Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Touristy Delhi and hit and run

Earlier in the day, we mostly did the touristy thing. Saw lots of green.

First, we took a cycle rickshaw and went to M-block to grab a bite to eat. It was actually quite deserted in the morning, I was kind of surprised. Anyway, where did we go to eat? Shamefully, McDonald's! haha. But I absolutely love their veggie burgers, and I wish they had them in the US!!

Following that, we went to the Lotus Temple. Very green! To enter the temple, we had to take our shoes off and check them in. Well, during that time, a worm must have crawled into my sandal. After I had put my sandals back on, I had been walking for a bit, when I felt like there was something stuck to my foot. I took off my sandal, only to discover a squashed worm. Ewww!!! I started freaking out and threw my shoe. Of course this caused a scene, and several people started asking me what was wrong. I told them there was a worm in my sandal, and they picked up the sandal to get rid of the worm. It took a few tries because they were doing it without touching it... but eventually they got it, thank goodness. Ugh, so sick.

Oh, and it was a hot day, and for some reason, I decided I wanted to be drinking hot tea as I'm walking (and sweating.) Well, actually, the reason was I wanted to be getting my antioxidants. But anyway.

Following the Lotus Temple, we made our way to the India Gate and the President's Estate.
It was hot. You would expect someone to be selling water in a touristy area, but it was very difficult to come by... never did find water.

Eventually we made our way back to Kailash Colony.

A few hours later, we made a second attempt at meeting Jennifer's friend Scott in Connaught Place--and succeeded! Weather was much better. Once we got to the general area, we didn't have too much trouble finding the restaurant. The locals are always very eager to help. We had a quality western-style meal, haha.

Following the dinner, Scott arranged to have his driver take us back. The drive back is when we encountered a slight accident. The driver was making a turn that he really shouldn't have made because there was an oncoming car, and slowly but surely, the other car crashes into the side of our car. So what does our driver do? He continues to drive. I guess it was our driver's intent to drive to lose the other car, which of course was following us, so he turns onto a dark street and turns off his headlights as he continues to drive. Eventually, we lose the other car, and he turns his headlights back on, and we make our way back.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Yucky flooded roads (Delhi)

Earlier in the day, we went to Dilli Haat, a market area that sold lots of crafts.

I was always told that monsoons are the worst in Mumbai, but my worst rainfall experience was in Delhi. And it was the most rainfall Delhi had experienced for the season thus far. And we deliberately went out and trudged through the grungy water that was nearly knee high. It was... kinda gross. Jennifer's friend was in Delhi, so we were going to meet him for dinner. During evening rush hour, getting from south Delhi to Connaught Place is a challenge in itself, and the extreme rain wasn't any help. Getting a rickshaw was nearly impossible. Heavy rain meant less drivers who wanted to deal with the ridiculous traffic and flooded roads. We had our pants rolled up and were walking through the water, trying to find a rickshaw. We headed in the direction of a busy street in search of a rickshaw, and they were few and far between, and those that did pass already had passengers. So there we are standing in the rain waiting and waiting. And we had no umbrella. Or did we? Actually I think we did, but I was so wet, I don't think it really made a difference. Anyway, after failing to get a rickshaw, we decided to postpone the dinner. So we returned to our host's dry apartment and probably watched a few episodes of Friends on Star World.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Road trip! (Agra)

Well, we didn't end up leaving Delhi until the afternoon.

The drive from Delhi was around four hours. There were fruit stands along the way.

Once we got to Agra, we passed the Agra Fort (but didn't go inside), and also got to see our first glimpse of the Taj from a distance.

Our next mission was finding a hotel. We went to the touristy area that is within walking distance of the Taj Mahal to try to find something. That was an adventure. The streets definitely didn't see a lot of cars. The streets were narrow, just barely enough room for the car. We were getting a lot of attention, as everyone we were passing was staring at us. We passed a couple of cows too. I found it to be a little funny, but I don't think our host who was driving thought so, as he was concentrating on driving the car down the narrow streets. We also got a bit lost, as the streets continued to wind. Asking for directions for the main street didn't always work out, as I guess people didn't know which main street.... because there was nothing they would consider a "main street"?

Anyway, so eventually, we got out... and I say we got out, because it seemed like we were trapped and circling an area trying to find a main road for quite some time. We went to a few of the popular touristy hotels/guest houses to get a room, but they were either booked or they weren't very appealing.

So instead we drove a little bit away to find a hotel room elsewhere. After checking out a few rooms, we finally decided on a room. It felt like a long day, so it was good to finally find a place. We were probably driving around Agra for over an hour... we were also being followed a few times--hotel workers trying to convince us to stay at their place. They are very persistent.

The next morning, we had breakfast at a rooftop restaurant that overlooks the Taj Mahal. Good view, but excruciatingly slow service. It claims to be listed in the Lonely Planet as one of the top restaurants in Agra. I wonder about that.

Anyway, after breakfast, we made our way to the Taj Mahal. We entered the grounds, and there was so much space! I don't think I quite imagined it as such.

So we wandered around. It was so hot. I felt like it was the hottest day I had experienced in India. We made our way closer to the Taj Mahal itself. There was a little white girl about eight years old who became a celebrity. A bunch of Indian women wanted a picture with her.
We stayed in the vicinity of the Taj Mahal itself for a bit, venturing inside and walking around it. Then we continued to wander the grounds.
Then I saw a group of people passing by us and saw one kid with a Michigan State shirt on. Of course, having been in India for quite some time, I hadn't seen anybody wearing any college apparel on in awhile. Being a Michigan fan, I yelled "GO BLUE" to him, and the whole group turned... and then I heard my name!!!! It was someone I hadn't seen in over five years!!! Out of all places, we run into each other at the Taj Mahal! Crazy! It turns out the whole group was from Michigan State.

After that, we continued to wander some more. The weather was becoming gloomier by the moment. We started headed to the exit when suddenly it started down pouring. We ran to the nearest place we could find shelter and stood around for awhile, waiting for the rain to let up. It was quite the site though, because literally everyone was running for shelter.
Eventually the rain died down, and we started making our way back to the car, and then back to Delhi.

Friday, August 1, 2008

I'm a pro! ...not really (Mumbai)

It felt good to be back in Mumbai a second time around! I felt like I actually knew what I was doing! Taking the local train was a breeze, hopping (or pushing my way) onto the crowded train was nothing new. I was able to play tour guide for Jennifer (hahaha!!!) More like, "This is the Gateway of India, and that's the Taj Mahal hotel." But hey, I was easily able to get us to Colaba from Bandra! YES!!! What can I say, I was proud!

The rest of our time in Mumbai was spent meeting up with people I had met the first time around, going to malls feeling like we were back in the US (haha), and we also made a trip to Sanjay Gandhi National Park to see lions (among other things.)

So we were in Mumbai a few days, and then we took the Rajdhani Express back to Delhi on the foreigner's quota.