Published: October 19th 2007October 19th 2007
Welcome to the Red Fort
This was the best part of it...! The front gate! There are nice parts, but on the whole it is a big empty expanse contained within red stone walls..
Ha. HA. HA. Ok, this is my second attempt to write this blog. As typical in India, there was a power outage as soon as I had almost all of it written! We are getting quite used to power outages actually--eating in suddenly dark restaurants with not a blink of an eye, or reading in our room at night only to be left sitting in the eerily silent darkness. Ok, so here goes round two...!
Well, I think we left off at leaving the Dubare Elephant camp. We took a bus to Bangalore, the city you are probably calling when an Indian answers those customer service lines! We stayed there two days too long, but it was the quickest we could get a ticket out of town. We went to get our ticket on 6/10/07, standing in our usual "Freedom Fighters and Foreign Tourists" line. I keep wanting to go up and say, "I am a Freedom Fighter--two tickets please!", but somehow I don't think they would be amused...! Disappointingly, we have never been in line with a Freedom Fighter, only senior citizens...unless they are EX-Freedom Fighters...?
The next day, an hour and half before our train was to
Arches in the Red Fort
This chamber was filled with these arches, in all directions.
depart, we realized our ticket was marked for 6/11/07--NOT 7/10/07! We had a ticket for the next month! We raced over to the train station to stand in the 'ticket cancellation' line--a hot and crowded line full of desperate travelers, who only got more frantic the closer to the front! With only two people to go, we were hissing at creeping line jumpers from the sides and pushing back flailing arms holding tickets from behind. There is nothing like standing in a train line in India! With elbows out, we got to the front, fearful we would have to stay another night. Thanks to 'tourist quotas' we got on with a 2-tier ticket for that night. In fear of missing our 7:20pm departure, we fought our way from the line and let the masses descend upon the haggared looking ticket seller. We rounded the corner to see the longest train in existence with our car at the front. With only 10 minutes left to depart I was thinking, "Why are we always cutting these trains so damn close??!"
We got into our cabin and the 2-tier was not as expected. Instead of 2-tier meaning bunks in a private cabin,
it meant bunk beds lengthwise down the train along with everyone else's 2-tier. Typically Indian--there is no privacy at any time. Our two day journey to Delhi was relatively relaxing and actually, it was much better being social with our fellow travellers than sitting in a private berth. Our quad ended up being the "party quad" of the car, with most of the men coming down to play cards while their families slept behind drawn curtains. The three men next to us were always the last to turn out the lights for the night, not wanting to give up their game of cards on the sheet they stretched out into a makeshift table. One of the men was a Sikh (with a pre-folded turban--similar to the clip-on bow-tie?) and was sniffling and coughing the whole way. I gave him one of my Sudafeds as I was in the same state and two hours later he was up playing cards again. "Mmmm...good, strong medicine." he says. In return, he gave us some biscuits and bananas to have with our chai. There were also two university boys that got on at one point. They like to get into the sleeper cars on
Carved Marble Screens, Red Fort
Another view through the main throne room in the red fort. There used to be a fabulous gold peacock throne here, but someone stole it and took it to Iran or something like that. The same throne was later told to us as having also been at the Agra Fort... both owned by the same guy, (Shah Jahan... and his son Aurangzeb), so maybe it moved with them..?
their daily journey in the hopes of seeing foreigners to talk with. They asked us the usual questions about marriage, kids and money. They were impressed we had a love marriage and asked, "But, how do you ask permission to have a love marriage?" They didn't quite get that's the point of a love marriage--you don't have to ask permission! Then they asked the inevitable question of how old we are (everyone in India thinks we are way younger than we are) and he recoiled when he heard I was older than Lachlan. "No, no, no...Indian men NEVER marry an older woman!" he says. I wonder what his reaction would've been if he knew I used to make more money than Lachlan too! :)
As the nation's capitol, Delhi is much like any other Indian city--dirty, polluted, cows roaming the streets, with a little mix of western clothes shops and fast food joints. We didn't do much in Delhi except roam "Old" Delhi's bazaars and Red Fort and spent one morning getting a decent cup of coffee in one of the fancy westernized cafes. That's when I feel particularly guilty walking past the lepers and women with brand new
Pastry chef in a Delhi market. These things cook in no time, and look thick sticky and syrupy when they're done. Haven't had the courage to try one yet!
babies begging on the street. I've just splurged on a silly thing like a muffin and latte while other people are barely eating anything.
From Delhi we completed the "Golden Triangle" of Jaipur and Agra. To answer one comment, we have been the only other tourists (aka "white people") we've seen for the most part, until Delhi. We usually skip the restaurants listed in our guide book since the food is usually sub-par to the bustling local joints and it usually only consists of other tourists with their nose...in the guide book. One exception was the couple we met on the bus in Jaipur. They have been traveling almost continuously for 12 years together and are very cool people full of advice and stories. We ended up spending two nights of great conversation with them.
Jaiper is on the "top tourist spots" in India, but we have no idea why. The "pink city" is a crumbling, chaotic bazaar town with the main attraction being the atmosphereless City Palace. The Amber Fort was more impressive and the bus ride was the best yet. It was so packed we couldn't move our arms and one Indian was actually giving Lachlan
Old Delhi Bazaar
View from the mosque stairs in Old Delhi into the market. We were right on the edge of the "car parts" bazaar. One store sold nothing but ball bearings! In the "electronic bazaar" we saw the TV store and then right next door--the remote control store!! Typical!
a bear hug to in order to stay on the bus and not fall out the door! Lachlan looked over at me and said, "This guy is actually CUDDLING me!"
Made it to Agra finally, after a bus ride that took almost twice as long as planned. So frustrating when you are trying to get to the Taj Mahal for sunset! But, we got up the next morning for sunrise and it was so impressive! Absolutely beautiful and peaceful! We stayed over three hours just walking around and sitting there looking at it. It was well worth the cost of our day's budget to get in!!! Our hotel had a rooftop restaurant with a Taj view so we had a sunset dinner. The sky is so polluted and hazy that the sunset doesn't do much for the Taj and we could see the throngs of people with cameras flashing and we were glad we were eating a peaceful dinner.
Later that day, Lachlan got a bad belly so I was off to the Agra Fort alone. I have a new respect for the women that travel India alone because the constant male attention is quite annoying. Teenage boys
Bangle Store in Delhi
This one has atmosphere, but is very small. Some are emmense, with small fronts like this, but then stairs to a basement that opens up before you like an underground warehouse. Brigid's hand is too fat to buy any though...!
kept coming up to me wanting photos taken with me and one bold little boy asked for a kiss. This is on top of the constant autorickshaw drivers wanting to give you a ride and shop sellers trying to overcharge you for drinks. This is much different from usual, in which I am the "Invisible Woman". I always get the stares, but men won't talk to me when Lachlan is in sight. In fact, Indian men, being the main shopkeepers, hotel clerks, bus ticket agents and restaurant staff, will only direct questions at Lachlan. So he is usually the one doing all our transactions. Particularly annoying, he gets handed the one menu in restaurants and sits there perusing it and asks me, "what do you want to eat?" WELL, I don't know do I--what do they have????? ARGH!
So we continued on the "tourist route" to Khajuraho--the place of the "Kama Sutra" temples. You can see some of the picts to get the full idea! :) Actually, the picts really don't do justice to the impressive carvings that cover the temples (and they're not all graphic!).
Tonight, we are taking the midnight train to Varanassi and we are
Old wall in the "Pink City"
One of B's arty shots from inside Jaipur's old city... somehow transforming a ruinous rubble of dillapidated stone into a pretty nice looking sight...
getting anxious that we are getting closer and closer to the NE states--our true destination of India!
There are more photos below