(October 18, 2014) Old Delhi
Our arrival to Indian Capital city is scheduled at 4:50 AM,
so we have this entire day to explore the city.
This day we’ll focus in Old Delhi, where we’re
allocated and the place we must take next day the train to Jaipur from.
The spots marked at map are:
0- Hotel Arina Inn
1- Red Fort
2- Jama Masjid Mosque
3- Raj Ghat
4- Spice bazaar
5- Old Delhi train station
Our flight lands in Delhi even some minute before
the already early scheduled time, around 4:30 AM. Besides, the
immigration procedures are quick as the long lines are for locals here,
for a change.
As I cannot see ATMs, I exchange 100€ while
waiting for our baggage and I get 7300 rupees (Rs). It is not a good
rate, as use to happen on airport offices. At the exit I find an ATM,
but our Mastercard is not valid for it. While Eva is taking a coffee I
go to get a SIM phone card to the Airtel stand nearby. I pay 980 Rs for
it, which is already charged with more than 500 Rs.
When we’re ready we go to the car rental stands at
the left end of the hall because the Italian guy we were talking
yesterday gave us the advice of taking a private taxi here. We pay 1600
Rs for a long ride to Old Delhi which allows us to see the Indian gate
and the Presidential Palace in our way. The streets around the palace
are surprisingly full of monkeys.
We’re not surprised by the look of the streets in
Old Delhi as we were well prepared for it, but we’re indeed surprised
by the hotel, which delivers our room at this early time in the morning
as it is not even 7 AM yet. The room is fabulous and it allows us to
rest for an hour, taking care of not getting slept as it could ruin our
visits. We plan to keep ourselves awaken until 7 PM at least.
With our full stomachs after the breakfast we’ve
ordered to our room, we leave the hotel some minutes after 9 AM ready
to join the chaos of these streets. Before, I get 10000 Rs cash from
the ATM at the hotel entrance.
We walk to our first visit: the mosque Jama Masjid
and manage to cross some difficult roads following the local people as
the rickshaws and bikes are passing very close for every side.
We pay 300 Rs per person at the entrance of the
mosque and they offer cloths to cover us and keeping our shoes, but my
shorts are long enough and Eva brings her own scarf. We keep our shoes
in our bags and tell them we’re going to leave by the other gate.
This is an amazing place. We could see the red
walls from far between the streets, full of rickshaws and cycle
rickshaws, but inside we can feel the calm and the building is a magnet
for the cameras.
We leave the mosque by its Northern Gate as we’re
going to walk through the bazaars to the fort. They’re selling a lot of
crackers because of Diwali. It makes even more people is coming to this
usually busy area.
As we walk around cycle rickshaws are constantly
offering to us. We’re refusing all of them as we go to visit Red Fort
We reach Lahore Gate saving the constant traffic
of the avenue by an underground pedestrian walkway which we find out is
used for some people to live. We must go through by closing our noses.
Military men at fort entrance point us to the
ticket boxes downstairs. There are lines for locals and nobody for
foreigners’ tickets. The price is different too: we pay 250 Rs each.
There is a bazaar at the Red Fort entrance and,
after it, we find opened spaces, similar to a park than to anything
else. The most of the visitants are locals, including some schools.
We notice some looks to Eva from locals around and
it goes crazy when we’re receiving request for having pictures with
her, like if she was a celebrity here. We agree quite funny. There is a
moment with a line of beautiful teenagers wearing elegant saaris
waiting for their turn for the picture with my wife. Later, all the
children of a school pose with Eva for the photo is being taken by the
teacher. Young men don’t dare to ask directly for a picture with here
and ask for a picture with me getting both of us on it. This seems to
come for the combination of blonde air, clear eyes and pale skin.
Apart from this, visit to Red Fort is peaceful and
quiet and, when we finish it, we’re ready to come back to the chaotic
streets out there.
We walk by the Hindu temple in front of Red Fort
gate which marks the beginning of the street giving name to this area:
Chandni Chowk. We are not leaving the left of the street because we’re
looking for the popular patisserie Gunthewala, while working out our
way through the hordes of local people on this crowded area. When we
reach the Sikh temple Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib we give up this task and
take a cycle rickshaw to the spice bazaar.
The ride on this sort of vehicle is exciting
between this much of vehicles, animals and people. The “music” from the
horns of every rickshaw makes us laugh in a moment as it is like the
symphony of madness.
When we’re stopped, the shops show big bags of
nuts everywhere, he must take us further for the spices. They don’t
understand words as “spice” or “curry”, it’s word “masala” what makes
the magic and everybody understands here. We get our way through the
busiest street now, we’ve got the deal he will wait for us there and
then will take us to the hotel by 400 Rs.
We purchase two bags of 200 gr, one of a spicy
masala and another of mango powder, by 187 Rs. A guy dressed as
Hanuman, the monkey God, asks me for charity and is so persistent that
the guy wearing turban in the shop gives him to make him leave.
From here we have a long ride to our hotel through the
narrow streets of the different bazaars of Chandni Chowk, like the
popular Kinari Bazaar. The streets are decorated for Diwali in a
similar way that we do for Christmas. At both sides shops, one after
the other, in an endless carrousel, until we see again the magnificent
walls of the Mosque.
It’s 2 PM when we leave the hotel after a short rest in our room and
take a rickshaw to Connaught Place for lunching by 60 Rs. Between the
lot of restaurants there, with all sort of food, we chose an Indian one
looking nice even for our standards.
Our idea is
taking Thali and they offer to bring us, even when it is not in the
menu, by 500 Rs each. It is spectacular and at the moment we put eyes
on it we know we are not going to finish it. The table gets full with a
dish of lentils, another of chicken with a very spicy sauce, another
with white rice, another with a spicy mix of vegetables with feta
cheese and another with a yogurt sauce. All this to be eaten with these
sort of pancakes they use as bread. We find out soon the yogurt is
basic here as it counteracts the effect of spicy. We pay 1120 Rs in
total, around 14€.
Later we take a walk by the square and get into the
green area in the center of Rajiv Chowk and called “Central Park”. It
is full of young people enjoying the grass.
We then take a street to the South as we’re going to visit the next spot in our list: the Sikh Temple Bangla Sahib.
At the entrance there is a room downstairs to leave our shoes in
exchange of a token with a number. Eva is requested also to take off
her socks and she decides waiting for me here to avoid walking barefoot
around. I go upstairs and I’m requested to cover my head with one of
the bunch of colorful handkerchiefs in a box. I take one but don’t
manage to make something good with it and go around this beautiful
place with it kept to my head I-don’t-know-how.
When leaving I ask for rates to rickshaw drivers and
ask me 600 Rs to take me to Lotus Temple, waiting for our visit there,
and taking us to Raj Ghat (Gandhi’s memorial), which is at walking
distance of our hotel. I know Lotus Temple is quite far and bargain it
just to 500 Rs.
The distance and the traffic jam it takes around one hour to reach the
temple, and just to find out it closed 10 minutes ago, at 5:30 PM. We
take a look from outside and go back to meet our driver.
I ask to him if Raj Ghat could be closed now too and he
answers me it is opened 24 hours, so we go to there. The traffic jam is
even worst this time. A noise makes me open my eyes and realize I’ve
fell slept in the middle of the traffic chaos. My wife is sleeping too
and it is already dark outside, so I ask to the driver to take us
directly to our hotel.
We’ve met our target and kept awaken until night, but can barely resist
now. We go to bed at 7 PM and, obviously, we’re knocked out in no time.