Day 102: New Delhi, India. We woke to an email saying Lil’s request for an emergency replacement credit card hadn’t been approved, but with no explanation why. Sigh.
Another lengthy call with Visa International indicated that someone their end had typed Lil’s name incorrectly, so St.George in Sydney subsequently declined the request. A very helpful guy straightened things out and resubmitted the report.
We had breakfast at our hotel again – it’s the easiest option as there are no obvious cafes near our hotel (none that we would want to venture into anyway). Lil says she is going to buy a monkey to feed her breakfast chapatis to, if she’s forced to eat many more.
We headed out into another hot sunny day, to check out the Red Fort which tops the list of historical landmarks in Delhi. The traffic was insane and it took an age to get there in an Uber, with a series of very near misses along the way. Our driver and a tuk tuk collided at one point with a loud crunching noise, but neither seemed bothered and just kept driving.
While we were standing in a lengthy queue outside the Red Fort, a guy came up and told us we were in the Indian queue, and foreigners have a separate queue downstairs. We followed him and discovered he was right, there was a foreigners-only area in the ticketing area downstairs, with no one queuing at all. The guy started rattling on about being our tour guide for the Red Fort, lots of experience and good price etc. We shook our heads, but he said ‘don’t worry, we can discuss further once you have paid for your tickets’. Which meant he wasn’t going away any time soon. When we’d paid for our tickets, which cost over 17 times higher than tickets for locals, we thanked him for helping us and told him we were absolutely fine looking around ourselves. He kept persisting and persisting and eventually we just had to be rude and walk away, waving goodbye and thank you and turning our backs on him.
The Red Fort is an astounding set of buildings and grounds – it was designed by the same architect as the Taj Mahal and was built, using white marble and red sandstone, in the 1640s as the centrepiece of today’s Old Delhi. It was plundered many times in the 18th century and all of the riches were removed. It was taken over by the British in 1803 and used as a garrison. Many remaining artifacts were removed to London museums where they remain. Today it is a symbol of Indian independence.
There are also a series of museums (not included in our tickets!) covering the Indian people and Indian independence. We were allowed in to one section by a nice security guard (who started trying to explain our ticket didn’t cover the museum, then just waved us through) where there was an exhibit about the Amritsar massacre in April 1919. British soldiers opened fire on a group of unarmed civilians who were protesting for Indian independence. Like the Thai/Burma Death Railway museum in Kanchanaburi, it left us both a little emotional.
Having walked around for over two hours, we decided it was time for food, so headed for Paranthe Wali Gali – ‘lane of flatbread makers’. It’s a very narrow street in the old town, lined with a series of shops selling paratha flat breads in all sorts of flavours. We chose a restaurant called Kanhaiya, which has been in the family for six generations and serves over a dozen types of flatbread, all strictly vegetarian and with no onions or garlic, which some Hindus choose not to eat (one article we read said onions and garlic are thought to increase passion and ignorance).
We ordered four types of paratha – ladyfinger, cheese, cashew and tomato, which came served searing hot from the stove by the door, along with a thali comprising aloo gravy, mixed vegetable curry, pickled vegetables, and a spicy sweet banana chutney. The food was sensational.
Afterwards we went on a wander-about through the tiny laneways of the old town. We passed hundreds of shops selling brightly coloured saris and fabric, beads and other decorations – lots of store owners invited us in to take a look around, but saris aren’t really our thing.
We walked through some more streets towards the Red Fort again, which seemed like a reasonable place to order an Uber. The last street we wandered along was filled with publishers and book sellers, selling mostly text books and stationery.
Something caught our eyes overhead, and we looked up to see a lone monkey sitting on the electric wires – just a little out of place in the chaotic old town.
We dropped our backpacks into our hotel, responded to a message from Visa International (good news – Lil’s emergency card has been approved and will be delivered in a couple of days) then walked a couple of blocks to a local bar – the only bar we could find nearby on Google Maps. It didn’t look open from the outside, but inside was a hive of activity and again Lil was the only female there. We found a table and chose two beers from the fridge. We asked the guy who was serving us how much the beers were – he said 180 Rupees, just as the guy behind him said 150 Rupees.
The serving guy then pestered us big time to order food. We said we’d eaten recently and weren’t hungry. He said we must order food, as we are ‘his customer’. We said no thanks. He said the snacks are small sized and we can surely fit those in. We said no thanks. He said there is no way we can’t buy at least some small snacks. We said no thanks. He said, there is no option, you must order some food. Lil, in a bit of a fury, and in a last ditch attempt to get the guy to go away, said fine, ordered one snack from the menu and told the guy it was a total waste, as we weren’t hungry. So we paid for our beers and the snack, and perhaps not surprisingly, the snack never arrived.
We headed home after one beer, did some more travel planning for Rajasthan, and had another glass of our recently purchased Indian wine that tastes a bit like wine.
Tomorrow we might pack in a couple more sights, or check out a bird sanctuary, or see if anyone wants to sell Lil a monkey so she can offload her breakfast chapatis.