REPORT 1 - Sept. 2000
India - Delhi
Well, Delhi has to be seen to be believed. What a crazy, crazy city! The main centre, Connaught Place is packed with people, touts, beggars and rickshaws, and the smell is just something else. Our first instinct was to just to get out of the city and get on the next train to Agra, but once you work out your way around and stop looking like a lost tourist, there is a lot to be enjoyed rather than endured.
Our first auto-rickshaw (a moped with passenger seats) was an experience never to be forgotten. Four of us, two sitting, two on knees, haled a rickshaw from our hotel to the city centre. It was scary but dangerously exciting. No lanes, no indicators, just horns, total chaos and amazing scenes on the side of the roads.
The culture shock does have to be overcome before you can appreciate Delhi's more beautiful side. Severe poverty is on full view, the beggars, homeless and street children swell the pavements as Delhi's well-dressed elite ride past in the back of taxis. We found the rich and poor divide in Delhi striking, as technology such as the Internet and mobile phones are heavily advertised, but only affordable for a very small portion of the 10 million inhabitants.
Inevitably there are touts and rickshaw drivers trying to rip you off at every corner. In the main tourist areas everybody can take you to 'the' tourist office and if you ask, the hotels and booking offices you want to go to are 'closed', but they know one which is open, but being firm is usually enough to make them back off.
The Red Fort
We headed to the charming bazaars and markets of Old-Delhi and to the impressive Red Fort, built by Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, which took nine years to build, from 1639-1648, and has a 2km perimeter. Its beautiful gardens and tranquillity provided the perfect rest bite from the chaos of central Delhi. The beautiful structures and awe inspiring architecture of the Emperors palace's and fine detail, of which much still remains, we felt were well worth the visit.
A quick rickshaw ride led us to the largest active Mosque in India, Jama Masjid, which on a Friday holds over 35,000 worshippers. It is a magnificent structure. We had an unofficial guide who explained its history, showed us a footprint of Mohammed The Profit, a hair from his beard and then hassled us for money!! The Mosque sits on top of a large hill, projecting high into the Old-Delhi skyline. You have to leave your shoes outside and we provided much amusement for the locals as we hopped on the red-hot floor, heated by the baking mid-day sun. As we explored the Mosque we were approached by some children who stared at us and asked to shake our hands. We took their picture, which they were very pleased about, but delighted when we showed it to them!
On our last day in Delhi, we learnt that staying in bed may seem a good idea at the time, but you pay the price if you try to go out sight seeing in the afternoon, it is just too hot, around 36C today. However, we managed to walk around the impressive Qutb Minar Complex. At 75.7m high, the Qubt Minar tower has amazing engravings. Construction began in 1199 to mark India's first Muslim kingdom and was founded by Qubt-ud-din after he defeated the Rajputs and built it as a celebration of his triumphs.
After that, we ventured to the railway station to buy our tickets to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, which was surprisingly easy. We opted for the first class tickets after seeing a second-class carriage leaving the station with bodies sprawling out of the windows.
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Produced by John Bentham - Copyright 2000/01 Jonathan Enoch & Elizabeth Wigg / John Bentham
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