Today our adventures took us to a small village within India. Boarding the public bus which resembled more of a coach than a double-decker bus you would find in the London, I managed to sleep the majority of the way as the exhaustion had definitely set in days ago. When I woke up from the coach we got another mini bus to the Palace, which was going to be our residence for that evening. The scenery surrounding the palace was completely different to what we had previously seen travelling through India. The small roads leading through a quiet little village had rows of little houses some painted colourfully to show the marriages that had happened within the village and symbolised the invitations of the weddings. There were many farming fields and greenery that when compared to the madness of New Delhi created a calming feeling for us all.
When our minibus arrived at the Palace, Tordi Garh heritage site, we were welcomed by the hotel staff placing Bindis on our foreheads, a circle for a girl and a circle and a line for a boy. This is mainly done to represent their appreciation for guests and how closely they place guests towards the God like status. This building dated back to the 18th century and also had a series of turrets all around the structure that were used during battles back when this building was the main place to which the Royal Family oversaw the ongoing within their towns and underwent their business. Across from the main building there is also a little stables which homed horses, chicken and goats.
Once we were all cleared up and felt a bit fresher than post shower we had the option of a Jeep Safari around the little village which obviously was straightaway a definite rather than an option.
Our first stop on the Jeep safari was a well made of stone. These used to be the water source for the village. The ancient step well, not only acts as a beautiful structure, but also gave us a glimpse of what life would have been like before water pumps and running taps.
Once we had finished capturing the angles of the ancient step well and looked through the fields that were home to Two large tombs and a lot of lentil plants we continued on in Jeeps. We stop along this long bridge that allowed us an amazing view of the Tordi river and reservoir.
At first glance over this river the one thing you would have noticed was the sun shinning. Although, once you had a second to actually take in the landscape of the river you could see that there was a break in the weather.
Half the sky was covered in clouds and quite obviously the monsoon rain had hit there, whereas the other half of the sky was taken up by the incredibly bright setting sun. After soaking up the views from the side of the bridge we raced along to chase the sun set and the sun altogether rather than being caught up in the clouds that threatened to overtake us.
We soon reached the point the Jeep Safari had been leading up to, the sand dunes. We reached the top of one of the sand dunes thinking we would be witnessing a desert like landscape where in fact, we over looked half sand but mostly green trees representing a forest spanning out for miles.
As we sat at the top of this sand dune we got to witness the sun setting over the calm forest towns, with a cup of Chai tea in hand and a biscuit of course.
After the sun had set once again in India, we headed back to Tordi Garh to freshen up before dinner where the descendant of the prince-line that had once ruled over these villages was to join us. We had the ability to also have a few drinks on the terrace without the overpowering sounds of horns that could always be heard within the previous cities.
That evening we also had the honour of meeting a couple of girls from the village who came to do some henna for us. Both Alex and I got some mostly in an attempt to give back to the community in some sense of the form. (Considering the age of the girls which couldn't have been more that 15/16 their ability to create amazing patterns through such fine work was incredible.)
When looking for a peaceful break within the great, but mad, India little villages such as these allow you to see the culture of India at a much calming pace and the heritage site we were situated in allowed for us to see the older architecture as well.
Waking up on the sleeper train at 5:30 am we came to a sudden realisation that we were delayed, which made us wonder what we would be doing for the next 5 hours, considering we were now awake and the bunk beds had officially turned into seats.
Soon we decided it would be best to put some of the beds back together… mostly because I was still exhausted. Once the sun had officially risen we decided it was most probably a reasonable time to get out of bed and have a look out of the windows for any sort of sign of the Taj Mahal. What we didn't realise was the extent that you would be able to see the Taj from the train as it towered above the surrounding greenery.
Alex decided the best view was from the open door of the train and dangled his legs over managing to get amazing views of the red fort and the Taj Mahal in the same shot. These views definitely woke us up and got us excited for the day that was to come.
Once we finally got to Agra we headed straight for some food, as we had barely eaten in the last 24hours due to the sleeper train.
At the restaurant, I surprisingly had an amazing carbonara.
After we had eaten we found that due to the delayed train earlier we barely had time to get changed before our first activity. So we quickly showered and changed at the hotel and head out to the Red Fort, our first stop.
The Red Fort is the famous sister monument of the Taj Mahal as the emperor who lived in the red fort also built the Taj Mahal for his beloved wife who passed away.
Shah Jahan’s grandfather who had previously inhabited the Red Fort liked to have things built out of red sandstone which is why the red fort is built as it is, however, Shah Jahan himself tended to have buildings made of white marble.
Jahan also destroyed some of the earlier buildings inside the fort to make his own out of marble.
The Fort was the place to which Shah Jahan was held by his own son nearer the end of his life as his son wished to become emperor.
His room which we got to see within the fort looked over the Taj Mahal that he had previously built so that he could look out and remember his wife and feel closer to her.
While inside the fort we also got to see where all the different emperors of the countries came and sat to discuss their movements forward.
However, one bench was the kings... but looked different for a reason you might not expect; There was a large cracked hole in it from where the British had launched a cannon and hit the bench and then bounced off into the side of the wall.
Although, they didn't manage to hit anyone as they had probably planned to, as only the bench was damaged.
We then made our way to a viewing point that had an amazing view of the Taj Mahal, which we later learnt to be an optical illusion to make the Taj Mahal look closer to the Red Fort than it actually was, we moved on to the vine gardens that were inside the walls. These gardens held a special meaning for Shah Jahan as it was where he met his wife.
Before the vine gardens had been put into place this area had previously been a market space for women, in which they could roam freely without the gazing eyes of men. Although, Jahan had dressed up as a woman to enter these markets and in doing so he caught the eye of his soon to be wife, Mumtaz Mahal who he later wooed through dates such as fishing. During there fishing dates he was overcome by her level of beauty and always letting her win, being unable to focus while being with her.
Finishing up at the Red Fort we headed towards the Taj Mahal which we were all incredibly excited to see and it did not disappoint.
Once we got the gate entrance the scale of the building itself was overpowering and you couldn't help but stare at it for a considerable amount of time. You could spend hours there and it wouldn’t be long enough to take in all its beauty and (as we did) you can take 500 pictures and you’d still be standing there wanting to take more. Until you visit the building itself you can’t understand the extent of the detail put into the building or the gardens.
Every aspect of the Taj Mahal is made with a love and perfection that may be impossible to find anywhere else as the illustration of Jahan’s and Mahal’s love was the inspiration for such a building.
As we walked into the gardens we were told about how the building and gardens are symmetrical, apart from Shah Jahan’s body as due to his wife being buried in the centre of the building he was buried along side her meaning that the symmetrical architecture was thrown off for his want to be buried next to his favourite wife.
The building itself was mesmerising built from white marble with coloured markings on the building. The grounds is also home to a mosque and a guest house and took around 21 years to build costing about 32 million rupees at the time.
My first stop in the Taj Mahal was to sit on princess Diana’s bench and the weather stayed at a level where the pictures captured are beautiful. We also walked along the ponds that are in place and managed to see the reflections of the Taj Mahal in them.
Having the opportunity to be there for the sunset was truly amazing and added to the experience as a whole, last entry is around 6/7 however if you are in there before that time you are allowed to stay in there longer. I would definitely recommend being there for the sunset if it's possible as the photos you can get will be mesmerising.
When we finally finished looking at this amazing building we headed back to meet our tour guide and then headed back to the hotel. This was the only hotel that had a pool and just with this added in it felt like we were in a completely different city than the crazy one we had just travelled through. We sat down to an amazing dinner and a few drinks. The hotel staff here exceeded our expectations as well, just as many of the other hotels had done as well, as when we asked for a vodka and diet coke which they couldn't supply straight away they went to the market to get us a bottle of vodka instead. These little gestures that are apparent through out the hotel industry, due to their belief that guests are like Gods, takes the stay in India to a level that would be unexpected from such a country. When we had finished eating and had a dip in the pool (The men had a swimming competition) we headed to sleep as we prepared for another early start in the morning.
Our final day in Varanasi came around quickly, although we were all incredibly excited to move on to Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal, however, The Ganges would definitely be missed.
We had until 3:30 until we had to be packed up and ready for our sleeper train to Agra.
Being the lazy couple that we are we weren't that bothered about getting up for breakfast and walking around for the whole morning so we got up at 11:30.
Due to our late start, we immediately went to get Lunch (although we had planned the previous night to meet some of our group and head towards the steps by the Ganges with them, our sleep needy brains halted those plans as soon as that alarm went off.)
Following our stomachs we got into a Tuk Tuk and went to get some food, bumping into the group in the restaurant anyway. Once we had satisfied our hunger we took a stroll down to the river in an attempt to understand the lives and spiritual nature which surrounds the Ganges.
As we sat and watched, the importance of this river was apparent. Many individuals came to dunk themselves under the healing water. All of the different classes however joint together by the spiritual connection. The fact that the river is believed to wash away one’s sins and to bathe in it is a life long ambition for many. Our tour guide had said to get the real feel of Varanasi we had to go and sit and watch as people underwent their rituals by the river and to see so many come together was enlightening in itself.
After sitting on the steps for around an hour we felt we should probably head back to the hotel in order to get prepared for the sleeper train. Walking back through the mixture of cows, pigs and stray dogs we found some more Tuk Tuks for our journey back to the hotel. When we were all packed and ready to go, with a small bottle of vodka and a diet coke in our bags and some crisps as a snack we were taken again to the train station.
Although this sleeper train was a different design and older than the previous one we had taken we found it a lot calmer than the one before.
This was probably due to the fact that we were with the rest of the group now rather than people we didn't know.
When we had got settled we were able to see out the window to the countryside as the sun hadn't set yet. As the train continued along the tracks we were able to see farmers going about their daily lives, water buffalo being lead by women (probably towards a lake or pond) and little villages that would not be known to your existence had you not witnessed the little shacks and the people walking along the roads.
These views were a lot more picturesque when compared to those we had seen on the sleeper train coming out of New Delhi.
As the train continued the sunset and we grew tiresome, pulling the beds into position and making them up with the provided packages of sheets, pillows and blankets we soon all attempted to settle down for the night.
I am still yet to sleep well on a train like this and the main problem that I found was the sheet we sleep on moves a lot during the night, so you end up sleeping on the sticky plastic underneath most of the night.
There is also the heightened level of anxiety that continues through out the journey which is probably caused by the fact that you are told to sleep with your smaller bags underneath your head and chain up your suitcases down below … ‘just in case’. Although this is an amazing experience to really get the feel for India and the people of the country, if you are looking for a good night sleep it is probably not the right option for you.. or it could be but with the right amount of sleeping tablets.
We started today incredibly early, with a 4:30 am rise for a 5 am leaving time.
We set off to the Ganges for another boat ride. When we arrived at the riverside we have greeted by the sunrise ritual being performed by the Hindu priests. We then boarded a boat that drove us out to the middle of The Ganges river to view the sunrise.
Floating along the Ganges we were each given six candles on a bed of flowers to which we lit and set down on the river. These represented our wishes and although many of the candles didn’t stay lit the atmosphere was very spiritual as we all soaked in the many different religions that were important within this city.
After dropping our wishes on to The Ganges, the boat continued on down the river to where we saw the steps leading down to the water, where peoples lives were in full motion, even at this early time.
The boat then took us back to our start point where we got to witness the free yoga that is put on right after the sunrise service.
This yoga is free for anyone that wishes to take part and consists of screaming and laughing yoga.
When we made it back to the hotel at around 8 am we went for breakfast which, being our first breakfast on this trip, we found to be very minimal consisting of the basics such as toast and eggs.
We were then given the optional activity of going to multiple Buddhist temples, which we were all pretty intrigued by. Once in our Tuk Tuks, we headed to the first Buddhist temple that actually homed the people who chose to pray there. The little apartments circled around the temple and within the temple, there was a large centralised Buddha statue as well as many little ornaments that surrounded this larger Buddha. Once we had finished at this temple we continued on to where Buddha was said to have given his first preaching. The temple and the gardens which surrounded the temple were large in size and represented the clear spiritual meaning these monuments had. Within the temple, pictures covered the walls within, these were painted to represent some parts of the teachings of Buddha. Besides the temple was a little section which had prayer wheels within as well as statues that represented the first preaching of Buddha. As we continued through the gardens we came across a miniature zoo, and because of Alex, we, of course, had to go and check it out. However, getting to the zoo entrance we soon realised that it was definitely more of an attraction for children and was a lot more expensive for tourists than Indian orientated people, although this didn't turn out to be that shocking as the majority of places had the same pricing system. The sign that displayed the prices was pretty amusing as well.
Being let down by this zoo we got back into the Tuk Tuks and continued to our last stop to finish the viewings of the Buddhist religion. The massive Buddha which was the main attraction of this visit at first wasn't very clear as all we saw was the average size one inside a Temple in the middle of these picturesque gardens. Although, as soon as we looked to our left-hand side we finally laid our eyes on the giant Buddha. This towered over us, almost daunting looking in between the trees, which did nothing to match the height of the statue. It was an amazing view and the thought that people had some how managed to build such an extravagant statue was mesmerising. We stood there for quite a while taking in the beauty of not only the statue but the little ponds, lily pads and surrounding gardens.
When we soon realised that the Tuk Tuk drivers would still be waiting for us outside of the gates we left and returned to the hotel.
For the rest of the afternoon, we relaxed and got ready for the evening. When we met the rest of the group we once again got into the frequently used mode of transport; the Tuk Tuks and had a bumpy journey towards the destination of the palace.
Once we arrived, it was so peaceful that we almost didn't know what to do with ourselves as they even posted a sign saying no honking.
This palace almost represented a high-end estate with the gates and the built up hotel with a few boutique shops for the residence. Although the prices were a bit more expensive than what we had paid in previous restaurants it was still worth it. We sat in the bar where we had a few drinks before we walked across the gardens to the palace structure where we ate our dinner within the restaurant that was situated there. When we were all stuffed from the meals we had just eaten we decided that to continue this lovely evening and go for a couple drinks at the hotel where we had previously had lunch. (How we were still standing after the early start I will never know but when you're in that atmosphere you never want to miss a second of the day).
We finally arrived at the station to which we were getting off at around 7:30 am and to our relief, this arrival time was some what earlier than had been expected. We boarded some Tuk Tuks that took us to our hotel, this was a pretty uncomfortable and bumpy ride but we were happy enough to get off of the sleeper train. Once we reached our hotel me and Alex decided to go for a sleep due to the lack of sleep the previous night which was a God sent as it prepared us for the rest of the day.
Our day officially started at 12:30, we headed for lunch at a restaurant that only severed vegetarian foods due to it being situated in a Hindu area.
Following a pretty amazing lunch that included little dishes such as hummus and falafel, we got into a rickshaw that took us towards the river bank.
A rickshaw is similar to a Tuk Tuk, however, the driving is done through cycling which definitely makes you feel a bit worse for the driver as you debate if you're too heavy for him to be able to ride you such a distance on uneven roads although, he seemed to be doing alright. We soon picked up some speed racing another two people from our group that were in their rickshaw. (We lost the race due to traffic)
Once we reached the steps leading down to the Ganges we saw masses of people heading to view this area and to prayer by the river as well as swim in it. Walking through the little streets beside the Ganges as well as along the river front we were amazed to witness such happiness and contentment from those surrounding us.
As we got further up the river we came to the point where people's bodies are cremated. The piles of logs were enormous and cover up many parts of the roads. The fires were situated on the steps that lead down to the Ganges next to one of the many chapel like buildings along this front.
We also got to witness the families bringing down the bodies towards to steps in order to be cremated.
The bodies were carried on a stretcher and covered with gold drapes and they also had someone at the front dropping flower petals for the body to be carried over.
While watching these occurrences I became curious as to why there were no women within this ceremonies or following behind the body as the men had been.
I later found out that Women are seen as soft souls and hearts and that they should not witness their loved ones burning as this would be too much for them to handle so instead they do the parts of the ceremony that is at home rather than being a part of this one.
Varanasi is classed as one of the oldest cities still standing within Indian and the world.
The streets were incredibly narrow and the number of animals walking along the streets multiplied massively compared to that of Delhi however it shone as a much calmer natured city.
This city, therefore, has one of the oldest Lassie shops in which to have the drink. A Lassie is somewhat like a yoghurt and isn't necessarily completely hot or completely cold but instead round about room temperature.
Me and Alex didn't fancy that but Alex did try some of the ones from the people within the groups and said it had a very rich texture but could be nicer if it was cooler.
They normally come with different fruits of your choice mixed into it and is made on the surface outside of their shop.
Following this experience, we weaved our way through market ridden streets and then came across a silk shop to which we were to stay till our next activity later on.
We were able to learn the differences between the real silks and the fake and some of the group members bought scarfs or even bed covers.
(When real silk is burnt it smells and looks the same as when you burn hair. Fake silk smell like burnt paper and melts like plastic.)
The stuff was pretty spectacular to see and feel, however, the use for the stuff was limited and highly priced so we stirred away from these and went to look down below in the market streets. Alex managed to purchase two bracelets within our short 10-minute walk however due to the cheap prices it would have been stupid not to.
Once we returned to the silk shop and our guide we headed for the evening ceremony on the Ganges river.
We boarded a boat so that we were seated away from the massive crowds that formed around the five priests performing the ceremony.
This was once again an amazing experience as we got to witness the extent to which religion is the centre of Indian life and a number of people gathered on boats and on the land were incredible.
(Almost reminding me of Titanic as all the boats were piled on)
The ceremony is also performed along the river at different sections in order to allow more people to attend. Once this had come to an end the boat drove us along the river getting to see all the amazing architectural buildings that settled on the side of the river and the many different people walking along.
Once we came to a stop by the shore we lit off our candles which we had bought earlier on. The candle was placed on a bed of flowers within a cup like a holder and symbolised a wish. As you set them free you make a wish.
All in all, this was a pretty amazing and cultural day as we got to witness other people's religions as well as the way to which they treat the dead and their daily lives along The Ganges.
We started off the day with an earlier start than we'd been having over the last few days, getting up at 7:30 to be out by 8 am.
Once we were up and ready, with the group all sorted we headed for the bus stop. Me and Alex hadn't yet tried the Indian buses as just looking at them made me feel hot and sweaty however the tour guide wished for us to get an 'authentic' feel for India.
Once we got on the bus I automatically felt the heat hit me, not only was it pretty busy but the only breeze entering the bus was from the small windows that only went down one side of the bus (although the driver did keep the doors open for that extra bit of air).
This bus did, however, teach us not to moan about the buses in London as they seemed god send compared to this.
After sitting on the bus for what seemed like forever we got off just outside of the red fort although this was not the attraction of our old Delhi tour.
We first visited a mosque which to enter we got special gowns to cover girls arms and boys legs and had to take our shoes off. The mosque had a pool of water in the middle of it and off to the side had what seemed to be the inside of this structure.
The inside part of this place wasn't nearly as large as it had looked to be on the outside as it only went back a couple of feet which seemed strange to us as due to the extravagant outside courtyard you would have thought there would be the same for the parts that were covered. Although, the chandeliers inside and the brickwork/ arch ways were pretty amazing to look at.
Once we had finished at the mosque we continued on the tour of old Delhi.
We walked down some little alley ways seeing the way people within that area lived. These alley ways then lead to a Sikh temple which we entered to view part of a ceremony that was going on.
To go in we had to remove both our shoes and socks and make sure our heads were covered. We found out that the action of taking off your shoes when entering a holy place is due to hygiene and not wishing to get their place of prayer dirty.
When we got to the front of the temple we walked through some water and then entered. The temple was amazing in the sense of they had the carpet and the front alters which looked marble and gold, then there were three guys playing instruments beside it.
The colours were mesmerising as they came out in golds and reds mainly. We also got to witness the volunteers within the temple who cook food, free of charge, for those who need it and can feed thousands of people in a single day.
The whole temple was mainly run on volunteers who offered their time to give back to their community as not only did they have the cooks but they also had men who when people handed in their shoes would sit there and polish them for them as a free service.
This culture of giving without receiving is pretty large here due to the beliefs of Karma and reincarnation.
Following this, we walked a long the road heading to the Metro station as once again he wished for us to use the Indian styled transport although we were held off a bit due to another down pour of rain.
Once we got on the Metro we found that they had two or three carriages that were specifically for women, which was pretty amazing as it can give the safety to those women in public places that may have previously felt to be daunting for them.
When we got back to our hotel we had some time to relax and shower before we had to head to the station to get our sleeper train.
When it reached 5 pm it was, however, time to head to the station. We got to the station and anticipated the extent to which this sleeper train could be as bad as we thought it would be.
We got on the train and not to our surprise it was cramped and seemed that we may have entered a claustrophobic hell. Although we did become a bit calmer when the lights and the aircon came on.
There were 3 beds one on top of each other in the bunk bed style and 2 lots of them either side of the little square block.
Our bags were chained to the bottom of the bed by a metal hook and we had to sleep with our bags underneath our heads. This journey in total was 13 hours.
I had a very broken sleep due to the anxious thoughts that anyone could steal our stuff at any given moment and the fact that I wasn't too keen on the train and if it would break down or not.
Altogether though it was an experience and we got to see how people travel within India and it didn't turn out too bad.
Having to check out of our first hotel today meant we finally got up before 12 pm. We were up and ready and out of the hotel by around 10ish and luckily for Alex, this meant we had enough time before we checked into our new hotel to head to the zoo.
However, even though it seemed we may miss the heat due to it being so early we definitely underestimated the level to which it could reach at this early time. So getting our trusted Uber to the 'Zoological park' we prepared for the humidity. The first thing that we noticed on getting to the zoo was the extent to which the prices varied from Indians to tourists, although we had seen this in a few monuments before and due to this could expect this to be the case. There was also a camera fee in which must be paid to take any camera in bigger than your phone.
After entering the zoo and getting through the security and the ticket offices, we headed off to see the animals they had to offer. The zoo was a lot larger and was more well kept than we had expected it to be, as the animals had large enclosures and most had ponds in which to cool off in.
The monkeys were probably the most entertaining there as they ran wild around the park. We saw them jumping from tree to tree and assumed that it would be the monkey enclosure although this was not the case as they had the ability to move where ever whenever, they even had a little wheelbarrow in which their food was kept for them to pick out of.
With the food, it was clearly obvious who was the boss within the pack as he sat there eating by himself out of their given food while the other monkeys feared away. We also got to see some tigers playing around and animals such as hippos and elephants. However, due to us not being used to the humidity and the heat just yet we left around 12 pm to head back and collect our bags to move on to the other hotel where we would later meet our group.
As soon as we reached the new hotel there was the need to shower again (We have been showering approx. 3 times a day and even then I sometimes feel the need for another one). Once we had set our stuff and freshened up to a point where we felt that we could venture out into the heat of India again we set off to find some lunch. We came across this little Indian/ Chinese restaurant where we finally found some alcohol and decided that the stress had gotten to us enough and there was the need for a drink.
A couple of drinks later and some really tasty food we head back to the hotel to meet our soon to be tour group.
Once we had all become acquainted with each other it was good to know that we had found other drinkers on our trip and we soon ended up in a bar.
Getting to the bar called Lady Baba we soon noticed that it was completely silent and after a couple of minutes had passed we clocked on to the idea that it was, in fact, an all deaf event and everyone was using sign language to communicate with each other. I immediately thought this was a pretty amazing idea as it brought those who may have struggled socially into a very social environment and meant that those connections could be built.
After a few funny and enjoyable drinks here we soon boarded a Tuk Tuk home and due to there being four of us one was going to have to sit on the same seat as the driver. This, of course, ended up being Alex who to grip on had to hold onto the metal bar which made for a brilliant picture of Alex with his arm around the Tuk Tuk driver. We soon arrived back to our hotel and with the thought of having to get up at 7 am the next day dawned on us we were quick to get into bed and sleep.
Our original plans of going to the zoo were put off another day due to Alex being in charge of the alarms and continuously turning them off to the point where we didn't end up getting out of bed till around 12 pm once again. Once up and ready we found that due to it being a Monday many of the monuments were closed, however, we did find an old fortress called Purana Quila which seemed to be open so we decided a walk around there would be a perfect little trip for what was meant to be a sunny day. It sits as one of the oldest forts within Delhi.
The journey there proved that the weather app may have over estimated the sun as while in the Uber we started to see lightning and hear the thunder to go with it. This is all well and nice while sitting in the comfort of a car but the thought of having to get out was another story.
As we got closer to our destination the rain started to come, at first, it was spitting and we thought that it may be the same as it had been previous days when it had been light rain and then stopped, however, this was not the case.
We got out of the Uber to pouring rain that if you were to stand in it for a couple minutes you would be drenched all the way through.
We ran to the smallest ticket office ever and were wedged into a crowd of around 20 people all hiding from the rain while other groups of Indian teenagers took to enjoying the weather by running in it and standing there just allowing themselves to be soaked through. We stood underneath this ticket office for around 40 mins waiting for the rain to ease off and it felt that it never would as the "puddles" grew larger and larger. At one stage I thought the small ticket office may be swept away with us all on it as a river formed around us.
When the rain eventually started to ease off we decided to try our luck within the fortress grounds, bought our ticket and started to look around.
The structures of the Fort were considerably worn away due to many of the buildings dating back to the early 1500s but they have also found pottery dating back to 1000 BC on the site. Although the fort was left uncompleted by the original builder's death and it has been said that his son was the one to finish it. The large gardens that surrounded the buildings inside the walls stretched for miles and had the weather permitted it you could have stayed there for a good couple of hours however our damp clothes dragged us home.
Once we had seen the main attractions of Purana Quila we decided to head back to our hotel. The journey back was something we had never seen before. As we got closer to the hotel the roads suddenly started to turn into streams and lakes to the extent to where the Tuk Tuks beside us had their wheels covered in water and people walked through the muddy streams to where the water reached just above their ankles. The traffic swarmed the streets as everyone attempted to reach their destinations and this chaos brought out the traffic police in which they had to guide the traffic in different directions. Our Uber driver even offered for us to get out there as the traffic was so hideous however we didn't feel like swimming back to the hotel so kindly declined this offer.
We finally made it back to the hotel and decided that before drying off we may as well get some food as we would be bound to get a little bit wet on our walk to the restaurant. The food was once again pretty good although they did forget to bring us our garlic naan which was highly disappointing as we have been having them with every and any meal we've been eating because of how amazing they taste.
Once we were dried off we decided it best to pack our bags in a neat order as we leave for the guided part of our trip tomorrow however we have big plans of going to the zoo.
To start the day off we didn't emerge from our room till around 12:30 due to the exhausting day we had the day before.
Although, we did emerge with a more thought out plan of where we were heading. We started off by walking towards the New Delhi Railway Station where we had planned to get the Metro towards the Humayun tomb. Once we arrived at the train station we soon realised the craziness that is peak train times within New Delhi, not only was the train station completely packed out but the people continually pushed in front of you to get closer to the ticket counters.
Realising that we weren't actually going to make it anywhere with these ticket counters we decided to get a Tuk Tuk instead.
From there it was pretty much smooth sailing.
We arrived at the Tomb around 1:30 pm which in hindsight was probably the wrong idea as it was sweltering heat at this specific time.
Although the sights of the tombs and the extent of thought that had clearly been put into the architecture of the tombs was nearly enough to take your minds off it. But not quite. The gardens of the tombs seemed to spread for miles and the landscape was home to more than just one tomb alone.
Once we had finished walking the length of the tombs as well as getting asked for multiple pictures by Indians due to our nationality (which felt a lot like being famous) we board our tuk tuk again and got to view the India gate which is a world war one memorial for the Indian soldiers that fought in the First World War as well as India's 'houses of parliament'.
We managed to locate a Nando's where we sat for lunch and the meals they were serving were pretty amazing and different to that in the UK. (Although I did end up getting practically the same thing which I would normally get in England) After this, we travelled to a small market however the way the people within the market continually were in your face made it feel as though you didn't want to spend your money there. So we retreated to the Hotel.
Once we got back to our hotel we sat down to chill out and had some Chai tea. To our luck, we met these two women who were planning on heading to a larger market soon so we decided to join them. Fitting four in a Tuk Tuk did prove hard though so, in the end, I ended up on Alex's lap attempting not to fall out of the vehicle. However, the Market was worth the scary ride in the Tuk Tuk as we managed to find me 3 pairs of flowy trousers and a top which actually came to around £9 for all of them which, when you're used to shopping in London, is not a lot at all.
We soon returned to the hotel for another shower to freshen up and later met the same group for some dinner plus two other women. The 6 of us ended up at this roof top restaurant which served almost every meal you could have wanted. I got a chicken burger where as Alex got an Enchilada. Once again the food was good and the company was even better.
Once we arrived at the airport at 5 am we thought we had a pretty fool proof plan of how to get to our hostel in New Delhi however, the people had another plan for us. After getting on the airport express to new Delhi railway station, we arrived at a place so different to what we had walked out to at the airport. Tuk Tuks swarmed the cities streets where having a side of the road was definitely not a restriction to which the people of India had to live by.
After talking to one person we headed for the other side of the railway station which we had been told our hostel was situated by. We soon realised he was attempting to send us into another railway station to which we were obviously stopped as we didn't have a ticket, the man that stopped us soon started explaining how we needed a 'permission permit' to enter the area our hotel was in. We had been warned about scams like this from our hotel, thankfully, so we were pretty vigilant. After being hassled continuously we gave in and got into a taxi which took us to a 'tourist information' centre, they then offered to call our hotel for us, however, knowing of the scam me and Alex declined this offer and called the Hotel ourselves.
They quickly informed us that the pass they were attempting to sell us/ give us was not needed and that this was, as we had thought, one of the scams. So after being scammed once we got into a Tuk Tuk and this seemed to be going right as we checked our maps to ensure he was heading the correct way, he was. Although obviously too good to be true, once he bumped into this guy on the road he again was going on about a pass, We informed the Tuk Tuk driver that no we had already called the hotel and they had told us this is false information. He then drove us to two different tourist centres.
By this point after travelling for almost 24 hours we had enough, we got out the Tuk Tuk and ordered ourselves an Uber. The Uber was reliable and a heads up for any one considering travelling to Delhi make sure you have your hotels number on your phone for emergency use or threaten the Tuk Tuk drivers or taxi drivers that you are prepared to call the police if they do not take you to your hotel. (or as we did.,.. Get an Uber).
After finally arriving at our hostel, we found a lovely spacious lobby that had information books, board games and most importantly fans/ air conditioning. Arriving around 9 am ish we couldn't check in till 10:30 so we stored our bags away and just chilled out after the incredibly hectic morning we had all together. We met this lovely man who we talked and laughed with and told us about his dislike for Delhi due to the massive amount of pollution and corruption that took place within this city.
We had definitely found this to be the case so far but he had high hopes for the rest of the trip. Once we had checked into our hotel we went for lunch with the same man we had previously been talking to. He took us to The Biryani Paradise. Here the food was incredible. We ordered a Mutton Biryani which was basically lamb and rice with the sauce. This was such a large portion that it fed all three of us and only cost around £6, which coming from London is a major shock. With this, we had a Garlic Naan which came out very crispy which made it more flavoursome. Alex was also talked into trying a 'Masala Coke' The first sip of it almost made him spit it out and even the small amount I had of it nearly brought on gagging. This drink was Coca-cola mixed with a spoon full of the spice Masala. (He changed for a different drink straight away).
After this, we headed back to the hotel, in another Tuk Tuk which cost around 50p to get from our hotel to the restaurant. We said goodbye to the friend we had made as he continued on to his home further north near the mountains and head to our room for a shower and to relax after hearing only Tuk Tuk and car horns for the majority of the day. When we felt we had relaxed a bit more we decided to head for a walk down the street to find a place to have dinner... As our chilled out time had lasted a lot longer than we had thought it would.
Dinner was in this Hotel/ Restaurant along the same strip to which our hotel was on, we chose it due to the fact that there were multiple other westerners inside. This put at ease our fears of contracting the Delhi belly as due to our tour happening in a couple of days we couldn't be sick before we even started it. The food again was pretty amazing, Alex got a chicken pasta in a white sauce and I had a chicken noodle dish that was on par with sweet and sour chicken back home and of course the side of the Garlic Naan. After we had finished the waiter brought over complimentary teas, these weren't anything like Yorkshire tea bags back home but instead consisted of sweet flavours with a minty taste almost comparing to a Chai tea. With this, we were brought Mukhwas with consists of fennel seeds. This after- meal snack is used as a digestive aid and also a mouth freshener.
With the first day coming to an end we decided to get an early night so that we could handle the madness a bit better tomorrow morning than we had done that morning.