Saturday morning and we’re off back to Delhi flying from Udaipur. We booked a taxi with the hotel and after breakfast at which Wanda was able to try having something as she was feeling a bit better today, we waited for the taxi to arrive which it did on time and we headed for the airport through some of Udaipur’s morning traffic.
We arrived safely at the airport and all went relatively smoothly except for me forgetting to take my iPad out of my checked luggage till the last minute, we were through security and waiting in departures with plenty of time to have a tea and look around.
The flight was an hour late leaving Udaipur but other than that it was pretty straightforward and we made up a little bit of time on the short flight to Delhi. We got a taxi from the airport to the hotel which was further than I thought and in an area called Aerocity and even though the taxi firm assured us they knew where it was still took us to the wrong hotel initially but the driver eventually got us to the right one. It was in a bit of a run down area and the hotel itself fitted right in unfortunately, it is a large chain of Indian hotels that my first experience of was in Chenai and I’ve been trying to avoid them ever since but the booking site made no mention of the hotel chains name and they seemed to advertise under two different names but at least it was only for one night.
I had pre booked an Uber for the next morning to take us to Delhi’s Nizamuddim railway station, Unfortunately the 10.05 to Agra was running 1 1\2 hours late already when it got to Delhi and after a long journey in 3 rd class as everything else was full we arrived in Agra around 15.15 and got a taxi straight to the hotel.
Our next decision was what we do with our time in Agra, as we should of had three days here but with us not getting onto the train at Udaipur we were over a day late arriving and had a train ticket booked back to Delhi in the morning, with a decison made we dropped our bags in the room and headed down the road to the Taj Mahal, which for me anyway was the only reason I wanted to come to Agra. We got to the Taj around 4 after a long day of sitting around waiting for and on the train.but seeing the Taj Mahal from the Eastern gate for the first time made it all worthwhile.
Once in we were able to relax a bit and take our time to walk around and take pictures. The Taj Mahal really is a marvellous site and I wasn’t disappointed as I have been sometimes when visiting somewhere I’ve always wanted to see then got there and thought ” is that it, I expected more “. The Taj Mahal was busy but not overcrowded when we were there and we both enjoyed it, it didn’t feel rushed which I was afraid it might do with us arriving in the late afternoon.
Fortunately for me Wanda has been better at booking hotels for these last two weeks and The Taj resorts is only about a 1\2 mile away, traffic free and leading straight to the East gate of the Taj Mahal so it was only a short trip back to the hotel but as Wanda hadn’t eaten today she was starting to feel weak so we got a rickshaw bike from there the entrance of the Taj it was slightly uphill at one point and the driver was starting to struggle on the pedals so I got off to help him push it up the hill. We arrived back at the hotel and had a much needed and lovely meal with a view over Agra and the Taj Mahal.
It was a relief to finally get to Agra after everything seemingly conspiring against us the last few days and walking around the grounds of the Taj Mahal was amazing with lots of other tourists, a lot of Indian tourists were fascinated with Wanda and kept grabbing her for pictures and selfies.
We had booked a taxi with the hotel the previous evening to take us back to Agra Cantt railway station for 7 o’clock in the morning and it was ready just before, the train was on time and as we had managed to book 1st class were given breakfast on the train, we got into Delhi ahead of time and before 11 which was nice not to be travelling all day, we settled on a price with the taxi drivers and got delivered to our hotel when they eventually worked out where it was. ( They tend to tell you they know to get you into their taxi of course).
When we arrived Wanda still didn’t feel too well and needed to rest so I walked over to the nearby railway station and booked my ticket to Amritsar for the 13th and then a hotel there for a couple of nights. I also researched a few places to visit after Amritsar one of which may be Ahmedabad but I’ll probably decide when I get to Amritsar.
I know what time scale I’m working to now though as I’ve booked my flight back to the UK on the 17th of March from Mumbai so will start making my way down the West coast of India now possibly finishing with a couple of relaxing weeks in the sun down in Goa before I head back.
We had an easy day today in New Delhi after a couple of days of travelling, the hotel we’re in is nice enough to relax in and near New Delhi railway station. We’re planning on visiting the Red Fort tomorrow before Wanda flys back to the UK on Wednesday.
This area of New Delhi feels very different to where we stayed in the South being much busier and built up near the train station here but in a convenient location for a lot of the attractions in Delhi, you do get a lot of train noise obviously but it just sounds like the big city that Delhi is.
The next day we were up early and Ubered over to the Red Fort just as the sun was rising and along with some others got there as they removed the barriers to let people into the grounds to take photos. The actual Red Fort itself wasn’t due to open till 9 but we were able to have a slow walk around the outer wall to the ticket office and queue for a ticket, once we’d done that we walked back round to the entrance and were amongst the first in. The Red Fort is impressive and takes up a good section of the centre of Delhi.It was home to the Muhgal emperors when it was built in 1639 and took 9 years to build, it was extended along the way by each new emperor until the British interfered and claimed it for 90 years till India’s independence. We were able to take our time to walk around as it didn’t seem to start getting busy till we had seen most of it, although a lot of it is shut at the moment as a private company has been contracted in to do renovations.
After the Red Fort we took the metro from La Qulla station to a Metro station that I don’t recall the name of as Wanda was leading the way and had a nice brunch at a small art gallery while watching some Indian students practice there dance routines. It was then back to the Metro and Mandi station to visit the Ganhdi memorial and once we had worked out the direction we needed to walk unfortunately found it to be closed today so that may have to wait for a future trip. We then headed back to the hotel for break before finding a nearby cafe for a snack and walk around the local area.
We had a meal at the hotels rooftop restaurant in the evening which has been pretty good for food and fairly busy with British and European tourists whilst we’ve been here. This area has a lot of hotels and restaurants so attracts a lot of Tuk Tuk and Taxi drivers as well so your never short of an offer of a lift as soon as you leave the hotel or someone wanting to take you shopping.
In the morning it was Wanda’s day to fly back to the UK and we had arranged for the hotel taxi to take us to the airport at 11. We walked back to the cafe that we had been to yesterday afternoon and had a leisurely breakfast before heading back to pack and make sure she had everything, she was even kind enough to take some of the stuff I don’t need back with her as she had room in her suitcase.
We shared the taxi to the airport with a Belgian couple through some very heavy morning traffic and had a couple of minor knocks along the way and 5 minutes of panic when the Belgian gentleman sitting in the front thought he’d lost his bank card ( I can understand as it’s my main access to money as well although I’ve got a credit card back up. ) ringing the hotel drew a blank to our relief as we didn’t want to turn round in this traffic but thankfully he found eventually it down the side of the seat.
We arrived at the Airport at the time we had expected to and joined the queue to go in, Unfortunately airports in India will not allow you into the airport unless you are flying and check your ticket on entry so we had to say goodbye there.
It was great to have Wanda come out for a visit and it will feel very different to go back to travelling on my own again, We had quite a busy couple of weeks and saw some amazing places together here in India and even managed an elephant ride thanks to Gori, so some great memories of this part of India and even though she didn’t feel great for a few days and the Delhi smog made breathing a little difficult for her. She seemed to enjoy it and wants to come back as there is plenty of things she didn’t manage to do ( I had to try and slow her down at times ! ), Wanda has already looked at 2 hotels near here this morning in anticipation of the next visit to Delhi.
I got the Metro back to New Delhi station from the airport and in contrast to the roads was simple and uneventful only taking 20 mins then it was a 10 min walk back to the hotel.
I have been trying to work out my next move after I’ve been to Amritsar where I’m travelling to tomorrow, the most likely destination looks like Ahmedabad in Gujarat but the direct train which takes 28 hours ( which isn’t a problem ) only goes on Tuesday ‘s and there’s no buses, flying is an option but would be 3rd choice because i would miss the experience of travelling though India. I’ll decide when I get to Amritsar tomorrow, perhaps there’s somewhere between I can head for first ?.
One thing that I wanted to do whilst here in India was watch the joker at the cinema as I hadn’t seen it before leaving the UK but think I missed the boat here as well so bought it on Amazon prime today and watched it this evening after a meal. It’s not quite what I expected but I really enjoyed it and thought Phoenix played the part very well and it gave a good pre story to how the joker came to be, one I’ll definitely watch again.
Today it was up early and a short walk to the train station with my bags, the Shatabdi express to Amritsar was due to leave at 7.20 and was on time, it was probably the best train I’ve been on in India so far. I had managed to book a first class ticket so didn’t need to worry about breakfast as they feed you well. At times on the way it felt like being on a train in the UK with the scenery and even the train itself getting up to a decent speed. We arrived in Amritsar on time about 14.30 and I ordered an Uber to the hotel ignoring the Tuk Tuk driver’s this time, I knew from the hotel website that it was difficult to get close by car and got dropped off with about a 1\2 mile to walk through a pedestrian area to get to the hotel and found it with the help of maps on my phone.
The hotel looked pretty good and I booked in and then went straight out to the Golden Temple which is very close by. I like the feel of Amritsar, driving from the station felt it like a typical busy Indian city with the traffic but the area around the Golden Temple is mostly a pedestrian area with a few scooters and Tuk Tuks in the back streets.
The Golden Temple was completed in 1577 and is the most holy temple in Sikhism. It has been rebuilt several times after becoming a target of persecution by Muslim armies from Afghanistan and the Mughal empire. It was rebuilt in marble and copper in 1809 and the sanctum overlaid with gold foil in 1830 hence the name. There is also a very interesting museum inside the site giving a history of Sikhism Removal of shoes and covering of the head is required before entering the site.
I intend going back tomorrow when I’ll have more time so didn’t look at everything there today, After a coffee and a snack I went back to the hotel and ended up booking a flight to Ahmedabad on Saturday which goes via Delhi as trains there aren’t possible till Tuesday and have a couple of nights booked in a hotel there to start with, I’ll decide if I want to stay longer when I get there. It read in an Indian paper on the train that Donald Trump would also be in Ahmedabad later this month but after I’ve moved on so I should miss any disruption.
I went out in search of food this evening and found the area to be quite lively mainly with tourists and the majority of them Sikhs, it’s an area with lots of shops selling souvenirs and fast food stalls but not that many restaurants but I eventually found one specializing on Punjabi food and ordered far to much. One thing I do like about India is the variation in dishes, you can order the same dish in different restaurant’s and there always different. In the UK I would normally have a Madras and all over the country they would be very similar, not so in India.
This morning after breakfast at a nearby Cafe I headed over to the Golden Temple again this time I actually joined the queue to enter the temple itself as it is accessed via a footbridge over the sacred pond the queue is fairly slow moving as they control the numbers going in to worship and it moved a little every ten minutes then stopped. This made me slow down and I found myself looking around at the the people with me and their faces, the different colours of the turbans and how they tied them as well as seeing a different perspective of the buildings around the Golden Temple, also thinking about the different religions in India I have encountered and how important they are to the people here. On the way out of the temple as in other places I’ve visited in India you can get an almost overwhelming sense of the spirituality of the place.
After exiting the temple I was able to find a quiet place in the sun to sit around the side looking at the Golden Temple along with some others and thought about how lucky I am to be here and experiencing this whilst travelling around India.
After I came out and collected my shoes I found by accident the Sikh museum in the square, it’s free to get in and you just have to leave some sort of ID to get an audio guide then you go though around four theatres giving you a history of Sikhism and the Golden Temple. It was interesting and I’m glad I stumbled upon it.
Walking back though the pedestrian area I agreed to a trip out to the border with Pakistan this afternoon with a guide, I wasn’t too sure when offered it yesterday but it seems a popular tourist attraction from here as the border is so close.
The guy that sold me on the Pakistan border trip also pointed me in the direction of Jallanwala Bagh which is a gardens and memorial to a massacre of over 400 Indian civilians when the British Indian Army opened fire on a crowd under the orders of General Dyer in April 1919.This became a major event in India’s fight for independance and the Non-cooperation movement started in 1920. Sometimes it feels hard to say your British in a place where something like that happened even though it was over a hundred years ago but I can’t deny my heritage and the Indian people don’t seem to mind when I say I’m British and I’ve been welcomed everywhere with open arms including here in Amritsar.
In the afternoon at the arranged time myself and 9 other Indian’s crammed into a Tuk Tuk for a trip to the Pakistani border, we were going to watch the beating of the retreat performance by the Indian border security force of the Indian Army. It took longer than expected and didn’t feel particularly safe half hanging out of the back of the Tuk Tuk with two other guys that didn’t seem as concerned as I was, we reached the border after about an hour twenty mins and were told to be back at 5.30 giving us 2 hours there, I followed everyone else to the border about 1 kilometre away and after security and passport checks went into what looked like a stadium on the Indian side of the border, the foreigners were seated separately from the Indian nationals. In the middle of the stadium were two sliding metal gates and then the other half of the stadium in Pakistan, on the Indian side it was like a party atmosphere with music, dancing,cheering and flag waving. The numbers and noise on the Indian side far outweighed that on the Pakistan side. If it was a contest of patriotic fervour the Indian side would of won hands down, I knew they were a proud nation anyway but this really showed it, this was all before the military even got involved and when they did it reminded me very much of the New Zealand Rugby Haka with a lot of posturing and challenges laid down to the other side, at one point both gates were flung open and a competition ensued between the 2 border forces as to who could be the most impressive with their matching and posturing, it finished with the lowering of both flags and closing of the gates then both sides matching off, it is obviously designed as a bit of entertainment and doesn’t actually feel like there’s any animosity between them at the moment. It seemed like good natured fun and everyone seemed to enjoy it.
I got back to the arranged pick up point with 5 mins to spare but there were still some people not back yet anyway, we ended up getting different Tuk Tuk and driver back to Amritsar and I took up my place on the back again but we got back safely, Unfortunately the driver dropped us in a different place about a mile from the Golden Temple, I didn’t recognize where we were and initially went the wrong way as my phone had lost service and maps wouldn’t work, I eventually realised I was heading the wrong way and went back to where we’d been dropped and got vague directions from someone to the Golden Temple, in the end I got service on my phone by resetting it, then maps led me home albeit though a few dark alleys but safely back.
I’m going to leave this here now and try to post it online as tomorrow will be taken up by travelling to Ahmedabad if all goes to plan.
So I will say goodbye for now and hope you all have a good week, sorry if there’s more mistakes than usual, it’s getting late here now and I’m feeling pretty tired now.
Take care all