07.04.2012 - 09.04.2012 29 °C
I’m currently on the train from New Delhi to Amritsar, absolutely freezing my tatas off! I’m travelling in AC 3-Tier for the first time which is similar to sleeper but with air condition – far too much air conditioning actually! Oh well, I guess I should relish it for the moment as it’s always way too hot outside.
I must say – I loved Delhi! And I want to go back…though I spent far far too much money. The past few days have made me a bit homesick – I think having met Sonia and Saachi, which reminded me of life in Sydney with my mum, as well as the fact that Elena and my other friends are going home soon, is making me think about life back home too. Regardless, I know I don’t want to be in Sydney, and I should definitely be cherishing my time in India, but I’ve just been in a bit of a funk in general and thus have been indulging myself in some retail therapy. Retail therapy in India is actually quite a cost-effective way of stress release if you’re shopping in the markets as everything is SO CHEAP and there’s so much great stuff, but we also spent quite a bit of time in the mall – a recent craze in India. I didn’t buy anything at the malls because that is seriously expensive, but I did indulge in Western food which ended up costing me a fortune. Still, I’m so glad I did.
On Saturday morning the girls and I all decided we wanted to go to Rajghat, the Mahatma Ghandi memorial. We’d tried to go with Sonia the day before but it was closed for Good Friday (btw, Happy Easter everybody!) so we found it this morning. The memorial to Mahatma is quite small and decorated in bright yellow flowers and incense, surrounded by manicured lawns and paths that people can walk through to pay their respects. However this small memorial is set within enormous gardens, very similar to the Royal Botanic Gardens, with lots of flowers and a small lake and beautiful manicured lawns (though security guards with rifles may come up to you if you do not walk on the path!) We walked around these gardens for an hour or two, visiting the various memorial sites all around which were dedicated to the many significant members of the Ghandi family, including Indira herself. It was so nice to see some green – I can’t even begin to explain. I’m not even a nature person at home at all, but I’m really looking forward to seeing some nature in Nepal. Elena and I sat at one point for some rest and a woman with a child came up to us for a photo, which was fine – then suddenly we were surrounded by literally 10-20 people, all taking photos of us or getting in line to have one with us. It was pretty funny, though Elena got over it pretty quickly.
After a lengthy walk we went in search for the Mahatma Ghandi museum. It was tucked away and quite difficult to find, which is surprising considering how much work you can tell was put into it. The museum was AMAZINGLY extensive. I read everything in one room, thinking he must be assassinated soon – then realised there were another four rooms to go until the end of the story! This guy seriously did a lot. We must have spent an hour or so there, and I didn’t even finish. Eventually we gave up and Elsbeth, Sasha and I decided to go in search for Dilli Haat, which Sonia had told me about.
Dilli Haat was this craft market time thing which is supposed to exhibits things from every state in India. I was keen to see it – however our driver was clearly a major losty and had no idea, dropping us at entirely the wrong markets. I bought some bindis and henna, and the shopkeeper gave me some free earrings, but they were pretty crappy, so we decided to go to the mall.
Oh god I’m in love.
We got a rickshaw to Saket, which is a complex with FIVE shopping malls. That’s right – five. And one in construction. Many of them even have the same stores, but I guess they’ve gone a bit mall-crazy lately. Regardless, I LOVED it. It was a complete Western haven. Everybody in there was clearly loaded, no one really stared at us too much, and they were all dressed in Western clothes (though probably more conservative than all the booty-short-clad 12 year olds you see strutting around Miranda Westfield these days). They even had a Hard Rock Café! Sasha loves Hard Rock and Elsbeth had never been, so we decided to have lunch there – regardless of how pricey it was. I think I’m going to try to visit all the Hard Rocks at cities I go to. I don’t even love it that much generally (only I do now because I miss Western food) so I probably won’t be as attracted to it in Europe, but I still think it’s a funny little thing to do.
We walked around and relished the air conditioned haven for a while, looking at Zara and Forever New and Lush and various chain stores I’ve missed. Eventually we regretfully returned home to our suddenly very sad-looking hotel room, stopping on the way to look at some cute little jewellery stores in the bazaar.
When we got back Elena was hanging out at the hotel, and I could tell she was feeling pretty homesick, so I decided it was time I tried to get us drunk in Delhi. I’d seen a bar in the street that had cheap beer, so we went there – and man it has never tasted so sweet. We’d had it once in Jaisalmer but for some reason this was much better, maybe because it was adorned with the taste of freedom to do what we like, which we hadn’t really had while living in the volunteer house. I then decided to take the plunge and return to my regular order – “A shot of vodka – the cheapest one you have. Cheap cheap”. When it came to our table I stared at it for a while, a bit apprehensive as it’s been so long. Eventually, I manned up and downed it – so much better than I remember! That was followed by another three or four – which can’t be helped when they’re less than $1 each. Elena and I certainly weren’t drunk but we agreed it was so fun to have that buzz back – I can’t wait to visit her in Barcelona!
While we were at the bar we hadn’t spoken to many people as it was mainly full Indian men who stared at us like meat as we walked to the bathroom, but I could see Elena giggling at a couple behind me – which is when we met David and Depinder. David is a 50-something life-loving painter from San Francisco, and Depinder is a Sikh law student from Delhi. We spoke with them about all sorts of things for a long time, but left some time before 11 – the street was completely dead and Depinder said it’s pretty late, which makes me think nightlife must be quite a bit different in India. I haven’t been much of a partier all this trip – even in South East Asia which is like a young Australian’s party paradise, but I just have not been in the mood. Still, it was really nice for a bit of a change – and I’m excited to go check out Europe!
On Sunday morning we were all a bit worried as we had plans to meet up with Lian, who was getting the bus from Udaipur and didn’t have a phone. After a while of trying to decide what to do to find her, we chose to go get some breakfast and by some stroke of luck she was downstairs at the hotel reception!
After breakfast the other girls decided to go visit India Gate and Lotus Temple, but Elena and I were both pretty homesick so another trip to the mall was on the agenda for us! Some may view it as a bit of a waste of time in Delhi, but we’d already seen so many forts and to be honest I’ve found it so interesting to see a completely different socio-economic group of Indians – plus I like the indulgence! We got lunch once again at Hard Rock Café…sooo good, and then went to the Haagendaas Ice Cream shop for Brownie Sundae indulgence. There was WiFi there too, which meant I could Skype mum – but I got teary for the first time on this trip! My adorable little cousins Jessica and James were there and I think I’ve been a bit emotional, but anyway - up and on. I think now I’m probably going to come home for Christmas so I can earn some more money with the baubles, and then I’ll head to Vancouver!
In the evening Elena and I went shopping in the bazaar and we saw David painting in the street, being a regular cool cat as he is. Later that night when we were chilling in our room Depinder also called and visited our hotel – but we really weren’t up for going out and Elena was very sick (…) so we told him we couldn’t come party. He then told me that he’d got some information for us for Amritsar – which he’d typed and printed (adorable!!) and then left the note at our hotel reception with some medication for Elena’s stomach! He also sent her a get well message! It was the most hilarious awkward/funny situation and we can’t stop laughing about it but it’s so sweet!
This morning Elena and I went to get breakfast at a buffet place we’d seen – it was actually pretty good and we met a man from LA who looks exactly like Dumbledore!
We then packed everything up and went to give Elena’s stuff to Sonia, who was taking care of it for her while in Amritsar. While we were waiting we found a dog behind us with an enormous litter of puppies – I’m talking fresh from the oven babies. They were soooo cute! We then got in a rickshaw to take us to Old Delhi, just to check it out, but as I’d suspected it was pretty much closed on Mondays (all the markets and stuff), so we just drove through it to check it out. We stopped by a tourist office so check out options for Amritsar – we’re thinking of spending a night or two in Dharamsala or Chandigarh or something, but we’re just going to see what’s available tomorrow when we arrive. Our driver then told us about some markets but when we got there it was plain to see it was just some commission touristy shops, not a real bazaar, so we just went back home. I bought some dresses and tops that I’d seen, completing my retail therapy for Delhi (I think I’m up to one skirt, two tops, three dresses, three leather handbags, seven pairs of earrings and six necklaces – all for somewhere around $70). I hadn’t really planned to buy anything while travelling – especially because I have to carry it all around, but these markets were way too good and I can offload it to mum in Abu Dhabi soon!
We then checked out, got some takeaway sandwiches and made our way to the train station. New Delhi train station is a lot easier to navigate than other stations we’ve been at, but man it’s busy. There are people everywhere, and our train was an hour delayed so we were waiting around for a while. Whenever I’m at train stations I’m always continuously faced with a moral dilemma – giving to beggars. As a general rule I very rarely do it, especially not kids, as I don’t think it’s a productive way to help them by encouraging the practice of begging and I doubt the money really goes to them, however at the train station and in the streets there are often men crawling around on the floor with disabled or amputated limbs. I don’t know if they’ve been injured or born this way (though it’s so common that it makes me think it may be a practice – like the Slumdog Millionaire scene where the child is blinded) but it always makes me question my rule of no-giving. These men seem more helpless to me than the children begging, and there’s no way they’d be able to get work anywhere else in India. Sometimes I’d give, sometimes not, but regardless it’s always heartbreaking.
Anyway, so my laptop is going to die very soon and that’s all I’ve got for now.