Back to Delhi for more foiled plans

New Delhi Travel Blog

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18 hour train journey by far the longest single journey of the whole trip.  However having decided to pay a little extra to upgrade from Sleeper class to 3AC, discovered that although bunks just the same, AC included blankets, pillows and sealed windows, which made the journey more comfortable and quieter.  Got down from my bunk to watch mile after mile of interconnecting clearly partitioned farmers fields occassionally interrupted by a town with the surrounding sprawl of the homeless making homes next to the tracks. However the sprawl of the rajasthan towns and cities was nothing compared to the approach to Delhi as we hit the temporary tents and shelters that have become permanent homes, a full hour before our final arrival at Old Delhi station.


With just 1 night left in Asia, we decided to spoil ourselves a little by heading to the affluent district of Connaught Place.  However, the 1st 3 options recommended in Rough Guide book nowhere near the standard expected for the price.  Not helped by the fact most of Connaught Place dug up for renovation in advance of the upcoming Commonwealth Games in summer.  We eventually settled on a hostal that was at least clean.  Had a quiet evening and found a nice restaurant close to the hotel with a 2-4-1 beer offer.  Good for a couple of hours. 

Up for last day in Asia and prioritised going to the National Museum, supposed to be the best in India.  However tuk tuk driver dropped me off at a road block a mile away from the museum, pointing me in the direction of where to go.

  Refused to pay him the full amount we agreed and headed towards the museum.  Got as far as India Gate to find the route blocked off even to pedestrians.  With a large military presence, found out there was a full dress rehearsal for the national independance day celebrations (26th), but assured that the National Museum was open by walking round another mile away from India Gate.  Continued my diversion on foot and finally got within sight of National Museum to be told it was closed until the afternoon. Fuming !! Gave up on the museum and flagged down tuk tuk to head off to Akshardham Temple.

Akshardham temple is listed in the Rough Guide as an uplifting experience that displays 10000 years of Indian history and one of the most impressive constructions in the world of the 21st century.

  After getting through a stringent security, the main focus of the complex, the impressive temple.  Towering above all other structures east of the Yamuna river, the temple makes for an impressive sight both in size and wonderfully carved stone.  It has also been built using original techniques (minus steel framework). The temple is still a work in progress and although the main temple is complete, many of the beautiful stonework on the outside (that celebrates the elephant and its integral role in Indian history) is still a work in progress that prevent access to the temple for now. That left the main attraction as a 3 part ticket to some shows.

The 1st part was a 45 minute part cinema/part robotic demonstration charting the life of Shri Swaminayaran, founder of the Swaminarayan sect.

  Both elements very professionally put together with a well oiled propaganda machine in full power on the benefits of following a holy and just life.  The 2nd was a 15 minute underground boat trip that enabled the passenger to gently drift past 10000 years of Indian history.  I appreciated the originality of the experience but struggled to suppress a chuckle at the propaganda with their take on claiming credit for predating Egyptians and Chinese of writing, the Greeks on astrology and mathematics, discovered the Americas, predating Newton on the laws of gravity and claimed the worlds first aeroplane designs and use of penicillin in the Middle Ages.    Maybe us English need to have similar shows for our kids to increase their appreciation of British heritage !!  The final part was a 45 minute film in an Imax cinema again charting the life of Shri Swaminarayan.
  Beautifully filmed, capturing a journey around India and really selling how stunning India is.  However, the religious push a little hard to stomach given the clear affluence of this sect with its message of giving up worldly posessions and following a more rewarding life through good deeds when so many millions of Delhi residents live in such squallor.

I left and decided to make my last stop, the museum dedicated to Gandhi.  Set up on the site of where he spent much of his last few years and where he was assassinated, the building sits within well manicured gardens where you can follow Gandhi's last steps to the spot where he was shot.  A very humbling experience.  Along the wall adjacent to the gardens is a long row of billboards that charts the struggle of India in its attempts to gain independance from the English from the 19th century through to when Gandhi picked up the baton and until his death.  Hard to stomach the anti English sentiment, but this time because I know that the English were the bad guys and committed some terrible crimes and killings in a bloody saga that lasted over 50 years.   The museum itself had an odd but interesting collection of display cabinets with little figurines depicting momentous scenes of Gandhi's life.  Gandhi's room has also been preserved as he left it when he died with simple belongings and a wall cabinet containing his worldly posessions on his death that consisted of a pen, a par of scissors, his walking stick and his famous glasses.    Well worth the visit.

On the way back to the hostal, my driver decided that being English, I would obviously want to eat American trash food by calling in at McDonalds.  A place to avoid at all costs in England I was intrigued to see the menu in a country with a large group of non beef eaters and another large group of anti pork eaters.  Predicatably the menu was predominantly chicken and the Raj burger (chicken with curry sauce) was suprisingly edible.     

For my final evening, I wanted a treat and asked Richard and Laura to join me for a nice evening meal at the nice restaurant from the previous night.  A fish curry was a fitting last meal in India with good company and a lovely atmosphere.  A nice way to finish another great trip having achieved all the must see places on my 9 week agenda.  2 hours later I was in the airport check-in homeward bound already thinking of where to go next.........

rajeevpareek says:
Come back to India again :)
Posted on: Mar 09, 2010
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photo by: peeyushmalhotra