A Travellerspoint blog

India

Connaught Place and the truth!

Cinema

Anyone that knows me may consider that I have a good sense of direction. I am able to say where 90 - 95% of the roads are in and around my town. I know short cuts, ways to avoid the traffic and what time of day to travel. But my close friends will know that I actually have zero sense of direction - yes zero - I am hopeless. My philosophy is to always turn left and I have on many occassions walked round in a big circle. Luckily for me Chloe has been blessed with my portion of internal sat nav so it is alot easier now she is older and I actually listen to her where we should be going as my brain still can't get around that the directions she is giving me are the correct ones. Which brings me to I have a confession to make, well two actually. First of all I have written a blog about Connaught Square which doesn't actually exist in Delhi as it is called Connaught Place. I wrote about the market etc maybe you have read it but my confession is that where we thought Connaught Place was - wasn't. I got the directions wrong. It's not good to be perfect anyway (not that I am by a long shot anyway but thats another story). When we actually went to Connaught Place - WOW! Not the street market we had been to (we had actually been in Parah Ganj which is meant to be the back packers delight but also a place to watch your bag) but full of proper shops, restaurants, a garden and even cinemas.

There are still people selling stuff on the pavements but these are actual pavements and real roads!

We took the opportunity to go to the cinema and watched Breaking Dawn (or Breaking Down as they advertised - mind you I felt like breaking down - we had walked miles to get here and given goodness knows how many turn downs for chai again.) Fortunately, we spoke to a lad who showed us where everything was and pointed us in the right direction. The cinema was very nice with big red velvet chairs on levels where the person in front doesn't spoil your view. You could also get a premier ticket and watch the film in the balconies but we were to late for this and they were full. We paid 200 rupees each (just over 2 quid) and you could buy burgers, chips, popcorn, nachos etc and take them in with you on a tray. We bought nachos and popcorn - this was abit of a mistake as I balanced the nachos with dips on the arm rest and someone behind pulled on the back of my chair (which always happens beit rail/air or cinema!!) and knocked the whole lot down the side of Chloe spilling the tomato salsa onto her seat. I'm not laughing honestly just suprised it didn't go on me! There was also a break half way through.

The delight was after though - the benefits of talking to the locals is you get to know what is going on and we were told that there was a Youth Festival in Connaught Place gardens at 1830hrs so along we went. It was brilliant! Lots of different acts with dancing and singing. We sat with numb bums on fake green carpet for about two and a half hours. There was a laser light show which was pretty cool but the best was the Hindi Rock group. Bless them - their guitar and drums were really good but the singing - all I can say is he sang just like me - just like me and I can clear a crowded pub on karaoke night!

It was a good finish to our trip around India anyway.

Posted by Vicky Bailey 00:38 Archived in India Comments (0)

Amritsar

Respect or Racism??

What a strong heading this is but I have to say our initial experience of Amritsar was 'what time is the next train leaving'. It didn't help that we had to climb over broken bricks and rubble to get into our joke of a hotel Golden Tower which I fondly called Grotty Tower (not booked by me). First room was filthy and smelt like something had died and the second one well the bathroom was an entire cure for any infection..

We left for an internet cafe to get a new hotel, we were successful as well aptly named Holy City. Now let me start with the respect, so many shout at you "hello, where are you from?' Genuinely interested in Westerners and when you speak to them they nearly always have a best friend (westerner) in London or want to visit. There is a lof of warmth for visitors which is why the next events made us want to leave.
Bear in mind Amritsar is where the Golden Temple is, a truly inspiring place as not only is the temple beautiful, clean, extremely religious, hold a lake of carp around it etc there is also a kitchen and food hall which can feed 40 to 50 thousand people a day with 300 stewards. All this kindness and concern but on the outside of the temple poverty.

We walked along the road as others were when a rickshaw cycled into me, the people on board laughed (so did chloe) but it bloody hurt. There's no way it was an accident he was behind me! Then a motorcyclist drove past and smeared rice onto chloe, it was in her hair and on her face. We had enough but decided to see it through. We moved hotel, booked a trip to the Indian Pakistan boarder - Wagah. Easy to book you hear ."boarder boarder boarder". We got it cheaper than everyone else too, respect 5 racism 2. I loved this display at the boarder where the troops present themselves in their uniform shouting and strutting like cockerells. I'm sure this is where Monty Python got his silly walk from ha ha. It was just what was needed and we went back with a fresh perspective. However it is always an eye opener to be the minority in a town/city.

We saw the temple again at night - stunning.

The next day I felt quite emotional when we sat in a coffee shop, prices high for locals, inside where 3 American ladies babbling on about beer bottle tops and how one managed to fill an entire wall in her flat in 8 months with beer tops, but all I could see were four children aged about 5 to 7 scruffy, dirty and torn clothes tapping on the window for food and money. The staff shoooed them away but they came back. When we left, I know you shouldn't, but I gave them some money. Not much to me, another girl about 6 saw and grabbed my arm with her other hand out pointing to her mouth. It is heart breaking, I had to remind myself that the temple will feed anyone morning, noon and night, these children couldn't be hungry. How could they be living in the holy city, a place of religion with a huge wealthy golden temple right in the centre of it.

Did you know that in 1919 General Dyer of British Army launched fire on an innocent demonstration killing 379 Indians and wounding a further 1300. Jallanwallan bagh is left with bullet holes today and the attraction is Amritsar Massacre. Never taught that in school and may explain some hostile behaviour. It was shameful reading what we Brits did to the residents here in those times. I felt embarrassed reading the displays knowing the other visitors knew we were British. Yet still, in the gardens none of this mattered, they still asked politely for "just one snap" photo with us.

We left Amritsa and I am glad I just cant get my head around the wealth and povity issue here. It was different to Agra and the Taj Mahal. Maybe I missed something.

Posted by Vicky Bailey 11:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Jaipur

Amber Fort, Janter Manter, Pink City, Floating Palace

We had another long car journey from Agra to Jaipur and our driver Sonu had spruced himself up with extra aftershave which gave Chloe the idea he might be trying to impress me. On the way he sneezed about three times and declared 'man flu'. He was really ill, or so he said, because he sneezed. Now if you have ever travelled on roads in India you will know how dusty they are and that inturn makes you sneeze! He looked pretty healthy, my theory was he had a hang over hence the extra aftershave but then I can be a bit cynical .....sometimes! We stopped outside of the city to an old monestry where monkeys, dogs and goats rule the ruins. There are monks there that feed the monkeys too and on our walk through I noticed a familiar smell....a hint of death.....I looked around......NOW IF YOU ARE SQUIRMISH stop reading now......and I saw a dead baby monkey right next to where I was stood at shoulder level. I called over to say not to look where I had seen the dead bloated creature and as I pointed a dog casually went to the end of my finger and proceeded to try and rip the head off of the monkey. It was very dead I can assure you but all the same grotesque. Sonu tried to put his arm around me and after what Chloe had said earlier I moved away very quickly! He tried again a few more times after that and in the car too much to Chloes amusement and my annoyance.

When we arrived at our hotel I told Sonu to rest with his flu for the rest of the day whilst me and Chloe went on a mission to find Pizza Hut. We got a cycle buggie and after a hill renching ride, poor lad, we arrived at Plaza ....not Pizza Hut but Plaza, sound familiar here. After searching for a few hours we gave up and went back to our hotel.

The following day we visited the above places which were lovely and I could write loads of stuff like the architecture was amazing but of course it was. What I did find amazing was the 500 shops in a row on one strip that were busy, busy, busy and those shops were only one strip, there were sooooo many shops. So many people day and night and still the cars honking their horns.

I would recommend taking the elephant ride up to Amber Fort but I won't, without sounding too much like Carl Pilkington, it was bloody awful and I nearly slid off which in itself is pretty bad but as we were so close to the fort walls I would have dropped hundreds of feet and died. I didn't though but that's what was going through my mind for half hour. My grip on the bars holding us in gave me shoulder ache the next day and chloe has labeled me a whimp. So what....she want slipping off!

We sent Sonu off again so we could explore but we got lost. We got another buggie who took us to the wrong place and were spotted by apx 6 men to be looking for the right way. My idea was to go into a shop and lose these fellas but me and chloe didn't see eye to eye on that one. Apatantly and I agree I am always being extra safe, security comes first.....one of us has to be sensible. Anyway despite my lack of trust we were shown the right way back and offered out for the evening. That isn't unusual here to be asked to their house, a cafe for chai, company for a trip and the best one was 'would you like to come to a wedding?' We are experts in polite turn downs.

So after that stressful event, I found it stressful, we were later invited (couldn't get out of this one though) to watch a puppet show. Yes ....puppets. it was in the garden of our hotel so we watched, laughed and even danced. It was one of those moments when you think "is this really happening?" It was very amatureist not that Im an expert in puppets but Punch and Judy every day for me in my youth did give me a comparison. Why am I going on about this?? I think you get the idea? I've got a sneaky video of it if you want to see. ;)

Posted by Vicky Bailey 09:26 Archived in India Comments (0)

Agra and the Taj Mahal

Nearly had a fight with Chloe

We checked out of our hotel to meet our driver who was to ferry us around for the next few days whilst we do a minute tour. We chose a fairly old taxi which is, for the petrol heads, an Ambassador. Basically it's the style I would draw if someone gave me pen and paper. We thought it would be a laugh. The day before I asked Chloe to wear her seatbelt on the long journey turns out I needn't have worried because there were none, a sofa in the back which was very comfy for the SEVEN HOURS we had to journey through. What a nightmare. Ok a long way to Agra from Delhi but seriously about three of those hours were in heavy horn honking heel hitting traffic. There is road rage here too, one man walked out infront of a slow moving car and bashing on the drivers window yelling and waving his fist, I locked the door but I have to admit I enjoyed the drama. On another day our driver stopped our car, got out and shouted at a female driver. I don't get it though because all the driving here is bloody crazy so very hypocritical. But hey who am I to judge!

Yes I nearly hit Chloe last night at about 3 am. I was asleep with ear plugs (noisy hotel) not fully asleep and I felt a cool breeze on me and even with my eyes shut knew the room went light then dark again. In my dozing state I figured someone had came into our locked room by mistake and left. Then I heard a muffled bash of the toilet lid.....its next door there must be a window connecting our rooms hence the light. No? There wasn't a window connecting just one outside. I seriously wondered if someone had climbed up outside and got into our room through our window.....oh my god.....someone had got in.....but left....then the breeze and dim light. My heart pounding I turned to see a shadow stood by the window. I jumped up onto the bed and roared something, I can't remember what......"Mum what are you doing?????" It was Chloe....ha ha ha she got up and went to the loo. I had freaked myself out but blamed the malaria tablets. We laughed for a while and even now! I was ready to attack! Fight or flight they say.

Anyway after our long journey we were told we could see the Taj Mahal in the morning as it was closing. No! I want to see it at sun set and sun rise so we went to the garden for a peak. I can honestly say I was over whelmed and it brought a tear to my eye. It was stunning, no photo can do it justice. I couldn't wait to go and see it tomorrow.

The next day was just as moving. Security wouldn't let travelling Ted in so he sat this one out. When the refusal was given Chloe said "Right I want to see the Manager" I immediately stopped her with a smile wondering.....is there a position Manager of Taj Mahal? Asking if we can bring in a knitted toy. We accepted he wasn't allowed in. We queued for a pose on Lady Dianas bench, which incidently has nothing to prompt this was where she said so we could have been on any old marble bench. The entire place was stunning. After leaving out very annoying guide that was very boss took us to a masonery shop ....where they tried to sell us a marble table. After explaining that we won't be home for a year they couldn't get their heads round it.... I thought the table top would make an excellent pizza cutting board and thought maybe so I asked how much. £135.......we left with ten post cards.

Posted by Vicky Bailey 07:43 Archived in India Comments (1)

Connaught Square

Walked to Connaught Square today and Chloe was teaching me how to cross the road.

Road - loose term - some tarmac and some dirt track road used for Cows, bicycles, mopeds, motorbikes, dogs, cars, buses, rickshaws, tuc-tucs, children and us. Two way roads with three or four lanes in each, no lines to determine the lane, you can undertake and overtake if you are faster then get in front. The only way to cross is to walk out infront of the traffic - literally! We made it - oh I forgot to mention elephants - yes in the road to.

We walk past the open male urinals and the people sleeping on the ground taking in all the chaos of the traffic and the ambiance of the people chatting to eachother, touts asking you to eat in their restaurants ( small open rooms where the cooking is done on open stoves) different aromas, horns honking and blowing like an orchestra getting ready before their show. Amazing - we are actually here - this is the first proper culture change we have experienced and we like it.

Walking down into Connaught Square our eyes were everywhere - every bit of space taken up to sell items or for cooking. Freshly baked biscuits in the street - we had some - really good - highly recommend them. Talented Henna artists too. We ate good food with a rooftop view of the bustle below. Still the traffic comes and still the horns blowing but it's all part of it and it works. Yes you are stopped to buy things but that happens in Tenerife - Greece etc a simple no thank you and thats all left alone. We found everyone very friendly - shouting "Hello!" or "excuse me where are you from?" we didn't experience anything untoward. We are going back too.

Posted by Vicky Bailey 09:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

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