I used New Delhi as a base for this trip leaving and returning several times as I went to neighboring Pakistan and other parts of India. India has thousands of years of history and is home to one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. As a country though, India itself is very young having been created in 1947 after the British gave the people self rule. Above is the India Gate; the national monument of the nation. It was built before India became independent and is a tribute to the 90,000 Indians who died during World War I while serving with the British Raj.
One of the most famous people of the 20th century is Mahatama Gandhi. I believe his museum is a place everyone finding themselves in India should visit to pay their respects. One of the most famous and loved figures of the world, Gandhi is always remembered for his peaceful revolution that brought change about this once British colony. The museum dedicated to him has hundreds of photographs during his life time as well as some of his quotes. All these are combined to create a time line of his life. Some of the most interesting personal effects on display include his pocket watch and even bloodstained clothing from when he was assassinated. Photography of these items is prohibited.
One of the first things I noticed while traveling in New Delhi was the contrast between rich and poor, old and new. Some parts of New Delhi were relatively modern. Other parts of the city might have been mistaken for the 16th century had there not been power lines and vehicles passing by. Above is one of the several modern buildings I saw in down town New Delhi. The area on the upper left is known as the green zone and has strict litter laws that keep this area clean. In the same city not too far away is a man feeding goats on a street corner. The goats were tied up and being raised right in the middle of the capital! I returned to this area several weeks later and sure enough the goats will still there.
Other parts of Delhi are incredibly crowded with people, cars, and shops. On the left is an older part of a crowded street in Delhi. There are plenty of shops in this neighborhood and I even had Tandoori chicken at a restaurant. It seemed to be a dive restaurant that I only saw other locals at. In Connaught place is where there are several western restaurants and modern shopping. Connaught place was essential a giant shopping plaza filled with western and local stores, restaurants, and a few hotels. It was built way back in 1931 but remains one of the most popular shopping centers of India.
While in the capital I came across several woman running around selling bracelets and giving henna. I actually wanted to buy a bracelet from one of them. She seemed to be in high demand giving henna to several women. While I was waiting I took the picture on the upper right. Another woman, pictured on the left, came by and proceeded to give me henna without my consent. I repeatedly told her no and withdrew my hand. Later she came around the other side of me and started to make some kind of design on my upper arm. I gave in and let her finish, but by then I had attracted a small crowd of about 15 Indians who watched.
While in India I was invited to visit a Sikh temple. I didn’t know much about the Sikh religion so I entered the temple having no idea what their beliefs were. What a great religion Sikh is! Their beliefs are some of the most reasonable and down to earth I’ve ever encountered. Basically anyone who believes in one God can be considered to be a Sikh. They open their doors to people of all religions and are very community oriented. Above are some locals playing music while on the right some of the head gurus perform a ceremony by the Golden Dome.
As for being community oriented, Sikhs believe in helping one another and that everyone is equal regardless of race, religion or gender. I asked if there was a holy day of the week for the Sikhs and the response was everyday. In addition they do not believe in temples or structures as having special connections with God, as they belief that the entire earth is the house of God. The only reason they have such places like this is only for a means to congregate and work together. On the upper left are some of the people gathered inside the Sikh temple. On the right is a man helping prepare lunch for people. Everyday hundreds come to eat here and it’s all coordinated by volunteers and is free for everyone. I spent some time trying to flip over bread dough on a large heated plate. I ruined a few but after about 10 minutes I became a professional.
A place I went to do a little shopping was in the spice market. I purchased some spices to be used back home as well as some snacks for while I’m on the road in this trip. The two photos above show some unique spices, some of which I’ve never seen before. The sticks on the far right are cinnamon. I saw a big barrel of almonds and asked where they were grown in India. The shop owner replied that these almonds were imported from California!
These surrounding photos are scenes I saw while passing through New Delhi’s crowded alleys. Each alley or street seemed to be unique here. Some streets are very open like above, this one happened to have protesters complaining about the government from what a local told me. One of them had a maze of small streets where shops and vendors were about selling their goods. Others like the photo above were covered in a dangling net of power lines. Below is a barbershop I passed and several men transporting goods by pulling a cart. Some of the smells within the alleys weren’t so pleasant and you also better be careful where you step.
The very first place I visited on my trip to India is the famous 17th century Red Fort. Completed in 1648 and built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan this enormous fort was the capital of the Mughal empire for over 200 years. I was already impressed just by the sheer size of the massive red wall that had been constructed almost 400 years ago, and I hadn’t even been inside yet!
After entering the Red Fort I was again surprised by how massive this complex was and the number of structures it had inside. It seemed to be the same size as the Forbidden City in China. One of the most famous places within the fort is the Diwan-I-Khas also known as the “hall of private audience”. From here the emperor would address his citizens, specifically from the peacock throne seen on the right. In 1803 British East India Company defeated the Maratha forces in the Battle of Delhi and took control of the fort. Below are the remains of British buildings left behind.
Within the Red Fort I couldn’t help but notice these unique viney trees and the small squirrels that lived in them. The squirrel on the left I saw in India as well as eastern Pakistan. They are about half the size of an American squirrel with stripes running down their back. I have no idea what kind of tree this is on the right, but I don’t think I’ve seen one like it this size!
On my last days in Delhi I moved from one neighborhood to this one above that is walking distance from the New Delhi Train Station. There were lots of foreigners here which means lots of hotels, restaurants, “beer bars”, and “Government” travel centers. The government travel centers are incredibly annoying. By associating with the government they give you the impression they are there to give you free information as a benefit for tourists, but they are actually just commercial businesses and also try to lure you in with free maps. Another annoying part about this side of town is it seems the rickshaw drivers here were much more likely to agree to a cheaper price to drive you somewhere. After you get in the vehicle they will mention you need to visit a shop or otherwise will try to renegotiate the price. As it turns out there are lots of agreements throughout India where people get some kind of commission for bringing in tourists. I met a guy who once insisted I go to a travel center tog et a free map, I was unsure why at the time, but later I realized he was hoping I might book a tour or buy something which would earn him some cash.
Despite the occasional annoyances from this part of Delhi I had access to their train station would could put me anywhere I wanted in the country for extremely cheap prices. The train stations are absolutely massive and packed with people. The photo on the left was as I waited for my train to arrive. I spent time talking to another Japanese traveler. Right before the train arrived police with sticks came and began to threaten the crowd and push people back. When the train pulled up there was yelling, shouting and people rushing to get on board before the train had even come to a complete stop. I had only seen the stick attack and crazy crowd once although I used the train several times.The train rides are incredibly cheap although they aren’t the most comfortable. I once took a 8 hour day train in the lowest class cabin. It was quite hot and humid inside and I was surrounded by people. Every stop we made sent beggars on board who didn’t hesitate to shake me out of my sleep to ask for money. One time I went to sleep and I swear I felt someone touch my head. I took a picture of myself using my cell phone and sure enough there was a red dot on my forehead. By the time we arrived to our destination we were all drenched in sweat.