Saturday, February 27, 2016
Our flight arrived in the Indira Ghandi International Airport on Saturday afternoon, and we took a cab to our guesthouse, Thikana straight from there. A word of advice if you are at the airport or train station: find the "Pre-Paid Taxi" booth. It's run by the transit police and it's much cheaper than finding someone on the street.
Thikana was a beautiful little guesthouse, away from the chaos of central Delhi. I'd definitely recommend if you're looking for a place. The staff were incredibly friendly and had lots of advice for where to go and how to get around.
We wandered around for a bit, looking for the Hauz Khas Complex. We stumbled on a few old buildings, but we were so lost and turned around that we're unclear as to whether we ever actually saw it or not. This was our first lesson about India: if we were going to walk somewhere, it was going to take at least 4 times as long as google maps said it would, because we would definitely get lost.
After that, we took our first auto-rickshaw up to the Lodi Gardens for a sunset walk. They were one of my favorite places in Delhi. Inside, it was peaceful and beautiful. The buildings were lit up and looked really lovely against the setting sun. We also stumbled upon A LOT of couples making out in the park, which was half adorable and half gross.
Afterward, we stopped for Turkish tea and desserts at Kunafa, which were very tasty but a little pricey. We wandered around the Lodhi Colony for a bit longer, and then tried to get a rickshaw back to the guesthouse. Since Thikana is in a more residential section, it was hard to find someone who knew where it was, and we ended up getting dropped off at the metro station closest to the hotel. This turned out to be a great thing, though, because it let us have our first real Indian meal of the trip, at Karnataka. I don't remember exactly what we ordered, but it was extremely tasty and very affordable. After dinner, we headed back to our guesthouse and I took my last selfie of my 20s:
And a few minutes later, the owner of the guesthouse came and knocked on our door, bringing us up to their roof deck for beers. While up there, we met two mother-daughter pairs. One was from Germany who own a chain of fair trade stores called Conmigo. They were on their annual trip to India to do buying work for the company. The other pair was from Mumbai, and were up north for a yoga retreat, stopping in Delhi to do some shopping on the way home. It was great to chat with both of them, and the pair from Mumbai gave us a few suggestions about buying pashmina and where to eat in Agra.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
And in the morning, I took the first selfie of my 30s! I was really lucky to be able to celebrate my birthday while we were on the trip, and we made a nice day of it in Delhi, starting with a delicious Indian omelet and more wonderful conversation over breakfast at Thikana.
We took an auto-rickshaw up to Humayun's Tomb, and learned that it's much cheaper to use the meter, if the driver will use it. Second lesson about India: Uber works here and will usually get you the best price on a cab possible, but it also uses a ton of data, so it's up to you how much saving 50 cents is really worth it.
Humayun's Tomb was probably my favorite spot in Delhi. It was absolutely stunning, even before we got to the tomb itself. I loved Isa Kahn's Complex, which was the first spot we walked into. Lots of people seemed to be taking their engagement photos there, and the early morning light was perfect.
There were lots of little nooks and crannies of hidden gardens, which were also beautiful to explore. And jump in front of!
And of course, the tomb itself was stunning:
|I love this photo of Roger.|
After Humayun's Tomb, we saw some great art at the National Gallery of Modern Art (not to be confused with the National Museum, which our rickshaw driver did, and which is apparently less interesting). We had to rush through it because of our lunch reservation, but there was some great stuff on display and I was sorry to not spend more time there. The exhibit, "In the Seeds of Time" gave a great overview of Indian and colonialist art over time. And, Roger and I must have referenced "Three Cows" by Subodh Gupta at least five or six times throughout the rest of our trip.
After that, we had my fancy birthday lunch at Bukhara, a delicious restaurant that Caitlin and Tej had recommended. Their Dal Bukhara seriously made me want to cry, it was so delicious. Caitlin has suggested we can get it at the coop, so I'm very excited about that. On the flight over, I'd watched The Grand Budapest Hotel, which I loved, and was thrilled to see les clefs d'or on the lapel of the ITC's concierge. It was a very fancy hotel. Too bad we couldn't stay there for our trip!
After that, we had to head back to the guesthouse to pick up our luggage before leaving for Agra with Caitlin's friends, Emily and Karuna, that evening. We made the decision to ask our rickshaw driver to stay with us for the rest of the evening, and take us to the Qutub Minar, our second UNESCO World Heritage Site of the day. We weren't sure if we'd have enough time to see it and get up to Emily and Karuna's hotel, especially with traffic, but we knew we might never see it if we didn't try, so we went ahead and did it. I'm so glad we did, because it was a beautiful site, if much more crowded than the tomb had been.
I think the next two photos show how Roger and I approach touristy photos pretty well. I, for instance, take great care to ensure that most of the tourist and all of the monument make it into the photo:
Roger is a bit less concerned about that:
It was a stunning site, but we learned India Lesson #3 there: people will ask for selfies with you, and you're kind of a jerk if you say no. We thought people were making fun of us asking for pictures with us, and so we kept saying no, but I wish we hadn't. Starting the next day at the Taj Mahal, we always said yes, and were more open to making conversation with strangers than we would be here. It was a nice lesson to learn, but I wish we'd been more open to the idea earlier, because the Qutub Minar was definitely the site with the most people asking for photos.
After that, we stopped by Thikana for our luggage, and met up with Emily and Karuna in their hotel in Connaught Place. The four of us took a van to Agra, and Roger and I checked into the Taj Gateway Hotel, which was a seriously nice hotel, with fluffy bathrobes, lovely decor on the walls, and even a special surprise for my birthday:
It really made turning 30 feel special! I asked Roger if he had arranged for it, and he said, "I wish I'd thought of that!" and then I texted my mother and asked if she had. Same answer, word for word. The Taj Gateway Hotel: way more thoughtful than my family members!
They also had an enormous cruise-ship style towel animal, that Roger and I felt bad about dismantling, so we eventually moved it onto the couch:
And, that was my birthday in India! It was incredible, and the trip was only getting started.
Tomorrow: we see the Taj Mahal!