Hi everyone! We are still in the Himalayas and I am either hating life and am in some serious pain OR the pain has somewhat subsided and views have helped me to ignore them (hopefully the latter 🙂 ).
This is my last post on our final city in India. We had heard from other backpackers that we had met prior to our visit that New Delhi is bat-shit crazy. We also read about the crime statistics in local newspapers and online and the city seemed to be somewhat dangerous. So we were mentally preparing ourselves for it during our 18-hour train ride from Jaisalmer. Maybe it was the other traveler’s initial shock to the country or we mentally made it much worse in our heads, but New Delhi was not that crazy in our opinion. Yes, it has the big city + India chaos, but it is also very modern with a good subway system and even Uber (which is pretty popular there). We made ourselves feel at home and took advantage of both transportation options. Like any big city there are good and bad areas and you need to be aware of your surroundings. I guess the New Yorker in us helped, but we actually enjoyed our time in New Delhi very much.
Our first day there, we were planning to do some shopping for trekking gear but found out it was the last day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. This is a 10 Day Hindu Festival celebrating the birthday of one of the most popular of many Hindu Gods, Ganesha. Ganesha is the elephant headed God and son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. You may recall a photo of a decorated clock tower in my Udaipur post. This was the beginning of the same festival. For 10 days a life-like Ganesha model is raised on platforms and is worshiped and on the final day the image is taken through the streets in a procession accompanied with dancing and singing. Finally, the Ganesha model is immersed in a river or sea which symbolizes a ritual see-off of the Lord in his journey home while taking away with him the misfortunes of all man.
Our hostel had planned to take whomever was interested to celebrate so we decided to tag along. It was kind of crazy and though it was somewhat organized, it really wasn’t. We were in a parade with a marching band, a float with Ganesha, and people dancing and throwing colorful powder on each other. We started out on side streets but eventually had to cross a large bridge to get to the river. There were several processions going on at once and we took up an entire lane on a busy road (motorbikes were using the sidewalk because that makes perfect sense). Everyone was having a good time and were super friendly. We were out for several hours until sundown and once our procession had submerged their Ganesha, we headed back to the hostel.
The next day, Hoch and I experienced our first rush hour subway ride in New Delhi and let me tell you it was everything you hear about. The train cars are already overly crowded and when they arrive everyone pretty much crams themselves on! It was funny and crazy to see. I am sure it would be annoying to deal with on a daily basis though. We did not make our first train because of the crowd, but crammed onto a second one.
Side note: I can totally see how women would get groped in those situations. The poor guy behind me stuck his large bag between us which I appreciated. There is also a female only car at the front of every train, but I did not ride it since I was always with Hoch.
We made plans to meet up and sightsee with Puja this day! She is a friend from New Delhi, but temporarily works abroad in Maryland with my aunt which is how I met her. She joined our family for Christmas last year. She wasn’t sure if she would be in India while we were, but it ended up working out almost perfectly! We met up with her and her sister and she planned a busy day for us. We visited so many places and had such a great time. It is always better to get to know a new city with locals!
Here are several photos of us at Qutub Minar Complex (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Qutub Minar is the tallest minaret (slender tower used to call Muslims to prayer) in the world. It was constructed in the 13th century and is surrounded by several historical monuments.
Next we visited another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Humayun’s Tomb. The tomb was commissioned in the 16th century for Mughal Emperor Humayun and reminded us a bit of the Taj Mahal, though not as great.
We then visited Akshardham Mandir which is the largest Hindu Temple in India. Hoch – it was very recently built in mid-2000s but it was amazing that they still have artisans that can create something so large in such uniformly incredible detail. You are not allowed to bring phones or cameras in so we have no photos, but I did find the following picture online:
We stayed to see the evening water and light show. It was all in Hindi, but told a story including different Hindu Gods. After the show, we stopped at a Sikh house of worship (gurud wara), Bangla Sahib, before heading to our final stop, the India Gate which is a war memorial dedicated to the 82,000 soldiers of the Indian Army that died during WWI. H – underneath the arches of the Gate is India’s Tomb of Unnamed Soldier which commemorates all those that perished in various struggles. Each country you can think of has one, and the U.S. has one in the Arlington National Cemetery.
Puja and Shilpi pretty much took us to all the major sites in one day. It was a long day, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. H – their generosity with time and money is something I hadn’t experienced anywhere, and I only hope we have an opportunity to reciprocate in the near future. Thanks ladies!
The next morning, I signed up for a yoga and meditation workshop in a nearby park. It was actually very informative and I learned more about yoga and its 8 components or legs. First of all, yoga comes from the Sanskrit (ancient language) root yuj which means to join or union. The teacher explained that this union is talking about the union of one’s sub-conscience with the supreme conscience or in other words a feeling of being at one with the environment which comes with a sense of peace and well-being. Yoga is not just physical movement (that is only 1/8th of yoga). Principles, breathing, and meditation are all important aspects of yoga. We also learned about the 7 chakras, which are energy points located along the midline of the body (connecting consciousness with matter), and which yoga asanas (postures) are best to activate those chakras. Low energy chakras supposedly can cause sickness. We tried the yoga asanas, breathing exercises, and at the end we meditated for a while which is a first for me. The whole idea is to just be. Thoughts come and go, you may become physically uncomfortable (my right leg actually fell asleep during it!), but you try your best to ignore it, knowing that it will pass, and just be in the moment. I enjoyed the class and though it was a little pricey for India, I think it was worth it and I will try to incorporate some of what I’ve learned into my yoga practice when I return home. H – I skipped it because I am already one with my sub-conscious and my chakras are maxed out.
After my yoga session, Hoch and I went to a large mall to get some trek shopping in. We ended up at an athletic store called Decathlon which is a French company but has several locations in India (several items are made here so they are cheaper). The quality isn’t the best, but it isn’t crap either. Man did we go to town shopping. We had a nice guy helping us find items from our list and we were able to get almost everything we need for the trek. I will elaborate more on what we packed in a later post, but let’s just say what would usually cost between $700 to $900, we purchased for the rupee equivalent of $370.
On our last day in New Delhi, we walked around Connaught Place which is a series of large traffic circles with restaurants and shopping. We ate at a Tex Mex place (funny to see Indians dressed as cowboys) and I bought some jeans and a warmer sweater at an H&M. 🙂
That night we went to Puja’s family’s home and had dinner with them. We tried some new Indian dishes we hadn’t eaten yet, hung out, and stayed the night. We had a 6:30am flight the next day and their home was closer to the airport so it was also really convenient.
Thank you Puja and family for showing us such a good time! You are welcome to visit us any time! H – seriously. The three sisters and Mrs. Chhabra crammed into one bed so we could have the other bed for a few hours. Thank you.
To summarize our time in India, we had a rocky start but in the end I really enjoyed our time in this country. It is definitely more taxing than other countries we’ve visited. But it was almost as if each city we visited was better and less taxing than the last so I am glad we went the route that we did. 🙂 I definitely want to check out other parts of the country one day.
Here is a map of our Northern India route:
And here are links to a couple of albums that I’ve created with additional photos not included in the blog.
India Part 1 Album 2016 includes photos from the cities in these links:
And India Part 2 Album 2016 includes photos from New Delhi and the cities in these links:
Until next post (after our trek recovery of course)!
P.S. ABC Trek Training had officially gone out the window here. We did walk quite a bit in the New Delhi heat along with purchase our gear, but no additional workouts with the exception of my yoga workshop which technically doesn’t count. I think I’ve started to accept my fate (the fact that I am going to be VERY tired and sore). H – I’m writing this the day before our trek and I did do some burpees last night. Judging by how I feel today, I am so fucked.