Jan
28
2013

The Triangle

We considered taking the train from Bangalore to Delhi as opposed to flying but that soon changed after we learnt it was either a 2hr 30min flight or a 39hr train! We paid the extra and flew!

We were both not looking forward to Delhi from what we had heard about the place and what we imagined it to be like. Abby’s feelings for the place weren’t helped by Vineeth after he was telling us to make sure we didn’t take tuk tuk’s at night, not to walk around too much unless we were in a group and pretty much don’t stray too far from the hotel after dark.

I must say I was amazingly shocked by the place for all of 45 minutes! Landing at Delhi International airport, it was immaculate and quite frankly a very arty styled building. Everything was quick and simple and in no time (less than 15 minutes after de-boarding) we had our bags and were heading for the airport Metro station. The Metro itself looked brand new and if there weren’t a handful of people at the platform, we would have been the only ones on the train. Blue LED displays inside the carriages tracked the train’s progress from the airport to the centre and I don’t ever recall being on a cleaner or more impressive metro in any city I have ever visited. I was beginning to wonder what everyone was going on about.

It took just 30 minutes to get from the airport to Delhi central railway station which is pretty much the middle of the city and not far from our hotel. Then my bubble was well and truly popped! Climbing up the stairs to street level from the railway station was indescribable. Stepping over sleeping people, dog and human crap on every other step, the sight and smell of urine that was slowly cascading down the steps in an elegant yellow coloured waterfall! It’s at times like these you really wish you weren’t wearing flip-flops!

I’ll skip over all the other horribleness and just say we got to our hotel after a 10-15 minute walk which was right in the middle of what looked like the most horrible street in Delhi but was just in actual fact, any normal street in Delhi.

The next day we asked a Tuk Tuk to take us to the official Delhi Tourism office so we could book the triangle tour of Agra and Jaipur. Knowing where is was on the map I was holding in my hand and with my sense of direction telling me that we were not going in the right direction, it was no surprise when we arrived at a scam tourist office. A quick look at the sawdust on the floor confirmed he was trying to scam us so after threating not to pay him, he took us to the real ‘government’ tourist office. When we arrived here, I could again tell this was a scam, even though it had government written on the door it just so wasn’t the official place. We decided to just head for Connaught Park where I started to chat to two tax office workers that were out getting some air on a break. They basically told us to see the Delhi sights in a day and then get out as it wasn’t worth wasting any more time here! And that’s coming from two guys that have lived there for over 40 years! They also showed us were the official, official tourist office was so we were able to book our tour.

We saw the sights of Delhi for the rest of that day with our driver ‘Singh’ (first name unpronounceable) but it was a little disappointing as the Red Fort and India Gate were closed due to the Republic parade that was planned from the following day and security were guarding the areas.

Singh also took us to his local Sikh temple and explained exactly what happens and what the Sikh religion is all about. I must admit I do remember a lot of what he said as religion stuff doesn’t normally stick in my head. He took us through the kitchens (we just walked in with no questions asked) and looked at how they cook the free meals they provide each day to the visitors to the temple. There is no charge for meals and they don’t ask for any donations.

 

Agra

Now we had both heard that the home of the Taj Mahal was supposed to be even worse than Delhi but both Abby and I disagree. Sure it was no Bangalore but I would say it was a lot better than New and Old Delhi and didn’t really have a problem with it.

The journey to Agra was supposed to take around 3hr 30mins but because everyone in Indian seemed to be visiting Agra on that day (over the long weekend) it took around 7hrs. The queue for locals to get in was over 3hrs long so it’s a good job the price tourists pay (£8 as opposed to 20p) allowed us to just walk straight in.

No doubt about it, the Taj was impressive! It would have been even more so if there wasn’t 1.3 billion other people in there with us. It was beyond packed. There was no way either my Dad or Nigel would have gone in there knowing both their love of crowds and people.

It was amazing we actually got any decent pictures of it really but it did involve me laying down on the floor where Princess Diana sat with Abby trying to stop people standing on me. She wasn’t so good at this but I think it may have been worse if she wasn’t at least trying.

There were so many people in the actual Taj itself that guards were basically pushing people in and pulling people out as we circled the tombs. It was like being in a lazy river as you had no control over your own movements!

The funniest part for me was after we had come out from the lazy river, some bloke ran up to Abby and threw a baby at her (to which she instinctively caught), he then proceeded to take a photo, grabbed the baby from her and ran back off into the crowd. It all happened in no more than 10 seconds. Abby’s face was brilliant! It was worth braving the 1.3 billion people just for that!

If anyone can take any useful information from this post it is this: Do not go and see the Taj on a government/bank holiday! Just don’t!

 

Jaipur

The journey to the Pick City was fairly quiet compared to the madness the previous day. We spent a good few hours in the Amber Fort and the Palace which were set on top of a massive hill overlooking the town. The palace had so many passages, tunnels and rooms it was brilliant. It would have made an excellent place to have a massive game of paintball with about 100 a side, or even a terrain on Call of Duty! Awesome!

We also visited the Water Palace and Janta Manta which is the ancient observatory (oldest in India I believe but don’t quote that) which contains large stone and marble monuments of the 12 stellar constellations that we regularly associate with our horoscopes. These were marbleous!

It also contained massive instruments to measure all sorts of celestial measurements of foreign bodies and also the earth, including what we were told was the largest working sun dial on the planet. This was quite good actually but difficult to get a decent picture of without defying gravity.

The food in Jaipur was really good too and I had one of the best Thali’s I’ve eaten in India.

The next morning we made our last visit to the palace inside the Pink City itself and its museums which was nice to see but I didn’t think was as good as the other palace and fort.

The journey back to Delhi to catch over overnight train to Amristar was a bit scary as we thought at one point we weren’t going to make it. Again, it was Monday after the long weekend so everyone was on the move again and the traffic was just horrific. The road between Jaipur and Delhi is nowhere near as good as the road from Delhi to Agra as they are redoing it all. Maybe in a few years the 8hr journey time will be halved but for now it’s just chaos!

While we were sitting on the platform waiting for our 20:35 train, a Sikh guy from the army came to sit by me and talk to me for 30 minutes. He also gave me some of him mum’s homemade cake which after 5 minutes of trying to ask if it had nuts in it, I just gave up and tried it. It was very good so I went in for another piece! He found it funny as I was wearing shorts and t-shirt and everyone else in Delhi was wrapped up as it was quite cold in the evenings!

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