Monday, April 25, 2011

Week Twenty Daily Journal

Friday, February 11
New Delhi, India

Surprisingly, we declined to eat dinner here.
We slept really late and had breakfast/lunch at the guesthouse and then took the wonderfully clean, cheap and efficient metro to the Lotus Temple (a Bahai temple), then the Khan Market (where we stopped for coffee frappes at Cafe Coffee Day) and finally Lodi Gardens (where we explored some really cool 13th century tombs) (see post, Delhi Delights). We took an auto rickshaw to Defense Colony Market and had a delicious dinner at Swagath of butter chicken, dal and curry fish (WAY too much food!). It was an adventure getting home as our autorickshaw driver could neither read, read a map, nor speak English. We were trying to direct him using google maps on the iPhone and a variety of hand gestures. He kept randomly stopping and saying ok and gesturing as if we had reached our destination, and we had to yell at him to keep going.

Saturday, February 12

New Delhi, India

We had big plans for today but ended up spending most of it booking our trip around Rajasthan. (See post, Your Classic Delhi Travel Agent Scam. Or Not?)  After this extremely stressful experience, Ashok took us to a cell store of sorts so that we could buy a sim card. Then we took the metro over to Chandni Chowk to explore Old Delhi by night. Wow. Throngs of people, bikes, rickshaws, trucks, motorbikes, etc all vying for space in tiny narrow streets. People running around carrying everything from hot coals to giant steel pipes to who knows what. Vendors selling kebabs, samosas, sweets, betel leaves, shoes, auto parts, etc etc. It was way crazier than any market we had ever been to, including in Egypt or China. We were constantly jostled around and watching where we stepped. We were also starving. We took refuge in a McDonalds and then later ventured out and had a samosa, a jalebi (a coil of fried dough dunked in sugar syrup and served hot), and something else we didn't know. We tried to find a restaurant that had been recommended, unsuccessfully. Finally we couldn't take it any longer and we jumped in an auto rickshaw to the subway and went home and ordered Dominos.  (See post, Mayhem).

Sunday, February 13
New Delhi and Agra, India

We stopped at this temple for sunset. Pretty.
We woke up early this morning and went to the Taj Mahal Hotel to meet Dan and his dad. We joined them on a tour of Hamayan's Tomb and Qutr Minab (see post, Delhi Delights), and then had lunch back at their hotel. Then we went back to our hotel where we met up with Pappu and set out for Agra, stopping at a Hindu temple on the way. When we got there we checked into our AMAZING hotel, the ITC,where we were staying on points. We were excited to wallow so we had dinner at the very good restaurant there, which specialized in northeast Indian food. We had grilled chicken, dal and naan, eaten traditionally with our hands. Then we watched the season finale of Breaking Bad season 2, which was very disappointing.

Monday, February 14
Agra and Jaipur, India

A really long day.  We woke up at 6 am to get to the Taj Mahal by dawn, only to find out that all the roads were closed because of the Agra half marathon. (See post, A Lot of Lovin'). We were sad, especially Dave. We went back to the hotel and had breakfast and then went back to our car, where we found Pappu deathly ill, vomiting out of the side of his car. We later learned that it was a kidney stone. He had found another guy, Sharma, to drive us for the day and Sharm would take him to the doctor while we visited the Taj. Our guide (included for the morning in our travel package) and we set out. The Taj Mahal was breathtaking. Next we went to a marble factory, where (apparently) the descendants of the family that built the Taj Mahal were still working and doing inlaid marble. It's true that the descendants are still responsible for maintaining the Taj Mahal, but not clear if its true that they are the family running this business, although maybe. Anyway, the marble table tops were gorgeous but a little too pricey for us and we managed to leave without buying anything.  Next we visited the Agra Fort (where we were endlessly amused by a french woman in a pink sari who would shove her camera at random people and demand that they take photos of her in outlandish poses) and then hit the road. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant where we were seated in a separate room, presumably for foreigners, although we were the only ones. Next we visited Jama Masjid, a beautiful mosque in Fatehpur Sikri. We had to take a tuk tuk from the parking lot and we taught a baby how to stick his tongue out, his parents then refused to play the game with him. We were followed around the mosque by a "licensed government guide" who desperately tried to guide us, and when we strongly refused, tried to sell us his "hand crafted" goods. When we refused that he demanded a tip. Argh, India. (See post, If You Guide Them They Will Pay (Maybe)). After Fatephur Sikri we drove to Jaipur and Sharma dropped us off... At the wrong Starwood property. We had to call him to come back and drive us to the correct (and much less fancy) Four Points all the away across town. Exhausted, we ate dinner at the hotel.

Tuesday, February 15
Jaipur, India

Veg curry, YUM
We slept in and didn't get going until around noon. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant called Pindi  and had a delicious channa masala and veg curry to the sounds of a sitar player. Then we went to the Amber Fort where we took a horrible audio guide. We enjoy walking around and a family took some photos with us. After some time trying to buy a sim card and data plan, we went to a textiles shop that, they claimed, exported to ABC Carpets. Dave did some hard negotiating and we left with a bedspread and some pashminas. Our next stop was a jewelry shop where i was tempted by an topaz ring but we left without buying and went to meet the Blasers at Rambagh Palace, a magnificent hotel in a palace, for dinner. (See post, Maharajas & Me - Jaipur).

Wednesday, February 16
Bikaner, India

Breakfast aloo paratha, YUM
We left the hotel at 8am and stopped at a roadside cafe for a breakfast of parathas and chai masala. We drove for a few hours before visiting a Krishna Temple. (See post, Om Krishna). Back in the car for another few hours before stopping for lunch (worst food yet) and then driving some more. Finally we reached Junagarh, the fort at Bikaner, but it was closed, so we went to Karni Mata Temple in Deshnok. (See post, I Smell a Rat). We drove to the Hotel Sagar, located in a beautiful old haveli. We had dinner in the lovely courtyard. Dave went up to the room and I went to use the Internet where immediately two men pulled up chairs next to me to chat and ask me a million questions (and to force me to friend them on facebook). When the young hotel receptionist left, the older restaurant manager told me that he was looking for a western women, and told me how much he makes and how much his car cost. He asked me to bring single lady friends next time I returned. Then he tried to kiss me as I left! Ewww.

Thursday, February 17
Jaisameler, India

We left the hotel early and stopped for lunch at Shree Ashapurna restaurant for lunch, where the most adorable tiny baby pups were playing outside. We continued driving until we reached our camel safari "resort", Dunes Camp Khuri, in a town about 40k outside of Jaisameler.  I didn't have the best nights sleep, but it was so peaceful out under the stars and the giant full moon, in the middle of the desert. (See post, Sleeping Under the Stars)

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