Tag: Delhi

Holi Cow

Holi Cow Ticket

Holi is an important Hindu and national holiday in India, and we coincidentally arrived in the country just in time to celebrate it.  Sasank insisted that we stay through the weekend so that we could check out the Delhi festivities in full force.  Ok, big fun party – twist our arms…

I am not familiar with the religious significance, but from what we witnessed, Holi involves dressing up in white clothes, going to a party and then covering yourself and others with large quantities of bright-colored powders.  It’s quite hilarious.

However, colors (as they’re called) are not reserved for private parties between friends.  On Holi (and the days leading up to Holi), one is at the mercy of anyone they may pass on the street.  We regularly saw people on the metro covered in color days before the main Holi celebration.  Ted and I got targeted on our cycle-rickshaw ride through Old Delhi (the kid missed, thank goodness).  People in the street outside Sasank’s apartment were also a threat, with both colors and water balloons stockpiled on balconies.  These colors are beautiful and fun however, they are extremely potent and could easily ruin your clothes, stain your skin or dye your hair.  Kinda intense if you aren’t ready for it.

At the big party we went to on Holi (aptly named Holi Cow) – we were ready for it.  We got decked out in new white outfits we secured at a cheap market, we lathered our skin and hair with coconut oil (to avoid staining, seriously), we drank a couple beers, and we piled into a cab to the party, ready to go get colorful.

The "before" picture

Holi provisions

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves but all in all, we had a hilarious day relaxing in the sunshine and making a complete mess of ourselves.  Our before and after pictures say it all.  Luckily the oil did its job and most of the color came out of our hair and off our bodies after our first shower.  As we traveled through the country for a few more weeks, we came across many blonde travelers that were not so lucky.  They were sporting pink hair for weeks!

Applying colors

Colored up!

Colorful and happy

Our Holi Cow Crew

The "after" shot

Picture of the Week

Most colorful holiday ever – Holi!

Holi Festivities

Who wants to get colorful?!?

Foiled by India

For Day 2 in Delhi, we had an equally ambitious day planned that would take us into the heart of Old Delhi.  We opted to take the city metro and we were beyond impressed.  Not only could we effortlessly travel to all the main tourists destinations but the metro was the cleanest, most secure and easiest to navigate subway that either of us had ever experienced.  NOT what we were expecting at all and a welcome treat.  As it turns out, the city hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and the completion of the metro coincided with this important international event.  Side note – Particularly awesome about the Delhi Metro: women-only cars.  A welcome relief from all the Indian men’s smells and stares!

Women Only Section!

Our first stop to Connaught Place, a conglomeration of shops, restaurants and travel agencies, was uneventful except for our first run-in with one of India’s notorious touts.  We were looking for India’s official office of tourism (a notoriously hard place to find), however, the seemingly helpful concerned citizen instead had us follow him around for several blocks with plans to take us into his friend’s cousin’s brother’s sketchy travel agency.  Needless to say, we figured it out rather quickly and had some steps to retrace.  Foiled!

Our next plan was to head to the train station to pre-book our onward tickets to our next stop in India.  The Old Delhi train station is such an overwhelming, dirty, confusing, loud place that they have an upstairs room of the station dedicated solely to helping foreigners buy actual train tickets to their desired destination for the correct price.  The guidebooks warn you, “Don’t believe anyone you meet in the station that tells you the office doesn’t exist, or that it has moved locations or that it has burned down”.  Apparently, there are enough fakes out there that have illegitimately separated tourists from their money that they had to create this office to begin with and then warn people to persevere to find it!  We did find it, but the line to meet with an agent was literally all the way around the room.  After over an hour of waiting, we found our desired trip was full and since we didn’t have a back-up plan lined up, we walked away having purchased nothing.  Foiled!

Our plan to take the lovely, beautiful metro to our next stop was also unsuccessful.  The metro stop below the train station is probably the busiest one in the whole city.  The line to buy tickets, plus the line to get through security (yes, they have separate male and female lines for body pat-downs and an X-ray machine!) were both over 100 people long.  After extensive waiting in the train office, we did NOT want to wait again (in hindsight, waiting would have been the best move).  Foiled!

We decided to take an auto-rickshaw instead.  However, as we were at the train station where many people arrive and need rickshaws, and because we are white tourists, the price we were quoted was astronomical.  We asked 5 different drivers with no significant budge in the price.  How about using the meter?  Absolutely not!  Foiled!

We opted for a cycle-rickshaw instead, as Old Delhi was not too far away.  This was moderately successful though it involved a very skinny and rather old man using all his might to move his bicycle and our large, American bodies through the most insanely unproductive, inconsiderate traffic that we’ve ever experienced.  Trucks, buses, cars, auto-rickshaws, bicycle-rickshaws, mopeds, children, cripples, cows, and chickens are all going whichever way they want to go with little to no regard to any other moving object in their way.  It’s chaos and total gridlock.  What should have taken 5-10 minutes took well over a half hour.  Semi-foiled!

Old Delhi - crazier than it looks here

Cycle Rickshaws - when they're not full of people

We finally got close enough to our desired destinations that we opted to bail on the cycle-rickshaw (the traffic had clogged up again) and walk our buns the rest of the way.  Walking wasn’t much easier.  Sidewalks don’t quite exist and every step is a conscious thought that involves avoiding the street traffic and making sure you don’t walk into cow poo, a mysterious dark liquid, someone’s lap, or a man urinating.

These pictures really don't do justice to the chaos of Old Delhi

Old Delhi from above

We were hot, we were tired, we were hungry.  We ate, we relaxed, we attempted to gather up the energy to head back out and visit our planned tourist destinations.  However, we looked at our watch, saw it was late afternoon, realized the monuments would be closing and that Sasank would be home from work soon.  So after hours of attempting to get to where we were at that exact moment, we turned right around, found the nearest metro, and called it a day with little to show for ourselves.  Foiled indeed.

We returned home dirty, exhausted, and unaccomplished.  Old Delhi had shown us a little taste of the India we had in store for us ahead, and we now understood the previous warnings from other travelers.  India had gotten our attention that day, and it wouldn’t let it go for the rest of the trip.  This would not be the first nor the last day we would be foiled by India!

Delhi’s Doin Alright

Our first day of touring in Delhi took us to two famous sites recommended by Sasank: Humayan’s Tomb and Lodi Gardens.  He also recommended a nearby lunch spot we couldn’t miss – I tell you, this guy is good.  Imagine our surprise on our first auto-rickshaw ride through New Delhi as we took in the busy but not too busy street scene, the slow but not unbearable traffic, and the trash-ridden yet tree-lined streets of New Delhi.  India wasn’t overwhelming at all – what was all the fuss about (we asked our innocent selves on Day 1 in the country)??  We were momentarily convinced that our 7+ months of traveling had broken us in and that we were not feeling the intense reactions that many travelers report upon arrival to India.  We were just incredibly naïve – but more on that later.

Auto-rickshaw ride #1

Humayan’s Tomb is an incredible architectural masterpiece.  Built by a Mughal emperor in the 1500s, the tomb was once left to ruin but is actively being restored and has earned the designation as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It’s is surrounded by a dozen other interesting buildings and the grandeur of the central building is accentuated by the beautifully manicured grounds.  Lots of picture-taking ensued.

Humayan's Tomb

Amazing stone work at the Tomb

The actual tomb

After an amazingly delicious lunch featuring our first of many orders of butter chicken, we found our way to Lodi Gardens.  Situated in central New Delhi, Lodi Gardens is a lovely green oasis featuring beautiful flowers, old-growth trees, ponds, as well as, several architecturally impressive monuments dating back hundreds of years.  Families, old folks, young lovers and tourists alike stroll through the gardens, nap on the grass and enjoy the peace and quiet that is rare in this raging metropolis.

Lodi Gardens

Lodi Gardens

Lodi Gardens

When we got back to Sasank’s that night, we were feeling quite comfortable and accomplished.  All this talk of Delhi’s intensity and challenges – shenanigans!  That is, until tomorrow…

A Soft Landing in India

We had heard a lot of intense things about India before our arrival, so we didn’t quite know what to expect.  Overall most people liked the place, but no review of the country was without some obvious cautions.  Some of the most common warnings we heard had to do with lack of personal space on a daily basis, the general dirt and filth of the streets and public spaces, the fact that you are being stared at by someone at all times, and the glaring and depressing poverty.   Someone once told me that India stands for I’d Never Do It Again.  Wow, what were we getting ourselves into?!?

Despite all of these warnings, our arrival to the Indian sub-continent was actually quite smooth.  Delhi, known as an overwhelming big city that most people try to get in and out of as fast as possible, turned out to be a place we rather enjoyed, thanks to an old friend.  Sasank is a friend from high school who learned of our round-the-world trip via Facebook.  He saw our travels were taking us to India and he invited us to stay with him.  No, we hadn’t seen him since high school graduation, nor had we emailed or spoke on the phone, but that didn’t stop him from offering us a gracious invitation and didn’t stop us from happily accepting.  It was great to catch up after all these years – in no time we felt like we’d been in touch all along.  He was an amazing host and a wealth of information about the city, Indian culture, religion, food menus, and more.  AND he’s got a sweet pad in a cool area of the city, complete with full-time domestic help – a super nice guy named James.  James whipped us up breakfast, did our laundry, and made the most delicious chai in India.  Delhi”s not so bad…

Sasank and Sarah

James and Ted

A huge thank you to Sasank and his roommate Brian for hosting us twice as we toured the country, and for telling James to take care of us!

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