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Delhi Reviews

ccantele ccantele
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In the Land of Nomadic Peoples Mar 02, 2017
Salt traders, fortune-tellers, Ayurvedic healers, snake charmers, currency traders... all Nomadic peoples travelling from place-to-place for their livelihood and still number roughly 80 million of India's population.

Once a dominant part of the recored population in the 14th century, these nomadic peoples, albeit greatly receded, remain part of the fabric of modern-day northern India.

The first leg of my trip Delhi and Agra, was touring some of the most remakable historic sites that I've encountered in my travels. These places were filled with friendly and curious people immersed in a land of riches.

7:30 PM (11.5 hours ahead of CDT)

It is hard to believe that, what once would have taken months, possibly years, took roughly 16 hours... to circle halfway - over 8500 miles - around the world. Modern day exploreres truly have it made... altough the time-warp is a killer.

Landed in Dehli, India... an ancient walled-city of immigrants and once the only urban settlement in India. Smog settled on the city night as all means of transit filled the streets. Vehicles of all shapes and sizes - tuk tuks, oxen pulling ancient carts, mini buses, scooters, cars with bodies of wood and all sorts of homemade contraptions sporting wheels... all jockeying for lanes that were not there. All beaping to signify a presence, make a lane or simply to state their place on the brown, smoggy earth.

My hotel, the City Star, lies on Bandu Gupta Road. At night, lit up like Jr. Las Vegas -- each rail thin building shouting it's vertical neon name, among a throng of competitors. The staff all waiting in the city haze as if royalty was emerging from my dented mini-van. Doors open as I've arrived from being spun out of Chicago to a foreign land.

Day One.

4:00 am when my jet-lagged, Ambien brain woke up. And refused to turn back off. The vehicles and people remain on outside my window. Seemingly, not ever turning off for the night. Beep beep.

The food merchant raises his metal garage door below the Glamour Spa sign. It's 5:30 AM as he begins dragging out his corrugated kitchen, setting up for his day's event among the beep beeps. His regulars seem to arrive quickly... I guess not realizing that, to me, it seems the middle of the night.

A stranger in a strange land. This is a dance of elegant chaos. The population is roughly 20% Muslim and the rest fragmentaed among Hindu and other ancient religions. This causes some strange tension and my Hindi driver was visibly shaken as we parked (car trunk checked for explosives by a Muslim attendant) as we wandered through a Muslim neighborhood on the way to visit Jama Masjid, a 1650 mosque and one of the oldest and largest in India... still serving a 25,000 capacity of Muslim Congragents. The streets surrounding form a tapestry of the sights, sounds and smells of pure middle east.

The city is so dense, it is like cracking open a really thorny pod to find unbelievable, stunning riches (mostly tombs) inside. A place where the worlds eastern religions have strutted their stuff and jockied for the win. Humayun's Tomb is the first-of-its-kind example of ancient Mughal architecture. The inspiration for the Taj Mahal, this epic place was built in 1570. Another magical site is the oldest in Dehli - built in 1206 to signify the beginning of Muslim rule in India, Qutab Minar is the tallest brick Minaret in the world and holds a 500 year old forged steel oblisk that has never rusted.

In the relative Modern era, the 90 acres Lodhi Gardens was landscaped in 1936 and named upon India's Independence in 1947. This respite is built around four, 15th Century Tombs designed by Lodhi architects and contains waterways, stone bridges, a variety of middle eastern flora and truy captures one's vsion of the way India would look in a garden.

Took a moto rickshaw to Connaught Circle in the evening. It is actually 3 concentric circles loaded with throbbing clubs and restaurants and getting more local as you move towrd center circle. Was hoping to escape the beep, beep, beeping but only to find that this goes on indoors as well as out. Was looking for a local place to eat (Monkey Bar) that was no longer there and wound up at an Indian attempt at Western fast food -- "The Burger Club"... actually strange because the cow is Sacred and the burgers are made of god knows what else. Walked back to the City Star with the help of my map, google earth and the young couple at The Burger Club. The streets always alive and at night also cooks, and burns with random campfires set right on the sidewalks. It seems that the nomadic past remained very much alive as the city filled in to the tune of almost 30 Million people.

Note. If you ask for help in India, people take that as a true honor. They try ernestly to help you with your requests.

Day Two or The first set of selfies.

Well up again at 4:00 AM. Writing and getting ready for my day trip to Agra and the Taj Mahal. The folks wrapped in multi-colored blankets sleeping in the old walled-in junk pile outside my window remain asleep long after I. The fires let to die hours ago. The restuartant merchant's always first cutomer, a kind Labador, first in line.

We set out of Delhi around 7:00 AM, headed 210 kilometers south to the historic city and the tomb of the lovely Mumtaz Mahal. The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built this ode of love for his wife who died giving birth for the 14th time. His vision and love so strong he moved over 20,000 workers for 23 years to complete the tomb. He and his wife both buried today in the basement, with a replica tomb set at tourist level. Sadly, the emperor spent that last of his days locked up in the crazy house on a hill side looking at the Taj. He had wanted to buid a Black Taj Mahal across the Yahmuna River, so his son not wanting dada to squander his inheritance, locked him up.

The ride to and from was facinating as dozens of monuments to modern day India sprouting-up like rows of vegetables along the way in the form of call center high rises and residential high rises designed to house the callers and their managers. The condominiums and massive planned communities are alive and well with billboards the size of aircraft carriers promoting these new utopias -- even offering a variety of FREE CARS if you pony-up the reduced sales prices.

Other notable sights included families sitting in circles, sharing meals along side the super 8-lane highways, makeshift restaurants sporting high flying flags to indicate their location on the wide savannah, ancient brick factories with their sprawling wares laid out wide enough to build more and more monuments. All feeling, as previously mentioned, very nomadic.

As we toured The Taj Mahal and The Agra Red Fort, I was repeatedly, politely stopped for selfie poses taken by Indian Tourists, each time evoking curiousity and conversation and more selfies. Initially taken aback and scam wary, I asked my driver about this. He replied, "we don't see very many (gesture to blond hair) foreign tourists. They are just curious... and perhaps think you are Brad Pitt!".

210 kilometers back... paying the customary tolls as we pass through various towns and states along the way. Including a re-entry fee to some guys at a wooden shack on the outskirts of Dehli. Legit tax, really. There is another wooden shack 5 yards down the road where guys with clubs will let your car know if you missed the city toll.

Shower, City Star Indian Buffet, a little Hindi TV (they really are goofy) and Lights out.

Day Three or English Language Students for Call Centers.

After a hearty Indian Buffet Breakfast and a work out in the "gym" (a lone 12-in-one Chinese Universal Machine), I set out on foot to retrace some of my previous car routes, explore the spoked areas eminating from Connaught Circus and look to find a local art fair advertisied in the Daily Dehli newspaper.

I set out on a route outlined by the always willing and there (not sure if he sleeps) doorman. I wander with open eyes and camera through the streets looking like the set of Slumdog Millionaire. Not fearful at all as most folks either don't notice me, notice me and take a selfie or are busy cooking or engaging in their daily commerce. The street s are truly alive. I even noticed a man shaving another man right on the side of the road... complete with brush, lather, straight razor and wet towles in boiling water pots (on open flame).

I make it to Connaught Circus (circles within circles of streets), and first look to change some money. After attepting to change my $20 at about 7 differerent places (shops given as the best bet by the Connaught Radisson Reception desk), I finally found an Arab shop keeper that kindly took my $20 at a very fair exchange rate. He said, "I'm not a money changer, but you needed help and I help you". Too bad, he did not have the Elephant-on-wheels bronze sculpture I was looking for. He had heard of it but not sure where to find it. Newly armned with my 1,360 Indian Rupees, I set out dtermined to find the art fair.

As I walked and walked, I met many more curious folks on the road. Many of the most curious were college-aged men who would simply start chatting with me as I walked. My guard quickly fading as they were not trying to prey on the tourist from the UK (as most assumed that was where I hailed from) but simply wanting to converse in English. I soon found out that they were all university English Language majors just wanting some real practice. "How is my English" they woud ask. This happened multiple times on multiple streets.

The art fair was as stated, a variety of crafts-people, cloting makers and artists from different parts of India. A small, but nice show (maybe 30 booths). Not much attendance, so it gave me a chance to take my time and converse with the various exhibitors. As I visited one booth, the artist (likely from the Tamel Nadu Region as his work depicted tigers, fish, boats and other southern sites) worked on a painting surrounded by his colorful works. As he worked, he bagan to sing a beautiful folks song. I was hooked and purchased a simple work as my journey had just begun and needed it to be portable when rolled.

As it was getting to be late afternoon, I decided to re-trace my steps start back toward the City Star. On my way, I stopped in a restaurant that was suggested to me by my driver, for an early dinner. The place is a called Veda and certainly was my culinary highlight of Dehli. The food is a contemporary version of classic Indian cooking. The interiors are both elegantly simple as well as exquisitely ornate. The rich-red brick walls, strategic soft lighting and flickering shadows from low intensity chandeliers create an earthy feel to the restaurant. Well worth the visit.

Back at my hotel, I was ready for my 7:10 AM early trip out in the morning. Leaving behind the city of ancient temples and nomadic peoples.
Dehli market interection near main…
The steps of Jama Masjid Mosque.
Interior corridor of Jama Masjid.
Painted Elephant.
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