Touchdown New Delhi!
Like many cities in India, Delhi is as crowded as the Tsukiji Fish Market Auction at 5.00am, i.e., packed to the gills. New Delhi, the capital and the third largest city of India is a fusion of the ancient and the new. Delhi as a city, is very modern in relation to the rest of the country. Roads are wide and organized and you don’t need to worry about stepping on turd or pee as much as you would in some other parts of India. You’ll actually be able to walk around without feeling like you are part of a buffalo herd, which is a real luxury in India!
The best way to see Delhi is to catch an auto rickshaw (tuk-tuk look-a-like) to the Red Fort and then just start wandering around the bazaars and old markets. We, however, did not get to spend much time in Delhi on the 1st day, because we were off to Agra at the crack of dawn the next morning.
It’s true. You will really notice the changing landscape from rich to poor .. from order to chaos, as you leave New Delhi. The rhythm and the style of life is different to the new “developed” India. To me, this is the real vision of an India which is beautiful, exotic, vibrant, sometimes shocking and always fascinating.
A cute sign for a sundry shop that I saw.
Men going about their daily business .. but ON the roads!
A man selling papaya.
Crowded streets with their vendors and patrons.
Poverty and exclusion continue to dominate the socio-economic and political scenario in India. Though pro-poor policies have helped to reduce the number of people below the poverty line, the extent of these people is still large. The problem of exclusion still continues to haunt the Indian society even past the country’s Independence.
The scheduled castes which form a considerable chunk of the Indian population, despite having been accorded a special status, have not become a part of the mainstream of Indian society. Many household face the inability to have 2 square meals a day.
However, it has to be said that, though there was that obvious poverty, as well as the anti-sanitary conditions, but there was also happiness, laughter and an obvious human closeness and interaction that are continuously diminishing in the ‘developed’ world. I found the people warm, and friendly and always ready with a quick smile, for me 😀
What is that red hulking structure? Oh, our guide quickly tells me that we have arrived at Fort Agra. Hmm.. what is the significance of this place anyway. I was hot and irritable and more interested in getting to the Taj Mahal actually.
More street youths trying to sell you their ware. Apparently, you need to be careful of pick-pockets in crowded areas, such at these.
Situated on the bank of river Yamuna, the Agra Fort today, stands as a citadel of the past that has witnessed centuries slip by. Built in red stone, the Agra fort stretches almost two kilometres on the bank of the Yamuna. A huge wall encircles the crescent shaped fort. With only two main gates built to enter the fort, the impregnable stature of the fort becomes amply clear. The two gates are named the Delhi gate and the Amar Singh Gate. Wow! How grand… But next stop please. I was anxious to get out of the blistering noon day sun. The humidity was killing. Incidentally when I checked wunderground.com before I left KL, it said weather in Agra to be mild – 27 degrees Celsius. What bollocks. This felt more like 4o.
Man on rickshaw.
Woman with huge bundle on her head.
Our ride to the Taj mahal! Apparently vehicles are banned from driving into the site. So, we need to park the bus, get out, and get into these little mini vans which will take us in.
You cannot see clearly because of the limited ability of my “point and shoot” but this man’s face is a intricate mesh of lines and scars… he looked extremely weathered and extremely wise… He sold us our shoe covers for the Taj..
It glistened in the sun. It took my breath away. I forgot how bothered I was.
One of the greatest love stories ever told! The crowning jewel of Indo-Islamic architecture, the Taj Mahal is one of the world’s most beautiful and beloved structures. The monument was built in Agra, India, for Mumtaz Mahal, the favorite wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Construction of the tomb began in 1632 and employed more than 20,000 laborers for 20 years. According to the French jeweler Tavernier, who claimed to had seen the construction of the Taj Mahal from beginning to end, the white marble monument was erected at a time when the resources of the Mughal Empire were such that only the finest materials were utilized for the structure and its embellishment and when the quality of the craftsmanship available in northern India was probably superior to that of any previous period.
Known for its symmetry, the Taj Mahal sits on a raised platform surrounded by four minarets. Inside are delicate mosaic works and marble walls adorned with intricate patterns of inlaid precious stones. The emperor Shah Jahan is said to have celebrated the anniversary of his wife’s death in the mausoleum, kneeling before the cenotaph of white marble studded with gems and semiprecious stones, as prayers were offered up for the peace and repose of the empress’ soul. He was later buried next to his wife. How romantic! I must talk to my husband about getting one of these:P (by the way, you only have the faintest, remotest chance of getting a Palace built in your honour, if you die, BEFORE your husband.. (and look really, really young and hot) i.e., it doesn’t pay to die an ancient and decrepit, little old lady… no way.. lol)
Gorgeous as the TAJ is, we better leave before I get heat stroke. Think winter is the best time to linger and loiter and truly appreciate the wondrous beauty of the Taj Mahal. Roger that.
I may needeth item 1 and 2 !
. . On the bus, at around 8pm, on the way back to Delhi, we were hit with the news… . . . We were dumbfounded.
At least five bombs exploded in quick succession in crowded markets and streets in the heart of India’s capital New Delhi on Saturday, 13th September 2008 (today!), killing at least 18 people and injuring scores more, starting at 6.30pm (just a few hours earlier)! The Indian Mujahideen militant group, which says it has carried out several major attacks in recent months, sent an email to local television stations saying it was responsible for the blasts.
Police and witnesses said two went off in dustbins in and around Connaught Place, a shopping and dining area popular with tourists and locals in the centre of the city. Others exploded in busy markets around the city, within minutes of each other.
There were like a couple of hundred people around this place and the blast site was crowded with shoppers on a busy weekend ahead of Hindu and Muslim festivals. The last major attack to hit the capital was in 2005, when about 66 people were killed when three bombs exploded in busy markets. Those poor people! We said a quick prayer for them.. we felt helpless, and also worried for our safety. However, upon arrival in Delhi, we were rather amazed at this city’s ability to bounce back. Whilst security in New Delhi had been tightened, it seemed like business as usual.
Back at the hotel, all vehicles were scanned for bombs by the police, before entering. Other than that, the calm atmosphere at the Shangri-la New Delhi, was like as if nothing happened! It was weird. (incidentally, Connaught Place where 2 bombs went off is just like 5 minutes walking distance from our hotel. Close call.)
Anyway, we were thankful to drop our things at the hotel, after our long trip back from Agra.
The nice shops would have to wait till later. First, dinner!
Oo..I see it! Situated on Pandara Road Market, I was told that this place serves one of the BEST Northern Indian in this area … and I was not disappointed:)
Introducing Gulati. It’s a good thing that this place stays open till midnight, so if you get in late, you still have a good chance of grabbing a bite to eat. Gulati,
No. 6, Pandara Road Market,
Phone : 91-11-2338 8836,39, 2378 2949 ; Fax : 91-11-29813969,79
We were famished and ordered the works.
In New Delhi was where i fell in love with the PALEK PANEER. I use to be a fan in KL, but the home-made cottage cheese they use here, is just out of this world. Eating is believing ! The texture and taste of the cheese here is just far superior to that which we get back home. Could be the quality of the goats milk used in the fermentation process.
Skewered Lamb chops, ‘hang-man’ style. Amazing.
Mutton Biryani – done so well, where they make sure they steam the mutton in with the biryani for the longest time to get that amazing aroma and taste (non of that add the mutton last minute to the rice bull****, where the biryani ends up not being well flavoured with the mutton). Excellent.
Finally the moment we were all waiting for. Dessert! (The girl smiles happily)
This truly rocks my world. The Kulfi was exquisite. Creamy, pungent, delicate, strong. Every flavour explodes and sends shockwaves of pleasure through your body! The white and yellow noodly stuff you see on the side, was bizarre and very sweet and had the texture of “tung-fun” (glass noodles)… but it worked. Very, very good.
And finally the Gulab Jamun was delicious. We left feeling satiated and happy that we were still alive and kicking. Back to the Shang for some ZZZzzzzzzzz’s. .
. . . RISE AND SHINE! Time to go shopping!
Yashwant Place! Leather at a BARGAIN. IF you know me well, you will know that two words that make my eyes light up are … leather and bargain! haha.
Delhi is famous for Leather items. In the whole of India, perhaps, Delhi is where you will get nice leather items with good prices. In terms of leather, cheap does not mean lousy. Connaught Place is one of the best places to get good quality leather but unfortunately the place was on HIGH SECURITY alert due to the bomb blast yesterday. We were told to steer clear.
No matter. Looking at this place, I feel in love with the leather jackets that hung like floor to ceiling, carpeting.. haha
ME: “Can I get a photo?”
Man in shop: “TK!” (TK means OK !) The people were great. Really friendly and boy, was the leather cheap. I bought one for just under RM200. Next stop.. GEMS.
We were told that the Malaysian Ambassador shops here, for good quality stones at very affordable prices.
Here’s the man. Mr Mogha himself. He says , be really, really careful when you shop outside. Your RED ruby may turn pink in two months time, if you buy your stone from dodgy dealers! Good to know, Mr Mogha!
6, Meridien Hotel,
Back home I tried out my shopping… Yay! I get to wear this in tokyo.. where the weather is getting cooler. Unfortunately it’s only a 1 day meeting, which means I’ll get to see the inside of the hotel only this time
All in a morning’s work. Not bad huh? lol. .
Next stop.. SAREE shopping!
Chandni Chowk! Apparently floor to ceiling saree’s as well! I had real trouble pronouncing this market’s name but it is actually said , Chutney Chalk. Geddit? 😛
Yikes! I have heard horror stories about India’s Underground. HOT, TIGHT and full of pick-pockets. Not only that, if you are a strange, looking foreigner (oh,let’s say, chinese, for example) you run the risk of getting grabbed, groped and maybe felt up in the tight confines of the train. Arrrrgh… i steel myself for the experience. When in Rome, ride as the Roman.
Hardly anyone walks. Everyone’s running for the train. (common in tokyo as well). We find our stop, get on the train and it’s like the longest 15 minute ride of my life. We are packed up against each other like sardines. There’s no place to move (or fall) in the event of a sudden break. Good thing my friends encircled me, because i swear towards the end, I felt some strange guy sniffing my hair… The train stops. We escape unscathed. Wallets intact. Yippie!
Out of the frying pan into the fire. Introducing .. Chandni Chowk! This saree market is teeming with activity. The people jostle. The touts are yelling at us… “come! you want saree?? follow me! this way!” Being obviously chinese, I am the target of ALL the touts who were out that day!
“I give you best saree in town.. follow me!”
So, we follow. Up the dirty, tiny staircase… We don’t know what to expect at the next turn…
We see vendors handing down saree’s from their warehouse up in the SKY, down through a hole in the roof! They could fall at anytime. But they don’t.
It’s Saree Madness day.
Where do we start?
We think its time to settle down and choose, but no.. the guy informs us that the best is yet to come.
So, up some more narrow staircases we go……. dum-dee-dum…
Ah finally we arrive in a tiny little room, up on the highest floor, were people have to stoop to walk. The ceiling is that low.
There in the middle of the room, sits this old, white bearded man, with a really serious look on his face and all he says is .. ” I show you saree”. And then he proceeds to open saree,
At some point we start to feel overwhelmed and a little uncomfortable. What was that I remembered one of our friends from Delhi telling me?… to buy from the more reputable shops because whilst the price is cheap, you don’t want your saree coming apart at the seams on the 1st wash… better to go for quality than just a cheap price.
So, we thank the white bearded old man, and say we best be on our way.
Here is were we finally purchased not one , not two… but SIX saree’s! Saree Sansar – a more legitimate “designer” wholesale saree shop, where we picked out our selection in the comfort of air-conditioning and where the MANAGER , was the Saree model.. 😀 What service! Phew… mission accomplished with the saree. Time to eat! . . .
Thali Meals.. we like! Southern vegetarian lunch it is!
Ghee Paper Roast Masala Dosai! Say that fast, 3X without pausing! What a mouthful. (Spoken as well as eaten.)
The GPRMD is my absolute favourite. It ranks way up there with the Vadai Sambar (Indian savoury doughnut dunked in a reddish dahl like concoction (sambar), and eaten with coconut chutney).
The side dishes in the thali are standard, and the meal comes with rice. You can either have an option of Chapatti (this photo) or Puri (the first photo) with your thali meal. It was a great lunch! I want to sleep now! . . . On the way back to the subway, we past, a very popular sweet shop in this area. HALDIRAM’S.
Haldirams Nagpur, a name synonymous with tradition, uncompromising quality, great taste and proudly associated with Indian sweets and namkeens for over six decades. Indian Sweets, Namkeens (Savories), Salted Snacks, papad, 3-D Snacks, 3-D Pellets, Vermicelli, Pasta & other ready to eat snacks, are all sold under this brandname. Haldiram’s is ranked 98th in the ‘India’ Most Trusted Brands 2003’ survey, commissioned by The Economics Times!
And rightly so. I tried the Rasgulla.. a typical Bengali sweet, consisting of balls of fresh curd, cooked and soaked in a sugar syrup. But clever old me… seeing as I have been piling on the calories, I decided to try the sugarless rasgulla. YUKS! Believe me, the one with sugar is much better. lol. I quickly traded in my sugarless for a sugared version. You just cannot cheat with your sweets.. eh? 😉
Sweet so good, patron’s cannot wait to take it home. They eat it standing right here, in Haldirams! What can i say.. when in Rome! . . . The ride back to the hotel. I VETO-ED the call. Auto rickshaw it is. No way was I going back to the underground…. hahaha.
If you look real hard you will see me with my little red point and shoot in the mirror of the tuk-tuk!
On the way back, the traffic whizzes by so close that I can reach out and touch the next person.
People sleeping on the sidewalks are a common sight. What can I say.. as my trip comes to an end, I am grateful for all the wonderful experiences that India has brought me. Though it feels like I have done loads in 4 days, I cannot help but think that this is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Many, many more facets to India that have yet to present itself to me. I’ll save that for my next trip!