And I have returned! These past few weeks have been absolutely amazing, a true whirlwind of experiences and culture. Chris and I completed an 11-day tour of Northern India, relaxed for a three day stop over in Hong Kong, before Chris jumped on a plane back to Melbourne and I ventured on for a 10-day visit to Beijing! As usual, I have taken far too many photos, so it is possibly going to take awhile for me to get through them all on this little blog!
The beginning of our trip unfortunately started off on the wrong foot, due to the recent demonetisation (AKA the banning of all 500 and 1000 rupee notes) in India. It even has its own Wikipedia page now, as it was pretty bloody big deal in a country whose economy is largely based on cash. This happened four days before our arrival, so we weren’t even able to get rupees from cash exchanges in Australia. As a result, we had no money when we arrived at New Delhi airport in the middle of the night!
After a rough night of sleep (i.e. I had no sleep) at a hotel near the airport, we made our way to the hotel where we would meet our tour group in the evening. Not really understanding the gravity of the demonitisation, we walked into Connaught Place (the above photos) in search of ATMs. As it turns out, every bank had literally hundreds of locals lined up out the front, waiting to exchanged their banned money for the new currency. In the end, we gave up and planned to ask our tour guide what the heck we should do that night.
That evening we met our tour group at the hotel. We had booked the North India Explorer tour through Geckos Adventures. Our tour guide was 100% sympathetic towards the money situation shared by everyone in the group, however said he would have to get back to us in regards to how we should tackle the situation.
The next day we began our adventures together as a group. The Delhi Metro has ‘women only’ carriages, which our tour guide suggested the women in the group should use.
We wandered through a market area, Chawri Bazar, which is an experience in itself. Chris and I had quickly learned the day before that literally no one gives a shit on the road – pedestrians, cyclists, rickshaws, tuks tuks, buses, cars – all blare their horns and run all over the road. With the added bonus of no footpaths I felt like I was constantly living my life on the edge, but our tour guide was reassuring and helped us navigate the streets with ease.
Our first stop was Jama Masjid, which is one of the largest mosques in India. At this stage, Chris and I still had no money so I was unable to pay the fee to take my camera inside! It was spectacular, so feel free to have a quick google to see what it is like on the inside of the walls. The women in the group also had to wear these large, floral gowns to cover our arms and legs, which were just as fetching as you could imagine!
After that we meandered through some even narrower streets, continuously dodging motorbikes and tuk tuks.
After awhile we emerged onto a main road again and headed to Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib. A gurudwara is a place of worship for Sikhs, however people of all religions are welcomed. We had to make a quick stop to take of our shoes and cover our heads with scarves before entering. My photo below doesn’t do the interior justice, but it was beautiful.
I feel like the above photo somewhat catches how insane the traffic is in India!
Our tour guide showed us the kitchen at the gurudwara, where they were preparing meals for hundreds of worshipers. Feelings hungry ourselves, we crossed the road (somehow) to a local diner that thankfully accepted card. My meal above is just the beginning of the bread indulgence that lay ahead of me for my time in India!
Even the elephant in the photo above seemed totally okay with just how insane the traffic was.
After lunch we headed back to the hotel for a bit of rest, as we had to catch a sleeper train that evening. Chris and I did a bit more exploring in the markets near our hotel, and tried some chai from a street vendor, but eventually came back to rest and escape the noisy traffic. Our tour guide was incredibly generous and loaned us some money (about $40 AUD, which goes quite far in India) to see us through until we could find a functioning ATM.
Despite our money woes, it was a wonderful experience to arrive in India and become emerged in a new culture! And the food, which was possibly a motivation for visiting India in the first place!