|It was only a 3 hour train ride from Agra to Delhi – but that was enough. The train was overcrowded and uncomfortable and that together with the fact that the windows don’t always close, the dust, the smell and the fact that our bottoms still weren’t playing by the rules didn’t make for a wholly pleasant journey! However we found our hotel at the other end of Delhi from the train station without any problems which was a bonus.
We stayed in an area known as Pahar Ganj which is basically a long main street bazaar with little alleys running off it. The main bazaar is mainly occupied by budget hotels, tourist shops and restaurants/bars (it reminded us a bit of a smelly and dirty version of Khao San Road in Bangkok).
The next morning we decided to walk a couple of kms to Connaught Place. This basically marks the centre of Delhi and is a vast traffic circle with numerous boutique shops in the middle. After wandering around for a few minutes we realized that most places were shut. Well it was the first day of Diwali. This is a huge Hindi festival (a bit like new year) which is celebrated with a national holiday and the lighting of candles and fireworks (and boy do they light a lot of fireworks – the very noisy kind!).
We were told the old city was still open so we decided to get an autorickshaw over to the red fort. However our first driver tried to claim it was shut because of the festival, then because of terrorist threats and then tried to deter us by saying there are lots of muslims over there and you wont be safe! Of course he was trying to get us to go to some shops he was in on a scam with. We are two old and wise travelers though to fall for that one and told him politely where to go!
The Red Fort was well and truly open when we got there and the Muslims turned out to be quite harmless!! The fort was built by the same person who built the Taj Mahal (Shah Jahan a famous Mughul Emperor). The outside walls were pretty impressive but we were a bit disappointed by the interior ‘shell’ – the Indians really need to start investing in the upkeep of some of their heritage buildings – so much more could have been done to restore and show the buildings and private gardens in a much better light (labour is certainly cheap here so there’s really no excuse).
From the Fort we walked through Chandni Chowk which is a busy Bazaar with numerous small alleys and streets running off it. We wandered around a few which was interesting especially as they were brightly decorated for Diwali, if a little smelly and dirty. This led us to Jama Masjid, which is the largest Mosque in India (1638) and also built by Shah Jahan. We decided not to go in as we were inappropriately dressed (and the fact that we have seen loads of big mosques on our travels to-date).
That night we managed to keep a meal of pasta safely in our stomachs – so some cause for celebration! Which the Indians certainly did – as the fireworks went on all night.
The next day we attempted to get tickets to see the first day of the test cricket match between India and Australia (having been told its easy to get tickets at any time on the day). On arrival we noticed a big queue and when we asked a policeman if this was a queue for tickets he quickly led us to the front of it (hitting some locals out the way with a stick!). However when we tried to buy a ticket we were told that we could only buy a ‘5-day one’ whereas locals were allowed single day passes (and the ground was nowhere near capacity!). Not sure of the logic there but this is proving to be typical of India.
So after a bite to eat we decided to do some cultural things and went over to the other side of town to Gandhi Smriti – this is a memorial to Gandhi at the place where he spent his last 144 days and where he was shot. It also displays some of his possessions (such as the famous glasses) and numerous quotes from his life – most of which were very pertinent although we didn’t quite agree with his views on alcohol and vegetarianism!
That’s was about it for Delhi and to be perfectly honest we are looking forward on getting out of the cities so are now heading into the desert………………..