With Sunday being almost a non-starter as far as fitting in much sight-seeing, Monday was our last chance in New Delhi to see some of the things other people talk about when they go here.
The four of us – Glen, Christine, Dipu and I – started the day with breakfast in the lounge, determined our plans and then set off for what was going to be a full day.
Yes, I’ve said before that shopping is not one of my favourite things but Christine was keen to check out a market and Dilli Haat seemed like the nearest and best place to go. It also gave Glen and I some more time to hang out with Dipu.
We caught a car to the market, getting dropped off somewhere that was apparently near the markets but was not readily obvious. Nevertheless, we were in a fairly quiet street and we could walk up to the markets.
We thought it opened at 10 but it didn’t open until 11 at this time of the year so we hung around and attempted to get cash out of the ATM. India is currently in the midst of a bit of a cash problem following the demonetisation of the 500 and 1000 rupee notes last year. They’ve been replaced with a new 500 and 2000 rupee note but there haven’t been enough put into circulation so ATMs frequently run out. Such as the case at these two ATMs. I figured the chances that I’d actually buy anything that needed more than the 300 rupees I had in my wallet were slim.
When the markets opened we wandered in, strolling past shops that were just getting ready for the visitors. Some were already displaying their wares and were calling out for us to come and look at their items, which for the most part were shawls and scarfs. I didn’t need any scarfs so why would I stop?
But then I took a look and was caught in the net. Perhaps I could get a few for presents back home. So then I looked at one, and then two, and then he offered a price which he lowered because of Dipu, and then stools came out and we were invited to sit while he showed us yet more pashminas and we oohed and aahed over all the colours and the designs, and added more and more to the pile of the ones we would like to buy. In the end we selected ten. Then the bartering happened.
I sat it out but Dipu did most of it for us and by the time we were finished and had probably driven a decent bargain, we walked away with our ten scarves and everyone was happy. After that splurge, Glen and I left Christine and Dipu to it so we could do some sightseeing. They stayed until 3pm!
Entering Old Delhi
Dilli Haat was near a metro station so we bought our all-day tourist travel cards for 150 rupee each (great value for giving you unlimited travel on the metro all day) and caught the train up to Chandi Chowk station in Old Delhi. Glen and I were the only non-Indians on the train so we drew attention but no hassle.
Up at Chandi Chowk we joined the crush of people getting out of the station and onto the busy, busy streets. Auto-rickshaws, people selling spices and balloons, fruit vendors, bicycles and carts, not to mention some cows…all happening in Old Delhi. Despite it being a very busy place and so many things being sold, Glen and I were not approached. While we weren’t invisible, we may as well have been.
We walked down the street, past ATMs with queues out the front of them or else with ‘No Cash’ signs stuck on them, and headed towards the Red Fort. We knew it was going to be closed as it was a Monday but we wanted to get a look at it – and Old Delhi.
The Red Fort is huge and it would have been something to explore inside. Outside its walls, a celebration was taking place, either for Republic Day or Gandhi’s Death Day or maybe both, so we couldn’t get close, and we chose not to attend the celebrations.
Instead we walked back towards the station, seeing the bird hospital in the Jain Temple, at least from the outside. The sudden appearance of a large and grumpy macaque was a good deterrent from exploring further. We walked down an alley street that ran parallel to the main road. Again, no hassles. I don’t even think anyone looked at us. It was a good place to walk too as it was much quieter than being near all the horn-blowing on the roads.
We eventually cut down another alley to get to the Metro and walked past a hole-in-the-wall restaurant where two men sat out the front, one making chapatis, the other cooking them on coals. I beckoned to Glen – who’d run ahead as usual – that there were some delicious looking chapattis there and before we knew it we had gone inside and squeezed ourselves onto a shared table with a large man wearing a turban.
The other patrons must have thought we were some kind of joke, or that the tone of the place had dropped. We didn’t speak their language, and then waiter didn’t speak English. He brought a menu that was written in script, not English, so the only thing we could read was the prices. The man sitting next to us said something to the waiter and then food appeared.
We were given a small bowl of chickpea and potato curry, the name of which I can’t remember, as well as a yoghurt thing, and some delicious chapatis. I really liked the curry too but the yoghurt thing not so much. We finished off our food, endured the funny and bewildered looks, paid our $2 for the privilege and left. We were both giddy from eating like locals. What they must have thought of us!
The Hunt for Cash
As I wrote in Sunday’s post, the metro in Delhi is really convenient, clean, safe and useful. What I’m not quite used to is the long distances between stations. I guess I’d never really considered how large Delhi is – and with a population of 19 million I’m not sure why I thought it would be huge – so the time taken between stations felt like quite a while.
We changed lines at Central Secretariat to get down to JLN Stadium where we would walk to see Humayun’s Tomb. As we left the platform, we spotted an ATM and decided to chance it, thinking it would be empty. An Indian mate waited outside to see if I would hit the jackpot. Lo! Cash appeared! Hurrah!
Talk about post-apocalyptic. The panic at just the idea of not being able to get cash when cash is needed was unsettling. Chaos is not far away.
Now we’d loaded ourselves with money we walked out of the station, down Lodhi Road, towards Humayun’s Tomb. But not being I asked a couple of police or army officers the way, getting the name wrong or talking to people who had never heard of Human’s Tomb. In the end Glen and I decided to just call it Yum-Yum’s – cultural insensitive, yes, but it’s also funny.
The walk was along busy streets littered with rubbish. People everywhere. Buildings in disrepair. But we managed it and arrived at the tomb.
Humayun’s Tomb is apparently a model for the Taj Mahal. Either way it’s a beautiful complex with walls, monuments and gardens. Once we were through the gates and into the crowds, the bustle of Delhi faded away and we were able to enjoy a bit of respite and looking at some old buildings. I took photos of more squirrels and some beautiful green parrots, as well as the buildings. Check out the pictures for a bit of an idea of what it was like.
We were there for about an hour or so. Our legs were killing us by the end and we opted to not go to Qutb Minar or any other bit of sightseeing. We had museum fatigue and all other fatigues as well. So you’d think that would mean we’d pay whatever to just get home, right?
Wrong. Instead, when we walked outside the tomb’s entrance and were greeted by auto-rickshaw drivers, we were given a price of 300 rupees to drive us the 20 minutes to our hotel, rather than to just the metro. Glen baulked at the price and then we haggled over a price to get us to the metro, which we still didn’t agree to. What the hell? So we walked.
Two women followed us because they weren’t sure how to get to the metro but as we walked we realised how far it actually was. Again, what were we thinking? So we walked and then we took the metro and then another train and it probably took us an hour to get home.
When we saw Christine and Dipu later we found they’d paid 300 rupees to go about a ten minute journey so we all had a big laugh. That was after Glen and I had rested for a while and I went to the gym.
We went up the lounge for our last evening in Delhi and had some snacks. Glen and I ate too much, especially considering we were going to Dipu’s daughter’s house for dinner. After about an hour we went downstairs to catch an Uber, which took a ridiculously long time to sort out, made harder because we don’t have roaming so can’t call the driver, and in the end took a taxi through horrible, horrible rush hour traffic to Anavinda’s house.
There we had dinner with Anavinda, Titus and Dipu, enjoying a traditional Indian meal with dahl, paneer, parathas and curry. Great food and lots of chats about politics, family history and the like.
After dinner Titus took us to the nearby cash machine because we’d been warned that it wouldn’t be easy to get cash in Agra. Fortunately these cash machines out in what seemed the middle of nowhere were ripe with cash so we were sorted.
We said our farewells and then went back to the hotel, collapsing into bed sometime around 11pm. Thanks, Delhi for an interesting few days.
The latest in cow headwear
One of the temples at Humayun’s Tomb
Not Humayun’s Tomb