Paul & Linda
After an uneventful flight of 2.5 hours, as opposed to a 39 hour train trip, we landed at the very impressive Indira Ghandi International Airport, an appropriate entry portal to the capital city of a country with 1.2 billion people. Unlike other airports where the prepaid taxis are a standard price, here there are various booths, so after shopping around we got the best price and set off into Delhi. The roads are good, the buildings impressive and the gardens beautifully manicured although it does get a little rougher the closer you get to the centre, which we suppose is true of any city. The taxi dropped us at the Rak International Hotel which sounds very impressive, but it isn't, although it was sufficient for our purposes. The hotel is situated in the Paharganj area which lies between New Delhi and Old Delhi so I suppose that means its Middle Aged Delhi?