Post 6 India… where do we begin?

Two helpful suggestions from readers mean we are now numbering the blogs, and promise to try to include a few pictures of us (other readers are now saying “Oh No”). We are happy to admit that we were excited and apprehensive in equal measures about coming to India. There were the obvious concerns of health, sanitation, ‘Delhi belly’ and of course the extreme poverty, contrasting with experiencing an ancient culture, rich in tradition which is so very different to our own. Delhi airport came as a surprise. Vast, modern and carpeted(!), it had the speediest and friendliest passport control we have ever experienced, and the first shop we saw in arrivals was WH Smiths! Were we really in India? Then we met our driver Vinod, and left the building, hitting (metahorically), a wall of noise, dust and people! The drive to the hotel was incredible. There are no lanes… everything goes where it wants to, including cars, buses, vans, tuk tuks, rickshaws, cows, bikes etc. See a space.. squeeze in. There is some smog, but nowhere near as bad as a few months ago. Hotel is classed is a homestay. 4 rooms in an appartment. Clean, comfortable and friendly.. and they supply ear plugs! Hooting your car horn is mandatory here. It means ‘Hello’, ‘I’m behind you’, ‘I’m coming past you’ (on either side, there are no rules about overtaking), ‘Get out of my way’, ‘Look out’, and ‘MOVE I’M BIGGER THAN YOU’. We have established that the traffic only calms down between about 1.30 – 5.30 am. This is a city of 26 million people, and they are all seem to be going somewhere! Our first day was spent in Old and New Delhi with Vinod and our local guide. Wow. Here are the highlights. The Fatehpuri Masjid a huge mosque built in 1650 at the height of the Mughal period, to contain a minimum of 25,000 worshippers. Note compulsory gown for ladies. Gorgeous sandstone architecture, with Koran verses inscribed on marble. Chandni Chowk, the vast network of alleys and streets that are the historic and current shopping centre in Old Delhi. We walked to see the narrow alleys and old Havelis – 17th and 18th century wooden houses – built as homes for the wealthier merchants. The wiring is unbelievable. The alleys containing the silks, ribbons and dresses were a riot of colour in narrow, dirty Dickensian surroundings. Yet each one proudly dusted his shop, washed the floor and according to our guide, did good business. Then a rickshaw through the spice market. The quantity of spices traded here is jaw dropping. They arrive in huge sacks, on hand carts, bullock carts, even heads, and are moved by ornate trolleys to each trader. It was deafeningly noisy, dirty and chaotic.. but so alive, vibrant and real. It worked. The chaos had a pattern. Business was being done as it had been for hundreds of years. Next – Humayans Tomb. Built in 1570 for Mughal Emporer Humayan, by his wife. It is in gardens, which contain other huge tombs of his favoured ones…including his gardener and his barber! Next our favourite place, the Sikh Temple, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib.Delhi. It was incredible. A beautiful temple, where they have a constantly changing group of people who sing the scriptures all through the day. It was a hauntingly beautiful sound. They seem to be a very kind and caring religion, and through volunteers they run 4 kitchens across the city for anyone who wants a free hot meal regardless of religion, caste etc. They serve over 20,000 meals every day! We saw the kitchens. It was so moving. It was fresh food, and they can have as much as they want. The hall was full, and crowds were queuing outside. Very moving. The beautiful holy pool is for healing immersions. Then to Qutub Minar… the tallest brick Minaret in the world. Started in 1192 as a victory tower when Muslims overthrew the Hindus to rule India. They demolished 27 Hindu and Jain temples on this site, and used materials from them to build a huge mosque and other buildings. Back to hotel. Earplugs in. Sleeeeeep. Early start for drive to Jaipur. 135 miles – 5.5 hours! Apparently that is a good day! We saw an 18 lane highway… very briefly. A road that pretended to be a motorway..until a cow walked across…people ran across … and it suddenly had barriers (with no warning) forcing you to slow down into 1 lane for a police check. Later, suddenly, everything stopped as the road was dug up. 3 lanes of lorries onto a single lane cart track for 2 miles. Some cars didn’t like that, so literally turned round and drove back… facing completely the wrong way! The road is shared by tuk tuks, tractors and rickshaws too. At times, suddenly, 3 lanes are 1, driving up a high street with a market either side. Unbelievably amazing! Near Jaipur we went into the hills, through villages to the Samode Palace. Built by a Maharaja in the 17th century, it is now a top hotel. We had a lovely light lunch which enabled us to have a guided tour. Oh my… the palace rooms were exquisite. No wonder the rich and famous stay here. Sadly… that’s not us, so on we went, but were very pleasantly surprised on reaching our hotel, Khas Bagh, the home of one of Indias best polo players, Ransher Singh. Gorgeous room with a terrace outside. Very very comfortable and good food! Happy! Tomorrow we go to Jaipur. Very excited. Zzzzzzzzz

2 thoughts on “Post 6 India… where do we begin?

  1. Paul Simpson

    Looks amazing, I’m pretty sure we are travelling with you….. the sounds and smells the sights ….. better than any travel show I’ve ever seen. The whole thing , the history , the geography , the photography is really brilliant and I look forward to the next installment…….

    Like

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