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Second Day in Delhi – Jama Masjid, Qutab Minar, and Lodi Gardens

More Shoes More Problems

We woke up and hailed a rickshaw to Jama Masjid a famous mosque in Old Delhi near to where we were staying. The mosque required that we leave our shoes, which was no problem, but they also required us to pay 300INR each as a picture fee. For me that wasn’t a problem, but Nicole didn’t even have her phone out and they wanted to charge her for it. We felt a bit uncomfortable with the experience so we left and wandered the quiet market streets of Old Delhi. The streets were just as crowded as they were the day before, but because it was only 10ish, everyone seemed to be quiet. It was a nice change from the day before. However, we received just as many stares as yesterday.

Sweets for my Sweet

Samosa

Samosa

We found a small sweet shop and bakery a few blocks away and stopped in for some vegetarian samosas and some sort of honey soaked donut.From the bakery, we made our way to the New Delhi Railway Station. The station was chaos. In front of the building for several blocks around were thousands of people, entering, exiting, loitering in and around the station. It looked like any movie about the apocalypse where everyone is trying to get out of town. Nicole and I waded into the crowd and found the entrance to the metro, New Delhi’s subway. The entrance was at the end of a long underground corridor in which we saw all walks of life from beggars in tattered clothing to business people in dress shirts and slacks. [divider_flat]

Thunderdome Subway System

We waited in a packed line for our subway tickets as a security guard kept careful watch over us. I think he was looking out for us because we were the only westerners in the subway. After we bought our tickets, we had to go through a metal detector and a pat down before we could board the subway.

Qutab Minar

Finally we made onto the subway and started our long trek to Qutab Minar, a tall monument in the south of Delhi. When we arrived at our stop, our trusty autorickshaw driver picked us up and drove us to the monument. We looked around for awhile and fortunately, stumbled across the one security guard at Qutab Minar who is a photography buff. He took a bunch of pictures of Nicole and I with my camera. I made a small gallery of them below.

Safdarjung’s Tomb

After Qutab MInar we took the rickshaw to Safdarjung’s tomb. Niether of us had heard of Sufdarjung’s tomb before our rickshaw guide took us there but we’re certainly glad we did. It had the feel of a smaller, more colorful Taj Mahal, and the best part was the grounds were almost entirely empty.  There were maybe 10 other people there. These are some of my favorite pics from the entire trip.

Lodi Gardens

Our next stop was Lodi Gardens, a beautiful garden in the heart of Delhi filled with plants, trees, beautiful bridges and several really amazing temples. We bought a water and took a leisurely stroll through the gardens. About 10 minutes into our walk it started to rain, not heavy, but a typical Florida sunshower. We took refuge in one of the temples, along with the rest of the parks guests, to wait out the storm.

 Be Our Guest

27 Icon, Lodhi Colony

27 Icon, Lodhi Colony

When we returned to our rickshaw, our driver took us to 27 Icon, a really fancy restaurant in one of the bougier parts of Delhi. I was initially concerned our meal would cost a ton of money, but the prices were really reasonable. For about $18, the two of us had appetizers, two entrées, an order of naan, an after dinner mocktail for digestion, and a small dessert. The food was amazing and well worth the price. [divider_flat]

India Gate

Our last stop of the day was at India Gate, a massive monument to Indian veterans. The monument itself looked like the Arc De Triumph, except maybe ten times larger. Our driver couldn’t go in, so he dropped us off at the entrance and we walked up to the monument. It was breathtaking to behold, but I found myself distracted by all the Indian vendors trying to sell Nicole and I friendship bracelets and colored pens. I really like the monuments and architecture of India’s historic buildings and monuments. However, many of the sites seem to be surrounded by an insurmountable wall of vendors aggressively hawking their wares.

Nicole and I had a heck of a day and we were able to see so much. Our guide wanted to keep showing us around to a few more monuments but it was getting late and we were beat. He took us back to our AirBnB and we settled in for the night with some delicious downstairs curry from the turbaned man.

First Day in Delhi – Humayun’s Tomb and Red Fort

Our AirBnB Residence

The entrance to our AIrBnB as seen by day

The entrance to our AIrBnB as seen by day

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]

Naan Stop

The Old Newspaper our Naan came Wrapped In...Matrimonial Section

The Old Newspaper our Naan came Wrapped In…Matrimonial Section

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.

Red Fort

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.

Humayun’s Tomb

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.

Lotus Temple

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.

Traveling to Delhi

Waiting at the airport

Waiting at the airport

Nicole and I woke up early Tuesday morning eager to begin our adventure to India. We hailed a cab from in front of our hotel. I’ve never been offered a price different than the meter in Korea, and aside from occasionally being confused, I’ve found Korean cab drivers to be very honest and helpful. This cab driver was the exception. He quoted us at $15 for a trip that we knew would be less. I told him “anneyo”, or no. He said “ok,ok,ok” and we used the meter.

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Incheon Airport

A few minutes, and $10, later we got out of the cab and tried to check in. We arrived 2 hours and 45 minutes early, only to find that we couldn’t check in until exactly 2 hours before our flight. We passed the time playing games on Nicole’s iPad and checking Instagram.

Waiting for our flight

Waiting for our flight

I posted a hilarious picture of a cheese sign and I wanted to gauge public sentiment. The cheese picture’s reaction soured, one might even say it curdled. Cheese picture below.

We have ways of making you talk comrad cheese

We have ways of making you talk comrade cheese

After we checked in, we got some coffee and egg and cheese sandwiches at a Peanuts-themes restaurant (not the legume but the Charlie Brown comic). The sandwiches were like the peanuts comic, not great, just alright.[divider_flat]

West Wing and Chinese Beer

Chinese Beer and West Wing

We boarded our plane around 11 headed for Guangzhou airport in China where we would have a 4.5 hour layover. On the plane I enjoyed Chinese beer and watched season 2 of the west wing. We were slowly working our way through the series for the first time. We were ten years late to the party, but we were still enjoying ourselves.

Landing at Guangzhou Airport

Walking to the Guangzhou airport bus

Walking to the Guangzhou airport bus

We landed in Guangzhou at 2pm. The plane wouldn’t take us to the gate. Instead the plane just sort of stopped and we hopped out. There was a light rain as we walked towards a bus waiting to carry us from the runway to the terminal. Nicole got a great candid shot of the whole experience.

We wandered around the airport for several hours. The airport was pretty small, there was AC, but it didn’t appear to work. There were a few random restaurants that appeared to be independently owned selling a variety of foods. One restaurant sold pizza, one sold wine by the bottle, and one sold traditional Chinese food. The latter was also the only place in the airport with free Wifi so we went there.

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The Guangzhou Terminal

The Guangzhou Terminal

 

The food was pretty cheap upon a cursory glance at the menu. We ordered some noodlesAirport egg and noodles and beef curry. The waitress asked us if

we would like egg on our meal. We said sure…big mistake. The food was delicious and so was the egg. However, when the check came it appeared we were each charged another $7 a person for the egg. Considering our meals were about $7 on their own, doubling the cost of the meal for a single additional egg seemed crazy. I will say this though, the egg was a nice addition.

The rest of the terminal was filled with odd Chinese curio shops selling everything from questionable Red Bull bottles to Hannah Montana drinks.

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The only other thing of note was the smoking lounge and the bathrooms were the same place, meaning any time you wanted to go to the bathroom you had to walk through a smoke filled room. Ironically, inside the bathroom were several signs saying no smoking despite the bathroom reeking of smoke from the lounge immediately outside the door.

Onward to Delhi, India

After our long strange layover we flew on to Delhi from Guangzhou. This was our second flight of the day and while there were no TVs in the backs of the seats, the airline did serve us food. Nicole and I had the seafood entree and watched some more West Wing.

When we finally arrived in New Delhi, India, it was a little after 10 when we landed. We grabbed our bags and walked through immigration. The customs officer hardly looked at my passport or my visa. Outside of customs was a nice typical airport arrivals area. There were places to rent cars or rent phones, a few ATMs. Everything was normal. Immediately outside  the airport was a whole other story. It looked more like the apocalypse. There were dozens of Indian porters with piercing dead eyes. They saw Nicole and I and moved in for the kill. Suddenly we were surrounded by Indians asking us where we needed to go and quoting us different prices without even knowing our destination.

We walked past the porters and up to the police sanctioned taxi stand to book our taxi to Golcha Cinema, the nearest landmark to Mini Punjab, our AirBnB residence for the next week. The old man in the taxi stand scribbled on a purple piece of paper and told us the trip would be 450INR, about $7.50. I took the paper to the nearest taxi and we embarked on our journey.

IMG_20140702_093305

Driving in India is insane, absolutely insane. I rag on Korean driving and I previously ragged on Italian drivers, but Indian drivers stand above the rest as far as shear insanity behind the wheel. There are maybe 3 lanes on the road and 4 or 5 cars occupying those 3 lanes. Everyone merges everywhere all the time without any warning.  I thought about the car rental stand in the airport and shuddered at the thought of driving anywhere in India ever. Luckily, our taxi driver was very skilled. He expertly maneuvered us between trucks, around rickshaws, elephants, and camels…and yes, all of those vehicles and creatures occupied the road.

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Finally, we reached our destination in Old Delhi. Our AirBnB was between several construction sites and up a long narrow staircase to an apartment above a curry shop. More about the apartment tomorrow.Nicole in the Taxi from the Delhi airport to AirBnB

 

 

Around the World in 22 Days.

Last week I reached my last 60 days of my teaching contract in Korea. Nicole and I have had a blast so far this year and we’re looking forward to teaching in Korea for another upcoming year. We’ve looked into several programs and decided to pursue a few programs in the southern provinces of South Korea. If all goes according to plan we’ll be teaching in Korean public school starting in mid August, and hopefully living together. We should know more around June. That gives both of us about 1.5 months of vacation between our two contracts ending and then starting up again.

Since we’re in charge of booking our own flights back to the United States, Nicole and I decided to plan a mini trip around the world on our way home visiting a few places that we’ve both been interested in and that are vaguely on our way back to America. My contract ends after Nicole’s so we’re going to wait until my contract ends at the end of June to begin our trip. I finish my contract Monday night. After work Nicole and I will pack up the last of our stuff and take a bus to Incheon airport.

All of these pages will link to my travel entries from my trip as I write them so stay tuned.

First Stop India

Taj Mahal

Our first stop will be New Delhi, India. We’re going to fly to out from Korea Tuesday morning and spend a week in India traveling around New Delhi. We’re looking forward to seeing lots of interesting temples and markets in India. We will also be visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra.

Next Up Germany

Neuschwanstein

The next stop on our trip is in Munich, Germany. I visited Germany a few years ago, but Nicole’s never been and she told me she was really interested in visiting. In Munich we’ll see famous beer halls and churches. We’ll also travel outside the city to see castles like Neuschwanstein.

After a few days, Nicole and I are taking a night train and checking out one of Germany’s most historic cities and also home to Germany’s capital: Berlin. We’ll hang out in Berlin for a few days and see the sites before taking a plane across Europe to…

Iceland

iceland

From Berlin, we’re traveling to Reykjavik, Iceland. Iceland is home to some incredible natural beauty. We’re going to see everything from lava caves, to geysers, and hot springs. Since Iceland is so far north, and we’re visiting in Summer, the sun will be up almost 24/7. The sun only sets for about five hours each night. Days last from 4am to 11pm and because “night” is so short, it never really gets dark. Those five hours of “sunset” really equate to about 3 hours of dawn/dusk and maybe an hour or two of true night.

Good Ole US of A

mt rushmore

Our final stop on the trip, before we return to our hometowns in Florida, will be in Boston. I’m going to spend the weekend in Boston visiting my friends Adam and Ali as well as my mom’s side of the family for a much deserved mini-reunion.