Sheryl writes from India.

Part 1: Puri
Part 2: Kolkata
Part 3: Khalaigat
Part 4: Assam
Part 5: Trains
Part 6: Sikkim
Part 7: West Sikkim
Part 8: Darjeeling
Part 9: New Delhi

Home > Part 9: New Delhi

Well, this is my last stop before returning home. Anne left for home on Saturday so it's just me running around trying to see everything I can here.

The highlight has been the Taj Majal. I took a three-hour train to Agra on Sunday night, arriving around 9:30 pm. I was up at 5:15 the next morning and at the Taj's gate, just a short walk from my hotel, by 5:45 even though the gates didn't open until 6. I wanted to see it at sunrise and before the crowds came. The Taj Mahal is the most spectacular monument I've seen on this trip and any of my trips. It is absolutely exquisite. Perfectly proportioned, well kept, and intricately designed. It is amazing that it hasn't been destroyed over the years. The inlay work is amazing. Little tiny flowers, first carved out of the marble, then inlayed with semi-precious stones. It was built by Shah Jehan as a memorial for his wife, who died in childbirth.

New Delhi is a big city. I'm staying in the backpacker area, which is convenient to everything though I don't like skanky types of travelers who congregate here. I've been travelling off-the-beaten-path for so many years I'm not used to it. First and most impressive is the new metro system. It's clean, efficient, user-friendly, cheap, and air-conditioned, with a map just like London's Tube. The station is about a 10-minute walk from my hotel and I can get most everywhere with some walking on the other end.

Another plus for Delhi is that in city center, all commercial vehicles must run on natural gas. That means no stinky diesel. It's great. The air is cleaner and none of that awful exhaust in the crowded streets. Walking through the bazaars is a trial, between bicycle rickshaws, motor-rickshaws, cars, oxen (they are absolutely gorgeous, big and fit Brahmas) and horse carts, and cars. I just plow right through.

I spent today wandering around the back alleys of the Old City's bazaars. Narrow lanes organized by shop type. Most colorful was Kinari Bazaar, which has a lot of sari shops and bridal accoutrements. The most interesting thing I saw was a small shopfront with a scale. A woman brought a bag of saris with "silver" appliques and embroidered edges and wanted to sell the silver. The man at the shop drizzled hydrochloric acid and distilled water on the "silver" to see if it was real. The stuff that was he ripped off the fabric and tossed on the scale and paid her by weight. Everything else he gave back to the woman. You can also sell the gold content from fabric as well. You wouldn't believe how fancy some of these saris are.

I finally had some tandoori chicken. I was holding out for a really good restaurant and I found one. I ate a whole chicken (chickens are very small here) roasted in the tandoori oven served with onion slices and lime to squeeze over it. It was definitely worth the wait. I know you're all waiting to hear about my culinary adventures, but in general, I haven't been that keen on the Indian food. After the wonder whole fish on the coast, the fish I tried elsewhere were small and bony and so labor intensive to remove the bones, it took the enjoyment out of eating, though they weren't so great. I ate a lot of chowmein and hot and sour soup in the north, as Chinese restaurants (no Chinese people) were plentiful. Also Tibetan food, like momos (dumplings stuffed with either vegetables or pork), and noodle soup. When I can find it, usually in the backpacker areas, my favorite breakfast is meusli (granola of sorts) with fruit and yogurt. Always good and yogurt is a good prophylactic for the intestines. I've been drinking black tea, also sometimes hard to find, because Indians drink chai, or milk tea with sugar. Another favorite is hot lemon, which is just hot water with a lemon squeezed in. You wouldn't think it refreshing to drink hot drinks in sweltering climates, but it is for me.

Well, tomorrow's my last day. It's been a great trip but I'm glad to be going home. I'm off to find a large pot of tea!

sheryl