India Trip 2018 - Day 2, Sunday August 5 - Delhi

31°C, cloudy, showers, cloudy

So after our late arrival last night, and with internal time clocks all a bit out of whack I was awake at 5am, so we left the hotel ( after waking the security guard and the night porter who were both sleeping on the floor of the lobby ), jumped in a autorickshaw , or AR as I will call them or tuk tuk in some places, ( after waking the driver up ), and headed to the Lotus Temple which is just down the road from where we are staying ( 200R for the auto rickshaw ) in time for sunrise.  It was a fail on 2 counts; it was shut with no decent view from the outside of the grounds, and there was no sunrise to see.

We walked the short distance to the metro station ( Kalkaji Mandir ), through the security screening ( bag X-ray, personal scanner and a physical rubdown ), with ladies being scanned separately behind a screen by a female police officer.  We bought 2 x 1 day tourist metro cards ( 150R plus 50R deposit for the card ) for unlimited use of the metro for 24 hours.  We walked up the stairs and onto the platform, the next train arrived.... and it was like stepping into the metro in Singapore.  Spotlessly clean, with stainless steels seats, air conditioning and no sign of dirt anywhere.  After stepping over dog crap and sleeping bodies on the street outside the station this was a bit of a shock! We rode our 2 stops back to Kailash Colony station and walked back out into the real Delhi again.

We went back to the hotel at 6:15am and had our included breakfast in the hotel lobby ( toast, cereal and also Indian dishes ).  Back upstairs to our room and then we headed out again at 7:15am, and into the metro station entrance 2 doors along from the hotel.  My travel card wouldn't work ( it had become 'damaged' according the man in the ticket booth ) so I had to pay another 200R for a new one.  We headed up to the platform on level 4;  in this area the metro is above ground down the centre of the road but goes underground nearer to the centre of town.

We got off the metro at Jama Masjid station and surfaced in the middle of a bustling Sunday market ( Meena Bazaar ) stretching across an area about 1km long between Jama Masjid mosque and the Red Fort.  After working our way through the market we hit the wall of the Red Fort and walked the 100m along to the entrance.  We were harassed by AR drivers all the way along this stretch of road telling us that it was too far walk and offering us a ride and a tour of the Spice Market. We never found out where the Spice Market was but every AR driver wanted us to go there.  We found the entrance to the Red Fort and everything was shut up ( despite our information saying that it opened at 7:30am ).  By this time it was 8am.

After having a selfie taken with a random girl Liz asked what time the Fort opened and was told 8:30am, so we decided to wait.  Strangely then an AR driver told us it wouldn't open until 10:30am and offered us a tour of Old Delhi and the Spice Market.  Along with the AR drivers harassing us ( we were used to that from our time in SE Asia last year ) we were openly stared at by all the locals, as we were the only white faces in the crowd outside the gate.

The gate opened just after 8:30am so we headed in through the security screening ( X-ray and pat down ) then to the Red Fort ticket office and into a special window for foreigners.  Most tourist attractions have a separate foreigners ticket booth, so you don't see that you are paying 5-6 times the amount that the locals are paying.  So we bought 2 tickets to the Fort ( 500R each ) and headed in through the Lahore Gate and into the Fort itself ( through another round of security screening ).  We walked around the Fort which was very impressive, but unfortunately a lot of the buildings were closed for maintenance as it is the off season for tourism.  After walking around for an hour and a half we headed back out the gate ( this time being harassed by the owners of market stalls that were closed when we came in ) and back out onto the street at 10am.

This was another lesson in Indian culture; whereas in SE Asian countries people are up early and getting things done before the heat starts, Indians don't seem to open their shops and cafes until 10am and stay up late instead.

We crossed the road and headed into the heart of Old Delhi.  This is a bustling maze of narrow alleyways with stalls and shops selling everything from English books to motorbikes to spices. We walked along Chandni Chowk, the road on the northern edge of Old Delhi and dropped into McDonalds for a cold drink.

To get to McDonalds we had to cross the road, and as we had seen already from the locals, this was a matter of finding a small gap, preferably with a motorbike or AR as the next vehicle, making eye contact with them and then confidently stepping out into the traffic and walking across the road, and have the traffic go around you.  Whether there was a pedestrian crossing or even a set of lights for pedestrians it didn't seem to make any difference to this procure as the traffic never stops for anything, even a red light.  Cows are the exception to this, so if you wanted to get across the road really safely then walking next to a cow was a good plan, but it might take a while to get across as the Indian cows are probably the slowest, most docile that I have ever seen.  The down side to walking next to a cow is that it would probably decide to lie down in the middle of the road ( which is perfectly normal for them ) and you would be stranded.

After a bit of liquid refreshment we headed south from Chandni Chowk through the narrow alleyways and wound our way down to Jama Masjid and then back up to Chandni Chowk.  We love exploring these 'real' parts of cities on foot, it gives a much better idea of how normal people live.  And you see people washing in the street, getting their hair cut on the footpath, chatting, drinking tea ( or chai in India ).  Occasionally we would see foreigners on a rickshaw tour of these alleys but we felt that they never really get a good chance to look around and see what is happening.  Speaking of rickshaws of course we constantly had to fight off offers of tours and rides from these guys, and some were very persistent.

Old Delhi

Once we had got back to Chandni Chowk we walked back to Lal Quila metro station and headed to Connaught Place in New Delhi.  This series of rings of streets is the more western shopping area of Delhi, and seems to be full of lots of Nike, Bennetton, Adidas, Levi's shops with chain restaurants and cafes scattered in amongst them. This wasn't really our thing but we stopped at a cafe for lunch ( which was Indian food in western style dishes, like Chicken Tikka sandwiches etc ).  It wasn't great ( editors note: I am typing this blog on Day 8 of the trip, and so far this was worst food we have had in India ).

We carried on walking after lunch for a bit and encountered another scam; this time a well dressed business man type would be walking along in the same direction and start chatting, asking where you were from, if you needed any help etc.  All very nice and then they would suggest that you should go to the local information centre just around the corner ( which did actually exist ) and get a map etc, and they would become quite insistent if you said you would go later or didn't really need to.  We had 3 people do this to us, so we can only assume the person who took you to the information centre ( where they obviously sell tours etc ) would get some kind of commission.  We learned that you needed to be rude in the end to get rid of them, and ideally go into a shop or change direction completely.

So after looking around Connaught Place a bit more we walked south to Jantar Mantar, which is a series of buildings which are built to align with stars and planets, for example one is a big ( and incredibly accurate ) sundial. We paid 200R each to go in and had a wander around.  These buildings date from the 1700's and are pretty impressive even in modern times.

After leaving Jantar Mantar ( which also is a term used to mean 'abracadabra' ) we walked a short distance then grabbed an AR.  This was our chance to experience another scam.  Before getting in the AR I said where we wanted to go, showed him on my phone ( the place we wanted to go was only about 1km away ) and asked how much.  The AR driver said '100R'.  We got in and travelled about 100m and he asked to see the address again.  When I showed him he said 'oh I know it now, 200R'.  I had heard about this trick before, so I said 'no thanks we will grab another AR' ( there were plenty around ) at which point he agreed to take us there for the original price.  Once we arrived he then said 'I will wait for you here, and take you wherever'.  This normally meant that he would try to convince you to take a city tour etc ( probably to the mythical spice market where his 'brother' had a shop and would give a good discount ( and a commission to the AR driver )).  We said no thanks, we will walk from here, paid him his money and left him to sulk.

Anyway enough about the scams of Indians. The location we were at now was Ugrasen ki Baoli ( also spelt Agrasen in some places ). These baoli structures are also known as stepwells, and were built as holes into the ground, with steps down into them for people to go down to collect water.  But in traditional Indian style these were built as quite elaborate and grand structures.  With the advent of modern plumbing / water supplies these Baoli are now largely dry and are just tourist attractions.  Oddly enough most of the other tourists there were Indian tourists, so this location isn't yet on the main tourist circuit.

Ugrasen ki Baoli

We left the Baoli at about 1:30pm walked to the nearby Mandi House metro station, and headed back to the hotel for a rest @ 2:30pm.

We headed back out again back to Jama Masjid station again on the metro at 4:30pm, this time we intended to go into Jama Masjid itself ( the largest mosque in India ) but we were told that it was closed for prayers ( after getting through the market again and up the steps to the entrance ).  So we walked back to the metro, and went to Janpath station, then walked 100m to The Imperial Hotel for drinks in the 911 bar.  We just had a beer each and relaxed in the opulent surroundings.  1200R was the bill for that, about 3 or 4 times the normal price in a local restaurant.  We headed back towards the Metro station and found a restaurant for tea ( Masala Trails ) at 5:30pm.  The meal was nice, and we were the only non-locals which was a good sign!  A couple of curries and cold drinks, 770R. We jumped back on the metro and headed back to our hotel to rest at 7:30pm.

A good day exploring Delhi, even with the harassment and attempted scams.  We will be back in Delhi at the end of our time in India.

We booked our car to the airport to pick us up at 3:30am and went to bed ready for another travel day tomorrow.