For our first full day in Delhi our tour guide, Melanie, had a light day planned for us. Our first activity was a late morning visit to the Delhi classrooms of SIT (School for International Training) where Melanie spent a good deal of her time on her Semester abroad in the fall of 2015. We had a leisurely morning and after our “fancy” coffee and snacks for breakfast at the Moolchand Cafe Coffee Day we took an auto-rickshaw ride to the Saket metro station. Even though we were traveling between metro stations these two stations were not on the same line so Melanie insisted the rickshaw was the way to go. [More on that experience in another post.]
We arrived at Saket and Melanie easily led us the short distance to the SIT offices noting her favorite cow on the way, who she seemed pleased to see laying in its usual spot on the sidewalk. We entered the offices and after introductions we were offered some delicious Samosas and chai, which everyone tried and I think enjoyed – I know I did. We sat around talking with the program director, mostly about her attempt to inseminate her cows and her glee when exposing her friends’ children to severe culture shock, and eventually Melanie gave us a tour of the building. It wasn’t a large facility but most of the rooms seemed spacious and open – especially the rooftop patio. We talked for a little bit more and then Melanie said her goodbyes. When we left the house that morning we had plans to visit the school and to go to old Delhi for a food tour, but that left a hole of several hours in the middle of the day. Lodi Gardens was recommended by the folks at SIT and Melanie knew how to get there so we headed that way.
Lodi gardens was just a few train stops away from Saket so we headed back to the metro station and took our first ride on the Delhi Metro as a family. We had already experienced bag checks and metal detectors as part of the metro in Shanghai, but India added the new twist of separate lines for men and women when going through security. This allowed them to frisk each rider before they got to the turnstile. We then walked down to the end of the platform at Melanie’s recommendation so she, Kira and Sarah could ride in the women’s only car. Michael and I rode one car away and were able to see Melanie signal when we getting close to our stop. We came out of the metro station into the sun and without GPS navigation started going the wrong direction, but Melanie corrected us quickly and got us walking toward the gardens. It was a longer walk than I had pictured and I was regretting not bringing more water.
When discussing the park earlier it was described as being in the nice part of New Delhi and Melanie confirmed this. It was nicer than the neighborhood we were residing in, but it still wasn’t what I had pictured. The streets were dirty and while the area around the park was very residential it didn’t conform to my idea of a nice area. There were a few houses behind high walls that looked very lavish, but the sidewalks in front of them were often disintegrating. Lodi gardens was an enjoyable place to visit with some great Mughal style buildings and large open fields, but it wasn’t clean. There were pieces of garbage everywhere and there was a distinct lack of gardens with most of the attempts at garden spaces seeming half dead and neglected. Don’t get me wrong we had a great time at the garden and there were some nice green spaces, but I wanted to try to convey my initial impressions. I still kept thinking there would be a section of town that fit my perceptions of modern and safe.
Since the trip to the park was meant to kill time before our food tour later that night we wandered around and then sat in one of the lawns that had a little shade. Melanie had been to Lodi gardens before, but it is a large place and she didn’t remember seeing the part of the park we were in. We wandered back to the metro station around 3:30 so that we could view Jama Masjid (one of the largest mosques in India) before our food tour started in Old Delhi.
We ran to catch the metro and as a result Melanie road in a mixed gender train car on the most packed train she’d ever been on in India. Glad we could get her some new experiences. Luckily it was a fairly short trip from New Delhi to Old Delhi, just seven stops on the yellow line. Seven stops and about one hundred years. There is a sign on the escalator as you come out of the Chowri Bazar metro station that labels the station the “Time Traveler Station” because you have come from the modern metro up into the turbulent, chaotic streets of Old Delhi as you probably would have seen them a century ago.. I’ve written about so many first impressions, but this is the one I need to get right. Nothing I’ve experienced in my life so far prepared me for the twenty minute walk from the metro to the mosque. The only frame of reference I had were images I’d seen in movies. The street was packed with motorcycles, auto-rickshaws, ox-drawn carts, man-drawn carts and people spilling out from the over capacity sidewalks. In my mind’s eye the roads are made of dirt, but it may have just been a layer of dust. The street we walked on (the wrong street at first) was packed on both sides with shops of all kinds and food stalls with large open flames. If you looked up you saw a web of electrical wires just out of reach. I know I’ve failed to paint the right picture and the few pictures I have don’t do it justice, but that is all I have in me right now.
We rushed to get to the mosque because women are not allowed in after sunset. We made it with plenty of time and even had to wait for the 4:00 prayers to be over before we could go in. The women in our group had to wear a covering to hide their form. Proving that Michael needs a haircut, the guy handing out the robe-like dresses jokingly asked if he wanted one. I’m going to let the pictures of the mosque speak for themselves. Melanie, Sarah, and I paid a little extra to climb to the top of one of the towers. It was a little crowded at the top, but worth it.
Next post is the food tour. Don’t read it if you are hungry.
On November 8th, 2016 (yes, THAT November 8th) the Indian government announced that it was taking all of their existing 500 and 1000 rupee notes out of circulation. To put that in American terms imagine if all of your 10s and 20s were suddenly no good. Except that comparison doesn’t work because I’ve gone weeks at a time in the US without actually needing hard cash, which would never work in a India where cash is still king (one article said 95% of transactions are done in cash). From what I can understand the reasoning behind this was to fight corruption and force money to be reported to the government so it could be taxed. Three months later it’s unclear if that worked. What is clear is that it made life difficult for the Indian people and maybe hurt their economy in the short term. Read more…
The fourth day of our trip was mostly spent traveling. We had an afternoon flight out of Shanghai to New Delhi which meant we could have a leisurely morning at the Disneyland Hotel before heading out. First thing we did was talk to the front desk about ordering a car to take us to the airport. I got the impression that this was an unusual request. They had a handy reference sheet showing sizes of cars and the expense, but after I picked one it took four people to figure out how to call and order the car. They were all extremely helpful and spoke excellent English, but I was a little surprised that this wasn’t a common occurrence. Read more…
We showed up at Shanghai Disneyland intending to close down the park. It is unlikely we will ever make it back there so we needed to make the most of it. We did.
As I’ve hinted at in some of the previous posts, Shanghai Disneyland was not busy while we were there. This may have been because it was right after the New Year holiday, maybe because it was a little chilly and “foggy”, maybe they just aren’t getting the turnout they hoped for after the initial surge of interest. I don’t know, but we certainly enjoyed the lack of crowds and short lines. The short lines included the lines to meet and snap a picture with many of Disney’s great characters. We have more awkward family pictures taken with people wearing costumes than from any other trip we’ve taken. This high picture count might also be influenced by the opportunity to meet Star Wars and Marvel characters too. Read more…
My family assures me that the TRON ride was mentioned before we left on our trip, but with the holidays and all the visa stuff I must have missed it. When I found out there was a TRON ride at Shanghai Disneyland I started to get excited. When I found out it was called the TRON Lightcycle Power Run I got more excited. Disney had brought to life one of the coolest things from the movies when I was a kid, the lightcycles from TRON, and I was going to get to ride one. Read more…
If you know one thing about our family you know that we like to go to Disneyland. I am not saying that we only went to Shanghai so that we could go to Shanghai Disneyland, but if not for Mickey Mouse I probably would have spent my three days in China in Beijing, shivering as we explored the Great Wall in the off season.