Getting in your way – Rishikesh

Dear Reader, this the fourth time I am preparing this post, the previous three complete versions disappearing into the ether. You’re now getting a shorter version which may be no bad thing.

Mishaps at Delhi airport as the check in staff do not issue us with bag tags, meaning a short run through the terminal to grab some, when Indian Interlude reaches the front of the security queue and can go no further.

This morning’s flight reveals a welcome change in the landscape – flat featureless plains are replaced by hills and lush forest. Again our pre-arranged car fails to meet us at the airport. Eventually we take a taxi from Dehradun where we land, to Rishikesh, our destination.

We are met by the local tour representative who apologizes, reimburses my taxi fare, and says either that the driver was at the train station, or that our plane was early. This latter point is true, however we knew about the flight change several days ago, why didn’t they?

In the afternoon we set off on foot, across the suspension bridge known as Ram jhula, to the area known as Swag Ashram. Many market stalls, small temples, and big idols. Mistakenly believing he has left the power adaptor in Delhi, Indian Interlude take an auto-rickshaw to the town market to get a replacement. When Indians say an electrical store, they don’t mean Keith Bowden. They mean a small stall that looks like the electrical section of your local hardware store.

Indian water is harder than Adelaide’s.

Indian accommodation houses usually do not include top sheets on their bedding.

Indian accommodation houses expect you to leave your room key behind, if you want your room serviced.

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You were only waiting – Varanasi to Delhi

Tuesday: Varanasi to Delhi

Tuesday we end up with the day, until 2.00pm, at our disposal. We stay in the hotel and, dear reader, attempt to catch up with this blog. The access in the hotel is non-existent despite appearances to the contrary.

At the appointed time we depart for the airport, reversing our arrival procedure, headed for Delhi and a night in the transit hotel, before our flight on Wednesday to Dehradun, whence to Rishikesh.

The transit hotel is the best of the trip. It is spotless, the mattress unbelievably soft and plump, we both get hot showers morning and night, and everything in the room smells beautiful.

It is worth the nightmare of security checking (again, and again and again and again) to finally get in.

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Somebody calls you – Varanasi

Monday – Varanasi

Today is a ‘free day’ in our itinerary which we intend to spend purchasing fabric, and sending it, and other goods, home. Varanasi is famous for Benares silk, (Benares the old name for the city) so there seems no place better to buy. And there is no shortage of retail options. However we are taking the advice of our (female) guide of the previous two days, and going to the store where she has bought her saris, as she trusts him.

When we arrive, lunchtime Monday, the store is closed and there is no sign of life. A voice comes from below telling us he is coming. It is not the shop owner however, but someone else, who offers to take us to his sari shop. We follow. But rather than his sari shop we appear to be approaching various sari shops to see who wants our business. None of the the first three allow us into their store! Finally the fourth store (more accurately, stall) lets us in.

Confusion follows between cotton versus silk, and what colour is purple, or burgundy, or even pink. But we get there in the end as the shop keeper unrolls sari after sari after sari. During this process there is a sudden tropical downpour which appears to dump plenty of rain, but goes as quickly as it arrived. Fabrics selected (and trust me, it took much more time than me to type this, or you to read it) we are presented with the price, which is more cash than we collectively carry. I say “Visa ATM” and the man who led us to the sari stall, takes me in the direction of the nearest State Bank of India ATM.

A quick word about ATMs here. There is no real shortage of them, but they can be a bit hard to find, and they are all enclosed in a ‘secure’ room, some have guards outside, others have guards inside. There is always a queue. And the maximum single withdrawal is 10,000 Rupees (about $200).

Whilst I have been securing the money, the other half of IndianInterlude has been enticed by a display of scarves, and talk of Australian cricketers. Kerry parts with our strategic weapon (cricket cards) for the shop owner’s son. Our extensive grasp of Hindi, gleaned from a dedication to Bollywood movies, and the fact that India have at last beaten Australia, has us saying ‘Chake de India’, roughly ‘Go India’, bringing howls of laughter from those assembled. They reply ‘Chake de Australia’, and we all leave happy.

We head back to the riverbank using the ghats as our landmarks to search for the parcel packing and forwarding business. As we reach the riverbank a man reaches out to shake hands and offer a Namaste, (not an unusual occurrence) and soon he is massaging my hand and dragging me to his massage spot. I have been caught out, and agree to go. We offer to pay, but he says, no, pay later, and I proceed to be massaged. Actually, it’s not a lot different from any of those Chinese massage places in your local shopping centre. And neither is the price he asks at the end! Truthfully we can show our empty wallets contain only half of his asking price, and that is all he gets.

On to the parcel service, at the far end of this stretch of the river. We pass cricket games, cows, cow dung, and various hawkers and touts. At the Assi Ghat we stop to buy water at a stall and to check our destination. We are going in the right direction, and it will be just around the corner. Our new challenge is to find another ATM, for the parcel company no doubt deals in cash, and we have none. The next ATM is ten minutes walk we are told – we go left and right, and left again until we find something resembling a main road, ask another stall holder about the ATM who assures us is just ten minutes walk away. Auto-rickshaws slow down looking for our business, but it seems that without cash we’re in no position to negotiate a transport price. Finally we arrive at the ATM, naturally for the journey back there is not an auto-rickshaw to be had for love, nor our fresh money.

We reach the parcel packing business, and proceed with our transaction. This takes no small time, as the young man front of house has his telephone earpiece in, and is constantly talking. When his other mobile phone rings he gives it to his back of house assistant. In between times, other foreigners have crowded in to buy postcards or note books. If we have noticed one other nationality most, it is the French. And for those of you anticipating a postcard – they are remarkably difficult to find in India – although it could be us who cannot find them.

We walk back the two kilometres to our hotel, with the now usual sights and sounds and smells. However a new offer comes our way, chillum, hash, and a smorgasbord of other illicit delights are offered by Michael, a most unlikely name for an Indian. Still, the fact that he is peddling his wares suggests the disguise is working for him.

On another note, there are a small but noticeable number of white westerners, and Orientals who appear to have consumed the Kool-Aid, tuned in, turned on, and dropped out.

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This is not dying – Varanasi

We are running sufficiently late that our guide for our boat trip on the Ganges is already in the hotel lobby waiting for us. Staff deposit our bags upstairs, and we come back down to join our guide. We walk down many steps to the river bank, getting a short description on the activity around us, but there are cricket matches, hawkers, sadhus, people offering massage, and offering boat rides. The guide finds our boatman, off he rows. We cover the main stretch of the Ganges, as it relates to Varanasi, maybe around two kilometres, with many of the features of the different ghats explained to us. This includes the ‘burning ghats’ where bodies are cremated around the clock. Huge woodpiles are stacked adjacent to these ghats. Women do not attend the cremation. It is auspicious for Hindus to die in Varanasi, possibly offering liberation from the cycle of birth, death, and re-birth. IndianInterlude will need to check that however.

At dusk we sidle up to many other boats with people watching the Aarthi ceremony from the river. It seems there are more people watching from boats than there are on land. Two ceremonies are held at two different ghats, not far apart, with one starting two minutes after the other. Later, we think we had the lesser of Aarthis. The Aarthi is a prayer ceremony for the Ganges itself, and given what goes into the river, Mother Ganga needs all the help she can get. The ceremony is full of music and fire and ritual movement. Our guide seems keen to move on before it ends, and whilst IndianInterlude is reluctant to leave any performance before it is over, this one doesn’t mean a lot, and the guide has now asked three times if we would like to leave, saying the main part of the ceremony is over. Our boat maneuvers its way out of the parking lot of boats, and takes to the open river again.

Disembarking we go for a walk through the narrow winding alleys which make up this part of the city. We take a land-based view of one of the burning ghats, pass the Government bhang shop, as our guide leads us to the Blue Lassi Room. Whilst all of these alleys have names, none are signed. The alleys are perhaps wide enough for three to walk abreast, however they must also accommodate motor cycles, cows, and carts. Businesses have their names painted on walls with directional arrows, however one could walk for some distance before actually finding the business one is seeking.

It has been a hectic day and both members of IndianInterlude feel worse for wear as we return to our guest house for dinner. The sight of his meal does nothing for the male half of IndianInterlude, and he can barely chew a mouthful of naan. Was it the banana lassi at the Blue Lassi Room? High fever, chills, sweats, nausea, and diarrhoea confine him to bed for the next thirty-six hours.

Sunday finds the well half of IndianInterlude setting forth with the guide to further explore Varanasi.

The guide confidently negotiates the labyrinth of alley ways off the main road and we find ourselves in a West Bengali part of the city. We visit a local temple dedicated to the Goddess Kali, a fierce black faced creature with an apparent lust for blood. We move on to a South Indian area – the South Indian women can be clearly identified by the way they wear their sari – then to a Muslim section. It is a warm and quiet day – being a Sunday many businesses are closed – thankfully there are few motor cycles terrorising local pedestrians.

It seems impossible to imagine confidently negotiating my own way back through these alleys. Once back at the river we walk along the numerous ghats or sets of steps and take photos of key ghats (they are all individually named) – possible sari shops and packing/postage merchants – so that we can revisit them tomorrow when the other half of IndianInterlude is hopefully back on his feet.

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Know what I mean – Khajuraho to Varanasi

Friday night: The Wedding Party

We later learn this is actually a pre-wedding party, and instead of 400 guests it looks rather more like 100. IndianInterlude had asked hotel staff what time the party would commence and was told 9.00pm. However it was well after 10.00 before the bride and groom appeared. The only ceremonial aspect of the evening was when the couple were on a rotating dais (the unwilling groom having been ‘dragged’ to the spot by his supporters) and played a game of ‘hoopla’ with garlands of marigolds. The groom played hard to get, jumping up to make it difficult for the bride to be to throw her garland over him. This ceremony is watched by maybe just twenty of the guests, everyone else is eating. At the conclusion the happy couple are drenched in glitter from a glitter gun, that seems to run longer than that used at the AFL grand final.

The happy couple then walk up an aisle to a stage where there is a gold seat for two. A photographic session commences, and just about everyone at the party (or so it seems) has their photograph taken with the bride and groom. Notwithstanding that some shots are taken standing, and some seated, throughout this process the bride is like a statue. By around 1.00am the event is over. IndianInterlude votes the bride’s outfit as sari of the year.

Saturday: Flight to Varanasi

Our local contact arrives with yet another driver (are they trying to share the tips around?) for the short journey to the airport. Security is something else here. No one gets into the terminal unless they have a ticket. We present our tickets and passports to enter. Immediately, our checked luggage is scanned, and tagged as having passed security. We then approach the check-in counter, where no one is on duty. Despite having checked-in on line, we are issued fresh boarding passes, and we have to tag each item of carry-on baggage.

We then approach security. Separate lines for men and women. All hand luggage goes through the scanner, and the luggage tag is stamped as proof. Passengers walk through a detector, and have the detecting wand passed over them, and get a pat-down search for good measure.

The departure lounge has a couple of stalls for souvenirs, toilets, drinking water, and not much else. The plane is late, but there are no announcements to this effect. Our incoming plane lands long after we should have departed. Called to the plane we have to show our boarding pass and the security stamped tag on our carry on bags to get out of the lounge for our walk across the tarmac to our plane. Boarding passes are checked and torn at the foot of the stairs. Our Jet Airways plane is spanking new, and we have a comfortable and short flight. Passengers receive a cheese sandwich and a small bottle of water for lunch. The male half of IndianInterlude is seated next to an Indian woman for the trip. When the flight attendant comes around to collect our rubbish (the glad wrap from our sandwich) I hold out my palm to take her ball of glad wrap. She says ‘okay’ complete with Indian head wobble, but doesn’t give me the glad wrap. When the female half offers the same service, it is accepted.

We land in Varanasi, and make the mistake of being first off the plane. This means we have to figure out which way to go, instead of following someone else. There is no sign indicating baggage claim, but a helpful soldier hears my question and points us in the right direction. Bags collected we find we are in Varanasi, but our car is not. A phone call to our contact in Mumbai soon puts this right. Whilst we wait many airport staff approach us to offer assistance. Regrettably I am already cynical about such offers, feeling sure any acceptance will cost me money. Varanasi airport by the way is just a year old.

We commence the drive into town, this is a better road and the most manageable traffic we have seen for some time, however as we get closer to the town centre, the now familiar traffic chaos returns. It seems we cannot take the car close to the hotel, and we stop in an open lot where our local contact explains the situation. We order cycle-rickshaws for the remainder of the journey. Even then we appear to be denied entry to our street until money appears to change hands. When we alight, there is some argy-bargy over the price but we escape with the agreed amount. We are still a confusing, winding walk through small laneways to our hotel, and feel sure that we could never find it on our own. We check-in and prepare for our boat ride on the Ganges to view the Aarthi ceremony (a prayer for Mother Ganga).

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When I get lonely – Khajuraho

Friday: The Temples of Khajuraho

The hotel IndianInterlude occupies is one of faded grandeur. The entrance lobby is still suitably impressive, however the furniture, the furnishings, and the paintwork have all seen better days.

We are greeted this morning by our guide Babu and a new driver for the short trip to the temples of Khajuraho. The carpark is a haven for hawkers, who have for sale playing cards, postcards, and key rings with fully moving parts (all will become clear). They have learned the lingo of ‘when I come back’ and give you their name for your return.

The previous day’s gruelling journey is largely forgotten as we enter the gate to view the Western group of temples – thankfully they are bloody good temples!

The temples here all date back over 1,000 years, and have some fame as being ‘erotic’ and ‘from the Kama Sutra’, neither of which is true. They do depict women in all facets of daily life, dancing, performing yoga, bathing, and being part of a ‘loving couple’. And yes there is a degree of athleticism Implied in some of the poses depicted. All individually carved from sandstone, the carvings are both intricate, and detailed.

It was a quiet morning, it was clear and cool and sunny. The temple site was not over-run by tourists, and probably for the first time on our trip, foreigners outnumbered the domestic visitors. The temples are no longer used for active worship – although there is a temple immediately adjacent which is in use. The grounds here, some thirty hectares, feature lawns, flowers, the ever-present Indian squirrel, and monkeys.

Running the gauntlet of the hawkers again, we return to the car for a short trip to the Eastern temples, which are Jain temples (the western group are Hindu). More hawkers plague the car park.

There were only two temples open, and as one was accommodating a rat, IndianInterlude opted not to go barefoot into the darkened space. Regrettably, the temples here have not been as well maintained as the other group (which by the way are a UNESCO world heritage site).

The Jain group of temples includes a temple in current use, and seemed to have a building accommodating Jain devotees. This place of active spiritual practice certainly had a peaceful feel about it.

Back to the hotel for lunch. Our local contact (Pramod) is doing his utmost to get us out of the hotel, to somewhere he presumably receives a proportion of the proceeds. Last night we were told of two dance performances on tonight, one at 7.00pm, the other at 8.45. Pramod thinks 8.45 is too late, and urges us to attend at 7.00. We think it over. Today with the benefit of web check in for tomorrow afternoon’s flight, we opt for the 8.45 performance. One phone call later it is revealed there is no 8.45 show; but if this changes, he will ring us at 6.00pm. What about tomorrow morning? We could go here or there. I am firm about staying in the hotel, this is after all a holiday.

Besides all this, the exciting news is that a wedding party is setting up in the grounds of the hotel, a mere 400 guests, and we will have a perfect view from our balcony.

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Move over once – Khajuraho

Thursday: Traveling Day

I’m sure everyone who travels loses days to the act itself. This is one of ours. We leave our Agra accommodation at 9.10am for the trip to the train station. Here we say ‘goodbye’ to our driver, who has been with us since we arrived on Saturday night. He has been fabulous in every way.

We are boarding the Taj Express for Jhansi. Happily our local contact comes to the platform with us. The announcements are almost continual, but we barely understand a word. The occasional place name is all that we recognize. As we walk to the platform there are multiple offers to shine shoes. We find the place where our carriage will pull up, and we wait. When the train arrives we rush to get on board – we don’t know how long the train halts, and our contact cannot come on board to assist (but does anyway).

Despite what you may have read about entertaining conversations with Indian families on train journeys, we must be traveling the wrong class for this. Our group of seats all face the same way, making conversation both unlikely and difficult. Apart from a few mysterious stops in the middle of nowhere, the trip is uneventful, and late in arriving at Jhansi.

At Jhansi we are greeted by three small children, each eager to shake our hands and say ‘hello’. They are then just as eager to mimic putting food in their mouths. Our contact finds us on the platform (he thought we were traveling in a different class) and we make our way out of the station to our car and driver for the journey to Khajuraho. For five days we have been in a very recent, spotlessly presented Suzuki Swift, now we are presented with a Tata of indeterminate age, looking the worse for wear and tear. I can barely understand our contact, he mimics sleeping to establish how many nights we are staying Khajuraho. The contact provides instruction to the driver, and leaves. We suspect the driver has no English at all.

The road to Khajuraho is about 200 kilometres, and quite possibly the worse road IndianInterlude has ever been on. It is barely passable in places, particularly in our little car. The driver’s overtaking technique does nothing for back seat nerves. The highlight of this trip is our first elephant sighting. It takes us more than five hours to reach our destination. The road is narrow, and the driver spends an extraordinary amount of time on the wrong side of the road. It is dark, and we are in the country. Everyone appears to drive with their lights on full beam, and no one dips them for oncoming traffic. Pedestrians, cyclists, bullock carts, even auto-rickshaws, none of these have lights, yet are on the road. In the absence of a reflective safety triangle, traffic cones and hazard lights, when an Indian vehicle is being repaired on the side of the road there are a few bricks placed around the immediate worksite.

We finally make the hotel, and for that we are grateful. Tomorrow we visit the temples, the sole purpose of our trip to this town. One half of IndianInterlude says “They better be bloody good temples”.

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Carve your number – Agra

Wednesday, Agra. After breakfast one half of IndianInterlude went for a walk around some local streets. I think I can confidently say I was the first foreigner seen in those parts that morning. I was followed through the street, invited into someone’s barber shop, and generally made to feel quite welcome, despite being the object of some curiosity. With one exception when I went to look at some local building work, and an older man on a motorbike, whose English seemed limited to “go”, told me to “go”.

Late morning we were collected by our driver and guide for the first stop of the day, Agra Fort. What a surprise this was. Behind the red sandstone walls, lay courtyards, gardens, and palatial rooms. The Indian army still uses around eighty per cent of the Fort so we saw only a tiny portion.

After that we sent our guide and driver on a wild goose chase looking for St Mary’s Church.

Then lunch (we admit at a safe restaurant catering to the tourist trade complete with western toilets). This was quite average, and our waiter was almost threatening in his request for a “service tip”.

Then the Taj Mahal. Beyond beautiful, beyond impressive, beyond emotional, it really is extra-ordinary.

At night one of the highlights of the trip so far. In a open field near our accommodation a wedding party was underway. We could hear the music from our room, and jokingly said to our driver to cancel the restaurant for dinner, we would instead go to the party, which sounded like a lot of fun. As we drove away he gave us a story about too many people, and cars, but five minutes later he stopped outside the field, and talked his and our way into the party. As long as we did not take photos, or cause any trouble.

Imagine an area, maybe half a soccer pitch. Around the perimeter are trestle tables all connected, all with table cloths, and all serving food. In one corner, opposite the covered walkway where one had entered the ground is a stage for the bride and groom, in front of which are covered plastic chairs for honoured guests. In the opposite corner near the entry point is the DJ, and the dance floor where young men (boys really) are demonstrating their skills. We are by now attracting a fair bit of attention. Our faces are shown on the big screen, and we are made multiple offers to have something to eat, all of which the driver declines on our behalf. We are ushered closer to the dance floor to better see the action.

Our driver heads for the DJ and money changes hands. The music changes and our driver is on the dance floor, displaying excellent skill, and performing all the traditional moves. I suspect he may have had some classical training, all he would confess later was that he “loved a party”.

Soon IndianInterlude was being encouraged to take to the floor, but in the interests of Indo-Australian relations we decline as graciously as possible. Not long after we are on our way to our planned restaurant, which delivers one of the best meals of the trip.

Just a note about the photos. Whilst we would ordinarily provide accurate descriptions, witty captions, or searing socio-political insight, mobile blogging is not as easy as it looks. So enjoy them as best you can and we’ll attempt to remember what they are when we get back.

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And from your beam – Agra

So, today we drove, or more accurately were passengers, to Agra, site of the Taj Mahal. The traffic out of Delhi was simply busy for miles and miles, and miles. Traffic is not just bumper to bumper, but door handle to door handle. On the highway (two lanes, divided road) it seems as if the slower vehicles deliberately take the right hand lane. And each town which arises from nowhere is just incredibly busy, with people, with traffic, with traders.

We lost count of cows, and goats that look like Dalmatians, one more camel, the biggest statue of Lakshmi in the known universe, a very large statue of Buddha, around a dozen horse/donkey/bullock drawn drays, and auto rickshaws galore. Vehicles drive on the wrong side of the road, into oncoming traffic, but normally on the verge. We had one blue van decide that the right hand lane was the place for them, and was headed straight for us for a very long time.

Another feature of the trip was the large number of education institutions seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Mainly technology and engineering institutes. It is beyond contradiction that on the road outside these institutes, men are pulling carts.

If you are ever in Uttar Pradesh, may I recommend the Maharajah Motel/Roadhouse – you are greeted by someone suitably dressed as a Maharajah, there are dancing monkeys and men with live snakes at the entrance for a fee based photo opportunity and a meal or light snack available at any time. More importantly, they provide clean western toilets and for a couple of rupees, someone will turn on the tap for you and dispense soap and paper towel. The Tin Man roadhouse of Pt Pirie would do well to adopt some of these service options!

Some forgotten observations whilst we have a minute:

Some intersections in Delhi have traffic lights which also display the length of time in the signal sequence. A red light might be on for 99 seconds, and the display counts down, and when the light is green the countdown changes to (say) 80 seconds.

Through the course of Sunday alone we would have seen a dozen contenders for sari of the year. Simply beautiful fabrics, colors, and designs.

The flight from ADL to SIN was a precision exercise, it was friendly, it was efficient. The passengers were as well behaved as the crew. The flight from SIN to DEL could not have been more different, and we came to the conclusion that the crew here were definitely the ‘B’ team, and as poor performers had been given the Delhi run.

Restaurants and cafes provide multiple paper napkins.

Indian water bottles are filled to the brim, and one cannot open one without getting wet.

End of observations.

Dare we say that Agra traffic is worse than Delhi? It is both chaos and mayhem. To the point that even our driver took to the wrong side of the road for quite some distance to get past a traffic hold up. With a foot high median strip, once he made the decision to go, there was no getting out of it.

Tonight we attended a moonlight viewing of the Taj. These are held on five nights of the lunar month. A small number of groups of fifty visitors are allowed in, on an hourly schedule, and although you are meant to get thirty minutes you end up with something less than twenty-five. Security is both tight and ineffective, and inconsistent. Visitors arrive at a holding room of sorts, where you have a pat-down search, and they check your tickets against their records. Some people get frisked twice, for no good reason. We were told not to take bags, yet someone waltzed through with their backpack. Definitely no mobile phone was getting through, nor camera tripods. Very nearly are the visitors outnumbered by security staff, some of whom have rifles, others not. Once out of the holding room, names and ticket numbers were cross-checked again. Then we had a one kilometre bus ride to the Taj, where we were frisked a second or third time, and cameras (which I neglected to say were numbered and tagged in the holding room) were checked again.

Finally, after a short walk the Taj comes into view and it is a spectacular sight. Genuinely impressive, no matter how many times you have seen the photos. The night viewing is exactly that, you are allowed access to one viewing area for the allotted time, you cannot wander around freely. We are back tomorrow to see it in daylight, and to get up close.

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Desmond has a barrow – Delhi

Day two in Delhi. We start today’s touring at Humayun’s Tomb. It has the same design as the Taj Mahal (which is our destination after Delhi) and is constructed of sandstone rather than marble. As impressive as it is, I think the real pleasure was that it was nowhere near as crowded as the sites of yesterday, it was cool, there was a pleasant breeze, and we were on our own. More stray dogs. Carmel B, please note family link in the images below.

Our driver then took us to the Jaipur Gem Palace, another opportunity for shopping (and commission?)

We drove through Connaught Place – this is sort of the Delhi CBD, and it was comforting to see a real city with tall buildings, offices, a KFC and a McDonalds. Then on to Khan Market, where IndianInterlude bought a Titan watch (India’s gift to the world of fine timepieces), window shopping and lunch. The positive here was that the shopkeepers are not in pursuit of the customer, as opposed to our other arranged shopping experiences, or the hawkers.

Dilli Haat was next, a food and craft bazaar, where the stall holders are, supposedly, the artisans responsible for the products. This soon became pashmina parade, and lots of original design, with every stall having the very nearly the same offering. If you wanted a cushion cover in blue instead of red, just keep walking, you were sure to find it.

Final stop of the day was Hauz Khas Village, where we were expecting urban hip designer clothing, homewares and the like. Which we certainly got. Think Fitzroy and Brunswick meets Burnside. The real delight was at the end of the shopping precinct – a vast area of fourteenth century ruins. Completely unexpected.

Tonight we braved the streets as pedestrians to eat locally. A feature of two of the cafes we’ve been to include chilli flakes in large shakers on every table.

Note to Jo – we’ve been really fortunate to have great Internet access in this accommodation, which has enabled the blogging. I’m not anticipating such good access through the rest of the trip. So, we may not blog every day. Also, as we are ‘mobile blogging’ uploading photos presents its own challenge. We have taken 230 photos so far, trust me, you don’t want to see them all, although you can when we get home. Putting them up on the blog is a bit fiddly, and I’m not really equipped to upload them all to a web gallery (Flickr or Picasa for example) whilst on the road.

Tomorrow, six hours on the road to Agra.20120206-220935.jpg20120206-221144.jpg20120206-221021.jpg20120206-221336.jpg

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