Saturday, 13 September 2008

11 – 13 September 2008: Delhi

Both Jen and I are safe and well in Delhi. We were in an internet cafe in Conaught Place last night when we heard the explosions. Fortunately, we were some distance away. We are travelling to Varanasi tonight.

We expected Delhi to be a super chaotic and dirty capital city, but ended up being pleasantly surprised by it. Delhi has a sparkling clean and efficient metro network that was cheap and easy to use. It meant we didn't have to barter with the auto-rickshaw drivers who appeared to have a price fixing cartel going on outside our hotel.

We started our unofficial tour from Jama Masjid, India's biggest mosque in the heart of Old Delhi. It can accommodate up to 25,000 worshippers in its courtyard. We climbed up to the top of one of the minarets for a good view of the mosque and the city. Women have to be accompanied and covered up, so Jenni-zir Bhutto spent a sweaty 30 minutes following Andy around.

We also did a whistle-stop tour of the Red Fort, which is pretty huge too – extending to 2km in length. The Prime Minister of India does his Independence Day speech to the nation from the fort on 15 August each year. Andy's highlight was meeting a Sikh soldier with his blue turban guarding one of the buildings. The soldier was then inundated with photo requests.

We ventured into the Chandni Chock which is a massive market spreading over several blocks of Old Delhi. We managed to get a taste of jalebis, which are made of dough squirted into a frying pan, fried golden and then dipped into a hot sugar mixture. Very sweet and obviously with a low calorie count too!

While walking to the metro station, Jen was suddenly groped in the chest by a boy barely 13 years old. Jen felt upset, humiliated and violated, especially as this was the second such incident during our stay in India. However, she got some consolation from the fact that she managed to grab his arm and shout at him.

Feeling rather frazzled and in need of a break from it all, we relaxed in the café of the Oxford Bookstore near Connaught Place in New Delhi. The place seemed to be more like a library, with few people paying for the books they were reading over coffee. Further retail therapy followed at a local music shop, purchasing some Bollywood soundtrack albums.

The President's Palace (formerly the Viceroy of India's residence), the adjoining two government buildings and the Parliament House, were a very grand affair. Sipping chai on the lawn, we felt like we had been transported back to Europe. There was no rubbish anywhere and no people begging in the streets.

We walked along the lovely Rajpath (Kingsway) towards the India Gate, which is similar to the Gateway of India in Mumbai. The 42-metre high arch is commemorated to around 90,000 Indian army soldiers who lost their lives in World War I and other conflicts.


Anonymous said...

A timely post we were abit apprehensive after seeing the news. Glad you are enjoying things.

Mum & Dad