May 28 & 29, 2009: DELHI
After leaving Houston on Continental in the early afternoon of May 27th and connecting in
Newark, we finally arrived in Delhi in the evening of May 28th, 2009. At arrival, we had to fill
out another one of those swine flu questionnaires and then, after immigration, we went
through customs and stepped into the arrival hall. We were supposed to be picked up by
Rajesh from Dhruv Travel, but we saw nobody holding up a sign with our name on. Come to
find out, our flight arrived early and we missed Rajesh by a few minutes.

Anyway, not finding our pick-up, I got a prepaid taxi ticket to our hotel in Paharganj and we
stepped outside the arrival hall. Lots of taxi hakwers there, but it was much more orderly
than I expected. We had one of those old cabs where the majority of the car was held
together by lots of rust and wire, but we made it to our hotel without any problems.

We stayed in Paharganj at the
Jyoti Mahal, a middle class hotel at best but which I can
highly recommend to anyone who does not want to spend a lot of money but still wants a
clean place to stay in Delhi.

We checked in and got a decent room. I went across the street to where the office of Dhruv
Travels is located. Dhruv Travels is owned and managed by Prince and his brother Rajesh.
Prince was in Europe when we arrived in Delhi, and so upon entering their office, I met
their mother, a great lady!! She told me that Rajesh was at the airport looking for me and
Marc. Anyway, we called him and he came back to the office. Once he was back, we had a
pleasant discussion about our plans in India. Great people!!!!!

We concluded to do sightseeing through Delhi the next day and then do a triangle trip from
Delhi to Agra to Jaipur back to Delhi. Sonka, one of their employess, was going to be our
driver for this trip. I liked him from the minute I met him!

Marc and I finally went to bed and slept decently, although, of course, we were
jetlagged...10.5 hours time difference to Houston.
The next morning, we got up and had breakfast on the roof terrace of the hotel. The
breakfast was really good and I liked the guy who was in charge of the food a lot.
Our next stop was the Indira Ghandi Memorial. Lots of people here, mainly Indian tourists.
We got in line and slowly walked through many of the rooms of the house Indira Ghandi
used to live in. Many memorabilia, pictures and magazine clippings of her life. We got
pushed around quite a lot by our fellow Indian tourists who don't care if you are reading
something or not. We also saw the spot where Indira Ghandi was shot by her Sikh
bodyguards in October 1984. Her murder came as a retribution against her ordering the
Indian Army's forceful entry into the Golden Palace of the Sikhs in Amritsar in June 1984 in
order to stop its occupation by a radical Sikh. This "Operation Blue Star" caused many
deaths and was seen as a desecration of the Sikh's holy temple by the Hindus.
We drove towards the India Gate. This entire area where the Indian Government is housed
reminds me a lot of London. Wide avenues, lots of (brown) lawns, monuments and
government buildings,  definitely in a European style. This entire area was laid out by
Edwin Lutyens, a British architect who designed this central administrative area during the
time India belonged to the British Empire. Sonka dropped us off at the India Gate and Marc
and I went around it and took a few pictures. Then we drove up the Rajpath, the wide
avenue which connects the India Gate with the Government Buildings. Here, we got out of
the car and took a few pictures of the Presidents Palace, the Rashtrapati Bawan and the
Secretariat Buildings.
We left the Indira Ghandi Memorial and went south to the Qutb Minar Complex. The going
was slow as the traffic was really bad and it took us a while to get there. The Qutb Minar
main attraction is a tower which is the tallest brick minaret in the world, 72.5 meters high. It
was built in the 14th century as a victory tower and marked the end of the Hindu reign and
the beginning of the Muslim reign which lasted until the British took over in the 19th
century. There are ruins of many other buildings in this complex, including a mosque.
Several times while visiting the Qutb Minar Complex we were asked by Indians to pose
with their children for photographs. I am sure, Marc and my counterfeit are now adorning
many living rooms in India.
By now it was early afternoon and we were hungry. Sonka brought us to a restaurant close
to Connaught Place. The food was pretty good. Marc of course had to eat some spicy
chicken which was really spicy. He'll never learn.
Our last stop was Old Delhi. We wanted to see the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid, the Friday
Mosque. Old Delhi was teeming with people, cars, rickshaws, horses, cows, bicycles, etc.
Between the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid there is a car park where Sonka parked. He
joined us on our walk over to the Mosque. The Jama Masjid is the principal mosque in
Delhi, finished in 1656 and built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan who also built the Taj
Mahal. On the way to the mosque we went through a relative open area which was full of
squatters and the smell was pretty bad at times.
We walked up the stairs to the mosque, took off our shoes and walked into the huge
courtyard. This courtyard can hold 25,000 people. We walked around for a while and took
some pictures. Then we left the mosque, walked down the stairs past many beggars,
through a little bazaar and then made a left turn towards the Red Fort.
While Sonka went back to the car, Marc and I crossed the road and went to the Red Fort. We
bought our tickets and then entered the Fort through the Lahore Gate. The Red Fort, also
called Lal Qil'ah, was built by another Mughal Emperor between 1638 and 1648. Initially it
was the residence of the royal family and more recently it served as the headquarters of
the British Indian Army.
Some of the buildings inside the fort we visited were the Diwan-I-Aam, the large pavillion
for public imperial audiences and the Pearl Mosque or Moti Masjid.
By now it was late afternoon and we were sightseeinged-out! We headed back to our hotel
through the horrific traffic of Old Delhi. After some rest, Marc and I had dinner at the
Metropolitan Hotel which was just around the corner from our place. The food there was
really good and our waiter, who hailed from Kashmir, was extremely nice and we had a
great time chatting with him.

Back at the hotel we packed a small bag for our Agra-Jaipur trip and went to bed.
On our way back north we stopped at the Humayun's Tomb. This complex encompasses
the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun as well as other subsequent Mughal emperors.
It was finished in 1562. The tomb is sitting in beautiful garden on a platform overlooking the
Yamuna River. Here we encountered several other Western tourists, the first ones of the
day. We later learned that May is not tourist season because of the hot temperatures,
maybe that is an explanation for the few Western tourists we encountered overall in India.
At around 9:00 am we met Sonka and started our tour through Delhi. Our first stop was the
Lakshmi Narayan Mandir Temple, a Hindu shrine. Sonka was watching our shoes while we
entered the temple. Marc and I walked through it but for whatever reason Hindu temples do
not seem that interesting to me. So after a while, we left.