First Taste: Spicy and sour!!

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October 14th 2016
Published: June 26th 2017
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We left Adelaide on Wednesday, 12th and flew first to Singapore and then, after a two hour stop over, on to Delhi. The flights were fine, but as they were with Singapore Airlines we couldn't access the lounges which was annoying. Arriving in Delhi at 9 pm local time we quickly cleared customs and emerged to find our on the ground transport.

I had booked this trip through Trip-a-Deal. For $1999 a head they offered all flights, 4-5 star accommodation, all ground transport from Delhi to Jaipur to Agra and back to Delhi plus all meals. A bargain I couldn't pass up! When we arrived in Delhi we were met by a representative from Special Holidays who are managing the land content of the trip. 10 of us assembled and were driven to our hotel. This was an hour trip, through the Delhi traffic. When we arrived we saw that the hotel was very new and in the middle of nowhere. However, it is very modern with comfortable rooms and impeccable service,. And what is even better has free unlimited WiFi!!

This morning we had plenty of time to have breakfast and ready ourselves for a 9am departure. We assembled in the lobby about 8-45am. There were several people whom we had not met last night. Eventually we discovered that there were two separate groups booked through Trip-a-Deal. A small group of 5 had taken the 15 day tour option which includes Nepal. 13 of us were on the 10 day option. Our transport arrived and the guide, Raj, just after 9am.As we piled into the bus I thought, it is the 13th and there are 13 of us. Bad omen??

Our first stop was at the Shah Jahn Mosque, the second biggest in the world, we were told. This had been built by the same emperor who had built the Taj Mahal. It was an imposing sight, one we had appreciated from the bus as we were approaching. This has an interesting mix of architecture melding Islamic, Hindi, Greek and Persian styles and symbols. All the women had to don floral floor length gowns to enter while any male in shorts was required to wear a cloth skirt. Raj told us about the history and architecture of the mosque. One interesting fact was the way the Mogul emperors had modified Islamic design to include Hindu symbols. So the top of the dome has an inverted lotus flower which is OK for the Muslims as this does not occur in the natural world.

After his comments we were free to wander around, We walked to what I thought would be an entrance door into the interior of the mosque. However, we discovered that this is mainly and outdoor gathering place with the 30,000 capacity mainly kneeling in the square in front of the main structure. this was surprising and unlike the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and the mosque in Cairo we had visited. However, the archways were beautiful and there was a wonderful chandelier in the main entrance. We spent about a half hour or so exploring the area.

Moving on from there we drove to the Red Fort.We went through some very narrow streets lined with scrap dealers. The traffic is unbelievable with cars, motor bikes, tuk tuks and rickshaw riders all trying to push their way in to the smallest of spaces. We were dropped off near the entrance and walked down to meet Raj at the way in. Once through we admired the facade at the main gate, This had been built by the son of Shah Jahn who was jealous of his father and who locked him up and assumed the throne having killed all his brothers. Raj explained that the market place inside was because Shah Hahn had met his beloved wife when she was selling beads at a market stall and was also to allow the over 3,000 women who lived in the palace a chance to shop.

Once through these stalls which were in the archways of the entrance passage we came across an open garden area. At the end of this was another building which housed the Mogul's marble throne. This is a magnificent structure made of local marble and inlaid with semi precious stone. Very decorative and beautiful, We then went to the Royal enclosure. this consisted of 8 buildings, 6 of which still stand. These include the king's private quarters, the palace for his two daughters and the private meeting chamber as well as a bathhouse. We were able to stroll along these, looking in but not entering. The decorative panels and scalloped arch ways are magnificent.

Having explored the fort we walked back to the entrance and were each assigned to a rickshaw driver. Ours looked rather thin but wiry and proved his stamina in taking us on the wild ride which was to be the highlight of the day. We were driven or rather pedalled through the narrow streets of Old Delhi. This was a chaotic ride where motorbikes, tuk tuks, rickshaws and even a horse and cart jockeyed for position. Throw in the wandering pedestrians and it was amazing that no serious injuries were sustained.The streets themselves were fascinating with shops selling everything from wedding outfits to jewellery to meat hanging freshly cut from the roof of the stall. A small group of goats huddled at one point obviously waiting to be slaughtered. It took over 30 minutes to wend our way to the Hotel Broadway where lunch awaited us.

After a great lunch of Butter Chicken and various accompaniments which were all delicious, washed down by a Kingfisher beer, we were driven to Gandhi's Memorial. This is where his body was cremated. They diverted the river from here so he would be in New Delhi rather than on the other side and the simple marble table is surrounded by beautiful, peaceful gardens. After this our next stop was the India Gate. This is a memorial arch erected by the British , to commemorate the Indian soldiers who died in WW1. An adjoining canopy once housed a statue of George 5th but after Independence this was removed. The park in which this is set is also a family outing and picnic spot. Here we watched a couple of cricket matches going on, obviously friends having a hit after work.

Unfortunately things turned sour here when one of our group did not return to the bus after the 15 minutes allocated for our look. After waiting another 15 minutes his now frantic wife went off in search of him. A few others of the group went too. He was nowhere to be seen. A dilemma for Raj and all of us. I suggested he could have become disoriented, gone to a different spot and not finding the bus taken a taxi back to the hotel. His phone was still on the bus. Raj rang the hotel and nearly two hours later we received the news that indeed that was what had happened. Now it was too late for our last visit and we all voted to return to the hotel, relieved he had been located.

It had been an interesting day, full of new experiences and understanding of the history of this place. Looking forward to the rest of the trip.

Additional photos below
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15th October 2016

There isn't someone called Grant on your tour is there?

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