Saturday, November 24, 2012

2012 Asian Adventure - New and Old Delhi

Day Twenty-Five

Leaving Paro airport was not as exciting as the approach.  The plane left the runway and the pilot pulled back on the yoke as hard as he could and for a few minutes we just laid back in our seats as the plane rapidly gained altitude.  Flight Eleven gave us our third and last view of Mount Everest.

We arrived in New Delhi. fairly early in the morning and were picked up by our driver and Delhi guide (We would have the same drive through our stay in India but our guides would change depending on the city).  Since it was too early to check into our hotel we started our sightseeing.

The first and only stop of the day was a Muslim school turned mausoleum.  The mausoleum was built by the first Muslim king to capture Delhi - a conquest that took him fourteen tries.  The location is known for two things: a 72.5 m (238 ft) tower and a 1,500 year old iron pole that does not rust.

Qutb Minar - Tallest brick minaret in the world.
We explored the site admiring the architectural and carving.  The temples and structures were constructed from parts of Hindu temples, the carvings defaced, and then plastered over.  When the British ruled India they removed the plaster and exposed the incredible carvings.  The tower, Qutb Minar, is the tallest brick minaret in the world.  It is done in the Afghan style (The Muslim conquering king was from Afghanistan).  It can be seen form all over the complex.

The Iron Pillar of Delhi which doesn't rust.
The Iron Pillar is estimated to be at least 1,500 years old and is somewhat of a scientific curiosity.  The mostly iron pillar does not rust.  I'd heard of the pillar before I came to India - I read about it when I was a kid in some "Chariots of the Gods" type book.  It was moved here when the complex was built and there is still some uncertainty of its origin ... though I really doubt it was made by UFO Aliens as some people claim.

After touring the place, and sweating completely through my shirt (something I would repeat almost daily in India), our driver dropped the guide at a subway stop and took us to a nice restaurant.  I am proud of myself - instead of ordering off the "World" menu I ordered off the "North India" menu.  I had chicken kebab and garlic naan bread (a type of flatbread that's very yummy).  We learned here that you only get what you order ... and we forgot to order the rice.  We're too used to American restaurants which often include the sides with the meal.

The rest of the day was spent in our very British feeling hotel cooling off and sleeping.

Day Twenty-Six

Our second day in India would take us around both old and new Delhi.  Our first stop was the Jama Masjid mosque, the largest mosque in India.  The mosque is built in the Persian style where the area of worship is in a large open air courtyard.  The mosques we saw in Jordan were a more of the Arab style with covered prayer spaces.  Unlike the mosque in Jordan where the Wife had to be covered head to toe, the Wife was able to wander uncovered here.  Having said that the place was predominately masculine.

Jama Masjid Mosque.
We left the mosque, downed a bottle of water - it was already hot - and we got on a rickshaw.  Like the one in China, this ride was my least favorite part of the vacation.  It just felt cheesy and touristy.

Raj Ghat - Memorial to Mahatma Gandhi.
After the underwhelming rickshaw ride we visited Raj Ghat, the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi.  I have to say  I was expecting more but I guess the understated but peaceful feel of the memorial fits the life of Gandhi.

Humayun's Tomb - a model for the Taj Mahal.
The highlight of the day was Humayun's tomb.  The tomb is said to be the model for the Taj Mahal.  The building is quite impressive.  Explored the grounds and walked through the cool interior.

Humayun's Tomb.
We stopped for lunch in what looked like a strip mall but the corner restaurant served good food.  It was obvious by the number of westerners that it was a tourist place.  Despite, or possible because of, this I enjoyed the meal.  I don't think I had a bad meal in India and, in general, I liked the food better here than in China.

Last stop of the day was a drive through the governmental area of New Delhi past the India Gate national war memorial and the government buildings.

Government Building in New Delhi.
On the way back to the hotel we made the mandatory shopping stops - a rug factory and a gem/jewelry store.  Everything was incredible ...  and expensive.  We didn't buy anything.

We got dropped off at our hotel mid-afternoon.  This was a short day but it felt full and I think my shirt couldn't absorb more sweat so we needed the short day.  We had two more activities scheduled this day that we either postponed or canceled   The first was a big, but new, Hindu temple which we decided to postpone.  The other was a dinner at a fancy restaurant.  I would have done it if we were in a group but neither of us were interested in going out.  We were both a bit sapped.  We swam in the pool and sent emails and relaxed before having dinner in the hotel's casual restaurant.

It was a good couple of days.  It was kind of strange - Delhi was as crowded and noisy as Kathmandu and, in areas, was just as dirty, but it didn't bother me at all.  I guess I expected India to be crowded, noisy, and dirty and had not expected that of Kathmandu.  Perceptions are often shaped by expectations.

Pictures from days twenty-five and Twenty-six (07/16- 07/17/2012) can be found in my 2012-07 India Google Photos album.

Our 2012 Asian Adventure continues ...

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