Category: India


India Overview

All my posts about India:

Driving around India

Pushkar Overview

Jaipur Overview

Agra Overview

Delhi Overview

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Delhi

Got into Delhi just after noon and even though it’s a holiday (Good Friday) it’s very busy.

I left with the guide at 2:30 (supposed to be 2 but he was late…) and we went to Jama Masjid which is the biggest mosque in India. No pictures were allowed to be taken and I had to wear a wrap around my body (not over my hair though, like I thought). It’s beautiful with red walls and marble floor with outlines for where people can sit and pray towards Mecca. It’s closed to the public whenever prayer is going on.  The white floors are all covered  so the white does not provide glare like it does at Agra Fort.

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We then went though a walk of the small market streets in Old Delhi. We did the gem streets, food street and gold and silver street.Between the food street and gold and silver street we walked down Chandni Chowk which is the main street where it didn’t actually seem like a lot was going on.

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After that we went to Rajghat–which means for Royal Burial Grounds–which is where Gandhi was cremated, the ashes in Hindu culture are always thrown into the Ganges River. It’s a really beautiful area with tons of flowers. I didn’t go down to the spot because there were a lot of people but there is a great place to view from above. Other important people have locations there like the first Prime Minister. India 1659 India 1661

Next we went to a lotus mosque that was built by Iranians in the 1980s. the marble was imported form Italy–and it’s all marble! we didn’t go in because the line was very very long.

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Next I was taken to Kashmir Cashmere. I hate when someone takes you somewhere just to have you buy stuff. Normally in India I could just avoid it just by not following people. However when your driver and tour guide take you somewhere that is another story….you can’t get away. I could say that I don’t want to go in but they would just insist and insist and insist.

Anyway, I was told stories upon stores of how all the money goes back to Kashmir which is a warn torn area where I guess the Indian government doesn’t send any help. I wish I had been able to go there as photography is supposed to be amazing because it is so beautiful (worth fighting for…) but it was too far for my time in India. Also could be a bit kid-nappy, according to the US State Department website when I looked it up. They showed me how to make the rugs (hand knotted) which were too pricey for me ($435 for the 2nd size they had, smallest was like a bath mat). I said $150 as a super low-ball because I didn’t want one and they said they would call the family and ask if that was an okay price! Ended up buying a scarf for $60 when they said $80.

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Next day I went past the government buildings like Parliament, Presidents house and Prime Ministers house.  I went out for a walk near the Presidents house and there were monkeys everywhere! They must be the first line of defense.

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I went to India Gate which is not so much a gate as you cannot drive or walk though it but a war memorial. Tons of people offering to take pictures which did not even look that nice or sell pipes. Odd mix. Very bored looking security again. The flowers there were beautiful again, as were those around the canopy behind the gate. Actually, those were nicer.

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Next was Humayun’s tomb.

Finally, I went to Qutab Minar.

On the way back I went past Red Fort again (had gone by it in the morning before the Delhi market but didn’t get good pictures). It’s kind of hard to take good pictures as there is a lot of traffic going past, no parking lot and all the street ‘parking’ (really just seems like a lane that should have cars being driven in it) was taken up by tuk tuks, rickshaws and stands selling food.

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I went to Indian McDonald’s for lunch which was fantastic. I had the Spicy Paneer Burger and I don’t know why this is not offered everywhere! In the US they could use mozzarella or halloumi cheese, bread it, fry it and put it on a bun.

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Then I went to the airport.

Delhi Airport

I thought I’d never like any airport less than JFK because JFK has no seats. Well, it has some, but never though for everyone, or even half of everyone.

When I got to the airport I had to go though some sort of security just to enter so the airport would not be packed. Only those flying may enter, I guess. The guy would not let me in with one page of my Orbitz updated confirmation because it didn’t have my name. I had to pull out the original which did and then he said I was too early. No, the flight time changed, that’s why I showed him updated….fair enough it didn’t have my name, but it had the wrong times.

When I checked in I asked about changing currency and they said I could after I went though immigration. Fair enough, I didn’t see any outside anyway. Oh, as I was checking in 2 employees were yelling a personal conversation over the guy who was checking me in. I couldn’t understand, but by the looks on their faces and my agents face, it seemed like something upsetting to them, and something he didn’t want yelled at him from both sides when he’s not involved.

At immigration the guy was annoyed my passport would not scan. That’s what the numbers are for. If it doesn’t scan, type the numbers. Don’t be lazy and give me a dirty look.

At security I was hasseled for a bag tag that the airline gave me at check in. I also had to switch lines because of sexist security. Why are certain machines for men and certain machines for woman? Does that matter? After I switched for 5 minutes I was told I could go back to my original line because they opened up the womens line there. As I started to walk though another woman ran though. You can’t run though the gate, nor can you go though at the same time as someone else. So confused by her. Didn’t say a word to me and when we reentered she got to go first.

Once past everything, I was told I had to change money before immigration. So I was left with about $50 in rupees. Good thing I was able to exchange in Shanghai.

A bit confusing to find your way around as well.

Qutab Minar

Finally, I went to Qutab Minar which was built in the 14th Century and is the oldest building in Delhi. I thought it would just be the tower, but there ware many other buildings around it, mostly to the right, including another tower that was not finished. Most of the other buildings were very decayed, however there was 1 more tomb. also lots of grassy area to relax and have a picnic which I wish I could have done if I had known. Have to pay 5 rupees to use the toilet there and there is no toilet paper, water to use instead or soap! If I pay I expect…something.

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Next was Humayun’s tomb (and Isa Khan’s tomb but that is under construction–I got a few pictures). Another set of amazing buildings and gardens which have been well restored. I feel like sandstone shouldn’t restore well but I guess it does. Most of the tourists here were Indian or German (how do they get everywhere??)–but there were some Americans who said ‘this mosque is so different from the rest–it’s almost classy!”Is she saying the rest are tacky?

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I liked Afsarwala mosque and Tomb more as it was not overly big like Humayun’s tomb.

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Tons of eagles flying around the top like at the Taj Mahal. There were lots of signs talking about how it was a very big deal to do the reconstruction as it will create a better neighborhood and more religious understanding as at the time this tomb was built India was mostly Muslim and is now mostly Hindu, thus most workers are Hindu. A Muslim man lifted the curtain of construction for me to be able to take better pictures of Isa Khans tomb.

And, like I said, Isa Khan’s tomb.

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Agra

Agra didn’t seem like a nice town. Everywhere seems devoted to tourists; even outside my window were people hanging laundry–not other hotels like there had been in other areas. I guess it wasn’t too different form parts of Dublin or Korea.

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I went to Agra Fort and Taj Mahal.

 

Taj Mahal

I headed for the Taj Mahal around 4:30 and got back to the hotel around 7:30. Main takeaways:

  • the security has AK47s which look fake
  • the security office is covered with monkeys
  • more pictures were taken of me than i took for the Taj Mahal itself (not really, but close)
  • it IS amazing and beautiful

I expected it to be overrated but it 100% is not. Very overwhelming in it’s size and beauty.

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I almost did not go in because the line was so long and I thought nothing could beat the outside but I found out that I had an express ticket and I got in quick. It did not seem like an express ticket but more of just cutting the line as there are not two separate areas, just an area with a guard to let you in past everyone else with a general ticket. With the express ticket you also get shoe covers and a bottle of water.

Inside did not live up to the outside but it was very intricately carved. There are many police with whistles and signs saying ‘no photos’ but everyone was taking them (with the flash on) which kind of ruins the moment. So do the pigeons inside flying above your head.

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The sunset was beautiful.

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When going there one rickshaw man would NOT leave me alone. I said no about 7 times, was standing in the free shuttle area and he kept asking so I yelled at him. Worked better than I thought because I never saw him again. I ended up walking back because the shuttle was taking ages and kept filling up with people from the hotel nearby and not taking anyone else. Of course, right after I started walking I saw the people I had been standing next to go past in a shuttle.

Oh, and this happened:

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Agra Fort

Agra Fort has 2 parts: red and white. I’ve no idea why anyone would make the white part (signs said it was what the ruler liked and was in fashion) because i couldn’t see! Glare was everywhere! I also just like red more in general. The very outside looks fine…

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…but when you first get in (the courtyard and viewing wall I suppose) lots of the area is decaying and a lot which i thought was cool.

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Couldn’t go up to the lookout/viewing wall which i thought would have been amazing but once fully inside the buildings there are great viewing points, including a whole side to the Taj Mahal. There were 2 gardens too–3 if you count the outside.

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I didn’t see many foreigners which meant I got stared at a lot. One girl kept glaring at me and I had no idea why…right before she left she smiled at me though. Strange one…Boys followed me around and giggled too–and by ‘boys’ I don’t mean 7 year olds, I mean 23 year olds. There were chipmunks too! They have a vertical jump that went about to my knees!

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Jaipur

Once in Jaipur I had a guess that I would not like Delhi because of how busy Jaipur was and Delhi was only bound to be worse! I finally saw stop lights though! We went though the whole town to go to Amber Fort (and then some!).

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Between Amber Fort and Jaipur Mantar (well, Amber Fort and Jaipur town) there is Jal Mahal which looks like a floating palace.

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I then went to Jaipur Mantar which I didn’t like too much. Like Derek Freal said about the terracotta warriors, it seems like things from everywhere were put into one area and made to look like they belonged there! Why would all of those have been together anyway? The king would have had about 20 different ways to tell time? Was that necessary? I could hardly understand the descriptions because of how hot it was and how technical they were. The main one was pretty amazing because of sheer size and I wish I could have gone to the top of it, but I’m sure if it was open there would be a huge line.

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City Palace is right next to Jaipur Mantar.

Next was Hawa Mahal which I thought I could go inside of or at least behind but I guess not. It was a facade for women to go behind and sit in to watch parades and such as they could not be seen, so I thought tourists would be able to do the same and see what they saw. I guess not. Maybe it has fallen apart a lot as it was being held up by sticks.

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A boy took me to the top of a building across the street and tried to get me to go into everyone’s shop on the way back down, but nope! He said it was free!

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That night I went to the Holi Festival.

I can’t begin to describe how fun Holi is.

After this I went to Elefantastic.

Elefantastic

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After this I went to Elefantastic–I was early which meant I got to feed the elephant for longer! My elephants name was Chanchal which means something similar to tricky woman, cunning woman, or siren which she was! She seemed a bit moody and went from liking me and listing to me to not liking me and kicking me (everyone said it was a play kick though…). The best place to pet an elephant is on the start of their trunk between their eyes or just under their eyes under their trunk.

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After they were fed we ate lunch at the owners mom’s house and I was grouped with two English people because they were the only others to show up on time (1pm, everyone else got there around 2pm so hadn’t gotten to know their elephant yet).

After that was the bareback ride which I loved! You feel much more connected to the animal than when you are in the box on their back. I thought it would be really really bareback, but they have a blanked strapped to them, I guess not to hurt them or us since we are sitting on their spine. We walked by their pool and though trees.

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After this we painted them. I asked for an outline and got a Jewish star on it (I thought it was odd until later I found out that the 6 pointed star is common in Hindu and Muslims religions as well). I thought she didn’t like it too much because that was when she kicked me! Maybe it was play because I tickled her or something. I was also told to put my name on her forehead. Why not her name?

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Next was a ride in a box on her back. This was supposed to be though the national park which has tigers (ones born and raised in captivity so they cannot go into the wild, so if they are near the edge of their enclosure we would have seen them) monkeys and over 200 types of birds but that was closed because of Holi. They made up for it by giving us tons of Strongbeer (8%) and a ride though the desert. I didn’t like being in the cage as much because it just seems like you are floating and not necessary on an elephant. It seemed like Chanchal didn’t like it as much either because she made a bunch of sounds and kept trying to go off the course. This got her hit with a stick which I saw happen to a few other elephants too and made me sad. I thought they were supposed to be nice to the elephants here. I’m sure it’s nicer than other places, but still.

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After this the owner tried to end it because the sun had not been out all day (not true) and the water would have been tool cold to have the elephants have a bath. The English man and I said we were sad and all of a sudden the water was warmer (the sun came out for about 2 seconds–water doesn’t warm that fast!) and we got to take Chanchal for a bath. I didn’t think it was cold. She was laying on her side and that is when she slapped me in the butt. Again, when I was washing the area where I painted, so maybe it did tickle her.

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Lastly, we got T-shirts and brochures. I seemed to be the only one at Elefantastic to celebrate Holi and I don’t understand why–you’re in India (specifically Jaipur where it’s biggest) for a huge fun holiday and you don’t do it?