This concludes the four part series of posts about my trip to Northern India (New Delhi and Agra):
Early the next morning, we woke up, checked out of our hotel and hired a driver for a half day so that we could check out the few places we had left in Delhi to see. We knew it would be a fun day when the cab driver started trying to ask me something in Hindi – I speak about 3 words of it. Definitely relied upon pointing/slow speaking to get our points across. We arrived at the entrance to the Red Fort in Delhi and we saw two soldiers guarding it – our cab driver, after asking a random bike rickshaw driver, said it was closed. We took a look at our tourist guide about Delhi and realized that he had brought us to the wrong entrance – he was assuming the Fort was closed because he took us to the military controlled entrance (only part of the fort is open to tourists, the rest is a garrison for the Indian Army) and saw that there was no parking. After a heated exchange, we finally parked in the garage of a Sikh Gurudwara down the street and we made our way to the Fort. We were able to successfully negotiate Indian pricing yet again by flashing our neat Karnataka State Government papers – my tax dollars at work?
The Red Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was a huge fort built in 1648 by Shah Jahan (same guy who built the Taj Mahal) on the Yamuna River. It wasn’t as intricate as the architecture we saw at Agra Fort, but it was still amazing. There was a lot of Indian Army presence here – we saw at least 3 mustachioed soldiers with sub-machine guns wandering around. Also, we noticed that in India, roped off areas don’t stop people from going under the barrier like they do in the US – well, as long as the guards weren’t looking.
After we finished our tour, we went to one of the more unique places on our trip – Akshardham. The only way I can describe it is the Hindu equivalent of EPCOT Center. After ensuring that we didn’t have any of the 20-something forbidden items on our person, we went through a security screening that rivaled the TSA in terms of thoroughness. As we walked towards the temple, we saw some of the most ornate carvings and ostentatious statues we’ve seen here in India. I found it odd that they went on and on about the aestheticism of Bhagwan Swaminarayan (the “teacher” that the complex is dedicated to), like walking across India barefoot, etc. – yet he was represented by 14 foot tall solid gold statues. For a mere 51,000 INR ($1300), you could get the late guru’s blessings every day for the rest of your life. If that sounds a bit high, for only 11,100 INR you could get his blessings on only one day per year for the rest of your life. What a deal! They had an IMAX theater and boat ride, but myself and Jen passed.
After leaving that, we almost got dragged to a handicrafts store – but we demanded to go the airport. We assumed we’d only be a few hours early – turned out our flight was rescheduled for 4 hours later. Oops. I ended up studying for my work exam and listening to music for a while. The flight home was uneventful – save for the “jokes” section of the SpiceJet on-board magazine that had suggestions for ways to break up boredom on the flight that would get you arrested in the US – many included jokes about terrorism, etc. Gotta love the Indian sense of humor.
We arrived back at Infosys Bangalore around 10 PM and I hopped in a Tata Indicab and told the driver to go back to Mysore – he took the short cut, apparently. I was lying down in the back, in and out of sleep – but I do know we went down the very much unfinished tollway, went down some random dirt roads in rural Bangalore, but ended up back at Infosys Mysore in 2 hours flat. The long weekend was finally over.