Monday, June 5, 2017

Unexpected India (1-4 June 2017)

When Ray and I flew back to Singapore to visit Jenny et al we didn't plan on any additional trips until we leave at the end of June for our next adventure. But an opportunity arose shortly before we left the US. Jenny had a work trip to New Delhi the week after we arrived in Singapore.

She asked me if I wanted to join her at the end of the work week for a few days of mother/daughter adventure. I had just enough time to apply and wait the 7 working days to get my India visa (I had 4 days to spare).


I flew into New Delhi on Thursday morning, getting into town a bit before noon. I had booked a food tour through Viator before I left to start things off until Jenny was done with her work meetings.

The tour's meeting point was a Metro stop near the Delhi University. The Metro maps online were not very helpful, their interactive map was still being developed, so I really had know idea about distances. It turned out to be a 1+ hour ride from our hotel. I had read the Metro was easy to navigate so I got directions from the hotel to the closest station stop Guru Bronacharya.

It took me about 10 minutes to walk to it and another 15 minutes to find the ATM machine and an additional 10 minutes to buy a token for the ride. I went through security at least 3 times before I had everything I needed to board the train.

It indeed is easy to navigate and the very first train car is reserved for women only. There are loads of pink signs pointing to the first car. I felt comfortable there but I was the only non-Indian person in the car. The colors of the saris and the pajamas worn by the younger women were vibrant and exciting. I would say only about 30% wore western clothing.

My tour started at 4pm with my guide Alan. He walked me through the college neighborhood and took me for a petal cab ride which was breathtakingly scary at times.

We walked and ate for 2 hours, nibbling all kinds of good stuff. At our last stop Alan wrote out a list of all I sampled.

Here are a few of the things I ate:

Shawarma Paneer
Bhel Puri

Dahi Puri - my favorite

By the time I got back to the Metro station it was about 6:30 and the line to get into the station and go through security was long, long, long. By this time Jenny was finished with work and texted me to see where I was. She met me at the Metro station with her JLL assigned driver, Shaman. This saved me a walk back to the hotel along dirt roads filled with honking bikes, cars and motorcycles.
Friday morning I enjoyed the goat herds out our hotel window. We were staying right on the border of the city and the country so our window view showed both.

After breakfast Shaman drove us to the city of Agra which is the home of the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world. Built with exacting symmetry, it is a wonderful building to behold.
The city of Agra is small and purposely not industrialized to keep the Taj as clean and safe from pollutants as possible. The streets are filled with people and many street cows, the cows that are no longer useful on the farms but are honored in the Hindu religion and live freely among the people.

The other amazing structure in Agra is the Agra Fort, a huge red marble fort that dominates the city skyline. We enjoyed the fort tour very much. Only about 25% of the fort interior was tour-able but what we could see was fascinating. The interior was designed to capture as much of the breeze as possible





Around sunset we went to the grounds of the Black Taj which was supposed to be built across the river from the Taj, as the burial site of Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal in memory and as the burial site of his wife Mumtaz. The black taj was never built so the Shah is buried next to his wife in the Taj Mahal - the only non symmetrical spot in the site.





I was up early the next morning to visit the Taj at sunrise. Jenny got a bit of the Delhi Belly, probably the small salad she had for lunch. Read more about the Taj here.

Seeing the Taj from up close is just as impressive. The white marble is full of swirls and clear crystals, making it shine in the sunlight. We toured the Taj a second time later in the morning when Jenny felt better. Because of it being the hot season, the crowds were minimal. The temps got up around 115 °F. It's a "dry heat" but it's still hot.

We headed back to New Delhi, passing the F1 Buddh Circuit race track along the road. We also saw many tall thin chimneys used for brick making.

Early Sunday morning we met our last guide, Jimmy Sharma for an Old Delhi/New Delhi tour. The temp got to 116 °F so we did not spend too much time walking around. We had one great bike/cab tour through the old city's market seeing the electric wire jumbles, food stalls and spice shops. Without street signs it's a wonder people find their way around.

Back to the hotel and off to the airport for a late flight back to Singapore. I've never had so many touristy photos taken of me. Thank you Jenny!


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