The next day, it was time to explore New Delhi! Most attractions in India are closed on Mondays, but thankfully most of the things I wanted to see were either outside or still open. Firstly, yes, I did walk all day again! I went to Connaught Place, which is pretty much the commercial centre of New Delhi – most of the big avenues lead onto a traffic circle which goes around a circular colonnade of shops, banks and restaurants. It’s like being back in Europe! Costa and Starbucks lining the roads, etc. I even saw Marks and Spencer! Home comforts!
Of course, I HAD to stop for an iced coffee, but straight after that, I headed to the Jantar Mantar, which is a huge observatory just off Connaught Place. It’s quite incongruous with the surroundings! Imagine, these huge red stone instruments surrounded by modern office buildings; very strange! Entrance fee was 100 Rs, but it was worth paying as the place was not only interesting to look around but quite a nice peaceful place to sit in the shade and people watch.
The site is one of five built by the Majaraja Jai Singh II of Jaipur, who had a great interest in astronomy. The site in Delhi is thought to have been built in 1724. The centrepiece is the Samrat Yantra, an enormous sundial. After a while looking around, I decided to do a walking circuit of a few other minor points of interest in New Delhi before taking a look at India Gate.
Walking, of course! Briefly entertained the idea of flagging down a tuk-tuk or rickshaw, but I swear, rickshaw drivers in Delhi just charge a ridiculous amount, especially in New Delhi. I suppose, Dehradun not really being a tourist spot, I’d gotten used to them being VERY CHEAP!
I took a quick look from the outside ad the Bangla Sahib Gurdwara – a Sikh temple, and the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, both impressive architecturally. My main target was the Lakshmi Narayan Temple, a Hindu temple built in 1939, which despite being very ornate and decorative, really does give an impression of being quite modern. Photography not allowed inside main temple though! Thankfully, there were lots of great shots to be had in other areas.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve been taken aback a few times by coming across some random guy urinating in an alley, or as I saw that day, just by the wall on a main street! Usually, it’s the old avert the eyes and keep walking trick. Imagine my surprise when this random guy turned around, his, ahem, you know still out and just stared at me! Dude, not okay! Like I was supposed to be impressed? Grim. Kind of ruins the whole chilled sightseeing vibe when you have to run from bizarre peeing guys.
Back to the more pleasant aspects of the day… There is also a small Buddhist temple next to the Laxminarayan, which I think usually gets overlooked! I had a quick look in there, the only other person present being a fairly bored-looking monk. After this, I went to have a look at the very impressive Cathedral Church of the Redemption – once I’d worked out how to get in! Several security guards and administrative staff later…
I was pretty much done with churches and temples at that stage so headed to the Rashtrapati Bhavan – the President’s house. What I didn’t realise was that the complex was entirely private and the Secretariat buildings are also only open to officials. I should have realised this BEFORE wandering in, getting completely lost, and having to trek approximately an extra mile back to the main road. From there, you can see Parliament House too, but I’ve got to say I was so tired, and hot, that I couldn’t summon up any enthusiasm for it!
Then came the previously mentioned incident with random guy touching my arse. If you thought my mood was foul before, you’ve not seen anything yet. By the time I got to India Gate, I was thankful to be able to sit down by one of the waterways and cool down my poor tired feet, before pushing aside the crowds, batting away touts and vendors, and quite coincidentally, being able to take in the sunset at India Gate. I hadn’t realised how many people go there on a daily basis! Rajpath is the long road, not unlike the Champs Elysees in Paris, which links India Gate and the Rashtrapati Bhavan. India Gate, originally the “All India War Memorial”, itself is a memorial to 82,000 soldiers of the British Indian Army who died between 1914 and 1921 in the First World War and the Third Anglo-Afghan War, with the names of over 13,000 servicemen inscribed on the gate.
I ended the day at… Starbucks. You know it. At this point, I just needed the familiarity, and the sandwich I had there wasn’t half bad! I walked back, and made a quick detour to the trains station to book my tickets to Jaipur for a couple of days later. One of my tickets was Chair Car AC again, so reasonably luxurious in comparison to what would be my first foray into overnight train travel… in sleeper class for the return journey. Looking forward to THAT little adventure… When I got back, I stayed up WAY too late trying to pack my stuff up again! I hope I get better at that as I go!
I got up pretty early on Tuesday because I had to reach my Couchsurfing host by 9am, before she went to work. So, another adventure in Delhi transport… This time, THE METRO.
At this point, I was a complete newbie regarding the New Delhi Metro, and hadn’t even been properly aware of its existence. It’s actually surprisingly functional. Not counting the odd breakdown, but you get that in London too! I didn’t have a metro Card yet, so I queued, thankfully in the shorter Ladies Queue, for ages to buy a token to get to Chattarpur, the nearest stop to Vasant Kunj where I’d be staying. Finally managed to manoeuvre my backpack (thankfully not as enormous as last year’s on the New York Subway) onto the train, sat on it due to lack of seats, and off I went. After that, it was a fairly smooth tuk-tuk journey to where I was staying, if one I was a bit ripped off for at 70 Rs (it should have been 40 or 50).
I was welcomed by my host, who unfortunately had to go straight to work, but after cooling down and dumping my stuff, I headed out for another day. No rest for the wicked, right? This time, I did buy a metro card, and it made my life SO much easier for the next few days!
I went one stop to visit the Qutab Minar Complex; the ruins of some buildings surrounding a 73m tall tower built of red sandstone and marble, the construction of which began in 1199 under Qutub-ud-din-Aibak, the founder of the Delhi Sultanate. I’ve got to say that I loved seeing this; ruin complexes are just about one of my favourite things, and despite the fact that it was quite busy and absolutely BAKING hot, it was very interesting and I took some great photos.
Other stops around the tower include the Tomb of Iltutmish, the Iron Pillar of Delhi, the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, the partially built Alai Minar and Ala-ud-din’s Madrasa (Islamic college) and Tomb.
After my visit, I also persuaded a tuk-tuk driver to take me to a fairly secluded tomb up on a hill overlooking the area, which was definitely worth it for the views and complete quiet away from the other tourists at Qutab Minar!
Quick stop at Starbucks? Don’t mind if I do. Saket, another stop on the way back into the centre, has a huge shopping mall, and the cafes there are great for working and people watching. And I got to eat an actual salad! With actual fresh vegetables! SHOCK. After that, it was a quick stop at the Lotus Temple, which was closed but cool to see all lit up at night, a quick bite of street food, and the Metro back to Vasant Kunj; I had another VERY early start the next day!