Tuesday, January 18, 2011
India Travelogue - New Delhi
Our trip actually started on a down note...but we learned something that we will never, ever forget: When traveling in India, check the website for the airline and make sure your flight is still scheduled! Not just for information about flights being "on-time" or "delayed"...those might be important, as well. But in the case of our Hyderabad-to-Delhi flight...it wasn't even on the schedule anymore!! Thank goodness I'm the one in our traveling duo who likes to get to the airport early...while Amy Suzanne thinks that it the flight-crew is not closing the cabin door as she is sprinting down the jet way, she has wasted valuable time out of her day!!
As it turned out, Air India Flight 603 (non-stop to Delhi) had been taken off the schedule completely. We tried to book another flight (our original tickets were "business class" and refundable...so - it wasn't going to cost us anything. As a matter-of-fact, the fact that Air India is the only airline that has a business class section that time of day...we were probably (and we did!) get some rupees back!) The first flight we tried was literally pulling away from the gate, so - obviously when we went to check our bags - the lady at the counter looked at us like we had lost our minds. A really nice guy from Air India - along with the poor guy who was working the morning-shift all by himself at the Spice Jet ticket counter - got us all squared-away...and soon (by Indian standards) we were on a non-stop airplane that was going to arrive in Delhi two-hours later than we had figured on.
We were pleasantly surprised that the good people on the ground from Zutshi Travel World Services were on top of the matter and had traced our status from the moment they were aware of our predicament...and they were actually at the exit door waiting for us with a "Kingsbury/Brubaker" sign - - at a completely different terminal than we were supposed to land at. That doesn't sound like much, but - the Delhi Airport is HUGE...and the "new terminal" and the "old terminal" seem like they are about ten kilometers apart!!
We each got colorful orange flower wreaths around our necks...and - since it was getting late...we did a quick run by the government buildings. The sun was waning, so - the reddish stone that is used so much in palaces and government and court buildings turns an even deeper red. Our first impression about the beautiful city of New Delhi is that it's a real world-wide honest capitol of a Nation with over 1.1 billion souls crammed into it's borders. Like London or Dublin or Washington D.C, or Peking...it's a real center of the machine that make things tick here in India. Let me tell you...dear Americans...politics in our country is tame compared to how things are run here...in India, politics is a "full-contact sport"!! Throughout the governmental part of the town, there were soldiers virtually everywhere - each with a nasty-looking automatic weapon in his-or-her hands, but - I guess that's just the way things have to be!
A vibrant melting pot, we heard (and saw) a jumble of vernaculars spoken in Delhi, the most common being Hindi, English (thank God!), Punjabi and Urdu. Now that we live full-time in Hyderabad, one of the first things I noticed was the lack of Telugu on signs in the city. In terms of its layout, Delhi actually encapsulates two very different worlds, the ‘old’ and the ‘new’, each presenting totally different experiences. Spacious "New" Delhi was built as the imperial capital of India by the British; and totally claustrophobic "Old" Delhi served as the capital of Islamic India. We found that we could easily dip into both, as on day two, we spent half the day immersing ourselves in history at the dramatic Red Fort, Jama Masjid and medieval-flavoured bazaars of Old Delhi, and the other half checking out the wonders of a thoroughly modern city!
We made dinner reservations at what is supposed to be one of the nicest restaurants in all of New Delhi...the "Spice Route" - - but, as sometimes happens...we took showers and - whatever dust was holding our bodies together, washed right down the drain...and we crashed and burned in the ultra comfy bed at the Shangri-La Eros Hotel The bar was nice...kind of tucked-away in the corner. The entire hotel was spacious and grand!
Because we didn't have much time on day one to see many sights before the sun went down...we did a blitzkrieg of sightseeing the next day...our tour-guide was an older woman who was a retired school-teacher...and her knowledge of Delhi and India in general was unbelievable! Amy did turn to me at one point and asked: "Who are the "Muggles" she keeps talking about??" Uh. No, Sweetimus... they are called Mughals !
Along with our super-smart guide for the day, we saw: The India Gate, Humayun's Tomb, the Qutab Minar, the Red Fort, the HUGE mosque, called the Jama Mashid, and ended the day at Mahatma Gandhi's memorial, in an area filled with such memorials, called the Rajghat
In the middle of our day, we had the absolute best part of our tour of Delhi. In "Old Delhi", there is a marketplace which really made us say: "Dorothy, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!" It's called the Chandni Chowk - and it is a congested, wild, crazy place packed with shops (some really nice ones!) and some food places. We did this part of the tour by bicycle rickshaw....we wanted to ride together so - the poor fellow had to really huff and puff to tote us around!
I took a few photos on the ride. One time, I was not quick enough with the camera:
We're going down one of the tight "alleyways" of the market....and - there was some commotion to the right of the rickshaw, where Amy Suzanne was sitting. There, about six-feet from her right shoulder, in all his glory, was a completely naked, large brown Jain Priest!! Did I mention that he was a LARGE man?? Yes, indeed, he truly was!
After we passed the holy man (and his small entourage of followers) - she turned to me and said: "He was naked!!!" I said: "Yeah!! How cool was that!?! He is a Jain Priest, Sweetie. The truly devout ones don't wear clothes! Looked perfectly normal to me!!"
"Not to me!!!" Amy said in wide-eyed retort.
We took a ton of photos....here is the Facebook album for this part of the trip: Delhi, New and Old...