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DELHI

2.4. - 4.4. 2014, travel book part I.

 

Why to go to Delhi

At the start of my journey I planned to visit all three cities of the Golden triangle: Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. With its 15 million people, Delhi is the second biggest city of India and it's been a capital city on and off for centuries. It was the center of power thanks to Mughals who came here from Agra and then for a change thanks to Brits who moved there from Kolkata. I wanted to walk through the Old Delhi and New Delhi and visit the Red fort, Humayun's Tomb, the biggest Indian mosque Jama Masjid, Qutub minaret with an iron column from 4th century and see some bazzars.

 

How to get to Delhi

As I planned to visit a number of states on a route long 6700 kilometers in just three weeks, I spent whole two months organizing and preparing for it. I was going through travel guides and booked all my train tickets, plane tickets and accommodation. I was finished at the end of March and waited for the D-day, when I was finally supposed to depart to the exotic land full of contrasts. But the D-day almost didn't happen. There was a big strike on seven German airports the week before my departure and the airline Lufthansa, which was the company I chose, had to cancel 600 flights. I was counting on the people to have their strikes finished by the time of my departure and hoped for the best. However, I was wrong. I found out the morning before my departure that the whole company Lufthansa is on strike this time! Lufthansa cancelled altogether 3800 flights and with one strike affected 400 thousand people. It affected me indeed as I firstly got completely speechless, then I thought there is a heart attack coming my way but it was quickly surpassed by heavy rage. However, thanks to the fact that I found out about it a day before I was able to find a different flight connection and got my ticket in the end... We arrived to India 5 minutes after midnight, I got my first rupees from an ATM and set out to find my taxi. I had one arranged from my hotel beforehand, as it was easier this way [15 km, 30 min, 600 INR. Prepaid taxi would cost 300 INR + 25 percent for night travel]. Taxi driver took me safely to my accommodation – a hotel in a tiny side street – got his tip and I went straight to bed.

 

Accommodation tip in Delhi

I wanted to stay in Paharganj quarter near New Delhi station and the Main Bazaar street. From the large number of hotels, I managed to pick Hotel Srivinayak and booked it via Booking.com (1400 INR). Hotel was pretty clean, had WiFi and people on reception were very helpful and friendly even though it was late night. The only tiny disadvantage was the location itself, with train station so near you could hear the train whistles all night as the engine drivers showed off their egos to each other. And because I was so lucky to get a window facing the street, there was also noise and music from a nearby Hindu temple. But I guess you can't really chose in India.

 

My experience in Delhi

I woke up the next morning at half past eight and stumbled up to the roof to observe morning madness on the street, trying to picture myself in the midst of it. I got called for breakfast by two young locals who offered their menu in fluent Hindi. And after breakfast it was time to start my adventure. I got in the crowd and tried to ask someone how to get to the nearest metro station. But everyone seemed to be pointing in a different direction and all of them knew I was new in India which I found annoying. I gave up in the end and hopped on rickshaw [20INR] which took me to metro on Connaught Place. The driver pointed out agency, where they tried to force all kind of tickets on me. After ten minutes I managed to convince them that I really don't need anything apart from a map of Delhi, but only if they can give it to me for free. I got on the metro after a while, bought myself a 1day ticket for 150 INR and walked through the gate under supervision of armored guards, luckily passed the first wagon designated for women and set out on my journey. Every beginning is hard.

I got to Qutub Minar station and walked outside from the metro. I was greeted by a crowd of rikshaw drivers who immediately chose me as their victim and each of them tried to get to me first to offer pricey ride to Qutub Minar. Their haggling didn't impress me much so I decided to walk instead. However, it was still a good 2-3 kilometers away and it was so warm that in the end I had to hop from one shadow to the other to get there. While I was walking I couldn't help but notice all the variety of Indian society – Indian families in colorful saris were buying tickets and right beside them were half naked, dirty and barefoot members of the lowest caste, picking up rubbish from the streets. Qutub Minar [250 INR] awed me right from the first glance. It is a 73 meters high mastodon and it is unbelievable how they were able to construct something like this in 13th century. And they even planned to build another one, two times higher. There is the oldest mosque in India right beside the minaret and there are ruins of old tombs and palaces all around the complex. Another very interesting structure is a 7-meter-high iron pillar from the 4th century, which has been resisting corroding process for centuries. Some enthusiasts claim that it was not build by humans, others with a bit more sober view say that the builders from the past didn't use limestone when they were founding metal, so there was a residue of phosphor which created thin layer on the surface that resists corrosion. I was interested in the topography in red sandstone of the old gates and walls and observed green parrots that were building their nests on them.

India Delhi Qutab Minar

Qutab Minar

I took rikshaw on my way back to the metro and my next destination was Humayun's Tomb [250 INR]. I got out on the JLN stadium metro station, waved at first rickshaw driver I saw, squeezed beside other passengers and tried to hide in the shadow [20 INR]. Humayun's Tomb is a beautiful rustic building made from white marble and red sandstone, located in gorgeous green gardens with water ponds. This tomb was an inspiration for Taj Mahal. I witnessed a beautiful sunny day, clear blue sky and amazing silence and calm as there were no people around and there was a nice and needed shadow in the tombs.

India Delhi Humayun's Tomb

Humayun's Tomb

On the entrance to Humayun's Tomb they forgot to tear my ticket so when I was leaving I used the chance and sold it to a young tourist for 100 INR. Later I realized that it wasn't such a good deal because all the tickets to sights in Delhi are the same, including price, so I could have used it for the entrance to Red Fort instead and save myself 250 INR. Also, all the sights are closed on Mondays.

I hopped on a rikshaw outside of the tomb and agreed with the driver that he's going to take me to Hazrat Nizam, wait for me there and take me back to metro station [100 INR]. Hazrat Nizam is a Muslim sanctuary in an old build up area. I had to take my shoes off before I entered and hand them over to a young boy. I remembered the movie Slumdog millionaire and wondered if I ever see my shoes again. The narrow street that started at the entrance soon became a wide-open area with a water pond, surrounded by old buildings and full of swimming local Muslims. As the only tourist I moved slowly towards the sanctuary where the crowd doubled. A lot of people were praying, in one area it was only women who made beautiful rainbow with their colorful saris. I found my shoes on the way back and that young boy only wanted 100 INR for keeping them, but he never got them.

India Delhi Hazrat Nizam

Hazrat Nizam

I went back on metro and got out on Central Secretariat, took a rikshaw [50 INR] and let the driver take me to the parliament and president's palace with a view of India Gate.

Then I continued to the metro station Chandni Chowk and tried to walk to Red Fort. On my way I noticed open public toilets which I could smell at least a kilometer away, however there was a homeless person lying not even two meters away from them. He didn't have shoes and his feet were as black as coal. After a while of stumbling around in the heat I arrived to Red Fort [250 INR]. This fort, made from red sandstone, was built in 17th century and it was a residence of the emperors of the Mughal dynasty till 1857, when the Brits took over and transformed it into barracks.

India Delhi Red Fort

Red Fort

Because I didn't have enough of the heat, I decided to wave off the next rikshaw driver and walked to Jama Masjid instead. I walked along the street Chandni Chowk and passed all the crowds, shops, streets full of cars, rikshaws and bikes. I took a wrong turn and had to ask few times for directions. In the end I reached the mosque, but I wasn't allowed to go in as the prayers were just about to start. Jama Masjid is the biggest Indian mosque, that fits almost 20 thousand believers at once, but I suppose I didn't look like a Muslim. I could see all the homeless people sleeping on the streets in front of the mosque. There was a huge traffic, chaos and noise. It was an incredible contrast and I don't think I would be able to sleep this way.

India 14

Jama Masjid

It was evening time so I decided to find a restaurant. I found one near the mosque and went in to try my first Indian food. I ordered something amazing from the Mughal cuisine and observed others during dinner. They gave me cutlery but the rest of the locals ate with their hands, more specifically with their right hand. Even rice with sauce, in the worst case they helped themselves with a piece of bread.

I took a bike-rikshaw ride after dinner. The driver must have been happy to take me, as I think he was half my size. He cycled through the narrow streets with me [60 INR]. I went in the metro again and got out in New Delhi station, where after few times I was able to find the right way through and arrived to my hotel. I had a beer on the roof, it had 8 percent of alcohol and I found out that rice is one of the ingredients. It cost me 130 INR.

India Delhi traffic

Delhi traffic

Once again, I was woken up by trains in the middle of the night and then by radio in the morning. I went for a walk on the busy street Main Bazaar to take out more money from ATM. In the afternoon I said goodbye to boys from reception and called a rikshaw to take me to Rohilla station, from where I continued my journey to Jaipur.

 

VISITED COUNTRIES

zeme 100

37

KM ON THE ROADS

km 100

48 560

DAYS ON THE ROADS

dny 100

397