Sunday, January 17, 2010

India Day 5: Last Day in Delhi

This was our last day in Delhi, and L and I were sad to go. Delhi is an amazing city; it is aggressive and lively, yet there are pockets of calm. Delhi is also full of amazing history, with so many tales to tell.

December 30, 2009

11:00 a.m. Khan Market. MS knew how to make us happy - he brought me and L to a market with fantastic bookstores and textile shops, and we had to buy extra luggage as a result. The bookstores are quite impressive; they're tiny but has almost every title you could think of. Plus they're super duper cheap (the cheapest books ever - half the price of books in Manila!)

2:00 p.m. Kebabs for lunch. Lunch was at a stall at the Khan Market, with awesome kebabs. It was really good.

4:00 p.m. Lodi Gardens. We met us with RD, L's classmate from grad school, who took us to nearby Lodi Gardens. These gardens have several tombs of previous Sayyid and Lodi rulers, and dates back to the 1400s. Its a pleasant walk around, and there are many people jogging or practicing yoga.

6:00 p.m. India Gate. Right in the center of the city is India Gate, India's national monument. It's beautiful at night.

7:30 p.m. Punjabi by Nature. And what better way to end our Delhi trip than by eating Punjabi food! And check out how much there is. Good thing MS and AM, teaming up with L, did me proud (well, er, I helped out too).

India Day 4: Really Big Monuments

Agra is a city teeming with people. The main industry seems to be the Taj Mahal, and the second main industry appears to be the Agra Fort (which we unfortunately did not get to see). The first-time traveller to India may find it daunting. There are irrepressible touts, as well as wily auto rickshaw drivers.

December 29, 2009

9:00 a.m. The Taj Mahal. We beat the crowds and went to see the magnificent Taj Mahal first thing in the morning. Despite seeing it at dusk the day before, seeing it in full light was different, and much more mesmerizing.

11:30 a.m. Chaat time. Eating so much rich food has taken a toll on our stomachs, and for lunch we decided to try street food snacks, which are unlike anything I've ever tasted, and quite delicious.

1:00 p.m. Fathepur Sikri.  An hour's drive from Agra is Fathepur Sikri, a gigantic complex of buildings used by Emperor Akbar as his capital for only 16 years. Water apparently became a problem, and they had to abandon the complex for Agra. It's amazing. (I am reading Salman Rushdie's "The Enchantress of Florence", and its mostly set here.)

3:30 p.m. Back to Delhi. We drove back to Delhi and got home just in time to meet up with RM and SP,  classmates of mine from grad school and L's colleagues from the law firm he used to work for, for dinner and drinks.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

India Day 3: Road Trip to Agra

December 28, 2009

10:00 a.m. Road Trip to Agra. The countryside from Delhi to Agra in Uttar Pradesh is scenic, splashed mostly with the yellow of the mustard fields. Very long trains are also a common sight, as well as cows, goats, sheep and camels crossing the highways. Lunch was at one of the many roadside dhabas, which offered tasty, filling parathas and curries.

5:00 p.m. Taj Mahal from the back. Free from the thousands of tourists who come to see the Taj Mahal, a little park across the River Yamuna gave us unobstructed views of the Taj Mahal at sunset. The Taj is breathtaking, spectacular, wonderful, unbelievable. It's simply the most beautiful building I have ever seen. We did some sleuthing and crawled through barbed wire onto the river bank itself, and the views were incomparable.

8:00 p.m. Dinner at Peshawari. After checking into our rather forgettable, but adequate, hotel, MS, L and I had drinks and dinner at Peshawari at the Sheraton Agra hotel. Good Muglai food, but Karim's was better.

India Day 2: Old Delhi

Signs of development are everywhere in Delhi. The city is changing, and the people are in a rush to keep up. We walked mostly through Chadni Chowk and the old town today, and the hustle and bustle that surround the historical buildings makes you wonder if this city will look and feel the same in 10 years.

December 27, 2009

11:00 a.m. Presidential House and India Gate drive-by. Drove by the spectacular monuments made by the British in the late 1800s.

12:00 p.m. Jama Masjid. MS parked his car and we took a trip on Delhi's spanking new and shiny subway to the old town. The first big building was the mosque Jama Masjid, which we weren't able to enter because prayers were about to commence. It's the largest mosque in India and built by the Taj Mahal maker, Shah Jahan.

1:00 p.m. Red Fort.  Shah Jahan also built the Red Fort, which is my favorite monument in Delhi. Only great civilizations could have come up with something like this, and it is impressive.

3:00 p.m. Lunch at Paratha Lane. Where we had parathas, of course! And it really is a lane full of paratha shops, but there was also the occasional dairy, which sold yummy lassi.

5:00 p.m. Textile Fair. Yes, we did quite a bit of shopping here. The quality of material is excellent.

8:00 p.m. Dinner at Oh, Calcutta! Bengali food, mostly seafood and oh so delicate. This was a wonderful meal.

10:00 p.m. Watched "Three Idiots".  We watched the Bollywood movie of the moment at a cinema, and it was very, very funny. MS sat in between me and L to do occasional translations from Hindi, but it was easily understandable, and watching the crowd react to the movie was as great an experience as the movie itself.

India Day 1: Forts in Delhi


Many adjectives conjured up by the name corresponds with the truth - exotic, magical, otherworldly, wacky, fascinating. There is much to share.

December 25, 2009

7:00 a.m. Travel to Delhi. It was a white Christmas in The Hague. L and I walked through fresh, wet snow with our travel bags to the train station. I was already wearing shoes for drier weather; my shoes and socks got wet and I had to dry them out on the airplane. My first time to spend Christmas on an airplane (L's second time).

11:30 p.m. The Magical Mr. MS. Eight hours and a 5 1/2 hour time difference later, we were met at the airport by MS, my classmate and buddy from grad school. MS is a walking encyclopedia, Formula 1 race car driver, human rights lawyer, snooty gourmand, and is, in a word, fabulous.  We stayed in Chez MS while in Delhi and travelled around with MS tours.

December 26, 2009

12:00 p.m. Humayun's Tomb. After overcoming slight jet-lag by ingesting a delicious idli breakfast, we saw Humayun's tomb. Humayun was the second Mughal emperor, and the construction of the tomb was overseen by his senior wife in the 1560s.

2:30 p.m. Lunch at Gunpowder. Fantastic melange of Indian cuisine, with a bias towards Southern Indian. The most interesting item on the menu was "buffalo", but which was, actually, beef (of course generally prohibited in Delhi).

4:00 p.m. Hauz Khas. Originally a madrasa (school), Hauz Khas in now a pretty park interspersed with interesting and well-preserved ruins.

7:00 p.m. Hazrat Nizamuddin. MS and his partner AM gave L a skull cap and me a shawl, and took us to the shrine of Sheikh Nizamuddin Aulia, a Chishti saint. No pictures allowed unfortunately, but visiting this holy and peaceful area had to be one of my most unique experiences in Delhi.

8:00 p.m. Dinner at Karim's. Mughlai food - the kind of food known as "Indian food" all over the world. This place had the best kebabs and tandoor chicken I have ever tasted.

10:30 p.m. Drinks at a random dive in Defence Colony. An important discovery was made here: Masala peanuts.