Sunday, March 22, 2009

India Blog - Day 10

We ate breakfast this morning, changed some money, and met our guide in the lobby. He first took us past the red fort (just driving by) and through some of the bazaar streets, most of them looking like a flea market. Finally we came to Jama Masjid (the Friday Mosque) which is the largest mosque in India, which has room for tons of people to pray. Seems like it was 25,000 people, but I don't remember for sure. The mosque itself isn't all that big, but the courtyard is very large and that's where they put most of the people.

Here's me in some kind of little box on the front steps of the mosque:

We were required to remove our shoes, and Gail had to wear an interesting cover. I guess all the western women were required to wear it, and any men wearing shorts had to wear something to cover themselves as well. You can see the covers and skirts on these guys below:

After the mosque, we drove to the Gandhi memorial. This is the place where Gandhi was cremated and some of his ashes still are. We didn't actually go into the memorial area so we didn't have to take our shoes off. We just took a picture from a place overlooking the site. The guide was making sure we hurried to each spot.

After that we went to the craft museum, which is where Gail wanted to go to see the different crafts that they make across India. I don't know if it was because it was Sunday or what, but there wasn't really anybody there doing crafts. They had examples of the different housing styles across India, and lots of artisans selling clothing and art. It was sort of a disappointment, but I did buy a couple of art sketches there.

After that the driver told us he was taking us to a place to learn about Kashmir. We soon arrived and detected it was actually a kickback stop. He told us that the people there would let us try some Kashmir tea but we told him we didn't drink tea. The man was very nice, but it was a sales job. We learned how they make the rugs and how each takes 6 months to 2 years of tying knots and packing the threads down on the loom. He showed us that the rug wouldn't scratch or burn. It was kind of like the cutco knives guy or some other sales pitch. Anyway, the rugs were very beautiful but they were also very expensive, so we didn't get any.

Then the driver took us to a cool archaeological site called Qutab Minar. It has several examples of Hindu architecture, and some Muslim architecture. The Muslims came in and destroyed all the carvings of the Hindu temple, because they don't believe in idol worship. Then the Muslim leader erected this huge 250 foot tower. It is really cool.

Here is the base so you can get a perspective for how big it really is.

There is also this really strange iron post in the courtyard that is about 1600 years old, but has never rusted. Supposedly NASA or somebody is trying to figure out what it is made of and why it doesn't rust.

While we were checking all this stuff out, this little kid came up and asked if he could have a picture with me. Then his sisters (I assume) came up and posed as well. Very interesting.

The guide to leave to go to lunch after about 20 minutes, but there was too much to see. Also the Indian lunch he wanted to take us to was 600 rupees ($12) and we were thinking he probably got a kickback for it and we weren't really hungry for more Indian food. So we told him we wanted to stay for a while and not go to lunch. He said he was pretty much done for the day (it was only 1:00) and the driver could take us to the next temple and so we tipped him and he left. We spent another 30-40 minutes in Qutab Minar and it was really cool.

Since our guide was gone, we communicated to the driver that we wanted to go to the Akshardhan temple. He asked about lunch and we said we were going to skip it. He said he wanted lunch so he brought us to another kickback store. I think maybe they feed the drivers for free if they leave the passengers at the mercy of the salespeople. Randy didn't feel like hanging out in the store so he went down the street half a block and joined a cricket game. They let him hit the ball a couple times. Too bad nobody was there to take his picture.

Finally the driver was done scarfing his (free?) meal and he took us on the long drive across town to the Akshardhan temple.

You can kind of see the temple in the background here. This place was like Disneyland, with huge lines of cars to get in to the parking, lines to get in to, major security, boat rides, animatronics, and tons of people. They had a huge list of things that were not allowed inside, including cameras, phones, food, pens, paper, and about 100 other things. We got the frisking and finally made it in. The temple was over the top ornate with gold statues and levels on levels of carving everywhere. Since we weren't allowed a camera, I don't have any pictures of the inside, but if you're interested they have a website here.

We grabbed some water at the food court and tried to go see if we could get on the boat ride, but the wait was 2.5 hours, so we bailed. A very interesting place.

We were hoping to see one more place that day, the Lotus Temple (Bahai), but it was closed by that time and not open on Mondays. Oh well. We did more this day than we were expecting, I think.

We went back to the hotel and ate at the fancy Chinese restaurant on the top floor. We had to roam around and shop for a while because the restaurant didn't open until 7:30. I got a couple silk scarves in the shops downstairs. After dinner it was back to skype the family and blog. Here is Randy talking to his wife.

No comments: