We flew up to Delhi on the 16th by Jet Airways (pretty good – and cheap! at 1500 INR base fare per ticket, or about $25) and were really relieved about the weather. It was actually cool enough to put on a sweater in the evenings! We stayed with Vig’s aunts and uncle in Shalimar Bagh, a neighbourhood in north Delhi. Aunt J took us along to check out another night market, this one was pretty huge and took up an entire street! There were stalls selling clothing and housewares, souvenir-type stuff, and of course produce and food as well.
Andrea: the produce being a night market thing is definitely because of the heat during the day, but otherwise? I think people just like to do their shopping at night!
Upon hearing a ruckus outside…we found a groom’s wedding party in full force, taking up the left lane of traffic! The buses weren’t too happy about that, I tell ya.
After a day of complete rest at home quietly, we were picked up bright and early by a car to go to Agra – by leaving at 6am we managed to get there in about three hours (it’s 200km from Delhi) and avoided a lot of Delhi traffic. First stop was Akbar’s Tomb, and since it was about 9:30 in the morning it was pretty empty. The driver didn’t speak a lot of English, just kind of parked and indicated that we should go and check it out! It was worth a bit of a poke around.
The entrance to the tomb was pretty creepy.
Pretty creepy inside, too – a big empty room with a marble tomb in the middle.
Next up was Agra Fort, where we did have a guide – it’s kind of a convoluted story but basically, the driver was hired through a pretty trusty travel agency. When we got to the fort, he said we should take this dude as our guide – he was hanging out with the travel agency’s bus so we figured he’d already been hired by them. The guide was pretty good, we definitely learned lots more stuff, but awhile later (after taking us to a ‘handicrafts shop’…note that this is a bad sign; and also accompanying us to a restaurant for lunch but not actually coming inside?!) wanted to get paid. Vig asked the driver if we were supposed to pay him, or if he’d been paid by the travel agency – the driver said we didn’t have to pay the guide. But the guide was pretty insistent, so rather than argue we just him paid the equivalent of $4 and sent him on his way. Whew.
Anyway, Agra Fort. Big place, lots of red sandstone and white marble, and a pretty awesome view of the Taj.
Apparently you can tell real white marble from painted stone because light will shine through marble! It was pretty neat.
There was also lots of beautiful inlay work – there was one room in particular that was really pretty. All the coloured bits are precious or semi-precious.
After some lunch at a restaurant called Only (which was pretty good, but with highly inflated tourist prices) we headed to the Taj Mahal!
We sat around, walked around and took tons of photos. It was getting to be the late afternoon and the light was really good – and it wasn’t very hot either, so it was really pleasant! The Taj is really beautiful, and nothing really captures being there!
The epilogue to our day in Agra? It took five hours to get back to Shalimar Bagh – we left Agra at 5:30 and for some reason the driver went to an auto shop on the side of the highway around 6 and had something done to a spare tire (it was in the trunk?). That took half an hour. Then it was pretty uneventful for awhile until we hit Delhi, then there was the traffic. That wasn’t too much of a big deal on its own (pretty expected really) but the driver was getting sort of increasingly agitated and crazy in his driving. It was scary, yo. Did I mention we got into a collision on the way to Agra? Not the driver’s fault, someone else cut in and our car demolished his driver’s side mirror. No tip for him!
Anyway. Back in Delhi we set out to explore a bit the next day and took the Metro to Connaught Place. The Delhi metro’s really quite impressive and clean, better than the TTC I’d say at least in terms of looks! They also have displays of when the next train will come, which is always nice. And I really do like elevated rail systems because of the light! Downside? Security’s really tight, even moreso than in Beijing – metal detector and bag search, every time. Actually, security’s really tight a lot of the time India, there’s metal detectors to get into the mall and bag searches and frisking all over the place!
Connaught Place is mainly a shopping centre, built by the British and consisting of a couple of concentric ring roads. We wandered around a bit, bought a Lonely Planet for our Rajasthan trip, and had a fantastic lunch at Veda. Definitely one of the best meals of the trip! They have a veggie tandoori platter that’s really just veggies, pineapple, and paneer, all roasted in the tandoor, as opposed to the usual super cooked, stewed-type curries we’d been eating. It was nice to bite into a recognizable pepper or mushroom!
A short walk south and we ended up at a place that was in the guidebook, but seemed pretty low-key – Jantar Mantar observatory. It’s an astronomical observatory that mostly looks like a bunch of crazy sculptures or something! It was really nice and quiet, few tourists, and pretty much a free for all – you could climb anything! We stayed there quite awhile taking fun photos and climbing up and down.
I thought it was very M.C. Escher!
We definitely had fun there.
Hang tight – just a few more posts left about my trip. A train adventure to Rajasthan, one last sightseeing day in Delhi, and my visit with Ysolda!