Friday, March 18, 2011

India 2011 - Day 1+2 Delhi

The first view out of our hotel window
It is about 2 weeks since we are back from our trip but I constantly think about what we saw, tasted, smelled, heard, experienced - the beautiful and the ugly. Probably the best way for me to digest all this is to put it on paper, in this case "virtual paper".

So, here it goes:

We had spent about a week in Germany visiting my 88 year old mother and on Friday Feb 11 we flew from Amsterdam via Zurich to Delhi arriving after midnight on Saturday. James found a counter to buy a ticket for a prepaid taxi to the Taj Palace Hotel. This is in many countries the best way not to get cheated.
After a short sleep we had breakfast, a walk around the hotel grounds and then a briefing by our tour director. We also met our traveling companions because we were a group of 24. I might as well say here what a great group this was. Everybody had fun and nobody was late making the others wait etc. The itinerary Odysseys Unlimited had put together was super and the tour director Praveen was first class, a very kind person, very knowledgeable and very organized. This, of course, can make or break an experience like this.

 The beauties in the hotel.
 Then our first sightseeing started.

Driving by a government building. Never again have we seen the streets so empty. But it was Saturday - their "Sunday"

A photo opportunity bus stop at the India Gate, the majestic 137-feet high arch that stands over an eternal flame to honor the 90,000 Indian soldiers who died fighting alongside the British during World War 1 and the Afghan wars.

Still lighter traffic here but do you see the camels in the middle of it all?

We are now in Old Delhi, capital of Muslim India between the 12th and 19th centuries. This is one of the entries to India's largest mosque, the red sandstone and marble Jama Masjid, completed in 1656 as the last monument commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal.

Shorts and Shoes are not allowed. The ladies are given a cover up.

Not the first and definitely not the last time that we see somebody just laying around somewhere sleeping.

View from the mosque to the surrounding Old City.

View from the mosque to the back. Is this a restaurant?

My guess is that volunteers are preparing food for the very poor.  We were shown something like that at a different mosque.

 Our tour continues with a rickshaw ride through bustling and colorful Chandi Chowk market, one of Delhi's oldest und busiest, and where Moghul emperors once shopped.
(this is what the tour itinerary said ... old and busy ... no kidding).

It started out quite easy

The driver went very fast so it was not easy to take good pictures of all the things so different.

This road was quite busy. See the woman on the moped? No helmet, side saddle, baby loosely in her arms.

The Gandhi Memorial, the simple black marble slab honoring India's beloved Mahatma Gandhi, the political and spiritual leader of India's independence movement renowned for his advocacy of civil disobedience as a form of nonviolent resistance. 

The memorial was a vast park and on this day many school classes were visiting, younger and older ones. Boys will be boys? They can't NOT play with the water hose.

Many of the children passing us wanted to practice their English on us. They also wanted to take pictures with us. It was a lot of fun.

 We stopped at the Birla house just in time before it closes. This is where Mahatma Gandhi spent his last (108?) days before being assassinated. His fatal walk from his house to the podium is very touchingly done.

There was also an interesting museum at this site but we didn't have enough time. 

Another "traffic" picture. We overtook two elephants.

In the morning we had seen these activities at the hotel. The white is jasmin flowers ... long strands of them  attached to ready forms. Getting ready for a wedding. A lovely smell.
 When we arrived back from sightseeing we found this just outside the hotel. Praveen told us that it was a wedding party assembling and getting ready to process in.

Again, pictures out of the driving bus. You can't belief what we saw.

In the evening we peaked "over the fence". Wow!!!

In later talks with Praveen we learned a lot about Indian wedding traditions, arranged marriages etc.

Very interesting.

The next day we went to the New Delhi district to visit the Sikh Temple Gurdwara. We are given head coverings and had to be barefoot as in most temples and mosques. First we see the kitchen where volunteers (rich and poor) prepare food for the very poor.


I admit, it was a bit difficult for us 'westeners' to walk barefoot through this and the kitchen. But ... get over it!

The temple of course was just beautiful.
No pictures inside! Of course one respects that. It is a holy place.
Outside, the water to cleanse yourself before the worship.

Before we got back on the bus, beggars. We were told not to give them anything so not to teach them this way of life. Especially not to children who should be in school. You can see in this tree belongings of people, even very high up on the left.

And then we visited the National Museum. Oh, don't worry, I really tried to keep the selection of my uploaded pictures to a minimum. It was great.

This was the featured statue of the month in the entry hall:
48cm stone Gupta period 5th century A.D.
I just could keep looking at it! I so love it. When I look at it, words come to my mind like: peace, contentment, trust

This "Dancing Girl" is tiny and ...
... from about 2700 - 2000 B.C.

an "object" from c. 2600 - 2000 B.C.

Picture taken for my lacemaking friends!

Bronze c 2000 B.C.

One of the many, many, yes many, Ganesha statues we have seen.

There are holy things in the museum. People are allowed to come to worship. This is a Buddhist shrine and many claim that it contains a bone from Buddha himself.  I was very reluctant to take this picture but I thought it so shows the devotion of the Indian people. 

There were many beautiful paintings depicting the earlier life. This form of painting is still an art form today and we saw a lot being made and for sale.

embroidered coverlet and close-up

could not resist to take this picture

a straw/reed woven basket ... looks like an elephant to me

And another picture taken from the bus: one of the many barbers we saw.

This is Qutab Minar, one of Delhi's most visited and striking monuments. King Qutubuddin Aiback laid the foundation for the monument after defeating the last Hindu Kingdom in 1199. With a height of 239 feet, this red stone tower ranks as the highest in India.

In the ruins you can see that a lot of the buildings were made with the carvings from the destroyed Hindu temples.

In this picture you can see that the bowed arch was not invented then ... at least not by these builders.

A hodge podge of Hindu carvings in this Islamic building.

The 4th-century Iron Pillar (in the middle of the arch) originally made as a flagstaff in Lord Vishnu's honour, is a tribute to ancient Indian metallurgy (because they say it never rusted).

And here our guide pointed out their first bowed arches.

A lot of excavation and restoration going on every where.

A successor wanted to build an even larger tower but could not finish it ... which, we were told, was a good thing because it might not have ended up being a sound construction.

 The 16th century Tomb of Humayan, the second Mughal Emperor, is one of the many UNESCO World Heritage sites in India ... and rightly so. 

Ups, those steps!

In the evening our group was divided into 3 smaller groups and we had dinner in the homes of local urban Indian families.

Our lady host spoke very good English and told us that her son was studying at the moment in California. Of course she had a "boy" (Indian equivalent to a maid) to help her in the kitchen. We understand that she makes chocolates and gives cooking lessons to supplement her income.

It was very nice and interesting.

The mini bus is waiting to take us back to the hotel.


  1. Christa

    My wife an I leave for the same Odyssey trip next week. Your photos and discriptions are very interesting to us. It helps prepare us for the cultural differences we will be experienceing. I hope it is not too warm for us and I hope my wife can handle the many stairs.

  2. Oh, you are so lucky. It was a wonderful trip. I don't think it was strenuous at all. Our tour guide Praveen was great helping people along if they needed it. Are you going to Nepal too?

    I would be interested to know how you found my blog.

  3. Just got back yesterday, what a trip. No we did not go to Nepal, seven in our group did. My wife and I were happy to be heading home after 18 days traveling. The weather was good, only felt warm while walking in the sun.

    I missed seeing a tigger, but others in our group did. We had a different Odyssey guide, but he was also excellent.

    My wife was able to handle the stairs with help. The rickshaw rides and boat rides on the Ganges will be something we will always remember.

  4. What an incredible trip! I loved looking at each of the photos. I believe that travel is the most enjoyable way of educating ourselves and expanding our minds.

    1. Don't know how much you read yet ... but it is getting better (I think). Oh, traveling is one of the best things in life. Our whole family is into it. You are right. It is a wonderful way to educate ourselves. People are nice and sweet and helpful all over the world. It is just a few rotten apples....

  5. Considering how hurried the bus rides seem to have been, they sure make up for it by taking you to some wonderful places! I'd love to see the 1000 photos you did NOT include here!

    I am looking forward to reading on! Thanks for sharing this.

    - Mike S