Date: 2nd January, 2006
The 1st was a day for travel. We had breakfast and checked out, then took the taxi to kasba (the guy tried it on by overcharging, but was refreshingly upfront about it saying "I’m requesting a little more…" – he had been very helpful, and he hadn’t tried to rip us off so he got the extra).
The farewell was quite tearful, and as we left I said ‘abar daka hobay আবার দাকা হোবায‘, meaning ‘we’ll meet again’. This caused everyone to smile and cheer, mostly at my Bengali! (Regarding the spelling: I hope I’ve spelt it correctly, even if I have it probably doesn’t look right due to rendering problems Mozilla Bug 347857, the following might render closer although the unicode is definitely wrong: েহাবায!).
Anupam came to the station with us, seeing us safely onto the Rajdhani express. Again, we travelled first class here (and it’s well worth it on such a long journey).
The journey was overnight, and they looked after us on the train, with linen, meals and so forth.
We stayed at the same hotel in Delhi as before, the Hotel Ajanta, and knew exactly where we were headed, so on arrival we walked purposely, ignoring the calls of ‘Auto, sir?’ and ‘Taxi, sir?’
We arrived in short order, it’s very close to the station – that was one of the reasons we chose it!
At the hotel, we hired a car for the day to take us around Delhi. As we were going around New Delhi too, it cost a little more – the sum of 600Rs, about 7 quid. Bargain.
We started by going to the Red Fort. We weren’t able to go in previously as it was late, this time it was Monday, it’s closed on Monday. Still, we wanted a daylight visit. A good vantage point is at the end of Chadni Chowk and there is an interesting looking Jain Temple there too.
From there we went to Raj Ghat.
This was the place where Mahatma Ghandi was cremated. There are quotations all around the place in various languages, There are Ghandi quotes in Hindi, Urdu, Gujurati, Spanish, English, Zuli, Telugu and others, but no Bengali (that we could see). There were some works going on, so maybe the Bengali has yet to appear.
We then went to Humayan’s tomb, probably one of Delhi’s best kept secrets. This is a huge complex, and it had very few visitors on the day we went. The tomb pre-dates the Taj Mahal, and one can see the architectural connection. It’s essentially a sandstone Taj. The place isn’t just the main tomb, there are outbuildings, each one is a fine piece of architecture in it’s own right.
It’s a great place to visit, though at one point tour guides did try to thrust themselves upon us, which I didn’t appreciate – though Monica did listen to what one bloke had to say.
Humayun’s tomb is much more peaceful than the Taj due to there being fewer people, although it doesn’t quite have the same magic the Taj has, probably due to the marble the Taj Mahal is made from.
From here, we went to India Gate, it may look just like the Arc de Triomphe or Marble Arch, but the thing is huge. As it’s at the end of the Raj path, it needs to be big to be clearly visible from the President’s estate and government buildings!
New Delhi (as opposed to Old Delhi) is a planned city, built symmetrically about the Raj Path.
At the suggestion of our driver, we went to the Shri Lakshna Narayan Temple, this was very beautiful, with Swastikas everywhere (the Swastika was appropriated by the Nazis, but is actually a much older symbol ). It’s not possible to take photos inside the temple without causing offence and being ejected, so all I have to show you, dear reader, is a shot taken from the road outside.
The place is phenomenal, shrines to various Hindu Deities, enscriptions on the walls, and so forth.
As we left, a rather persistant chap tried to sell us all kinds of stuff. He simply wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, following us down the street and through the underpass (the car was waiting on the far side). He was really very annoying, and started to make me quite angry. His prices dropped phenomenally, he was soon asking for a third of his original price, effectively saying ‘I just tried to rip you off massively’. I don’t like that – if he had asked for the real price in the first place, he may have got a sale, but harrassing us like that made me want to hit him!
In the temple itself we bought a couple of items, I got a pencil tidy for my desk at work, and Monica got some earrings.
We finished the day by visiting the Cottage Industries Emporium. This was the usual sort of affair, textiles, jewellery and so forth.
I got a light scarf which should be good for the winter (50% silk, 50% pashmina) – though it was hard to find one that wasn’t too over the top for my male European tastes. The colour isn’t ideal, but it’s not bad at all – it cost only 350Rs (about 4 quid). We looked at a few other bits and pieces, Monica spent some time looking at some handpainted pictures, but didn’t buy any.
We went back to the hotel, eating at the Hotel Ajanta. To start, we each had Masala Papad (popadoms topped with spicy vegetables). Monica had a spicy soup and chow mein, I had seekh kebab with paneer parantha. We had a desert too. The whole lot, including a tip for the waiter and three bottles of water was 350Rs!
A note about water in India, be sure to check the seals of bottles when you buy – and don’t buy bottles that look a bit battered. Also, when you’re finished, crush the bottle. There is a mini-industry of people who collect old waterbottles and fill them from a tap of dubious quality.
The next day we would take a car to the airport and fly back to the UK. I took my chadoor on the flight, as it packed quite small, suitable for hand luggage, and would both be a nice blanket if I wanted to sleep, as well as being warm when I got off the plane in January in the UK.