Monday, September 07, 2009

Day 1 -- Delhi

On my first foray out of our room, I learned that not everyone speaks English and even if they do, the cultural divide means it can still be hard to communicate. We ended up with a delicious omelet for breakfast and the proprietor stopped by to help us plan our day. He hired a driver (who barely spoke English) and told him where to take us for the day. We had made no plans for the day so this was an added bonus to our B&B experience.

Soon we were off! Everywhere you looked a picture could be taken. Saris, rickshaws, food vendors, crammed buses and historical buildings whizzed by outside. When you weren't taking a photo, you could be videoing the insane driving habits of India. Motorcycles are very popular and the drivers are constantly seeking to sneak between two already impossibly close vehicles. Generally this is done with a woman in a sari perched side saddle style or a child tucked in between their legs. Four is the maximum I remember seeing, but wouldn't be too shocked if I ever saw more.

Keep Distance

We first visited Humayan's Tomb and discovered that the people willing to take you around for some rupees can be useful. Of course they don't spell that out when they start showing your around, but I wouldn't have had a clue what I was looking at or where to go otherwise and we knew what we were getting into. It was interesting and photo worthy, but forgettable.

Now, meeting this women was NOT forgettable. I was actually impressed I had the guts to ask her for a photo. She shyly looked at her husband to see if it was okay. Generally, this much henna is done for a bride so perhaps I ran into her just a few days after her life changing event.

Our next stop was a bicycle rickshaw ride through Chondi Chowk. Jonathan and I rode one and Jason and our driver were in the other. We got caught in a monsoon downpour, but I think that made the visit even more memorable. As the streets became narrower and more maze like, I gave up the camera and we just took video. You could take 12 photos for every step you took through the bazaar.

During the hardest downpour, we took a break and visited a Sikh temple. Those are the men you see with turbans on their heads that often get mistaken for Muslim. It was a tripped out building, lots of gold and strange moving electronic lights. Understandably, we couldn't take photos there or in the Hindu temples. I'm not sure they could illustrate the experience anyway. I believe they recite prayers or chants to meditate and become closer to God, but it was such a visible and audible assault that it was not a religion that spoke to me on any level. I agree with Sikhism more than many religions (not the strange cultural aspects, but just the theology.) Still an amazing experience!

We shopped at a spice shop and the drivers continued to take us to a couple of other shops, but I'm not really interested in too much shopping. I've bought plenty of souvenirs that are now stuffed in boxes in my attic. We bought spices mainly for the experience, but who knows, I might break out with a fabulous curry one day.

That ride ended up being Jonathan's favorite part of the entire trip. We tried to do it again on Thursday, but sadly they had closed the area down to prepare for the Independence Day celebrations, which take place at the Red Fort. I think we made one last stop that day at the India Gate. We bought some handmade toys from vendors and it was nice to see they tagged around after the locals just as much as us.

After that last stop, it was back through the crazy traffic, wandering cows and saris galore to Defense Colony where we had our driver drop us off at a restaurant. "Don't worry!", we said when he was concerned about us making back to the house. Well, he should have. We did wander there eventually. I'm sure we needed the walk to keep us awake for the remainder of the evening, but there were a lot of mixed emotions as we trudged by a surprising amount of trash.


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