Last day in Delhi. Last day in the heat, pollution and noise. But also the last day of my vacation. As always this results in mixed feelings. It's both good to go back home and be able to cuddle the cat, play your own music and not have any obligations to a group or travel schedule. On the other hand this has been such a wonderful vacation that it's also a shame that it has to end.
I got up at , took a shower and packed my last stuff. Most of us took a chance at the hotel's restaurant today.
Lahore Gate (Red Fort).
As we could have expected what was actually available and what the prices were in this place are one of mankind's big enigmas. Prices changed more frequently than those of a tuk-tuk driver and what could be ordered depended on the waiter you asked. I wonder if these people will ever get it right.
One of the things we definitely wanted to do today was visit Delhi's Red Fort, which we nicknamed 'Robert' (figure that one out yourself). Quickest way to do this was to take the metro. Having learned how to use this system by now we quickly got to the Chandi Chowk station. Chandi Chowk is one of Delhi's main shopping streets and establishments seem to vary from places with their own guard by the door, keeping beggars and shoeshine boys out, and those that throw garbage out on the street, just as you pass by, landing inches away from your feet.
Diwam-I-Am (Red Fort).
Don’t you just love Delhi?
Around 11 o' clock we arrived at the fort, which was build between 1638 and 1648 by Shah Jahan, the same guy that built the famous Taj Mahal and the Jama Masjif mosque we had visited on the first day in Delhi. The walls of the fort are 2 km long and vary from 18 to 33 meters high. Shah Jahan never really moved here because he was imprisoned in the Agra fort by this son Aurangzeb. The latter was the only Mughal emperor to actually rule from the fort. Currently it is only being used as a (not extremely well maintained) museum and for speeches by the prime minister on Independence Day.
Diwam-I-Am (Red Fort).
The fort basically consists of a series of buildings and palaces. After having entered via the Lahore Gate (taking its name from the fact that it faces Lahore in Pakistan) and passing by the souvenir shops in the Chatta Chowk (Covered Bazaar) you get to the first of two audience halls, the Diwam-I-Am or Hall of Public Audiences where the emperor would hear disputes from his subjects. Behind this red hall lie several white marble buildings: Diwan-I-Khas (the Hall of Private Audiences, meant for private meetings), Moti Masjid (the emperor’s private mosque of which the outer walls are in symmetry with the fort’s walls while the inner wall is slightly askew to be correctly positioned towards Mecca), the Khas Mahal (the emperor’s private palace), the Rang Mahal (the residence of the emperor’s chief wife and dining hall), the Mumtaz Mahal (currently used as a Museum of Archaeology) and the Shahi Burh (a three story, octagonal tower which was the emperor’s private working space).
Diwan-I-Khas, Khas Mahal, Rang Mahal (Red Fort).
A number of small canals connected various buildings with the Royal Baths so that water could flow between them. This must have been a pretty sight back in the 17th century, when the fort had not yet fallen in slight disrepair. Still, despite the patchiness of the buildings this was an interesting visit.
On the way to the fort we had spotted a nice coffee shop, Café Coffe Day, where we decided to have a drink and a snack on our way back to the metro station. Of course this joint was as efficient as any other with waiters not knowing the difference between black tea and coffee and some of our orders arriving when most of us had already finished. The coffee was some of the best we had in weeks though (actual coffee, not Nescafe!). On the way to the metro station we came across a CD shop and some of us bought the soundtrack of Singh is Kinng as a nice souvenir, to the amusement of the two Sikhs running the store, who actually performed some of the choreographed moves from the movie!
The remaining five of us split up.
Private baths (Red Fort).
The two ladies decided to go shopping while ‘Long Jan’, Paul and I headed to New Delhi to see the Gandhi Smriti memorial. Strange enough the tuk-tuk driver we approached at the most southern metro station of Delhi had never heard of this important national site and after bringing us straight to the entrance he turned around and drove to the Indiri Gandhi memorial site, only to be sent back by us.
The (Mahatma) Gandhi Smriti was an impressive place, honouring the Father of the Nation. It is located at the place where he spent his last 144 days before being shot on January 30th 1948.
Moti Masjid (Red Fort).
Concrete footsteps leads from his private rooms to the exact spot he was killed at, ending at the ‘Martyr’s Column’. You can view his modest private quarters and there are two extensive exhibitions, one dealing with his live and especially his last 48 hours. The other one, upstairs is an interactive multimedia affair that lets you discover all things Gandhi in a playful way. Very tastefully done but probably only really appealing to kids or people with a lot of time on their hands, being able to explore all tricks and information. Wax statues of Gandhi and his wife and some of his personal items like his walking stick, spectacles, spinning wheel and sandals are also on display. Famous quotations by this wise man can be found on signs all over this place. All in all, well worth visiting while we still had the chance.
The tuk-tuk driver that offered to drive us back to the hotel was a stereotype conman. First he offered to take us to some nice shops. When I made it very clear we were not interested in shops he agreed to bring us to the metro station but didn't want to turn on the meter.
Diwan-I-Khas (Red Fort).
He offered to leave it off for 100 rupees. The normal fare was about 30! I got out, called out to the other drivers if somebody would be willing to take us to the metro station for 40 rupees and a minute later we were whirring away.
I ended up having our last dinner with Marjolein, Kirtsten, Paul and Anneke in the recommended Metropolis rooftop restaurant. It almost seemed like everything was perfect this time. A nice atmosphere, cool beer, great food … surely some mishap must be lurking somewhere. I could hardly believe it when down in the street a couple of brass bands began playing carnival music (and rather weird music at that; Indian music does not seem most suitable for performances on brass instruments). You guessed it, for most of the dinner our conversations were drowned out by the racket from the street. Fortunately we were in a good mood and could see the hilarity in all of this.
Back at the hotel the group gathered at and a reversed ritual of the previous day unfolded; everybody was assigned a rickshaw that took traveller and luggage back to the metro station.
Shahi Burh (Red Fort).
From there we continued to the airport with a bus and checked in for our return flight. Delhi is probably one of the most boring airports I’ve ever been at, so killing time with my MP3 player between and seemed about the only sensible thing to do.
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