Day 104: New Delhi, India. We woke to our last full day in Delhi – assuming Lil’s replacement credit card showed up today as planned.
After a lazy breakfast and catching up on some reading, we headed out to spend the afternoon doing some final sightseeing at Humayun’s Tomb, about 8km south of the city.
The tomb was commissioned in 1569 by Humayun’s first wife, Empress Bega Begum. It was designed by Persian architects and was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent, and the first structure to use mainly red sandstone and marble (it was built some 70 years before the Red Fort, also constructed in red sandstone and marble, which we visited earlier this week).
In 1993 the tomb was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site, and since then it’s undergone extensive restoration. The main attraction is the 47 metre high marble and sandstone tomb, with a 6 metre dome, set in extensive gardens. Visitors can go inside the tomb, which still houses the bodies of over 150 members of the Humayun dynasty. Today there’s little left of the original decoration, though the sandstone fretwork windows are still beautiful. Scattered throughout the grounds are other smaller tombs, including that of the Emperor’s favourite barber. In 1947 the grounds were used as a refugee camp for muslims on their way to newly formed Pakistan.
After a couple of hours of walking around the spectacular grounds, and ducking several times when huge Black Kites flew too close to our heads, we walked to another more recently opened tourist attraction close by, called Sunder Nursery.
Sunder Nursery is a 16th century heritage park with fifteen heritage monuments, six of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. It fell into a sad state of disrepair, and after renovations started in 2007, it opened again to the public in early 2018. It’s a beautifully laid out formal garden with lots of walkways and water features – some kites were having a great time paddling and splashing in the fountains. The park has ambitions to become Delhi’s equivalent of New York’s Central Park, however it’s outside the city, and there’s an entry fee payable, rather than being an open-to-everyone public park. Still, it’s good to see the city has ambitions to compete with international landmarks.
When we’d had our fill of gardens, peacocks, kites and squirrels, we caught an Uber back to the Old Indian Coffee House near Connaught Square, for some chill time and a couple of coffees. We watched a monkey scrambling over the roofs outside the window, praying it wouldn’t come inside to keep us company.
Dinner was at Biryani Blues again – a nice easy, relaxed venue for a simple dinner of good biryani. Half way through our meal the lights went out – a power cut which was caused by building work at the shop next door. The waiter said it would ‘probably only be a few minutes’ before the lights came back on. A few minutes later, there was no sign of anything happening, so two lovely waiters balanced their phones on two upturned glasses, with phone torches turned on, so we could finish our dinner. By the time we left 20 minutes later, the place was still in darkness.
We had a post-dinner beer at a bar at Connaught Place, then headed home. We were happy to find Lil’s replacement credit card waiting for us when we got back to the hotel, so we’re good to get packed up and head out of Delhi tomorrow.
We spent a while booking accommodation and trying to book train travel. It turns out that while Indian Railways accept about 15 different forms of payment, none of them match anything we use in Australia – they’re all local payment systems, or cards linked to local banks. So we’ll just have to turn up at the train station tomorrow, and hope we can get tickets on the spot.
Our first stop in Rajasthan is at a town called Alwar, half way between Delhi and Jaipur, with a history dating back to 1000 AD. There are a number of old forts, temples and havelis, plus a lake and tiger reserve (which sadly won’t be open while we’re there). So assuming we manage to get train tickets at the station, we’ll be heading to Alwar tomorrow.