We flew from Mumbai to Delhi on Saturday, January 6th and arrived at our hotel mid afternoon. What we had seen on the drive from the airport was quite different from Mumbai. The traffic was still terrible but the roads were tree-lined, the chowks (traffic circles) were well manicured but the air pollution was terrible. Our eyes were burning after a very short time and I could feel it in my nose. I felt like I was catching a cold. As we progressed along the tree lined boulevards and neared our hotel we crossed a bridge and all semblance of civilization seemed to be left behind. The roads became more congested, bicycle rickshaws were everywhere where before there were none and the poverty of India stood up and said hello with beggars knocking on our car windows, snot nosed little children doing acrobatics at the traffic lights and young girls with tiny babes in their arms begging forlornly, hand to mouth gestures asking for food money. You really have no choice but to try to ignore it as difficult and emotionally wrenching as it can sometimes be. There are between 20-30 million, yes million people in Delhi and there is no way you can even begin to help them all. It’s tough but you have to ignore it.
We arrived to our hotel, Hotel Broadway, built in 1956 and it stands out amongst the dirt and filth in the area. Obviously things really changed between then and now. I don’t think we could have stayed at a worse location. The hotel is very good, clean, great staff, nice rooms, a fantastic Rajasthani restaurant attached, (really amazing food) but is surrounded by down and out alcoholics, filth, endless traffic and the stench of urine as you take a leisurely stroll along the sidewalk making sure not to get hit by a motorcycle driving on the sidewalk. A lovely place on a crisp winters morn, not, but we will stay here again because the hotel is nice and taxis or tuk tuks are cheap and the price is right and this is India.
Sunday we planned on doing some sight-seeing, maybe try to get some maps and stuff and enjoy the day. After realizing it was Sunday the sightseeing portion was nixed. Weekends, especially Sundays are the busiest times to visit historical monuments, parks and temples so we “took a tuk tuk” to Connaught Place, a large circular shopping district full of chain stores, bars and restaurants and decided to try to find a legitimate travel agency. We’re told it is very difficult to find one as most are fly-by-night operations employing touts to lure you in and then never delivering on their promises or what you paid for. With that in mind we stopped in at ” Fly By Night Travel and Trickery” and sat down with Mr. Ashok (call me “Ash”) Kumar, a devout Muslim (he must be trustworthy no?) and asked for his opinions on our Rajasthan travel ideas. Great! Perfect! Easy to do! Yes of course we’re insured, references?, Facebook, website etc. We left there feeling ready to hand over 150,000 rupees, 70% up front, the remainder on our return. Must be legit. Well we researched him and his travel agency high and low and found one website connected to another to another (his website didn’t work) with the last entries in 2010, two reviews, one rating a “0” the other a “5” (probably from his cousin). We were told by the Manager at our hotel that he could help us so today we worked out a plan. But first, our Delhi sightseeing that we did yesterday.
First stop, Humayan’s Tomb. A large preserved area built for the Emperor Humayan in the mid 16th century by his Persian born wife Haji Begum and is thought to be the inspiration for the Taj Mahal which it predates by 60 years. Along with the tomb of Humayan there are 100 other tombs giving the area the name “Tomb of the Moguls”. There a several other impressive tombs and associated mosques in the large area encompassing the large heritage site, the first being Isa Khan’s Tomb and Mosque.
The next site in the area was Afsarwaia Tomb and Mosque.
The finale, Humayan’s Tomb.
We were getting hungry and wanted to take some tomb out, oh never mind. We hopped back in our ride and headed over to Lodi Gardens. Originally named after Lady Willingdon who had two villages cleared in 1931 in order to landscape the area and make a park to remind her of her home (guess where?), it was later renamed after the 15th century Lodi-era tombs the gardens contain.
We’ll be back in Delhi the end of January. There are many more sites to see so we’ll see what we can when we return from Rajasthan. Today was a trip finalization, packing and lunch at McDonald’s day ( no beef here). Tomorrow we set off to Rajasthan.