We left early for our 260 km journey to Delhi. This was yet another occasion that made me appreciate good roads. Despite the relatively short distance, it took us the better part of 12 hours on top of rest stops to make it to Delhi.
As you can see below part of the delay was due to the traffic sources unique to India:
We also got jammed up due to some flooding for a little under four hours–it took us that long to cover about 2 km and at times we were completely stopped for 30 minutes at a time:
I did manage to entertain myself a little bit by checking out some of the colourful designs on the trucks. The one below was my favourite of the day:
The intense flooding that caused the delay is shown below. The water levels were so high that ordinary cars would not have been able to make it through.
We arrived at the outskirts of Delhi just as the sun was going down. The city is so large that it took us over an hour just to make it to our hotel once we were in the city, and that was without any significant traffic. In that sense and many others Delhi reminded me of Mexico City. In fact, but for driving on the other side of the road and the occasional motor rickshaw, you could have fooled me.
The shot below shows one thing that you don’t see in Mexico City. Those are motorcycles on a pedestrian walk-way above the express-way.
Our hotel was centrally located and near the Karol Bagh metro station. As such, the next morning it was more efficient to take the metro to the major sights near the old part of the city. Their metro is very good, clean and pretty easy to use. The subway cars are like the ones in Hong Kong and the new ones in Toronto where you can walk from nose to end. Though strictly speaking it’s more of a sky train as most of the tracks operate above-ground which is unfortunately a bit of an eye-sore. I wish I could have taken pictures of the trains, but due to terrorism concerns taking photographs inside the train area is strictly prohibited.
In the Delhi system you need to pay by distance so you scan the plastic token below to get in and then scan the same token again and then deposit it to exit:
Our first stop was the Jama Masjid, known as the “Friday Mosque”. This is the largest mosque in India, with capacity for 25,000 worshipers. It was built between 1644 and 1658 by Shah Jahan. Alas, in lieu of charging for entry (mosques never charge for entry) they charge and exorbitant fee to bring a camera inside so I left mine with the guide’s assistance outside. Luckily, since this is a very famous sight, there are a ton of great pictures on on the internet. Here’s the one photo I took of the exterior:
Photos of the interior, taken by others: http://www.in.com/photogallery/jama-masjid-delhi-50000160.html
From the mosque, we took bike rickshaws to the heart of the old city. I am not at all comfortable taking bike rickshaws even in Toronto where the operators charge a crazy fee, much less in India where they are clearly earning a pittance. But it was our guide who made the arrangements and certain parts of the old city don’t allow motorized vehicles:
Some photos inside the old city:
Photos of the old part of the city where spices, nuts and teas are specifically sold.
A fellow doing some repairs above his store:
We went into a specific store that, let’s face it, caters to tourists. The prices were pretty high, but the advantage of this particular store is that everything in the store can be purchased vacuum packed so the things you purchase travel and store well. They also make some really nice tea blends. Since locals don’t really drink too many blends aside from masala chai, interesting blends are hard to find.
They had spice mixes for every conceivable food item and sauce that you want to prepare. And there is no shame in using mixes in India, even the best chefs in the country don’t create all of their own spice blends. And that is because cooking with these spice blends is not just a matter of adding them to a bit of water or stock to make a sauce, as I subsequently learned in a cooking class a few weeks later. These spices are instead akin to using an herbes de provence mix instead of adding the six or so herbs individually.
So that you can get a sense of the store and the huge variety of spice blends available inside:
We then went to a spice market that is used by locals. Unfortunately on that particular day, the market was closed but you can definitely still get a tell that it is quite different:
An unrelated view of Delhi from a rooftop in the market:
The closed stalls of the market:
Photos of various merchants doing business in old Delhi:
This shop was one of the more interesting ones along the way. As you can see, the owners of this store just went out and pimped out the narrow street outside their shop to make it more enticing:
A more modest clothing shop:
I took this photo to highlight the contrasts in Delhi. Here in a city of 16+ million people, a store owner is using a hand pump to get water in the middle of the old part of town in order to wash his hands. This is quite the contrast to the luxury items and services available in the city as will be evident from the photos of my extravagant meal at the end of this post:
A dessert shop, note the old-school mixer on the counter;
A fellow fumigating some rooms using a machine attached to his bike:
Continue on to Part Two.