Finally made it to India’s capital –Delhi (or as Isaac says I should pronounce it, “Deal-ly“). We took a short train ride from Agra to Delhi which was very comfortable. Here’s a trick in case you’re stuck without a reservation on a train. A lot of journeys allow you to buy a General Compartment ticket which is very cheap but then get onto any coach you want (whether it’s AC, sleeper etc) and ask the train rep to upgrade your ticket if there’s any unreserved seats. You’ll have to pay the difference in cost but at least you get to travel in some comfort. In our case, we were told by the reservation office that all the seats were reserved and only General Compartment was available but got upgraded to very comfortable 3AC seats once we got on board the train and everyone else in our compartment did the same thing!
Delhi is such a wonderful city – maybe they cleaned it up for the Commonwealth Games – and so modern but still full of history. We checked into Ajay’s Guest House in the Paharganj district (behind the New Delhi Train Station and backpacker central!) and grabbed tandoori chicken dinner, mmmm so good. The weather here has been perfect – sunny but breezy so very comfortable for sight-seeing.
The next morning, we took the very modern, clean and efficient metro (the TTC looks like a wooden oxcart compared to Delhi’s metro system) to Raj Path which is a long and wide street which is surrounded by government buildings. On both sides of the street, there are grassy patches where we saw people playing cricket, tag and cards. We visited the Secretariat buildings, which are the parliamentary buildings, and saw men in suits lying down on the grass taking naps – oh how typical of government workers, taking naps midday! We also saw the President’s House which reminded me of Buckingham Palace – there’s even guards that march back and forth. Additional guards are the troop of cheeky monkeys that hang out in front of the gates and eat all the landscaping flowers. We then visited the National Museum which had exhibits on India’s history – all the way from ancient civilizations to modern-day India. There were sculptures from the different ancient civilizations and minature paintings that were popular during the Mughal Empire. One very interesting exhibit was relics of Buddha (i.e. his bones!). After the Buddha was cremated, they split his remains for all the Kings that were present and they found these relics in India by his father’s hometown. There were monks paying their respect and asian people bowing every time they walked by. We then came home and watched TV (yes, we are ballers with a TV in our room!) and there’s a Rocky marathon going on so watched Rocky 3 – oh Stallone, how young you once were.
The next day, we ate breakfast on a roof top overlooking the narrows streets in Paharganj, watching the comings and goings of people below. There were some very interesting things to see like a cycle rickshaw carrying 10 school children or this old woman carrying baskets of sand on her head back and forth from a giant mound in the street to the small mixer 10 steps away. We then took the very nice metro to Old Delhi to visit the Red Fort. After seeing everything in Agra, we were sort of forted out so didn’t really spend that much time there. We also visited the Jama Masjid which is India’s largest mosque. We climbed (barefoot across rocks and pebbles by the way) up the tower and got a great view of Delhi! There were houses and buildings in all directions! We had all intentions of sight-seeing some more but was interrupted by the greasy but familiar smell of McDonalds! Mike and I were so giddy and practically stampeded people trying to get inside. There were some different items on the menu we just HAD to try like the Chicken Maharaja Mac (like a Big Mac with chicken patties and spicy masala mayo) and the McAloo Tikki (a vegetarian pattie with spicy masala mayo) and Schezuan McNugget dipping sauce! It made us so happy and itis-ed that we had to go home after and take a nap. But it was all worth it! To top off the evening, we watched Rocky 4 – the slow motion running scenes between Apollo Creed and Rocky made us laugh.
The last full day in Delhi was spent at the Gandhi Smriti (Memorial). We took the metro but had to walk another 20 minutes to the memorial. Along the way, the streets were tree-lined, wide and so clean! All the cars were using the roundabouts properly (which we haven’t seen since arriving in India!) and there were sidewalks (no more walking along the street). We saw all these estates with gates, high barb-wired fences and security with machine guns perched in posts. We then realized that these were the houses of politicians like High Court Justices and army/navy Generals. We finally got to the Gandhi Smriti and it was so peaceful. The grounds were so nicely kept and they highlighted Gandhi’s final steps from his room to the prayer altar where he was assassinated by a Hindu extremist. There’s a memorial where he died with his last words inscribed and they’ve kept his room in the same condition. There were artifacts on display like his infamous glasses, cane and pocket watch. There was also a museum on his life, philosophy, death, martyrdom and the timeline of India’s fight for independence. We didn’t understand some of the information and didn’t know if it was whether the English they use is so proper or it’s a case of loss in translation. I would like to think it’s the latter so that I don’t feel dumb. We then walked around some more and even saw a man walking a monkey on a leash! Then to end the marathon, we watched Rocky Balboa – Stallone’s so old and the acting’s so bad but it was still great entertainment!
Today, we leave for Ludhiana in the Punjab state to visit Mike’s family!