Asia | India – Delhi to Khajuraho, or better, make that Jansi…
Day 7 of my trip and I feel kinda weird: somehow it feels like I’ve been here forever, and at the same time, it does not feel as if I am already a week on the road…
Anyway, to get you guys up to date on my latest adventures, herewith my latest proza.
DELHI, the tourist days
As I am currently in Jansi, the smart ones among you have probably figured it out: I have managed to get to the booking office on Sunday! It is really amazing though, because even when I was climbing the stairs to the – correct – first floor, somebody came up to me claiming the booking office was closed today…
After that joined up with Nick and Carola, who I had met in Amman, to go and see the Red Fort (nice), the Jama Masjid (main mosque in Delhi – absolutely fabulous view from the top of the Minaret – even with the pollution, you could see Delhi stretched out in all directions, as far as the eye can see…amazing also to see all the birds around Delhi, even quite big ones. Being the city girl that I am I obviously do not know what they were (looked like eagles or falcons or something), but looking at them drift on the thermic winds was fabulous!), have an excellent little eating out at Karim’s (near the Mosque, recommended if you happen to be around!), have a long stroll through the bazaars in Old Delhi and see the sound and light show at the Red Fort (OK, but nothing to get excited about).
The stroll around the bazaars was amazing again. It is incredible to see how people live, or maybe should I say survive, under those circumstances. Even taking off my western hat and trying to adapt a local view it was difficult to imagine.
So much for day 3, a real touristy one!
Same thing for day 4, but this time in another part of town: New Delhi. This is day and night compared to Old Delhi: wide, clean avanues, large impressive colonial buildings, no bicycle riskjas, but still a lot of people trying to sell you all and everything.
Seen the usual things, amongst which the absolutely fabulous Humayan’s tomb. An amazing Mugal building in red and white sand stone with lush gardens all around it. A real retreat of the hectic town around you… or so I thought.
I was thoroughly disturbed that afternoon at the tomb: an elderly lady in saree dress, was sitting on one of the steps to a tomb on the side and asked me if I would please take her picture. Nothing unusual, I had already been asked by some people to be on their pictures so, OK. But wrong thing here, the picture taken she wanted baksheesh (a tip) and 10 rupees was not enough for her. It set me thinking on the mentality of the poorer people in this country. They somehow seem to think you have a sign on your head saying ‘moneysource’ or ‘rich’. Which of course, compared to them we are. And who am I to judge this, especially as I am somehow adding to the mentality just by being there as a tourist. What really set me off, was the next guy, not 5 minutes later, who wanted baksheesh because he was standing in the doorway of the entrance of this tomb, and ‘guiding’ me in there…
I do find it an unwelcome aspect of travelling, not only because of the little annoyance, but mostly because it means it is very difficult to get in contact with people. You have to be on guard with everything, even the simplest conversation and any real contact is efficiently smothered in this way before it could even pop up.
Unfortunately, it also gets you a little paranoid: as when we were searching for Karim’s (the restaurant), seeing the sign in the road on the right hand side, but not finding the entrance. This old man upstairs directed us to the other side of the road, but seasoned as we were, we knew he only wanted us to go to his friend’s restaurant! But no, this time it was just genuine friendliness. The worst of it all is that you stop recognizing this genuine friendliness, a big miss in my first days…
AN EARLY TRAIN TO A BEAUTIFUL PLACE
Tuesday the 2nd had me up and in the train by 6am! Those who know me well, know what this has cost me!
On my way to Agra, after an almost sleepless night – must have been the stress of being afraid to miss the train, to go and see the Taj Mahal!
Once there, I’ll spare you another tout story, this time on riskja walhallas and hotels, but know that I venged myself and ended up on the morning of the 2nd day where I wanted to be.
A good day with this somehow nice riksja driver who showed me around Agra: Baby Taj (a smaller version of a tomb in the same style, believed to be practice for the real one), the Red Fort (another one, this is the one where the son of the builder of Taj Mahal had his father locked up with as an only confort the view of his Taj Mahal), lunch, the unevitable handicraft shops (sorry Janine, I did not by you a marble chess board Taj Mahalstyle for only 160 USD, really cheap and you only pay one month later) and finally the Taj Mahal.
This really is something.
Very often, you seen pictures of monuments or buildings and when you see them for real, it is still nice, but youare somwhat disappointed.
Not with the Taj.
It is an amazing structure in white, translucent marble which is incredibly beautiful and overpowering. The white marble is inlaid with semi precious stones as jade, turquoise and black onyx in stunning patterns.
The man (Sjah Jahan) must have really been besotted with his wife to have her build this as a tomb. An ultimate give of love!
It took 20.000 people 22 years to build it, most of them had there hands chopped off and the architect was blinded, so that the perfectness of the Taj Mahal could never be equalled…
LOUNGING AT THE POOL
As I had had little sleep the monday night before and had to get up at 9 to change guest houses, I decided to give myself a day off on wednesday.
After a leisurely brunch, where I met a Dutch and an Australian couple, I headed for the swimming pool in a nearby hotel. Perfect, had it not been for the fact that I was the only guest for the swimming pool and there were about 15men at work around it who kept glaring at me…
But then again, having paid a steep 200 rupees to get in (that equals at least two times dinner here!), I decided to make the most of it and enjoyed the sun, the cool water of the pool (nervesoothing!), my book and some sleep.
CONSEQUENCES OF A CRICKET LESSON
Allthough I wanted to go to bed quite early to have an early start this morning, I did not get to that. Instead after talking with the 2 couples over dinner, we had cricket lessons on the Australian – South Africa !dayer from Dan, the Australian guy. It might actually even be fun cricket!
This meant however, that I decided to take a later train to Jansi and from there the bus to Khajuraho. Had not my bible, the Lonely Planet said: just get any train to Jhansi and change to a bus to go to Khajuraho?
Well once again it was proven that bibles are not always to be taken literally. What LP forgot to mention is that the last bus of the day leaves Jhansi at 1h15, so when I arrived at 3 pm, I was stranded…
To look on the bright sight of it, it enabled me to catch up with my emails and my diary so you guys have something to dream about when you’re at work.
Good luck and don’t worry, life is not that easy over here either: my bus is leaving at 5.30 am….
More news will follow after I will have sampled the stone decorations on the temples of Khajuraho, where 2 elements appear in greater detail and frequency than others: women and sex. A true Kamasutra in stone!