Saturday, 21 January 2017

Delhi - and More Experiences.

Two or three more pics of the Main Bazaar where we’re staying:-

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A peanut seller – we’ve never seen so many in one place!

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They trade at street level and store above – two young lads are carrying bales of linen up a bamboo ladder and into the stores above the shops.

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A chap with his bicycle loaded to the limit with baskets.

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Our first visit of the day was to the Bahai (Lotus) Temple. We got there by the superb Delhi Metro system. It was as cheap as chips, clean beyond belief and easy to find our way around. We were told by tourist agents (four in total) that the metro was full of pickpockets and very difficult to find our way around. Instead, they would get us a “car” to take us to where we wanted go (at an enormous cost!) We smelt a rip-off, which it turned out to be the case, and got the metro anyway! 

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After a brilliant metro trip we arrived very close to the temple. It’s the most recent Bahai place of worship in the world and is constructed of gleaming white marble. Its a stunning building surrounded by gardens and fountains and it’s aim is to signify the equality of all religions. Inside the design is very simple but sadly there was no photography allowed.

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After the Lotus Temple we took a tuk-tuk to the Haus Khas district of the city where the “village” is a car free zone and full of designer shops and expensive establishments. We took advantage of one of the expensive establishments and had a drink and a meal on a rooftop terrace.

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After our expensive meal we entered ‘real India’ again and had a walk through one of the many slum areas of the city. This one is sitting side by side with the affluent Hauz Khas neighbourhood and next to some stunning medieval tombs.

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We felt quite safe as we walked through the street (as we seem to do in any of our escapades!) – the people were charming and friendly if a little perplexed that two ‘blond’ men (that seems to be how we are described!) should appear on their street. The day time temperatures in Delhi were about 18 deg C but that falls quite quickly to a night time of 5 deg so we saw many little fires lit in the streets as the light faded. 

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Side by side with the slums is the historic medieval site of the Hauz Khas Complex. (meaning Royal Water Tank).

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The complex dates back to the 13th century and the Delhi Sultanate and it’s studded with the domed tombs of Muslim royalty.

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The lake (or Tank) was dug out to hold and supply water to Siri, the second medieval city of the Delhi Sultanate.

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The ruins are in wonderful condition considering the age and the lack of protection it gets from the footfall of visitors. There seems to be no part of the complex which is out of bounds to the tourist. Can’t imagine this sort of thing happening in the UK!

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We regularly get asked for photos with people. They get very excited when they see a ‘blond’ person (especially one as tall as James!)

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It feels like a Indian version of Pompeii ……..

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…… and some of the architecture is stunning in both its design and condition.

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Amazing condition!

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The domed buildings are all tombs dating between 14th and 16th centuries.

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Outside the complex, and back into the modern world, we come across a flip-flop seller wheeling his cart down a very busy road. (witnessing this sort of thing, it’s really difficult to try and describe Delhi).

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Our third day saw us take the (three hour late) train from Delhi to Agra. We travelled third class a/c for the three hour journey and the next few pics are taken from the train window (hence the hazy look!). Peoples home are literally next to the railway line ………..

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…… and they don’t think twice about using it as part of the furniture. This group of men are playing cards!

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People walk quite happily along the lines.

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Inside the train things felt a little safer. Our 3rd class a/c compartment held eight people, all of us having our own bed if we felt like a bit of a relax. Doug had forty winks (a few times!) during the 3 hour journey …………

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……… while James, lying on his bed next to the window, continued to be fascinated by the outside world!

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Quite amazing!!!

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Well, we arrived in Agra around 5 o’clock ( quite a bit later than planned but that’s life!) as the light began to fade and booked into the Hotel Taj Plaza. Grand in name but mediocre in reality it was to serve us in that guise for our one night stay. Our reason for getting to Agra, of course, was to visit the Taj Mahal which we’d planned for the following day.

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As night time fell on the city the approach road to the Taj, where our hotel was situated, was beautifully paved and it’s half mile length was cleverly lit all the way to the gates.

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At night the hotels on the approach road tried to outdo each other with their lighting designs which all added to our excitement and anticipation of the next day!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

One Week – a Lot of Experiences

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We had a couple of visits last week. First, late one evening (after they’d finished work at 11:30) our barbers, Asraf and Talib, came round to see where we lived. They’re a couple of very funny young men and great fun!

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We also had a visit from our lovely friend Bosco who drove up from south Goa to see us. We went to his baby son’s Christening when we first arrived in Goa this time and we all wanted to catch up again before he receives his instructions to go back on board ship.

On 12th Jan we flew to Delhi for a week. After a 3 hour, 1500 kilometre journey north we were not far off the Himalayas and the temperature was decidedly cooler than we’d been used to in Goa!

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We decided, as is fairly usual, to find a hotel “in the midst of it” and we chose the Main Bazar area of the city. Not only did Doug get his shoes cleaned here but also some major re stitching done! The shoe shine man was like a magician the way he kept finding things from his tiny box.

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Here are a few shots around the incredibly busy, and very cramped, main Bazaar.

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There literally isn’t more than a few inches to spare between cars, rickshaws, Tuk-tuks, people and cattle. Every possible space is taken up with some form of trading.

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Even while the streets are being dug up everything around goes on as normal. Even the banana seller (behind the cart where the lady is dumping soil) is trading with everything dug up around him!

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This an area of comparative calm!

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Out of the Bazaar area the city takes on a more western feel (although trying to accurately describe Delhi is almost impossible). Walking is definitely not an option to see the sights of the city so we took a Tuk-tuk (!) to our first few destinations on our list. This scene seems to be a very normal traffic situation.

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On the way we passed India Gate, the memorial to Indian Army soldiers lost in the line of duty. We were unable to get close due to the current security regulations. The capital seems to be on a constant state of high security. (We passed the entrance to Prime Minister Modi’s official residence and could not take a photo!)

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Our first stop was the house where Indira Gandhi lived as Prime Minister of India (1, Safdarjung Road) and where, on the 31 October, 1984 she was assassinated.

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The house is free to enter and shows a vast amount of personal effects and descriptions of her life and death. This is the sari, shoes and bag she was wearing when she was shot.

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The house has been left as she lived in it with viewing windows into the main rooms. This is her Dressing Room.

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Private Sitting Room.

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Bedroom.

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The Drawing Room where she entertained visitors, dignitaries and Heads of State. 

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On the day of her assassination she walked out of her house and down the path towards her office in Akbar Road where she was to be interviewed by British actor Peter Ustinov.

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The last few meters of her walk have been covered in crystal.

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As she approached the gate and the sentry box she was fired upon by two security personnel and the place where she fell is covered by a clear sheet of glass. It was 9:20 in the morning. That evening she was to have hosted a dinner in honour of Princess Anne.

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The glass panel which marks the assassination spot of Indira Gandhi.

“Indira Gandhi died as she had lived; unafraid, and with courage abiding” Rajiv Gandhi.

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We next visited Birla House (now Gandhi Smriti) – the house where Mahatma Gandhi lived for the last 144 days of his life. He had arrived in Delhi in early September 1948 to try to quell the demonstrations at that time.

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Inside the house there are numerous tributes to Gandhi’s life and work as Father of the Nation and there is a fine replication of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and his wife Kasturber.

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In the gardens you can visit the place where Gandhi prayed every day …..

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……. and, from that place, you can look back to the house from where, on 30th January, 1948 he walked as usual towards his place of prayer. Footprints mark his final walk from the house to the spot where, at 5:17 pm he was shot three times by Nathuram Godse a Hindu nationalist.

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Gandhi was taken back inside the house where he died.

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“A man of few words will rarely be thoughtless in his speech; he will measure every word”   M K Gandhi.

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Our final port of call for the day was a quick visit to the area around the main Parliament and government buildings and the President’s Palace.

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A lot of Delhi is under high security these days and the Palace is certainly one of them! This is a zoom shot from quite a distance away.

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The main government buildings date back to the time of the British occupation and were the design of the famous British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.

It was quite a day for us – especially being able to visit the two Gandhi shrines. Quite a thought provoking day and one in which we learnt quite a lot about Indian political history.