Friday, 17 February 2012
Thursday 16th - Pt 1. An almost perfect day.
Up with the sun at Lutyens Bungalow. Breakfast is first rate, particularly the masala omelette, containing chopped onions and tomatoes. We were joined by two Australian ladies, Belinda and her mother, Evelyn,born in Kolkata who describes herself as a "Pink Indian". After brekker we walked up to the Metro, passing the Official Residence of the Indian Army's Quartermaster-General on the way. The train was not too busy and we had seats as we travelled through to Old Delhi railway station to recce our next train trip. D's almost perfect day started with the successful purchase of rail tickets without having to queue for two hours.
Buoyed by this success we moved on to Chandni Chowk where the locals shop, successfully
changing some old Canadian dollars and picking up a mains phone charger for £1.30. This area is so much more relaxed than CP and Janpath - no touts, no dogs just serious shopping. Next up was the spice market with its colourful displays and endless stream of porters. R had to be prevented from buying kilos of stuff to bring back home. There is time for this later. As we progressed through the market the hustle and bustle got more chaotic with the odd ox-cart thrown into the mix.
It was definitely getting warmer although the Delhi-ites were still in jackets and scarves. We walked back down the shady side of Chandni Chowk and bought a couple of things including a kurta for D (photo to come girls) and dress material for R.
Shopping is tiring work and we felt that we had earned some lunch by this time. We knew Haldiram's from last year and quite fancied one of their South Indian specialities - dhosas. It was nice to relax in their air conditioned restaurant, even if it is fitted out a bit like a Burger King.
It was soon time to be moving on with the next thing on our list a shoeshine for D. This was expertly done for Rs 20. We then moved on into the Kanari Bazaar a narrow alley with colourful shops specialising in haberdashery and wedding accessories. R was absolutely in her element as we window shopped and browsed in a couple of places.
Eventually the alley opened out in a square in front of India's biggest mosque, the Jama Masjid, which can cater for 25,000 worshippers at a time. We left our shoes at the door and paid our admission fee. R had to don a natty nylon housecoat to cover her immodest western outfit. We were then grabbed by a guide who showed us a few of the key points before taking us to a corner area where we were shown some ancient relics including a hair from the Prophet's beard and a page from the original copy of the Koran. Our guide then tapped us for his relatively modest fee and left us to our own devices.
We paid extra to climb one of the minarets which had an extremely narrow stair used for both ascending and descending. The top was a small platform with no safety rail around the top of the stair which was pretty scary. We took in the view and then descended, having to squeeze past a few people on the way. We were were glad to be back at ground level safely.
We had decided to recce a recommended restaurant near to the mosque and we had an
interesting time trying to find it, as the scooter repairers gave way to used tyre sellers then live poultry stalls and goat butchers. Oh, for another dish of Railway Canteen Mutton.
We treated ourselves to a pedal rickshaw ride back to the Metro station, taking care to hire a chap who looked young and fit enough for the task. We did double his asking price when our ride was over and he seemed quite happy. When asked to pose for a photo he adopted a rather sombre look that disolved into a smile again as soon as the picture was taken. He didn't want to spoil the rickshaw drivers' reputation for being miserable and surly.
We rode back south on the emptiest metro train we have seen yet and rolled into LB just in time for afternoon tea. All that was missing to complete a perfect day was a copy of "Trains at a Glance", the Indian Railway timetable. Nobody has one for sale and this is starting to get serious.