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Trip Start Mar 19, 2006
Trip End May 11, 2006

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Monday, April 10, 2006

I actually got some sleep on the evening Virgin flight Delhi. Before I knew it, I was flying over Pakistan and on my way into Delhi. Alexis was already in town for a few days before me, so she arranged for a car to pick me up at the airport. Before I knew it I was speeding through the streets of Delhi towards the Imperial Hotel. Curiously, India is in a timezone that is four and a half hours ahead of London/GMT--I have never seen that before!

I met up with Alexis and I found out that on Mondays many of the monuments and stores were closed... we were supposed to see the one site that was supposed to be open, that of the Akshar Dham temple but alas, it was closed as well. Apparently, its not even a old temple as they are in the midst of building it so I lost interest fairly quickly. Note to all, do not expect to be a tourist on Mondays in Delhi.

We did go to the Jama Masjid, apparently the second largest mosque in the world. We were doing a brisk tour on it barefoot before a few locals took exception to Alexis' dress and we were unceremoniously dumped out the side entrance. Since no one made a fuss about the dress on the way in through the main gate, it may have been a failed ploy to get Alexis to buy some more clothing which they conveniently had to sell. Advice to those that visit the many religious sites--dress conservatively and be prepared to go barefoot (as you can't wear footwear in the Muslim, Jain or Sikh places of worship) on some seriously sunbaked stones! We were spilled out somewhere in Old Delhi near the Spice Market which we could not identify, so we hailed our pedicab and hustled back to the car.

Having had our fill of adventure for the day, we ate dinner at the Spice Route restaurant that was attached to the hotel. Apparently Conte Nast had seemed its Thai/Indian fare one of the ten best in the world, but despite a solid meal, I reserve judgement on such bold a claim.

The next day we spent the morning touring the Red Fort complex--the seat of Mughal throne until the fall of the last emperor. Thereafter we crossed the road to the Chandi Chowk, the Moonlight road, were there was a Jain festival in procession. We visited the Jain, Hindu, and finally Sihk temples in quick succession and had a chance to peruse the various markets that stem off that street. After lunch, we were on our way to Agra for the evening so that we could see the Taj Mahal at sunrise.

Some initial impressions: the India of Delhi was somewhat surprising to me, as it was fairly undeveloped--somewhere more than Cambodia but on par to less than Vietnam and perhaps even Peru. Unlike Vietnam, however, there are many cars that share the roads with the tuk-tuks and the bicycles so its not quite as busy. Also, unlike many countries that make a concerted effort to upkeep and renew their national treasures, many of the monuments in Delhi seemed rundown. I guess after all I had read about the India tiger economy, I was expecting more from their capital city but then again, its only the second day.
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