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Published: March 15th 2011
“I will worry about you two every day until you come back”
Namaskar Guest House Owner
We returned to our guest house, Namaskar, which is a very reasonable option with a wide range of rooms, and run by two very helpful brothers who helped us getting bikes and planning the trip in general. They kept our luggage nice and safe for the two weeks and gave us a big smile when they saw we had safely returned.
It was nice to be back on solid ground after our 2 week bike trip
. It also felt nice to be familiar with a city, kind of like meeting an old friend. We’re back baby…back in the noisy tourist hotspot of Paharganj!
The area near the New Delhi Railway Station is a major tourist hub, and as such is full of touts, rickshaws, beggars, hawkers etc. You need to have your wits about you, and it is a little intimidating for India first timers inexperienced with haggling, rubbish, cows and persistent beggars trying to get some tourist change. My advice would be to at least have your hotel room booked before you arrive in the area, and listen
to no nonsense when your rickshaw/tuk tuk driver tells you about better places(for commission) or that your hotel has closed down etc.
Some of the touts are very clever, as in one case a travel agent was calling me… “friend friend where you from” and I replied politely “Ireland” whilst continuing to walk away “Oh Ireland…what’s the craic…Guinness…maybe you can help me…one friend from Ireland sent me a letter in Irish and I can’t read Irish” damn it I couldn’t resist I’d have a look sure what harm! Inside was a hand written (seemingly genuine) Irish recommendation for the travel agent…well played sir. “So what does it say” he asked me…”It says they had a very good time travelling with you and they had an excellent driver”… confidently he asked me “so would you like to look at my tours?”… So with no intention of getting a tour I had 10 minutes of my life wasted and now this guy knew and recognized me and was the bane of my life for 2 weeks. If you pay attention to and talk to everyone who calls at you in Paharganj you it would take an entire day to walk the
street, so unless you want something ignore calls of “hallo” and “friend you come my shop”…its better you know.
One other common (but harmless) trick is for rickshaw drivers to give you seemingly cheap lifts to places. This always results in you having to visit their ‘friend’s’ shop, where they get some money for bringing you in and commission if you buy. If you’re looking for souvenirs or don’t mind wasting time in shops, great you’ll make the guy some extra ching ching, but after a while we made sure to emphasize no shops… “Why not shop?” is the usual reply…”because I don’t want to buy anything mate!”.
Richard got so exasperated with one guy that Rich said “How’s about I bring you to my friends shop”…”but he won’t give you money”, the tuk tuk driver responded…”maybe we’ll see…come my shop friend”, Rich said, leading him off. All part of the craic!
I say Jesus in the house
It was the 23rd of December when we arrived and we had one mission; find a turkey dinner for Christmas day. A tall order we imagined, but we began our hunt in earnest. We needn’t have
Jama Masjid, Old Delhi
worried as it turns out plenty of restaurants and hotels around the trendy Connaught Place serve full Christmas buffets. We ended up going to a rather huge shopping mall, and pigging out on an all you can eat Christmas feast, and they even had a big Christmas tree and Santa’s giving out sweets. India loves its festivals so why the hell not celebrate Christmas too.
Amazing all the effort they go to make sure the minority of Christians aren’t left out, and nothing at all to do with commercial activity I’m sure. It was definitely one of those times myself and Rich would have preferred to have been at home with friends and family, but it was great to be able to call home at least(as luck would have it my family were just about to tuck in…not jealous at all !!).
Delhi Old and New
Did you know Delhi’s population used to be a mere 240,000 back in 1911? It has now swollen to over 40 times that! I won’t insult you by doing the math :-) There were eight separate inaugurations of the city of Delhi, built mostly by Muslim and Mughal rulers
Main Street, Old Delhi
between the 13th and 17th centuries and finally by the British when they constructed stunning New Delhi in the early 20th century.
Delhi is a melting pot of the world’s religions, with the Muslim call to prayer heard in the morning, Sikhs strolling around in their various head gear, and Hindu temples scattered all around. Nowhere was the impress of history more evident to me than Delhi; you can visit ancient tombs, the packed streets of Old Delhi, powerful fortresses, national landmarks, the wide boulevards of New Delhi, and huge shopping malls all in the same day if you wanted. You’ll see cows, camels, cars, elephants and bikes side by side on the road. It has an everyday vitality that I’m sure I won’t see in any other city.
I’ve got a present for ya (only my brothers will get this phrase I’d say)
Our main reason for staying in Delhi was for Richard to get his Christmas present from Dell, his new alienware computer. It’s a long….long story, basically a series of clusterfuck-ups from Dell, in which they were meant to replace his laptop when he was back in Australia nearly 3 months ago.
This is where we actually filmed the shot, we had to be pretending to tour the place
Finally they had agreed to deliver it to Delhi around Christmas. Only problem was that it was arriving from Malaysia and had to get couriered to us, in probably the most chaotic postal network in the world. We just had to sit tight and wait for it, for an indefinite time, but luckily we were in one of the most interesting cities in the world.
One day we were in our favourite local restaurant, Everest Bakery, which funnily enough doesn’t do very good cakes, but has the best roast chicken I’ve eaten on my holidays to date! A friendly Indian woman approached Richard, and asked him if he’d like to be an extra in a Bollywood movie. We had a few days to burn in Delhi and this seemed like a funny experience so we said we were in. We were a bit cautious, because Paharganj is well known for tourist scams, and our hostel owners urged us to be careful, but after asking around in a few of the hotels it seemed legitimate, so we didn’t have much to lose!
We were picked up by Isha, our co-ordinator, early in the morning
Bollywood Movie Site, Humayuns tomb
and along with a few other tourists made our way to the film location, Humayan Tomb, which happens to be a major attraction in Delhi, similar in shape to the Taj Mahal. There were ten of us extras, and we all got to know each other throughout the day. I’d never been around a film set before, so it was very cool to see all the equipment, rigging, props, makeup artists, cameras and of course the big stars. The first day the weather was fairly overcast, and we didn’t actually get used in any of the scenes to our disappointment, but the next day was better.
One of the main stars of the film was Bollywood's hottest property Katrina Kaif. She was voted No.1 in FHM India’s hottest star list, and she gets 20 million rupee per film (about 5 million Dollars). Holy crapsicles Batman! When we saw her arriving the first day with her entourage, it was like one of those clips you’d see on the news, with bodyguards blocking camera’s and people snapping frantically (including me) to get a photo. It was all very exciting, and at one stage during one of
Hey Pretty Lady
Bollywood Movie Site, Humayuns tomb
the many down times in filming, she waved at a group of school kids who went full on berserk and stampeded forward to get closer to their idol...see the photo haha!
We were used really only in one scene where we had to pretend to be touring around Humayan’s Tomb, whilst the two main stars were dancing around and making a music video (In Bollywood movies it’s all about the music videos). We were naturals at it after our 2 years method acting ;-) Check out Katrina Kaif in the video to the big movie that was out at the time Tees Mar Khan. A big thank you to Isha who gave us an opportunity to get involved, and gave us another great Indian experience! Plus we got free food, and got to see Humayans tomb, which is in itself a great place!
Walk Around Old Delhi
One of the most fun things to do in Delhi is just walking around the old town and soaking up the strange sights and sounds. One of the funniest things we saw was what appeared to be a roadside dentist. This guy had pliers, scissors and other tools…I
Roadside Old Delhi
wouldn’t leave him brush my teeth:-) The best thing is the fact that we weren’t the target market here so people aren’t trying to lure you into the shops, and you can just wander around freely. Another classic Old Delhi moment was when we saw an elephant making its way down the very congested main street and the driver wearing a turban was gesturing away whilst on his phone (Think ‘I am late because you are late’). I’ve a great photo of this moment that for me sums up India; heaped in religion and tradition, yet desperately trying to embrace technology and western ideals.
The fantastic Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India and is my number one sight in Delhi. It lies in the heart of Old Delhi and it is simply a breath taking building. It’s free to enter normally, but I had to pay for my camera, yet I was more than willing to pay to see this wonderful building. Birds fly around eating seeds scattered for them when they’re not posing like shameless hussies for photographs. The beautiful arches are ideal for photographs, the friendly locals buzz around you
Jama Masjid, Old Delhi
in interest (clearly they’d heard about our new film roles), and the views from atop the minarets are awesome. You can see the battlements of Red Fort looming in the smoggy distance, and we watched the hustle and bustle of the crowds and tuk tuks from our lovely vantage point for quite some time.
Later we went to see Red Fort, also in Old Delhi. Red Fort is a massive Mughal fortification very similar to Agra Fort, with huge sandstone walls, which encircle palaces, gardens, barracks and a cool armory. Built by the legend that is and was Shah Jahan in the 17th century, it is a tremendous building and a powerful symbol of Indian sovereignty. If you only have time to see one fort in your time in India, this is it! Filled with museums containing paintings, weapons and history, you can learn about India’s rocky road to independence, guided by the great Gandhi.
Also near Old Delhi is Raj Ghat; a simple memorial to honour India’s most ideologically influential leader, Mahatma Gandhi. His inspiring campaign of resistance through non-violence paved the way for India’s independence from
Rich standing by the huge walls of Red Fort, Old Delhi
Britain in 1947. He managed to achieve peacefully, what many bloody rebellions failed to do. It almost seems rude not to visit here and pay tribute to this great soul. The monument itself is a simple black marble slab, meant to echo the simplicity with which Gandhi lived his life.
Another day we went to see an unusual lotus shaped temple, the aptly named Lotus Temple. It has a very attractive design, with sloping white walls acting as petals, similar to the Sydney Opera House, and big curved ponds underneath it. I was surprised to read it’s one of the most visited buildings in the world, even more so than the Taj Mahal, getting 13,000 visitors a day…about 4.5 million a year…yep the entire population of Ireland! It’s one of the Baha’i houses of worship, which are open to every religion. The Baha’i faith emphasizes the spiritual unity of mankind, and does not discriminate against other faiths. As such there are no sermons or ceremonies inside of any of the Bahia houses of worship…Interesting!
In our time in Delhi we got to see a number of very large
Similar to Syndney Opera House no?
shopping malls and got to see the other side of Indian culture. Often our reason for going was to see English showings of films in the huge multiplex cinemas(in two weeks we saw Tron, Social Network and Salt), but it was great to see some of these span new, ultra modern centres filled with cool shops too. I ended up buying pants, shoes, shirts, headphones and some books :-) The frugal life of a backpacker is hard at times in India…
Needless to say our 50 dollar a day budget was way too much for most of India, except on the bike trip, with accommodation costing about 6 dollars a night, and food varying from less than a dollar to 6 dollars when you’re really splashing out.
After 12 days in Delhi, Richards’s laptop arrived and we could leave for Mumbai. We enjoyed our time, but 12 days was ultimately enough.
Next stop Mumbai!
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