Our journey to India started by flying back to London and then taking an all night flight to New Delhi. Once again we arrived in New Delhi completed smashed, it was Saturday October 10th. Fortunately we booked a really nice hotel in New Delhi so we had a chance to clean up and rest up in a really nice and comfortable environment.
Once we had a slight recovery we launched out that afternoon and went to a place called India Gate. This is a big park which is a memorial for all the Indian soldiers who lost their life in wars. It was an interesting and enjoyable place to go in the evening. India is very crowded, noisy, and chaotic but we knew that before we got there so we were prepared to embrace the people and the culture. This way the chaos doesn’t really bother you that much. So far we have found the people to be very nice and friendly, as interested in taking pictures of us as we are of them.
The next day (Sunday 11th) was the only full day we had in Delhi. Both days in Delhi we had a driver who would take us to our locations and let us out and wait for us. Trying to use public transportation would have been a disaster and the cost of a driver for the day was around $35 which we considered a bargain. The streets of Delhi are total madness. Only people used to driving in that kind of traffic should try it. We decided we wanted to launch right into the lion’s den of Old Delhi’s medieval bazaars and little shops. This is the nitty gritty of Delhi, no upscale markets or restaurants, just little shops and street food on the streets and back alleys. It could have been sensory overload if we were not prepared but we knew what we were getting into, and we went early before it got very busy! Sara wanted to find some real Indian clothing which she managed to accomplish, heading up the small stairs in several shops to be shown the many choices.
Our driver took us away from old Delhi to a really good small and authentic restaurant for lunch. For most of the day we didn’t see many tourists, just a lot of Indian locals enjoying their Sunday. After lunch we headed to the Red Fort which is a massive fort containing many marble temples and monuments built around 400 years ago. The area was packed with locals and just a few tourists. We stood in line to buy our ticket and then realized a security guard was blowing his whistle at us. No we weren’t trouble, he was directing us to the foreigners ticket window – joy no line. We spent the afternoon at the fort and really enjoyed it, although the heat was getting to us by the end. We typically walk five to six miles a day, good exercise!
Sara’s blond hair is quite a novelty and many people ask to have their picture taken with her, which John finds amusing and Sara is a little uncomfortable about! It is mostly younger people that ask, both men and women.
On Monday 12th we left New Delhi and flew to Dharamsala. It was a hour and half flight from Delhi. We had to take a taxi from Dharamsala to McLeod Ganj which is the little town where the Dalai Lama lives. McLeod Ganj is a busy narrow streeted town in the mountains. We elected to stay at Hotel Tibet which only cost $15 a night but is in a perfect location in town. The hotel room has two fairly comfortable beds and a toilet and a shower so we happy campers, although the fumes from a recent painting in the room are a little disconcerting. The room instructions included good advice about keeping the windows closed "to prevent the mishandling of our goods by the monkeys"!
That afternoon when we arrived we mostly walked around trying to figure out where everything was. The next day was our full day and we started by walking up to the Dalai Lama’s residence and temple. We thoroughly enjoyed it and found it to be somewhat emotional realizing the plight and peril the Tibetan people have endured. There are about 60,000 Tibetan people in the surrounding area. In the afternoon we walked up to a Hindu temple in another little town. Tomorrow we fly back to New Delhi and meet our new driver who will drive us to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal.