WRITER’S NOTE: Whoa!! Has it been 5 months since the last update? Haha this is what happens when you disappear for a month. Work piles up and you can’t get a break (and I did stay in Australia for a month too, but that’s another story for next time….)
So welcome back. Last time we visited the Taj Mahal in Agra, which I discovered really deserved the hype. It was a short visit, we were there from about 8:30 to 10:00 am (an hour and a half is actually enough) so I got back into the van and headed to our next step, DELHI.
We took the newly constructed Yamuna Expressway which cut our travel time to about 3 hours instead of the old route which was about 5-6 hours (i think).
Along the way, I saw a massive city being constructed along the expressways. It was a series of building, cranes, pillars, and scaffolding going on for kilometres and kilometres. I’ve never seen so much construction all my life! I wish I stopped to take a picture, we were going too fast. To give you an idea, imagine driving from Balintawak to San Fernando were you see skyscrapers rising all over you! It’s that massive!
My driver Ajay tells me this is the new district of the city of Noida, aka the New Oklha Industrial Development Authority. Here will rise new BPOs, new technology manufacturing, and new commercial and residential places to service the incoming workers. Watch out for Noida, it’s about to become the next great Indian business hub.
We finally arrive Delhi, and our guide Raj joins us. Raj tells me about New Delhi and old Delhi. New Delhi itself was just like any other city, with tall buildings and parks, similar to Fort Bonifacio or Jakarta. For today, he’ll bring me to Old Delhi, which is what people usually imagine when they think of India.
And oh boy, it’s exactly what you think!
The above is a video of a street market in India. Raj tells me you can buy ANYTHING in these markets. From carpets to iPhones to extension cords to TV sets to auto parts. ANYTHING. He wouldn’t buy from them though.
We work our way deeper into the streets of old India. This is starting to remind me of Quiapo.
Finally, we make our way to our stop: the Jama Masjid, the largest and most famous mosque in all of India.
The Jama Masjid is a holy place, probably one of the holiest in all of India. Many Indians come here for pilgrimage; the perfect analogy for this would the Quiapo Church. Built in 1656, by Shah Jahan (who also built the Taj Mahal), it’s a superb blend of Mughal and Hindu architecture, using red sand stone and white marble. I heard the mosque houses a copy of the Quran which is written on deer skin.
It’s fascinating to see how people act around the Jama Masjid. There is some security coming in, but inside you feel safe and free to do as you wish.
Outside, all over the courtyard, there are people praying, but also having fun.
Meanwhile, inside, everything is quiet and solemn.
We took a climb to the top of one of the minarets of the Jama Masjid, which gave a fantastic aerial view.
We explored the surrounding area around the grand mosque. Furthering the Quiapo analogy, the place was surrounded by markets, street vendors, and small businesses, peppered with a lot of people!
We did the ride on pedicab since it was too cramped for a car to get through!
After the Jamal, we did a quick run to Parliament Street. Parliament Street is where you find the Sansad Bhavan, the seat of government for all of india. Here the Prime Minister and the Central Legislative Assembly presides on how to govern the country, their equivalent of the White House and Capitol. Our nearest would be Malacanang and the Batasan.
Obviously security was strict so we had to make do with taking pictures and videos from outside.
The sun was about to set and we decided to do one last stop, the Qutb Minar. We were about to go in, but was informed that it had to close for an hour to setup the lights. After waiting a while, we got the chance to see the 2nd tallest minar (tower monument) in India.
The Qutb Minar was commissioned by the Qutbuddin Aibak, the first Sultan of Delhi. The Minar was constructed and modified for 400 years. It acted like a historical marker, with various architectural modifications reflecting what changed in India across the centuries. For this reason, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
Surrounding the Qutb Minar is the Mehrauli Archeological Park. Here you’ll see ruins of some of the famous monuments in India, spanning 1000 years. We were losing light quickly, so I had to take photos with the little luminance I had left.
The sun is now down and Raj brings me to my hotel. Mr Rao from the travel agency, who picked me up when I arrived in India joins me for some dinner. We had a pleasant conversation about India and how I enjoyed how they took care of me.
Rao brings me to the airport. Just before I was about to leave him, I just remembered this tradition I wanted to do for this trip!
The tradition was to give a new friend in a new country a gift from another country. I actually had something in mind for Rao, but I couldn’t find it, so I ended up giving him Philippine Currency instead! This worked out since he had a foreign currency collection, so it’s all good!
So that was India. I admit I enjoyed the trip more that I thought I would. India was very rich and very different from what I’ve seen in my travels all over the world. I didn’t experience the negative things some people say when they come here (I guess I was lucky that way?) and I can see the country has much more to offer.
I’d love to come back to India again someday.
For now, however, it’s time to continue circumnavigating the world. Next stop: ISRAEL!!!!