Helen and Randall on the road

A bit about our adventures 2011-2012

Posts Tagged ‘Delhi

Sunday 1st – Thursday 5th April: Delhi

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After a day of relaxing and some minor shopping on Connaught Place

Tamsin outside the legendary Wengers on Connaught Circus (hello Charlie!)

and Janpath – FabIndia for pretty tops – on Tuesday we headed to Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk to visit the wholesale spice market on Khari Baoli we’d been told about.

The remains of the gracious mughal city of Shahjahanabad can just about be traced behind the chaos of Delhi’s wholesale markets selling everything from paper to car parts, but the graceful courtyards and terraces have been filled with packed-in dwellings and shops housing the traders, rickshaw drivers and sweepers who live here, New Delhi’s down-at-heel neighbour, these days.

We took an autorickshaw to Chandni Chowk itself then persuaded Randall that it really would be OK for all three of us to get in a cycle rickshaw:

‘Rocky’, ‘Rickshaw Pilot’ (his description!) trying to squeeze us between two buses.

As luck would have it, ‘Rocky’ actually lived in one of the tiny one-room apartments in the chawls that have sprung up inside the spice market so knew his way around. He took us up onto the roof (via some terrifyingly precarious stairs) from where we could see down into the building itself on one side and the courtyard of the mosque on the other side.

Top of the spice market – you can see the classic mughal-style building around the courtyard, and the warren of buildings cobbled together inside it.

To the far side is the mosque, where the courtyard looks more as these buildings were meant to be. Even there, the roof terraces have been put to use for drying flowers, herbs and spices:

The old courtyards have been built up and filled in to house the hundreds of people who live and work in the building complex.

Inside the spice market building the air is filled with the aromas and powders of the herbs and spices, so your eyes water and throat itches. I can’t imagine what living there is like, although maybe you become immune to it.

The market was wholesale only, so Rocky brought us to a shop (where presumably he got a cut!) where Tamsin and I stocked up on everything from vanilla pods to turmeric root.

Checking out our purchases.

Tamsin and I wanted to go sari-shoppping (for decoration, not to wear) so Randall made his own way off and we got the ‘scenic tour’ of Old Delhi with Rocky’s running commentary, which was fun if occasionally a bit alarming. One of our favourite sights was this ‘school bus’ (of which we saw several) – a cycle-powered small cage with numerous tiny school-uniformed children stuffed (and locked) inside:

Shopping done, we headed back to Paharganj for lunch and to drop off some more tailoring (I’ve said it before, but I love how you can get ANYTHING fixed in India!) and to package up various things to be posted home. Quite exhausted from the heat and hecticness, the only answer was a night in watching TV and drinking the remains of our gin!

The next morning Tamsin and I were up early to visit Kairali, an Ayurvedic spa we’d been recommended by a woman we’d met in McLeod Ganj. We took the fabulous Metro out to Qutb Minar stop in Mehrauli – although this did involve having to shout at the security people to let us over the footbridge to reach the New Delhi metro station. Bizarre system – the only other way to reach it from the main thoroughfare Chelmsford Road is to go through the main station, which entails queueing with all the potential passengers to be security scanned and having ticket to travel. Classic bureaucracy-gone-nuts.

Still, the Ayurvedic centre was very relaxing:

Tamsin in the reception of Kairali, just before we both had Elakizhi treatments.

After the treatment – quite unlike anything either of us had had before, with two therapists really going for it with the firm massage and battering with herb-filled muslin bags – we both felt shiny and invigorated, and ready for lunch.

We met Randall at Basil & Thyme, a restaurant recommended to us by Christopher, who was sadly unable to join us. It was a lovely restaurant – all smoked salmon carpaccio and light Mediterranean main courses – a bit River Cafe, although sadly no wine as it’s not licensed. The glamorous maitress d’ even told us where the recipe for the delightful strawberry and cinnamon torte came from.

Randall headed off while Tamsin and I nipped to the salon next door for a leg-and-other-bits wax. This turned out to be an interesting experience as, before either of us realised what was happening, we had got rather more (or, indeed, less) than we had bargained for. Some cultural differences really are quite unexpected and enlightening!

To round off Tamsin’s trip we went to meet Daleep and the elusive DJ (both friends from when Charlie and I were first in India) at Aqua, the poolside bar at The Park Hotel. Nice bar, good music, good mezze menu, but the most uncomfortable selection of furniture! A good night of catching up on the past and planning for the future, topped off by Daleep having to leave because his twin sister had just gone into labour! DJ drove us back to Paharganj, very nobly not turning his nose up (much!), for a few hours sleep before an early start for the airport.

Randall and I dropped Tamsin off at the International terminal before catching our flight to Bagdogra for Darjeeling. This made us laugh:

Casual (or indeed overt) sexism of any kind not dead here yet!


Written by helenbcn

April 5, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Saturday 14th – Sunday 15th January: Delhi

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We arrived in Delhi in the early hours of Saturday morning so Saturday was a pretty uneventful day of a bit of a lie in, a leisurely breakfast on a roof terrace in Paharganj, then traipsing around Connaught Place getting a replacement iPhone for Randall as he managed to drop his into the workings of his flat-bed seat on the plane and grind it into pieces., as well as getting SIM cards sorted which turned out to be one of those classic ‘more complex than it needs to be’ transactions requiring photos, which had to be taken in the photo studio down the street, which took 15 minutes to process them (and this after, in the rather Heath Robinson studio upstairs, the photographer had asked me to ‘clean face’ as I was apparently too shiny for the camera).

We had dinner of dhal, rice, veggies and parathas plus a few beers  at Paharganj staple ‘Sam’s Rooftop Terrace’ , then after wandering the length of Main Bazaar we called into ‘My Bar’ for another couple:

On Sunday morning we rose in time for breakfast in another rooftop cafe overlooking the bonkersness of Paharganj…auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws, the odd car, the odd cow and people people people competing for space and attention. Then it was off in an auto-rickshaw to the Jantar Mantar – our rickshaw driver was quite mad; swerving up to other vehicles to shout at their occupants, but he made me laugh a LOT when we passed a small minibus with some naff western hippy hanging out of the window – all dirty dreads and grubby ‘I”m *spiritual* maaaaaaaan’ robes – and our driver practically pranged the bus so he could yell ‘NICE HAIR, MAN!!!’ at him before veering off across the traffic in the other direction. *Smirk*.

The Jantar Mantar looks like a sculpture park but is actually a series of astronomical measuring instruments built in 1724:

The gnomon of a huge sundial, accurate to within several seconds.

Posing in front of a clock that tells the time in Delhi, Zurich and Tokyo.

Instrument for determining detailed astronomical information for astrological purposes, ie for calculating birth charts based on detailed star sign info.

Samrat Yantra (the big sundial) from another angle.

Part of instrument for measuring azimuth of celestial bodies:

Clever, no?

Peering through one of the arches.

From the Jantar Mantar we walked to the nearest metro station on the Delhi Metro – I was SO excited about this as I had been finding it hard to imagine what a metro/underground/subway system would be like in India. As it turns out, busy, efficient, clean, modern and cheap; women only carriages, mobile phone charging points and and 3G network coverage. At only 15 rupees and 12 minutes to Green Park station for Hauz Khas village, we were very impressed!

At Hauz Khas village we met Farah, a friend from London who had just arrived in Delhi for a week’s work in Gurgaon, for lunch at Gunpowder which was lovely, South Indian food on a table overlooking the lake. However, no booze so we caught a taxi back to Farah’s very posh hotel, the Oberoi in Gurgaon, for pudding and a bottle of wine:

Randall and Farah – terrace of 361° bar/restaurant, overlooking the ‘reflection pool’.

Helen & Farah, one bottle of Prosecco down

Hotel employees, wetsuited up, cleaning the bottom of the pool. Once the sun went down it was really cold so they must have been FREEZING!

The hotel was super modern and very beautiful, although with perhaps still a few teething problems; while the service was very attentive we still had to ask for the dessert menu FOUR times before someone brought it to us! That said, there were a huge number of complimentary snacks – cheese, dried fruit, bread fresh from the oven, indian sweets – brought to our table while we polished off two bottles of Prosecco and they were all fantastic so perhaps they just thought we were mad for actually ordering and paying for food! Still, the melt-in-the-middle chocolate pudding was divine.

Because they messed up our request for a taxi back to Paharganj (oh the come down!) we got a free limo service back care of the hotel. Which was nice.

The rest of the pics are here.

Written by helenbcn

January 15, 2012 at 11:42 pm