Continued from a previous post…
We hopped in the allocated cab and were greeted by a young driver and his older, surlier “assistant”. This “assistant” proceeded to demand our pre-paid cab slip before arriving at the hotel, which is not allowed. We refused, as we weren’t taking any chances of him ripping it up and charging us an arm and a leg, preferring to give him the actual address. This made him cranky, and he started mumbling in Hindi at us near the end. We checked into our hotel (which had an elaborate Diwali ceremony/shrine going on in the lobby) and caught our breath.
We talked to the hotel manager, got ourselves a pre-paid A/C cab and started our tours of the city. We first went to Birla Mandir – which was a pretty cool looking Hindu temple. We then proceeded to check out the Indian Parliament building and India Gate – the Indian version of Arlington/The Wall/Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier. It had the names of British/Indian soldiers who had died from WWI to Indian Independence. We then went over to Qutb Minar – a very old and ornate mosque/monument complex. Foreigners were supposed to pay 150 Rs, but we got “The Indian Price” of 10 Rs by flashing our FRRO papers. The guys behind the counter weren’t happy about it, but they saw “Government of Karnataka” and decided to give us the discount.
After touring Qutb Minar, we drove across town to the Baha’i House Of Prayer/Lotus Temple – it was an impressive structure that had beautiful grounds and was nice and quiet on the inside (silence was required). They had volunteers from all over the world helping out – which was kind of neat.
We ended the day by going to Mahatma Gandhi’s “samadhi”/memorial – Raj Ghat. Upon entering, we saw a guy hawking plastic toy AK-47s – it definitely didn’t seem like the place to be selling such items, considering his ideology of non-violence.
The memorial was very peaceful and beautiful – rolling grassy hills, famous quotes engraved into stone and an eternal flame.
We had finished off our first day of touring and had an hour or two left to kill. We figured we’d drive around some more – we were wrong. Our cab driver proceeded to take us to a handicrafts store (where he got a kickback for dragging stupid tourists to). We sternly refused – this made our cab driver less than pleased. I wanted to stop for a coffee, but he tried to say the coffee places were closed (never mind the fact that there were two places all lit up/with people in them within a 1/4 mile of each other). Our obstinacy had put him in a cranky mood – this theme would repeat itself throughout the trip. He didn’t even mutter a thank you when we paid him our balance.
We hit the hay pretty early, as we had an early morning train to catch to Agra. However, the neighbors had different ideas. During Diwali, people often light off cheap/loud firecrackers to celebrate. The people of Karol Bagh were no exception. The area outside our hotel sounded like downtown Sarajevo during the civil wars in the Balkans – it sounded like artillery shelling outside. We put in our ear plugs and finally went to bed.
To be continued…