A Little More of Delhi

Trip Start Dec 08, 2008
Trip End Dec 24, 2008

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Today is monday. And last monday, when we were on our way across town for the wedding reception, we drove down the street that was completely lined with stalls for probably about a mile or more. We saw all of these amazing wares for super cheap prices. Rebecca is pretty sure she saw multiple stalls filles with sarees hanging with a posted price of 150 rupees. Unfortunately last week we weren't able to stop to see anything, so I asked the driver "What is this place?" and he said "Shekat" So I assumed that meant it was the Shekat market. Then I asked him "Is it like this all the time?" and he said "Only mondays, sir." So Rebecca and I made a note to return to that place the following monday, which would be today.

So today's goals consisted of going back to that market, buying a ton of cheap stuff for gifts, wall hangings or whatever when we return home. After that, we figured we'd go see one of the main sites in Delhi, being Humayan's tomb. Humayan is the grandfather or great grandfather of the guy that built the Taj Mahal, it's a similar style and I've heard a couple of people say that they actually liked it better than the Taj, so we figured we should probably see it before we leave.

But first on the agenda, after breakfast is to head out and get some of our traveler's checks converted. So that consumes the first hour plus of our time out. Then we tell the driver we want to go to the place where the market is. And that becomes a bit of a problem. Last week we mentioned this market to Dekiva and she'd never heard of it. Then we described it and Binda says that there are all sorts of markets around Delhi that just spring up in the morning, fill the street with stalls, and then disappear at night. So this market we drove through is just one of many, and neither of them know specifically about it, where it is, or what it's called. But that's ok, we figured we could just call the driver from last week and ask him where we were when it happened.

We had the name of a road, so we told this week's driver to go to this road... thinking it would be packed with stalls. But after about 45 minutes of travel across Delhi, we stop and the driver tells us we are at the location requested. Hmmm.... we look around and there is no market, just another street. Ok, time to call the driver from last week. It turns out this week's driver is actually the boss at the company, and he's out driving today because last week's driver had to take leave from work this week because his grandmother passed away, and he returned to his village in Uttar Pradesh to attend ceremonies and stuff. Once we found that out, I thought maybe he would be unreachable. But this is India, and their use of mobile phones is so totally integrated into the collective concious that nobody should ever be unreachable. So our driver picks up the phone and calls him. They have this long conversation and we hear things like "Fabindia" and "GK one". Which was actually our listed destination last week when we left Gurgaon. But we told the guy that yes, we were heading to the FabIndia at GK one... but on the way, we drove through this market lining the streets. And asked about that... a bunch more talking... like a lot of talking... probably a full minute's worth, and then they hang up and our driver tells us that we probably mean this other market that Devika had mentioned when we were talking about it. But that market is way out on the outer ring of Delhi, it's nowhere near where we are or where we were going last week. But I'm a little exasperated at this point, I'm thinking in my head we're having another one of those strange communication moments that seem to have happened alot since we've been here. (One of just needs to become fluent in Hindi!) So tell the driver just to go to this market that last week's driver suggested. Then I call Devika to get her opinion and she tells me that we're actually pretty close to Humayan's tomb right now, so we should do that first, then go see this other market. So I get off the phone and tell the driver that we should go to Humayan's tomb instead. I'm pretty sure I hear one of those "Yes sir, no problem sir" and Rebecca and I just wait until we get there.

About 30-40 minutes pass and he stops in the car in front of this open-air shopping mall and says that we're here. Uhm.... what? Did I not say it right? I guess I didn't say whatever I was supposed to say to cancel the instructions to go to the market and go the tomb instead. Oh well, we're both hungry, so we decide that since we're here we should go get some food and see what we can find. The food options are a little limited... being a McDonalds, a Subway, a Pizza Hut and a handful of street-type stalls. I really don't want McDonalds or Subway, and we can't be sure about the street food, so Pizza Hut it is. I mean, it's plenty yummy and we're pretty confident about the hygene, so the only downside is people making fun of us for eating pizza hut twice while in India... specially when I generally avoid Pizza Hut when I'm in the states. But whatever. We have a nice lunch then go across the way to a music/video store to look for some movies. We find a couple that we're looking for, they're selection isn't so great. Then we step outside to see what kind of clothing stores we can find, but it's all designer western clothes... and I figure if I've going to buy western clothes made in Malaysia or Thailand, I can do that in Wal-Mart back home. So what else is there around here? And we find another music store that's got some videos... we're browsing through those and find a couple more on our list. Then the guy says there are more hindi movies downstairs. So we go down there and there is a whole wall full of stuff. And this other guy comes over to help us, his english is pretty good, and Rebecca starts just listing off movies on our list and this guy just reaches into the shelf and pulls out the one we name off. After the fifth or sixth time it actually gets kinda funny. He is pretty young, seemed pretty easy-going and his english was pretty good too. So we're actually able to start asking him his opinions about some of the movies. He really strongly recommends a movie called "Rock On", but it's a new release and like 4 times the price of some of the older ones we're getting. So we pass on it. But we walk out with a big stack of movies.... we're going to have to have some marathon watching sessions when we get back home to get through all of these new titles.

We look around some more and don't really find anything, so we call the driver and arrange for a pickup. This time we try to say "Humayan's Tomb" really clearly... he gets it just fine, so I'm not sure what happenned last time. Another 30-40 mintues to head back to near where we were when we started and he dropped us off at the tomb. We paid our entrance fee and headed inside. It's a pretty neat complex. Once of the best parts of is is that they haven't locked off all the stairways that allow you to get to the upper levels. So there is alot more exploring than you get at a lot of monuments. In the first tomb we entered we were on our way out when Rebecca hear a noise (it was really dark inside) and I listened and it sounded like a couple of asian girls talking. We investigated a little and realized they were coming down a stairway that was completely invisible in the darkness, and if they hadn't been coming down we would never have seen it. So we wouldn't have been able to climb up and see the upper deck of this building. We spent a bit of time there, it was really neat, and then Rebecca told me that this wasn't even the real tomb, it was just a side building that was a tomb for somebody else. I'm sure I took a picture of the explaination plaque. But I didn't read of of them because it was getting late in the day and the sun was going down and we wanted to see what we could see before it all closed.

So we made it through the gate building and say the main tomb and I could totally see how this is kinda related to the Taj. I even tried to get a photo that was kinda like the classic Taj photo with the reflection in the water. The actual tomb building has like 2 generations of people in it or something, there are a LOT of tombs inside that building. We didn't get to see it all, just the main tomb for Humayun, his wife and children. The grounds were pretty nice, lots of wonderful birds again. I could totally see coming to this place with a bunch of people and just picnicing all day long... having a bunch of munchie food and some games and books and stuff, and you could run off and explore a building or corner of the grounds, then come back, eat and talk and chill, then head back out and explore some other part of the grounds. Defenitely on the list for our next trip.

After the tomb, we went back and picked up Devika and she instructed the driver to head out to this place called Dilli Hat or something like that. I guess it is a craft bazaar that is trying to get representation from all the various states of India. You actually have to pay admission to get inside. But the place is kept up really well, with lights in the trees and clean walkways and even a little grass in places. There is a food court inside and dozens of vendors booths. We took our time in the first quarter of booths that we saw, then stopped for a bite to eat and Devika introduced us to some kashmiri foods, then we got back out shopping again. And then suddenly we realized the place was closing up. The scheduled close time was 10pm, but everybody started packing up at 9. So we kinda rushed through about a third, but the whole back section was closed by the time we got there. We found a couple of things for Rebecca, but I was mostly looking for some nice outfits for gifts. And every time I found something that I though looked nice, I'd ask the price and it would be super high and Devika would come along and ask some questions and she's explain that the one I picked out was aways like the best possible quality of silk, or the hand-woven loom stuff, or it used actual gold thread or whatever. Essentially my eyes kept picking out the highest quality stuff in the whole place. And that's one of the only problems with this little bazaar place. Is that you can have totally cheap lower-quality stuff right next to the rich-blood stuff and you don't really know what you're looking at. Well, I guess I never knew what I was looking at. I just felt like I kept wandering into the wrong stall. I had to tell more than one vendor "Your stuff is beautiful, but it's out of my price range" and if I'd known what kind of stall this was, I wouldn't have even wandered inside.

We kinda ran out of things to look at as everybody was closed, so we made our way back to the driver and caught a ride home. We squared the bill with the company, making sure today's driver got a generous tip (partly for not feeding us to any lions) and a nice big tip for last week's driver as well.

We didn't actually get that much done today, but it felt like a big day anyway. We had a pretty quick dinner then sat down with Devika and Bindu to plan out our last day in India. We really wanted to head up to north Delhi and see the Red Fort and Chandi Chowk (the oldest market in Delhi apparently). But we realized that our priorities consisted of getting the last bits of gifts that had eluded us for the whole trip so far. And it didn't look like we could do both. So we've got a couple more things that are going to need to wait for our next trip to Delhi. And we've got a plan for tomorrow. And with that, we both went downstairs to crash.
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