Delhi to Chandigarh Sunday 2 –Wednesday 5 August 2009
We spent a few days in Tibet or rather the Tibetan Colony of Majnu-ka-Tilla which was an amazing place just 10 minutes north of old Delhi it was like being in Tibet (or how we imagine that experience more accurately!) We stayed in a really nice family run guesthouse with a good adjoining restaurant - Wongdhen House.
Set in lots of windy little streets selling Tibetan jewelry and books with the chanting of monks as background music it seemed amazing we were in India!
We saw some interesting posters re: Gedhum Choekyi Nyima who we had never heard of. This young man was born in occupied Tibet in 1989, and was formally named by the Dalai Lama as his successor the 11th Panchen Lama in 1995. Just 3 days later he and his parents disappeared and whilst the Chinese Government have admitted to having taken them away - since then despite intervention by the UN they haven't given any further information as to his whereabouts. Andrew and I were amazed we'd never heard of him - he'd be 20 by now. It seems surprising there's not more of an outcry about this - but then no one wants to upset China do they??!
So using Tibet as an escape route - we hit the streets of Delhi. We only really had a bit of a look see this time - as we'll be passing this way again when it gets a bit cooler. For now - boy it's HOT!!! I guess it's being away from the coast as you think we'd be a bit used to it by now - but the heat and humidity of Delhi particularly old Delhi really got to us. The traffic was (as ever) truly chaotic choked with pedestrians cyclos and auto rickshaws - with the odd meandering cow of course for good measure! Driving our car was pretty hard going and we tried to get a park as swiftly as possible and get around on foot!
We only really saw old Delhi this time but you could still see it was a full on modern city with modern shopping centers standing next to the old bazaars. My paper at breakfast informed me that this Summer the look for "Delhi babes" was "hot hot shorts." Definitely a bit different from the villages we'd been through - you'd probably be lynched if you even thought about wearing "hot hot shorts" in some of them!!
We enjoyed a wander around Chandni Chowk Old Delhi's main thoroughfare a very chaotic congested jumble of shops. Sadly our shower unit had been stolen out of the car the night before - the lock had broken on our shower area and we were to replace it the next day - so we lost the shower head and 6 or so brass fittings so our first job was to replace all this. Little buggers!!!
Then we took in a place of worship a Gurdwara or Sikh temple Sis Ganj. The Sikh religion is a break away from Hinduism which (amongst other things) got rid of the caste system which has got to be good! Everyone is welcome to visit (and be fed in the communal kitchen) of a Gurdwara and we were certainly made to feel very welcome.
It was very ornate with lots of activity - we thought we'd hit a special day but apparently this is the norm. We then crossed the road to visit a Sikh Museum - again very interesting. On our travels so far this is our first Sikh temple and we look forward to seeing more - particularly the Golden Temple in Amritsar which is supposed to be spectacular.
Next we walked past the 16th century Digambara Jain temple - which seemed to be shut - and then on to the Jain run Bird Hospital next door. As mentioned before Jains are big respecters of all life forms and so this centre which runs on donations only looks after sick birds prior to releasing them if possible. The Jain community does a lot of good work and is also very wealthy. We heard an interesting statistic on them - not sure if it's true - they make up is 0.5% of the population of India but they own 40% of its wealth. Good business people!
Next - not to leave any religious group out!- we visited Jama Masjid - the largest Mosque in India. Built in 1644 and taking 12 years to complete this was an impressive building - packed with tourists (wearing the tell tale robes as cover ups !) worshippers and kids flying kites the latter like in Malaysia.
Made of alternating white marble and red sandstone it was an impressive building. We then had a meal out in Delhi at the Moti Mahal restaurant which dates from 1947 and has great tandoori as after days in Tibet we are a bit momo-ed out!
The next morning we left Delhi (for this time at least) to drive the 200 odd kms up the very good but uninspiring Highway 1 to Chandigarh the " city beautiful " where we were looking forward to meeting our friend Simar's family and enjoying some famed Punjabi hospitality.