Someone told me that when you go to India you must put you life into God’s hands and it certainly feels that way especially in any vehicle in any city, village, toll road or narrow country road in India. The traffic and honking is amazing. If there are three lanes there will be 5 or 6 vehicles across all trying to force their way through honking all the way.
The cities of India, such as Delhi, are becoming very western in architecture and the dress of the locals, but venture out into the rural areas and you are in a totally different world, the world of turbans, women covering their faces, camels pulling carts, herds of sheep being herded down the side of the highway and life like it must have been 1000 years ago. Most of the things that I loved about India were out in the rural areas where men still wore turbans and camels plodded along.
We used a tour company called Authentic India Travel (www.authenticindiatravel.com) and it was great giving us a customized tour with a great variety of places to visit. I highly recommend them. They can do the tours in English or French.
Paris was covered with a light snow as we left by taxi for the airport and our plane even had its wings deiced, something new for me. It was a long seven hour flight and we landed at 11:30 PM India time in Delhi. We waited over an hour for our driver and didn’t get to bed unti 3 AM, then up at 8 AM for breakfast. We are staying at the Thikana Bed and Breakfast, a very nice place with a huge sitting area that we all share.
In a van-7 of us-for the drive to Agra. It was Sunday and traffic, we were told, was “light” but it looked very crowded to me. There were many tuktuks, bicycles pulling carts, trucks, cars and many motorcycles. I thought I would see a lot of horses pulling carts as well but was told that horses don’t do very well in this climate. We did see some beautiful white horses which are used for weddings-the groom arrives riding one. Brahmas were seen as well as a couple of camels pulling loads. Occasionally there would be some small huts with cows tied up outside along side the raod and the people there were making round discs used for fuel. I saw men mixing batches of it-green and mushy-with their hands. Markets near small towns were going on selling fruit and vegetables and a lot of motorcycle helmets were also for sale.. By the way, only the male drivers wear helmets while the women in saris behind them don’t, I’m guessing to preserve their look.. There were large decorated trucks with signs on the back saying, “Please Honk” which is what is done when passing anything. There was constant honking going on. I’m sure the car horns are the first thing to wear out here. It was impossible to sleep in the van with the constant honking, lane changing and braking going on.
Once in Agra we visited the Red Fort, once a castle. We had a 75 year old guide, a bit cranky, telling us to “come here”, “stand here”, “look there”. His eyes were yellow, rimmed with red, he didn’t have many teeth left and he walked stiffly but he made it. I called him Mr Cranky. While there a man came up holding a toddler (who didn’t want to be held up) so he could look at a foreigner. Later, at a shop, I was told I spoke English really well. I guess they were hearing the French accents of those in my group. I had my own photo taken several times by Indians too.
It was so great to get to bed early for a good night’s sleep.
Up by 6AM for the trip to the Taj Mahal. We were first in line and got the first photos of the Taj with no people in them. It looked lovely in the morning light. Unfortuanately, I fell on some rough tile and my camera lens won’t work now. Thank God I have my other little camera. Just a bruised knee for me. The peddlers were as thick and persistant as flies as we left. We went back to our hotel for a late breakfast.
After breakfast we went to Fatenpur Skiri, a fortified ghost city (1571-85) in red stone deserted due to a water shortage. The king here had 3 wives-Muslin, Christian and Persian-who each had their own quarterrs and place of worship. There were also 300 concubines (beautiful and sexy as our guide said). Our tour guide was very good. We were there for over two hours and were swarmed by peddlers the whole time.
Then off towards Jaipur. At first we were on a toll road of four lanes and the road was immediately smoother but it wasn’t unusual to have trucks or tractors coming our way heading in the wrong direction and once a truck sat there in the main lane with the engine on the road being worked on. Then we got off the toll road and it was very rough with speed bumps, holes, unpaved sections and local traffic with camels puling wagons, herds of sheep-I saw a line of at least 100 sheep walking about four across at the edge of the road never breaking rank like those sheep in the movie Babe-cows, bike and motor rickshaws and many pedestrians. The towns themselves were packed with people and bikes. There was never a single white line on any road denoting no passing as it would be ignored anyway and slower traffic is passed on the left or right with much honking. In the villages there were cows roaming around along with dogs and even pigs. I saw many water wells as we drove along, most with a pump handle or wheel but a few only had a rope and bucket.
The Hotel Bhanwar Vilas Palace, our hotel, outside of Karauli, is an old palace of a Rajasthan and it was full of royal photos and paintings and even a dusty stuffed tiger in the main entry hall. When we arrived a red dot was placed on our foreheads. Dinner was a buffet and we sat at an enormous table which could seat 50.
Our hotel was a lovely place and the people who worked there were so friendly. A young man even took me up to the roof so I could see how large the property was-42 acres. After an Indian breakfast, we headed to Karuli, a town well off the tourist path. We walked several blocks and the village life there was amazing-bulls, pigs and dogs in the streets cleaning up everything but plastic-of which there was a lot. I was amazed to see the cows going through garbage like the dogs and pigs and even eating cardboard and paper as I guess anything green was hard to find. The brahmas are still considered sacred or just lucky and you see them everywhere. I saw villagers feeding them sometimes and even saw a cow waiting on the steps of a house and the lady inside threw out a piece of old bread. The streets were filthy with open water canals running on each side used as toilets. There were vegetable and fruit vendors, barber shops, tailors, wood workers, jewelry makers and more. I liked that there weren’t a bunch of beggars or people trying to sell us junk. They were all very friendly saying “hello” and they loved having their photos taken. Children would jump into a photo when I was trying to get a shot of a building and sometimes would ask me to take their photo and then have me show it to them on my digital camera. We then toured the city palace there, in bad repair but still charming and mostly empty. We returned on the same street.
afterwards we got back on the toll road via a sort of steep dirl slope which I imagine can’t be used when it rains. Then to crowded Jaipur. The hotel here, Khandela Haveli, was another Maharaha palace but well painted and looking new. The owner is actually a maharaja who works as a doctor-no ruling duties any more. Unfortunatley, Maurice and I both got sick with what they call Delhi Belly. Not a good night with diarhea and nausea. I’m not sure if it was something we ate, handling money and getting the germs or the fact that Indians don’t use hot water when they wash dishes but it is a very common occurrence. Want to lose some weight? Go to India.
A visit to Amber Fort outside Jaipur was next. A long winding road up to the fort requires a jeep, two feet or an elephant ride which is what we did. It was fun to slowly plod our way up the hill. The fort was interesting but I sat a lot as I still felt poorly. The elephant, by the way, has a great history here. They were used to carry that white marble many kilometers to build the Taj Mahal as well as many other places, used for execution by smashing the victim’s head with its foot. The temples and palaces are full of paintings of them. Tigers are too alhtough they can only be found in preserves now. The maharajas used to go out and kill them by the hundreds. According to an advertisement that I saw on TV there are only 1411 tigers left in India.
Off to Nawalgarh, a city full of narrow winding streets, for a look at one of the havelis which were homes built mostly by wealthy merchants with large courtyards like those in Marakesh. They weren’t that old, most built in the 1900’s, but full of interesting paintings of gods and goddesses and modern things like trains, the locals and the Brits. After a pleasant lunch, we went to nearby Mandawa and had a little tour around there and saw the performance of a local magician. Bought some decorative pillowcases in a nice shop and then to the hotel in the desert, the Hotel Desert Mandawa, looking like something out of Africa with brown paint and white decorations painted around the doors and windows. I’m told this is typical of the desert architecture in India-tall walls coverd with dung, few windows, and the white paintings. Dinner was in a huge open square with grass underfoot. There was entertainment, the best being a puppet show-a very talented guy. There was also a man and woman who sang but she kept her sari over her face the whole time which seemed strange to me. Many of the women do that around men here. The rooms were very dark inside at night and I almost fell on a trip to the bathroom.
Stopped in a village full of havelis and visited one owned by a French artist named Nadine le Prince. She had restored one and made it into a cultural center and has artists work there. She is also trying to save the other havelis in the village. Bikaner was next for a stop at another fort. The maharajas were constantly at war with each other and so their palaces often became forts. All of them had areas for the women where they were never seen but had screens so they could see others. They used mosaics made of mirrors in their ceiling and wall decorations so light would reflect off them at night.. We stopped next at a sari factory and could have bought a bed spread at a good price but didn’t.
We see more and more camels in the country. Camels are so fascinating to me, especially seeing them pulling carts. A devise is put in their nose and then attached to reins for control. The camels always look so arrogant with the noses in the air. Many are decorated with neclaces, paint and some shaving of designs in their coats like tatoos.
We stayed at the Gagner Palce Hotel, another maharaja palace converted to a hotel. It was very lovely and immense-6000 acres-and sitting on a very low lake. After dinner in the English style living room, we returned to the room to find hot water bottles in our bed. It has been cold at night here in India this being February. The days are usually warm and sunny. They haven’t had a good monsoon in three years so water is low everywhere and normally beautiful lakes are sometimes almost gone and bird sanctuaries aren’t really there anymore.
Phalodi is our next stop, a small village where we are the entertainment for all who see us, especially the children. Our hotel, the lal Niwas, which means red house, is a converted haveli. The main religion in this village is Jain, an offshoot of the Hindus as they disagreed with the priests. They are vegetarian, not even eating root vegetables so insects in the ground won’t be disturbed and sometimes sweeping the ground in front of them as they walk. They eat mostly rice and green vegetables and they don’t believe in the caste system. We walked around the village and visited a really interesting antique shop. I was especially taken with the items made out of camel bone. This used to be a large opium area and there were very nice containers that they used to keep opium in to offter to guests. I wish I had bought something there. Tried to visit the bird sanctuary but there was no water so very few birds..
After a vegetarian Indian dinner we went to bed with traffic outside zooming with horns honking. Also a wedding was going on so a lot of music was playing and fireworks were being set off. Trains could be heard going by with whistles blowing. Somehow I managed to sleep although early in the morning there was some very loud and enthusiastic chanting and singing going on at the nearby Jain temple.
On to Jaisalmer with a stop at a cenataph, a place where maharajas were cremated and their widows commited sati-not always voluntary apparantly. This group was standing out in the middle of nowhere. Next stop was Fort Pokaran, not very large but it did have lovely bougainvilla growing around it. We arrived at Jaisalmer which is called the Golden City due to a lot of honey colored walls. You see the fort on top of a hill as you near the city and there were also walled sections there as well. We had a walk down a dirty, smelly street to see the famous haveli there and another Jain temple. We also visited another cenotaph called Bada Bagh. A young man who said he was a student and 28-most likely not a student-attached himelf to me saying he didn’t want a tip, he just enjoyed getting to know people. He was helpful and showed me small temples devoted to various maharajas and their wives, one with eleven. He also took me to a newer one that single people went to to pray for a spouse as this maharaja never married. He showed me some damage due to an earthquake in 2001 and said that part of a Harry Potter moveie had been filmed in a nearby garden. As a I was leaving a little village girl asked me for a piece of gum as I was chewing some. When I got back to the van I went to get my gum and suddenly there must have been 25 children wanting gum. It was kind of scary with all of those hands reaching out. I don’t think they all got some as my supply ran out. Our hotel, Hotel Gorbandh. was huge and modern leading me to think I prefer the ones with more charm, even if the showers aren’t always very good and there sometimes isn’t hot water. You always find a plastic bucket and a small pitcher in the shower of each hotel as this is what Indians use to bath. They don’t stand under the running water of a shower and thus use less water.
Today we went up into the fort in Jaisalmer which I liked a lot more than the part outside that we saw yesterday. It’s totally enclosed with a wall and is entered through three separate gates-there are three walls too. As we approached on gate a big crowd of men were heading toward us. They were carrying a dead man wrapped in muslin on their shoulders to be either buried or burned. There must have been 100 men-no women. The enclosed area of the fort would have been much more enjoyable if it hadn’t been for all of the motorcycles zooming up and down the streets and, of course, blowing their horns. We did have to walk around the usual cows. There were many interesting shops and the sellers just about drove me nuts. We bought some art work along with a couple of Indian tops. We also went into a couple of interesting Jain temples. They don’t cloth their buddas as the hindus do and the sculpted gods can often be nude. Their main god has a sweet little red smile and eyes with the whites painted in. We had Italian food at a place called Little Italy. The food was very good but we waited a good thirty minutes to get it. We were on the roof so had a good view of the walled city and also a young girls down below doing a tight rope act.
We were supposed to do a camel trek into the desert tonight but a cold wind kicked up and it was cancelled which was disappointing but better than sand in your mouth and eyes.
Jodhpur today. Those riding pants with the close fitting calves and the puffy thighs were invented here. It was a huge horse polo area and our hotel was even the former home of a famous polo player, the Polo Heritage. The rooms are huge with very high ceilings, a/c and ceiling fans which must be much needed in the summers. I liked the ambience of the hotel.
The city itself is topped with a huge fort, the Mehrangarh, which we did a walking tour of. Passing though the gates up the steep path to the fort we saw handprints which were left by widows as they left the fort to go the their husband’s funeral pyre where there were expected to commit sati, if not forced to. Down below the palace were many homes painted blue which used to be the sign of a Brahmin, the highest caste in the Hindu religion. Many other people now paint their homes blue as well. I was told that blue paint is cheap and that it also keeps mosquitoes away.The most interesting thing to me that I saw at the palace was seeing a man wrap his head in a turban. The piece of cloth he used must have been 100 feet long and somehow it easily was wrapped around his head. These turbans were once used as a form of protection in battle. They are only seen on older men now-I never saw young men wearing them-and on people working in palaces and hotels. I saw them often on men in rural areas and villages. There were a variety of styles, not to mention colors. I bought a pretty pink scarf as were were leaving the fort and Maurice bought a T-shirt. We walked down to the teeming city below and the open space where the clock tower stands which was packed with vendors, tuktuks, bicycles and cows. We had a drink on the rooftop of a converted haveli and watched the sun set. It was cold and we all needed our coats as it had snowed in Nepal which sent a cold front down. Tomorrow three of our group leaves and then it will just be four of us.
Mandore was on our list next, the royal seat of Jodhpar in the 6th century. It’s in a park and the building themselves were all being worked on. I wasn’t very impressed with it. My main memories of the place will be a man with a scale in front of him so people could pay him to weigh themselves for a fee. Most people must not have scales here. Other memories are all of the dogs fighting over a dead monkey, a mother dog attacking a cow when it got to close to her new puppies, and the body of a partially covered dead pupply lying in front of a statue of a god. We then stopped at a warehouse-the Maharani Art Exportus-full of all sorts of treasures and also rugs and wraps. We sat through the usual showmanship of a young man who is close to Bill Murray, so he told us. We did end up buying a beautiful throw. We dropped our three at the airport and continued on to Ranakpur, one of India’s largest and most important Jain temple set in a remote wooded valley. It was a spectacular place of white marble, 1444 sculpted pillars-no two alike-and 29 halls. It was a very peaceful place. We ran into an American woman that we had seen in several other places taking photos. She told me that she had been prepared for the beauty of India but had been shocked at how dirty it was. I guess most table books on India don’t show the trash lying around the villages. It’s just a part of life here.
Afterwards we went to our hotel, the Ghanerao Royal Castle, a wonderfully atmospheric place with halls and steps everywhere, huge rooms with high ceilings and the walls and doorways painted with lovely decorations and flowers. It felt like old India. The bed, however, was very hard and the mattress turned up at each corner like a slice of dry bread. I found it cold in the shower with low pressure but there was at least hot water. The dining room was like a banquet hall of Henry VIII huge and impressive with a ceiling soaring high overhead. All of the stairs were very steep and high.
A drive on a curvy, up and down, narrow road led us to Kumbalgarh, a fort high in the mountains at 1100 meters. So high and well walled was it that it was only taken once and then only for two days. The women of the court jumped off the high point of the fort rather than be under another leader. The view from the very highest point was incredible and you could see why it was so hard to conquer. As someone said, someone on the inside was probably paid to open a gate somewhere.
I enjoyed looking at the countryside as we drove along in this area. The architecture was different and there was a lot of cutting of wheat and grass which was stacked in interesting piles looking like huts. We passed a sight that had us stopping the van. It was two brahmas pulling a wheel in a circle which in turn pulled up water from a lower area to a higher one. An old man sat on it keeping the ox moving. It must have been the same 1000 years ago. This area is much greener and has more water than where we’ve been before although we did see an empty reservoir. When we first stopped there were just a few villagers but then dozens showed up. I wish I could have given them all money. Being really poor they only asked for one rupee rather than the usual ten. As we drove along I saw at least six more of those irrigation devices..
In the next village we came upon a wedding. The bride wasn’t there yet but many colorfully dressed women were singing and bringing gifts. The custom is to give more than you received at your own wedding. The couple gets none of the dowry, just the family, and the bride’s family usually had great financial problems when their daughter marries. Many children are required to quit school so they can work when this happens.
We finally arrived in Udaipur. The famous lake that the city sits on is very low. Our hotel was nice but a little dated needing new bed spreads, rugs, etc., but there was a nice pool.
To the huge City Palace of Udaipur. It’s the largest in Rajasthan and many parts have been beautifully restored. There were many decorations using glass mosaic. It had a fabulous view of the lake below, a very low lake, with boats going to and fro. I bought a very smooth and modern carving of Ganesh, the elephant headed god, done by a man on the side of the street whose little boy was trying to saw some rock to make one himself. There was a very active Hindu temple full of men wanting money for taking a photo of them and devoted people inside singing and dancing. It was a Hindu holiday so there was often really loud music playing at small temples.
We also visited the museum holding the antique car collection of the current maharaja-a lot of Mercedes, Rolls Royces and Model T Fords. We had lunch at a local dive that our leader knew of which was a different experience. It was full of locals who were surprised to see us there. I had a soca, a chick pea crepe, stuffed with potatoes and a great fresh pinapple drink done in a blender so it was thick.
While I was standing waiting for Maurice to buy our tickets I had a tour guide look at me and say, “You look really good in that color”. I was wearing an Indian top in pale pink with some sparkles on it. The he told me that I should get the same top in white, that it would look even better. I guess he was with the fashion police.
Drove to the Chittorgarh to see the fort. Rajasthan was full of maharajas and thus palaces and forts. Raj means king. It was captured three times and each time the soldiers donned orange garb (the color for matyrdom) as they marched to certain death and the women set themselves on fire. The fort and temples are mostly ruins and there were long tailed monkeys being fed nuts that were sold there. The temple was Hindu and there was an unusual sculpture of Ganesh with two wives which isn’t seen often.
After lunch at a restaurant where the bathroom attendant proudly told me that he had just cleaned it-it was the cleanest I had seen in India, actually-we soon left the four lane toll way and were on a very bumpy road that seemed one lane to me and it was very scary passing big trucks and buses. There were many speed bumps too. We stopped at one point for a train. There was a ten minute wait before the train finally passed by. The country side is greener here with more water. We finally arrived in the village of Bundi and did a steep walk to our hotel which was a converted haveli with the fort soaring up above and which, in fact, was right up against the wall of the fort. It was spectacular when it was lit up against the dark sky.
Maurice and I went to an Internet cafe. The first one wasn’t able to stay on line so we went to another. The keyboard of the ancient computer that I used had letters so worn out that they pasted paper over them with the letters written on them. The keyboard itself was filthy, my chair tilted to the left and I could smell cow dung through the open door. It worked though.
It was a neat experience eating our dinner on the rooftop looking up at the fort lit up above. The meal was all vegetarian with tiny little eggplants and some delicious carrots. The owners are Brahim, the highest caste. As we finished our meal, some men came up on the rooftop. We were told later that this was the family that was there for marriage negotiations for the daughter of the family. Marriages are still done that way-arranged- but I think the bride and groom can now meet before the wedding and say no if they want. The daughter was 25. The son, who seemed to run the place, is 28 and said he would get married later after his sister was married. Astrology is used as well to make sure they will be suited and which day will be the best for a wedding.
We noticed a rifle on the roof on a table (only one that makes noise) where we ate which was used to scare the monkies away. After breakfast we trudged up the steep hill to the Bundi Palace. In 1948 all of the money and power was taken awy from the maharajahs and the Bundi Maharaja had nothing left for the upkeep of the palace so it is falling to pieces and is lived in by monkeys at night. They only open the palace fairly recently for tours. It is sort of eerie walking through it-we had a very good guide-and looking at the fading wall paintings. The women’s section of the palace reeked of monkey urine and most of the paintings were too damaged to see. Our guide said people would come and take scrapings as souviniers.. Then we went into the part of the palace which is preserved by India with wire to keep out the monkeys and saw some great paintings on the walls done in the 1800’s of Krishna in various stories, usually with his girlfriend or milk maids. One showed the Queen drinking and needing help from her maid to stay upright while another smoked one of the bubble pipes. Our guide told us that he was 28 and was engaged. His was an arranged marriage too, along with the astrology being done, and his wife to be was getting her PhD in some subject but he said she would probably not work when they married. The bride moves into his family’s home and is under the control of her mother in law, plus she not only leaves her family but her village as well usually. Our guide asked us if we wanted to use a toilet and I asked if it was icky and when he didn’t understand I aked if it was clean. He later asked me about the word icky thinking it meant dirty which I tried to explain. I wonder if it will make its way into his vocabulary. Later I thought I should have told him that icky was mainly a word used by teenage girls-at least it used to be.
Maurice and I walked through the village and found it very dirty the further away from the center that we got. It’s another place full of havelis, many made into hotels. We stopped at several shops hoping to buy a Mars Bar but were told this village was too small to have something like that although they had a few Cadbury bars. Our hotel ran out of white wine as well. It has to be bought in a larger city. In the afternoon our group walked through the village and an outdoor market area to the largest stepwell in Rajasthan, which was built to collect rain water. There are fifty in the area. To our disappointment it was closed as it was Sunday. It was dusk when we got back and we sat on the roof of our hotel and watched the bats come out from the palace chattering in the air. Some monkeys sat on the wall near our hotel but seemed to know to keep away. We were told to keep our door and windows closed so they wouldn’t get in the room. I also noticed that even though brahamas, pigs, goats and sheep are allowed to roam the streets and maybe they are considered holy, the fruit and vegetable vendors kept sticks to keep the animals from eating their wares. (Mark Twain who visited India said that every animal in India seems to be holy except for human beings.)
At breakfast we were winding up our meal when I said to the owner, “I never did get to see you “shoot” at those monkeys”. Just then I looked over at an empty table just vacated and there were two monkeys on it and when I yelled they started running but not before one of them stuck a jar of peanut butter under its arm. The owner said that they can even open a sliding glass door, get inside and open the refrigerator. Anyway, it was rather exciting.
We then set off in the direction of Delhi stopping along the way at a paper making company here they were making paper the old fashioned way. Some of the sacks and boxes made there were for Hallmark.
The road, while four lane, was absolutely packed with trucks and our driver weaved around all over the place getting past them. Trucks are supposed to stay in the outside lane but, of course, most don’t. There were also many motor bikes and a few farm vehicles. We also saw some elephants on the road. At one point we saw a road rage incident between the driver of a bus and a truck driver. I guess it was an argument over lanes. They were trying to punch each other but a lot of men were holding them back. Cars stopped on both sides of the road and a tuktuk stopped in front of us while the driver ran across the median to participate. I’m told it is sort of an Indian thing to do.
We are spending the night a couple of hours outside of Delhi at the Neemrana Fort Palace, a very elegant place but an uphill climb then steps to finally get to our room decorated with red and white cotton.
The hotel, a 4 star, is in a splendid location in a palace on top of a hill. Many of the rooms have balconies but our room, a series of three long rooms, has low windows difficult to see out of and no balcony. The bathroom fixtures are very old, there is no hair dryer and no bathtub-something I consider necessary for a luxury hotel. We had a nice buffet, 800 rupees, for dinner and had to sit outside in the cold night but they had braziers filled with hot coals placed around the tables to help warm us up. It was lit up very prettily with fairy lights around the arches and in the trees. We had Sula white wine-an Indian brand-with our meal which I like. The reds of India don’t taste good to me. I’m told that this is an area of India that people who live in Delhi come to as it is cooler and greener in the summer and there is always a nice breeze up here in the hotel. The waiters all wore green and gold turbans with long rtains hanging down their backs, rather elegant. We were never able to get online here.
Back at our original hotel in Delhi, the Thikana. It’s a very nice place run by nice people. I met the owner one night and he was all dressed up for a wedding and told me it was for the child of the Minister of Oil and that the Prime Minister would be there as well. The day we returned to Delhi was a very auspicious one for weddings and he said that there were 20,000 weddings that day and traffic, which is always horrible anyway, was even more packed.
We toured some of what is called New Delhi walking around a huge block full of modern shops. Maurice bought two shirts at a place called Fabindia at a good price. We also visited two tombs, one of which was the precursor to the Taj Mahal when the Persian influence in architecture was first used. Then back to the hotel for a Domino’s pizza delivery-it tasted just like that in the States.
The last morning and it is just Maurice and me. We had a driver but he spoke very little English and it was frustrating at times. We went to see the Red Fort which is in need of repair and which didn’t impress me much compared to what we have seen elsewhere in India. We then walked into Old Delhi which was packed with people and shops but didn’t find anything to buy. We had lunch at a place called The Curry Leaf, a very upscale Indian place that wouldn’t be out of place in Paris or Dallas full of well dressed business men speaking mostly in English. There was even a playboy type sitting near our table with muscles, a ring on his thumb, designer sunglasses and a big silver watch, a wandering eye and a mug of beer. He seemed to be with his family and they all spoke English and were dressed very well. We started with pickled onions to dip in a green minty sauce and Maurice had duck tandoori and I had chicken tikka.
I didn’t enjoy Delhi very much. It’s a huge city becoming very western in feel-except for the interesting Old Delhi section. The traffic was just horrendous and the long ride to the airport seemed to last forever with all of that horn honking and maniacal driving trying to get past other vehicles. I couldn’t even look out the front window but kept my gaze to the side to lower my stress. I was so glad to get out of the car at the airport. Our plane left at the ungodly hour of 1:30 AM. We sat quite a while watching a continuing line of airport employees getting on the announcement phone. I guess it was the only one to make announcements overhead about flights leaving, etc. Boarding our flight was mostly a free for all. I couldn’t hear the speaker overhead and we all sort of got in line and boarded as we wished, although they did let people with children board first. I was asleep before the plane even left the ground. Landing in Paris and then taking a taxi home was so different after India. There was no honking and everyone stayed in their lane making singles to change lanes. I almost felt like I was under water with my ears blocked.