India Day 2 (11 Jun 11) – Sneak Peek into Delhi

Getting Train Tickets for My India Trip

After a good night sleep at the hotel, I headed to the train station to arrange for my interstate travels in India given the short time I have here. I am mentally prepared for the heat wave that I will be experiencing in India, given this is the middle of summer. As I step out of the hotel, it did not feel very bad after all. I took a stroll towards the train station, which was not very far from the hotel I put up for the night. I entered this dark foyer with a “Unreserved Ticket” stated on it. As I entered here, there were long queues forming at every counter that was attended. I did not feel like queuing up, so I approached a security guy and asked where can I get tickets for my train trip. He pointed me to the main station and head to the 2nd floor where it states international tourist. As per directions given, I went to the room that was pointed out. This room is full of tourists trying to sort out their train tickets. Getting the train tickets was rather uneventful, after queuing for about 30 mins (well there are seats where we move around like musical chair for people trying to get tickets. Got the tickets for my 3 trips settled for less then I would expected, one of which is first class (Well that is the only seat available). As I exited from the station, due to time constraints I took a motor rickshaw to the Red Fort.

On the streets of Delhi 
On the streets of Delhi 
On the streets of Delhi 
On the streets of Delhi 

The Majestic Red Fort

The ride to Red Fort exposed me to more foul smell!!! Mostly from the rubbish that the locals threw on the ground and of course the ammonia smell from the road side toilets. As we were heading towards the Red Fort, the rickshaw driver has mentioned that the people just do not bother about the governmental policies to curb littering, to make things worst, the local authorities accepted bribes when to look the other way when they catch people breaking the law. Soon I found myself in front of the Red Fort. It looked majestic, and really lived up to its name as the Red Fort. The gates and the main walls surrounding the fort is red in colour, due to the red sandstone used to build the fort. India practices dual pricing system where the locals pay a fraction of what the foreigners pay. At the time I entered the fort, there wasn’t many people. Guess it is still rather early at this hour. Entering the fort is like checking into the airport, we have to go through metal detectors and subjected to a body search. I passed the main entrance and the first thing I saw was a covered bazaar selling mainly souvenir to tourists. In the olden days, this place mainly served the royalties. The bazaar wasn’t that long, took me about 2 minutes to walk across it into the another a building known as the Drum house. This was where the emperor enjoyed the drum as part of his entertainment. However this Drum house has been converted into a military museum. Guess most tourists gave this a miss as I found out I am the only foreigner in this museum. Perhaps the inconspicuous entrance is part of a factor many give this a miss. The smallish museum displayed main weapons that was used in Shah Jahan’s time, but towards the end there are exhibits of weapons used by the Brits.

Entrance of Red Fort
Me at the entrance of Red Fort
Entrance of Red Fort
Introduction of the Red Fort
Entrance of Red Fort
Entrance of Red Fort
The Bazaar after the main entrance of Red Fort  
Drum House converted Military Museum
A painting of a war scene in the museum 
Weapons used during the ancient times
Weapons used during the ancient times
Weapons used during the ancient times

Exiting from the Museum I headed towards the next building where the Diwan-i-Am stands, this pillared building is where the emperors received the general public and listened to their greviances. The centrepiece of this pillared open building was a white marble throne where the emperor used to sit. Passing the Diwan-i-Am, opens up to the interior of the palace. At this point, I realised the Red Fort is actually the royalties’ residence. With areas where the emperor would have meetings with his officials and even a balcony where he would address his subjects, other then the sleep quarters. As I walked pass the Diwan-i-Am, the next building – Rang Mahal was immediately insight. This building was also known as the Palace of Colours as it once was painted with bright colours and decorated with mosaics. Its ceiling was once laid with mirrors and gold, and this building functioned as the quarters of the emperor’s wives and mistresses. The building next to the Rang Mahal, known as the Mumtaz Mahal, where it once housed the princesses. It has since been converted into an archaeology musuem. Tracking back towards the Rang Mahal, the building next to it was the Khas Mahal made out of white marble, which served as the emperor’s private palace. There was a balcony between the Khas Mahal and the building next to it – the Diwan-i-Khas (used as a robe room for the emperor), where the emperor used to address his subjects. This balcony overlooked a huge garden, where I can imagine the subjects used to gather to listen to their emperor.  The other buildings in the Red Fort are rather uneventful. There wasn’t any signs that explained their purpose in the olden days. There was a smaller garden and a palace (Zaar Mahal) like building, built into what seemed to be a pool of some sort between 2 white coloured pavilions. I guess this was pretty much it for the Red Fort, so I made my way out of the fort. At the entrance of the fort, I was rather shocked to see a snaking long queue forming at the entrance of the fort, mostly locals and some tourists, awaiting for their turn to gain entrance into the fort. I thought I was lucky to have came early, if not I would be amongst the snaking queue. Leaving the fort, I headed to my next destination, the Jama Masjid mosque, which boasted as the largest mosque in India.

The Drum House
Diwan-I-Arms
Interior of the Diwan-I-Arms
This is where the emperor address his subjects in the Diwan-I-Arms
Mumtaz Mahal
Inside the Rang Mahal
Rang Mahal
View of the Rang Mahal
The Bath House
Inside the Rang Mahal
Inside the Khas Mahal
The Balcony where the emperor used to address his subjects
Inside the Khas Mahal
Khas Mahal
Inside the Khas Mahal
The ceiling of Khas Mahal
The Rang Mahal was decorated with carvings of flowers
A building inside Red Fort
Zaar Mahal
The water palace
Entrance of Red Fort
Crowd started to build up at the entrance of Red Fort

Scaling the Minarets of Jama Masjid Mosque

As I was walking towards the mosque, which was really not that far, there were touts along the way, people selling stuffs, the rickshaw riders trying to grab my business and such. There was one that tried to sell his rickshaw service to me by saying that the tourist entrance to the mosque was a good 30 minutes walk! Well I did not buy into it and chose to walk, and right I was, the entrance was really not that far, and tourists are allowed to enter the mosque at any entrance. The interesting part about this mosque is the entrance is free, however I had to pay to bring my camera in, what a weird rule! Other then being the biggest mosque, one of the pulling factor for tourists is that one can climb up one of the minarets to marvel the surroundings. As I entered the mosque, a local who seemed to be working in the mosque grounds volunteered to bring me around without even my consent! I did not suspect much except that he would probably want a tip out of it at the end of the trip, so I allowed him to bring me around. At the end of the short 2 minute walk, he popped the question and asked for a tip. So I gave him 50 rupees and that fella actually asked for minimum 60 rupees! How can he extort visitors in a religious grounds???  That staff member left me after taking my tip and I was given the freedom to explore the mosque on my own.

My main purpose of visiting this mosque is to climb the minaret. Paid for the ticket for the minaret and off I went, getting to the base of the minaret. Now to get to the base of the minaret, I had to climb up to the second level of the mosque wall and a short walk on the wall to get to the minaret. At the base of the minaret, before entering it, there seemed to be someone guarding the entrance of the minaret. He forcefully assigned a boy who seemed to be his son to guide me up there. Well I have to say the boy did a good job by ensuring that my climb is a smooth one. As the 122 step stairway was very narrow, good for only 1 person at a time. Along the way there are people descending from the tower so we have to shift one side to allow their passage. At the top of the minaret, the view was stunting! I can see the whole of old Delhi as well as new Delhi. Not to mentioned the breeze up here was welcoming amidst the hot weather. I stayed up there for a good 10 mins before descending. As I reached the base of the minaret, the father of the boy started to ask for a 100 rupee tip! At this point I was rather pissed so I shaft 10 rupee to him and tell him I did not ask for the guide, and he volunteered his son as a guide, either he take it or he leave it. I think he saw how aggressive I was and did not insist in his 100 rupee tip! Well twice in a row I have been extorted for outrageous tips for services I did not ask for, it was really frustrating!

One of the entrances at the Jama Masjid Mosque 
Inside the Jama Masjid Mosque
The stairways inside the minaret
Jama Masjid Mosque grounds
View of Delhi from the minaret 
View of the mosque grounds from the minaret
View of the mosque grounds from the minaret

Shopping Mall in New Delhi

Out of the mosque I took a auto rickshaw to Connaught Place to grab lunch before heading back to the hotel to pack up my stuff for my train ride in the afternoon bound for Jaipur. I asked to be stopped at the shopping mall, hoping the air conditioning can ease the heat in Delhi. I was prompted sent to the underground shopping mall, which was really nothing other then shops after shops selling daily necessities to the locals. Was rather boring and I decided to leave the mall and check out for any fast food to settle my lunch (well all I had for the day was a sip of water before I left the hotel and nothing else). Exiting the mall, I saw a McDonald’s across the road and headed that way for lunch.

 

Train Ride to Jaipur

After lunch I went back to the hotel and packed up leaving for the train station. As the train leaves from Old Delhi Station, which was a distance away from the hotel, the hotel staff was kind enough to hail a auto rickshaw for me. This is where I learnt my 2nd lesson. The auto rickshaw driver kept saying pay whatever I like, so I boarded his vehicle (partially due to time constraint), when we reached the station he asked for more! As I was about to miss my train, paid him whatever he asked for and left to catch my train! At the crowded station, finding the platform was not that tough. The tougher part was finding the carriage I was suppose to travel in and the berth! It took me 3 tries before I found where my berth was! About an hour through the ride, a teenage boy approached me asking me if he could sit, I asked if he has a ticket and he said he didn’t but just wanted a sit to rest. So I told him he could that the sit beside me. Throughout the train ride, there are vendors selling things like potato chips, tea, snacks. The teenager bought a packet of chips and asked me if I wanted some. Well I didn’t wanna get my hands dirty by eating the chips, I rejected his kind offer. Later, the tea selling man came by and that boy asked if I would like to have some tea and he intended to buy me a cup (probably out of gratefulness), however seeing him probably having not much cash with him, I rejected his kind offer again. The rest of the journey was really uneventful. The only thing is there is no announcement of the train stop, lucky for the locals I was traveling with, they reminded that the train pulled into the station that I was suppose to alight, and off I went.  Here I am in Jaipur after a 6 hour train ride. I must say the ride was rather comfortable. I checked into my hotel and rest for the night. I was rather exhausted partly by the heat and partly by the train ride, I hit the bed early at night.

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