Saturday, February 6, 2010

Delhi - Ghandi Smitri, Qutb Minar, Vaccines, Lotus Temple, Bus Rides

We still seem to be having some jetlag as we woke up at 4am, ready to face the day. No hot water yet that early in the morning, but we took our time getting ready and left the hotel around 6am looking for breakfast that came well recommended on the rooftop terrace at Hotel Vivek. Got there too early, with hotel staff still sleeping in the lobby, but they offered to make us toast, omelets, and chai so that's what we had.

View from Sam's Cafe [Hotel Vivek] of a Lifetime

After breakfast we wanted to go to Qutb Minar, which is the oldest mosque in India. But Josh was determined to get there cheaply and tried to bargain for a rate of 100 rupies. The first tuk-tuk originally was asking for 200 and Josh got him down to 140, but wasn't satisfied. So we continued onward. But the city was waking up and the price for tuk-tuks was rising with demand.

Instead we ended up hopping the metro for Central Secretariat, with the plan of catching a glimpse of the India Gate. We got ourselves somewhat disoriented and wandered around a long time before finding a place where we could see the arch through the haze.

India Arch From Trip of a Lifetime

Afterward we decided to go to the nearby Ghandi Smitri, a memorial/museum housed in the estate where Ghandi was living before he was assassinated, with a path of footprints leading from his room to the spot where he died. Unfortunately, the museum was a large collection of text about Ghandi and the revolution, and I felt myself wondering why I was standing there reading it instead of just getting a book or watching the movie again. Still glad to have gone though. I'm a big fan of Ghandi.

Next we decided to bite the bullet and take a tuk-tuk to Qutb Minar, figuring it should be cheaper now since we'd come like 1/3 of the way already on metro and foot. Nope. Paid 150. Oh well.

Qutb Minar was remarkable, though it is largely in ruins now. Not much to say about it though. Will need to provide some photos at some point. The main feature was the huge minaret, Qutb Minar.

Qutb Minar -- I'ts big. From Trip of a Lifetime

Next we decided to walk to the hospital where we had an appointment for our rabies vaccines a week from now, so we could ask in person about the Japanese encephalitis vaccine. We walked a short distance to the main road that the hospital was on, and then stopped at a bus stop and asked which bus we should take. The man there told us a bus number and pointed out our bus when it came. We hopped on (these buses are very crowded and hardly stop to let people on or off), and paid the conductor on the train: 5 rupies each, what a deal! It dropped us right in front of the hospital.

The chemist (pharmacist) assured us that they didn't have the Japanese encephalitis vaccine, so we went and asked if we could move our appointment next week up to today (rabies shot was anytime 21-28 days, encephalitis is ~day 28 or later). That was no problem and only a short wait. We had a nice talk with the doctor and he said he would find out if anyone else in the area carries the Japanese encephalitis vaccine and we should call him on Monday to find out. The rabies vaccines and visit cost us around $45, about 1/10th the cost in the US, and other than some confusion with the "Day Care" department having moved, it all went very smoothly. Day Care is where you take your shot from the Chemist to be administered by the nurse. The whole thing took about 2 hours, from 1pm-3pm, after which we ate at the hospital cafeteria.

Mary in front of Max Healthcare, San\ket Delhi From Trip of a Lifetime

Following this, we took another bus to the Lotus Temple (Delhi's Baha’i temple). This was a little more difficult as it was a more complicated trip and a few times longer, and the conductor didn't speak any English. However a nice young lady translated and gave us good advice for how to get from the closest stop to the temple, and where to get off.

The Lotus temple is self-descriptive -- it is a temple shaped like a lotus blossom of white marble. It is the big Baha'i temple in Delhi; some of our friends may recall visiting the one in Evanston with us. The Eastern religions really seem to come out of the woodwork! As expected, the temple was pretty and silent inside. I appreciated the silence a lot more this time.

Lotus Temple From Trip of a Lifetime

The bus trip home was also somewhat complicated as there was apparently no city bus with the route we needed. When we found someone who spoke English, she instructed us to come with her on the approaching small charter/commuter bus. We chatted with the other riders near us, who seemed to enjoy our presence there a great deal and spoke extensively with us in English and with one another in Hindi about the best way for us to get back to our hotel. The conductor wouldn't take our money on that trip, as evidently we were their guests. Love the buses. It's empowering, and you meet the best people, both at home and abroad.

The Metro in Delhi during rush hour is ... packed. The cars were like the city bus: barely enough room to turn around (not really enough with a backpack on). When we transferred, there was a mass of people trying to get on. There was such a push that the cars took several minutes to close. Since we were going one stop, we decided to walk. We ended up at the back entrance to the rail station, which was kindly opened for us.

At night, we ate room service again, which is convenient and ordered locally (10% service charge), but 10% of cheap is really cheap. While settling the bill, the guy with the calculator double pressed one of the charges, which I caught. Just one more potential scam to be aware of.

There are a lot of people here in Delhi begging or just being frustratingly pushy in whatever they are trying to sell. But outside the touristy areas, the people have been really wonderfully helpful. This place is starting to grow on me. Even with all the poverty, I just haven't seen the hopelessness I associate with homelessness in the US. No one should have to live in a tent, but I am impressed with their tents and their resourcefulness. For all the poverty, these people are not helpless.

And we still haven't used a squat toilet or gotten Delhi belly (yet).


  1. We are really enjoying the blog and knowing you guys are having a safe and fun trip so far. Love the pic of Mary after the rabies shot. Nice, warm, day in PDX today. Looking forward to the next posts. XOXOX. The West Coast Mom and Dad.

  2. Great Posts So far, Hope your trip keeps going well!