I got up at an absolutely RIDICULOUS hour on the Wednesday of that week; sad but necessary to get to Jaipur for a reasonable time, as the journey is nearly six hours long. Ideally, I would have liked to stay overnight, and had planned to stay with a Couchsurfing host, but it didn’t work out with the train times. When I’d been booking the tickets, I’d told the counter guy all this and watched his expression go from “mild interest” to “really couldn’t give less of a shit”.
I’ll write a focus post on my day in Jaipur when I get a chance (around the time I’ll write all those other location based ones, eh?) but for the moment, let it suffice to say that the day was very full, hot, exhausting, exciting, draining, confusing and a whole range of contradictions. Despite it being part of the “Golden Triangle”, I had mixed feelings about Jaipur and didn’t really love it as much as I did Delhi. For me, the hawkers were too aggressive (and that’s saying something, having been in Delhi for a week!), the sights not as impressive as I’d thought, and the place lacked the charm of Agra.
More on that later.
As I’d taken the sleeper train back from Jaipur (and that’s a whole other story!), I was fretting for about an hour before the train reached Delhi for fear of missing my stop and ending up in the back-arse of India in the early hours of the morning. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that, and after a few responses of confirmation to my questions of “Delhi? Next stop?” and quizzical looks, I managed to get off the train at the Old Delhi station just after 5am.
I’d intended to spend the rest of the day out without returning to Neha’s, but it turned out I just couldn’t manage it. The lowest class of sleeper train isn’t exactly conducive to a good night’s sleep, and anyway, five hours wouldn’t have been enough to feel ready to take on another full day in Delhi even if it had been a more comfortable setup.
So, in the end, I hopped on the metro, went straight back to Neha’s house, showered off the train feeling and went straight to sleep. For the whole day. I’m not joking. That day was about as exciting as it sounds. No, actually, I’m lying. I made a thrilling jaunt to the corner shop for instant noodles and Oreos. Mmm. Healthy. I didn’t have problems sleeping that night either! Probably because I was, at that point, operating on a rather serious sleep deficit, having had maybe around ten hours of sleep in the last seventy-two hours. And that’s being quite generous.
Friday was quite a bit more constructive! Finally well-rested, I headed out at a reasonable time to tick off a couple of my priority sights for Delhi, which I hadn’t yet had a chance to see and didn’t want to miss before I left India. The first of these was Sarfdarjung’s Tomb. *refers back to LP guidebook for interesting facts*
AHEM. *tour guide voice* Sarfdarjung’s Tomb is probably the last notable Mughal building, though it is built from slightly inferior materials and is not as aesthetically pleasing as Humayun’s Tomb, which I visited later in the day. Apparently. I still thought it was cool. Guide says the dome is “too bulbous”. Okay. Despite said bulbous dome, the Tomb is cool to look around and the gardens around it are very nice. It was baking hot but I took a rest on a shaded bench feeding masala munch to chipmunks and birds. Sue me. At least I made some friends.
After this, I took a stroll through the Lodi Garden. The park is another welcome patch of green in the otherwise concrete avenues of New Delhi, and is a good place to get away from the buzz; there are a lot of paths to explore and some small ponds. The tombs in the gardens are spots of history in the peaceful green space, with the Bara Gumbad gateway and tomb of Sikander Lodi being highlights of the several monuments to be found there.
After this, it was a trip to Khan Market, a shopping area which is quite popular with expats and travelelrs who come for the bookshops, the home comforts of a good WiFi café, and the range of cuisines in mid-range restaurants in the complex. I stopped for a bite to eat on a café and checked emails and wrote a bit on the ole blawg before heading out to Humayun’s Tomb.
It was recommended to me by Dunstan, my tall British friend from the Red Fort, that one should see Humayun’s Tomb BEFORE seeing the Taj Mahal as not to be disappointed. I failed with this, but nonetheless I couldn’t say that I was at all disappointed by Humayun’s Tomb.
The complex is interesting to explore even before you get to the main tomb, and because it’s not high season, and I was there fairly late in the evening, there was hardly anyone around, making for a very peaceful atmosphere. It’s a great place for photos; the main tomb especially, has no bad angle for pictures. The Tomb of Isa Khan, a nobleman at the court of Sher Shah is an impressive piece of Lodi architecture, and the enclosure of the Arab Serai built by Humayun’s widow, Hamida Banu Begum, is fun to look around with its hidden corners and gates.
The tomb itself looks a bit like the Taj Mahal, and was something of a precursor to it; the style used here was refined over the years to the magnificent design of the Taj in Agra. It’s built with red sandstone inlaid with black and white marble in a method similar to what can be seen at the Taj Mahal. Other important Mughal tombs sit in the chambers at the four corners of the monument, but Humayun’s tombstone in the central chamber is the main sight here. As at the Taj, the real tomb is below the red sandstone platform upon which sits the impressive building.
The gardens are set out in the typical Mughal style, divided into squares, and are great to wander around and enjoy. Just before I left, I caught the beautiful sunset over Humayun’s Tomb. It was another of the moments where I paused to marvel at my good luck, and thanked my lucky stars for the chances I’ve had and the fact that I’m even able to be here, travelling at my own pace and living every day exactly as I want.
I had taken a tuk-tuk there from Khan Market for 30 Rs, so I sure as hell wasn’t going to pay any more than that to get back to the same place. A crowd of tuk-tuk drivers waited outside the gate, and the first one I approached said he’d take me to Khan Market for 100 Rs. Nice try.
Cue hysterical laughter from me, including mock wiping of tears from my eyes before I got serious. It went something like this.
“HahHAHHAAhhahahah… No.” This elicited a somewhat baffled response from the driver and chuckles from the other guys waiting around for some unsuspecting tourist to fleece. I was there for a bout ten minutes, at one point engaging practically all the tuk-tuk drivers in the group, maybe 10 of them, in a discussion about how reasonable it was to be taken back for the same price I had gotten to the tomb for.
A couple of them offered to take me for cheaper but only if I took a “short detour, ma’am, don’t need to buy, just look” to India Bazaar, no doubt to tout some jewelery at me for commission or something similar. After my two months in India, I am just too wise now. I think they just got sick of me in the end, because one older guy just rolled his eyes and beckoned me over.
Me: Thirty rupees?
Him: Yes, yes, get in, ma’am.
Bea: 1, Tuk-tuk Drivers: 0
I am a pro. I am a total boss. Someone should just give me an award RIGHT NOW.
I went back to Khan Market and stopped at “Au Bon Pain” (yes, I’ve just accepted that I’m a total Western label-whore, leave me to it), and had a salad and some iced coffee, and did a bit of reading (the odd bit of bible study!). I was approached by a guy who was sitting at the table next to me, named Ash, who had studied in Australia but lives in Delhi. We talked about travel and I, feeling oh-so-professional, scribbled down my blog address on a napkin when asked. Hi, Ash, if you’re reading this.
Just being alone in a coffee shop, even if you rock the resting bitch-face like I always do, means you’re more likely to strike up a conversation with someone new than if you were with a friend or travel companion. I have been thinking about this, and although I’ve thought a couple of times that it would be cool if so-and-so could see this or be here, I’ve never yearned for someone to travel with and am really perfectly happy to make my way on my own, taking each day as it comes without having to consult anyone or make any compromises.
Saturday was my last day in Delhi, and in fact my last day in India before I flew to Bangkok. I decided to make the most of it by heading out early to the National Museum to get in a bit of history before I left. Managed to use my student card again and entry was only one rupee! SCORE.
Also managed to skip out on the camera fee of 300 Rs. I’m such a cheapskate, oh my god. Bought a couple of souvenirs from the shop (overpriced) and after a whistle-stop tour of the museum, got back on the metro and made a quick stop at Hauz Khas village; basically hipster heaven, to be honest.
It’s an independent shopping area with a lot of cafes, antique shops, bars, and restaurants, next to a picturesque park and lake with more tombs and ruins. It’s all very arty and chic, with galleries and shops selling handmade clothes and jewellery lining the small roads too. I’m gutted I didn’t come here before; I’m fairly sure I could spend days in Hauz Khas village!
I bought a few great things in an antique store, including a couple of gifts and some old postcards and black-and-white photographs from the Raj era. I think I might try and start to collect old photographs and stuff; it’s a fairly unique souvenir and you can pick them up in most antique shops. Hauz Khas is a gold mine for this kind of stuff. How cool would it be to try and find out who some of those people were? Postcards with addresses and writing give you a little insight into someone else’s life and it’s more memorable than your cookie-cutter postcards. Credit for this souvenir idea goes to this article by the amazing Brenna at This Battered Suitcase!
There was actually a travel café which was holding a travel blogging workshop! Sadly, you had to pre-book and even if there had been a space, I had ZERO time at this point and was panicking about getting back on time for the taxi. Just about had time to buy a sandwich and a drink and run with it to the tuk-tuks, shouting “Metro!” as I went.
In typical Bea fashion, I ended up running terribly late and just about getting back to Neha’s apartment in time to grab my backpack, scribble a quick thank-you note and jump into the taxi which was waiting to take me to the domestic terminal of Indira Gandhi International airport.
Airport procedure was fairly simple; I waited around for a while before I checked my backpack in. A slightly worrying moment when the woman at the desk told me they’d want to see proof of onward travel once I arrived in Bangkok (in the end, they didn’t ask for anything of the sort) but I figured I’d cross that bridge when I came to it. Then came the lengthy wait for my now delayed flight to Calcutta.
SpiceJet is an airline I’ve not flown with before, but it was a comfortable flight of only a couple of hours to Calcutta where I only had to wait a short time for my international transfer to Bangkok. I always get nervy about transferring and not taking direct flights, because I’m terribly worried about my luggage getting lost. Thankfully, it was the same airline, so I was pretty safe in this respect! And I didn’t have to check it in again which saved me lugging the damn thing around.
Thus ends my journalling from India! It’s been a crazy ride, and I’m sure there’s a heck of a lot more to come. For the time being, it’s time to say goodbye to India and a big HELLO to South East Asia. First stop, Bankok, Thailand! The flight was overnight, and I managed to get a little bit of sleep, but not much. Nonetheless, I was bright-eyed and excited, if a little rumpled-looking, when we started the descent to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Inernational Airport, ready to face a new day in a new place…