Earthquake, Old Delhi and Taj Mahal
Guess the title of the last email update would have been more appropriate for today's. You probably know more about the 7.6 earthquake that hit yesterday than I do, but just wanted to let you know that I am fine. Got this weird depression / lethargy that kept me from going north.
Anyway, just wanted to share a bit about what I've been up to over the last week.
This old Tibetan woman cooks up some great potato curry and poori (fried
balloon bread) for me each morning here in Majnu-Ka-Tilla, Delhi. Price
varies from 12 - 25 cents each day, chai is available from another man for
10 cents. The Tibetan colony I have been staying in is very calm compared to
most of the city.
Met an Irish girl (Tanya) at the guesthouse and we've been doing a lot of
traveling together. She and I went to Old Delhi, to see the Jami Mosque
(largest Mosque in India apparently). The mosque was cool, but I was much
more impressed with the twisted, busy alleyways and markets that surrounded
it. Just insane stuff was happening in every direction -- a man sitting
using a computer while his feet were under 5 inches of water (and others
tried frantically to pump it out). A goat eating posters off the walls,
rickshaws battling down the streets, stuff being thrown out of windows,
colors, music and incense in every direction.
Took a train to Agra where the Taj Mahal is located. The train station was amazing! So much diversity, religious men with gold paintings on their foreheads and white robes, Punjabi warrior looking guy with a sword, battle axe, blue turban and huge beard, guys in only loin cloths, beggars and then rich Delhi locals in Gucci, tailored suites, saris, etc. There is just so much going on here, there is no way I could begin to put it all into words.
Agra itself was a bit more toned down. The Taj Mahal was expensive, but totally beautiful -- I had really not expected it to be so unreal. Spent the night there, then got up before dawn and walked there for the sunrise (before the day-trip tourists could make it there by train : ) Was really great walking around the gardens, etc. We were finished by the time the hoards showed up.
After the Taj Mahal, I was able to trade my used ticket (good for other attractions) for an entire breakfast for both Tanya and I -- great deal! After eating we wandered the hot dusty streets for a long time, just playing with kids and taking things in. Saw people recycling rusted metal scrap with their bare hands which was pretty upsetting.
This photo was taken from one of the rooftops when this procession just rolled through town. I think that it was to celebrate a marriage, but am not sure.
We decided to buy "general" tickets for the 4.5 hour journey back to Delhi. These turned out to be third class and half the price. It was crowded, but people were much nicer than those we met in 2nd class (they all shared the space vs. trying to hoard it). People were excited to ask us questions and share about themselves. Food was brought on and we shared our fruit with those jammed in next to us.
Back here in Delhi, staying in the penthouse (always the cheapest as there is no elevator). This is a photo taken from the roof of today's sunrise over the Yamuna river. There is a family that lives on the banks here and has a small farm going. There is chanting and music each evening coming from somewhere across the river.
Oh, its funny, there seems to be about 3-5 power outages every day here! Just had one a few minutes ago. Its surreal to walk through the crowded streets at night in complete darkness, everyone just keeps shopping, bartering, etc as though nothing has changed.
From here, I'm not sure what I'm doing. Might go north-ish, then work my way over to Nepal. But that will depend on earthquake damage, travel options, and political situation in Nepal, etc.