Our AirBnB Residence
I glossed over our accommodations last night because I was in a rush to finish my last blog post, and planned to explore it further here. When Nicole and I arrived at our taxis’ destination, we were standing on a darkened street with a torn up sidewalk and a ton of homeless people sleeping on the ground. Our taxi driver was confused, as were we. We thought for sure we were in the wrong area. Our taxi driver called our AirBnB host who climbed onto the roof of the building and waved a flashlight to beckon us over to the right building.
We walked to where it appeared he’d been waving his flashlight only moments earlier and waited. A rolling aluminum gate lifted up between two shops with faded blue doors and a clean-cut Indian man in his 30s waved us over. He introduced himself as Atul and led us up a narrow staircase to an iron gate. Pushing aside the iron gate he unlocked a door and led us into a large bedroom with an adjoining bathroom that would be our residence in Delhi for the next week.
Atul asked if we were hungry and led me to the curry shop downstairs. Nicole inquired if she could come with us. Atul advised her that it would be best if she stayed indoors at night while we were in this neighborhood.[divider_flat]
Downstairs, I ordered a cheese curry and two orders of naan, delicious bread similar to pita. A man in a turban whose name I never learned whipped up the curry in a matter of minutes. A very dirty man in tattered clothes pounded the naan dough into oblivion and stuck it to the wall of a small oven built into the counter. A few minutes later he fished it out with an iron hook and wrapped it in an old newspaper. The turbaned man poured the curry into a small bag and handed it to me along with the newspaper naan. The total cost: 120INR ($2).
I brought it upstairs to Nicole and we unwrapped the naan. We took turns ripping pieces of naan off and dunking them into the bag of curry. It was a delicious way to end the night and a pleasant welcome to India in an otherwise strange neighborhood. [divider_flat]
Our First Morning in India
We woke at around 8:30am, still not quite adjusted to the time change and readied ourselves for the day. I’d put together a Google Doc with Nicole of everything we were going to do/see in India and where/how we could do them. Before we could get started on anything, however, we needed some food. A short distance from our AirBnB was a small vegetarian restaurant that Atul recommended to us. Nicole and I stopped there for a bite to eat before making our way to the Red Fort, a red stone fort built in 1638. The fort was conveniently located just up the road from our AirBnB residence.
The walk to Red Fort was a new and chaotic experience. The streets of India are packed and crazy. People are selling their wares on blankets on the sidewalk while there is construction in the road and a traffic jam beside that. The closer we got to Red Fort, the more Indians in bicycle rickshaws tried to give us rides.
Finally we made it to Red Fort. Nicole and I picked up some audio guides and walked the fort grounds. The grounds were beautiful and much calmer than the busy streets outside. Most of the other tourists in the fort were Indians, Nicole and I were 2 of only a handful of western tourists. For some Indian tourists, Nicole and I were as much of an attraction as the fort itself. Several of them asked to take photos with Nicole and myself.
RnR at the BnB
After the fort, Nicole and I walked back to our AirBnB for a rest. India in July is as hot as it sounds. The weather was sunny with a high of 102F and I’d guess 100% humidity, higher if it was scientifically possible. Several hours in the sun was enough to wear me out.
Once I’d gotten my rest, Nicole and I took a cab to Humayun’s tomb and walked around for the afternoon. On our way out of Humayun’s tomb we met a friendly autorickshaw driver who offered to take us to the Lotus Temple, one of the world’s most famous Bahai Temples.
The temple is in the shape of a beautiful lotus, a symbol common to many religions. It looked a bit like the Sydney Opera House, but more symmetrical. The temple is laid out on a beautifully landscaped garden of rolling hills. As you approach the temple, there’s a small building ¾ submerged in the ground where you deposit your shoes and pick them up later. I dropped off our shoes and Nicole and I walked the rest of the way to the temple barefoot. Surrounding the temple are several tranquil pools of water. It took all of my will power to not hop into the pool on such a hot day.
Once we reached the temple we were admitted in small groups and instructed not to talk inside the temple. Standing in such a large temple in complete silence was really calming. After a few minutes of walking around the inside, Nicole and I returned to the shoe building to reclaim our shoes and find our autorickshaw driver to get a ride home. We made plans with the driver to meet tomorrow and have him drive us around for the day for 1000INR or about $16. More about that tomorrow.
I walked Nicole back to the residence from where our driver dropped us off then went downstairs to get some more delicious curry for us for dinner.
India was definitely a sensory overload at times but the monuments, temples, and forts were fantastic.