GUEST ARTICLE: India wasn’t exactly at the top of our list of places to see but we knew that it was something we had to do at least once. So this year we made it a reality. We had pre-booked this trip a year before and hadn’t realized that we were going to be arriving on the first day of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Fortunately we didn’t buy into the media scares and went on with our trip anyway.
After collecting our luggage we went out to find our car and driver we had also previously booked. Unfortunately our driver was a no show…this we later learned was just the beginning to some of our ‘dealings’ while in India. Luckily the cab ride was pretty cheap and our hotel wasn’t located too far from the airport.
Even in the dark of night the drive to the hotel was really interesting. Along the way we passed packs of wild dogs roaming the streets and trickles of people camped out along the roadside within makeshift tents. The streets were dusty and every now and again there were huge mounds of garbage (hopefully ready to be picked up in the morning). There were also lots of cops and security about. We heard that they had amped up their forces for the Commonwealth Games by about 60,000.
Our hotel was like a quiet little piece of paradise within a sea of about 19million people. At the Shanti Home we were greeted with beautiful marigold garlands and white bindis (forehead dots).
After a good nights sleep we had a delicious western and Indian breakfast on their rooftop terrace restaurant. The view from the top was our real first look at Delhi and it made us even more eager to get out and explore. We finally got a hold of our car and driver and before we knew it we were headed out for our first sightsee.
The heat was pretty intense, luckily we were doing most of our sightseeing from the cool comfort of our car. Our driver Bunti was great and knew all the places to go. As soon as we pulled out onto the main road we got our first ‘real’ taste of India. Let’s just say there really are some things you have to see with your own eyes to truly believe. The scenery around us was utterly surreal and totally out of the norm of what we were used to, I kind of felt like Alice in Wonderland.
The streets were absolutely packed with pedestrians, motorbikes, tuk tuks, motor tuk tuks, cars, dogs, goats, wagons and cows. Each and every one of them making their own path on the street, it was like playing a slow and cramped game of Frogger with ‘very’ near misses. The buildings lining the road were a collection of new and dilapidated and some painted very colorfully. The city was pretty dusty which made our surroundings almost seem like we were seeing things in sepia. This made the Indian ladies beautiful brightly colored saris stick out even more.
At first we drove to nowhere in particular, we just really wanted to go with the flow and see what Indian life was like on the streets. Although the streets were chaotic it made the experience all the more interesting. Every scene was literally a Kodak moment. We had never seen anything like it in all of our travels.
After driving around for a while we went and had lunch at a great little place recommended by our driver. The food was excellent although a bit pricey we thought for India, that’s what you get for being a tourist. As long as we didn’t wind up with Delhi Belly we were happy to go anywhere!
After lunch we went to see the Old City. While we were there we rented a little man and his tuk tuk to take us around the very old and narrow streets. It was a pretty hot and bumpy bike ride but worth it. Thousands milled through the crowded streets going about their every day business. We passed a series of little markets selling fruit and veggies, bread, sweet treats and crates of live chickens. There were also some really interesting looking goats roaming around. That was an excellent way to explore the old streets of Delhi!
Afterwards we headed back to our car and continued on to see Humayun’s Tomb. Humayun was a Mughal Emperor and the tomb was built for him in 1560. It’s said to be the first structure to use red sandstone on such a scale. It is an incredible example of Mughal architecture. The smooth deep red sandstone with ornate white trim stood out beautifully against the deep blue sky. The surrounding garden and water features were also very nicely done.
Our next stop was to see the Qutub Minar, which was also built by the Mughal’s. The tower stands at 72.5 meters tall and is the world’s tallest minaret. It is made up of red and buff sandstone and has numerous beautiful carvings and verses from the Qur’an. It is quite an amazing structure and visually complex with its subtle angles and artful design.
On our last sightsee we went to the heart of Delhi to see the famous Indian Gate or All India War Memorial. It has the names of 90,000 soldiers engraved on the walls to commemorate the British Indian Soldiers that fought for the British Raj in WWI and the Third Anglo Afghan War. It is surrounded by a beautiful big garden and is a really popular picnic sight and at night gets beautifully lit.
Delhi was an interesting experience, shocking to all senses at first but definitely worth it. We found the people to be very friendly and accommodating. A few complications were had every now and again but nothing patience and perseverance couldn’t handle. Our next journey was to see the Taj Mahal located ‘just’ 200kms away in Agra….stay tuned for that beauty!
This travel diary has been written by Rob Gower, a friend who enjoys taking roads less traveled!