I arrived in Delhi at 10:30 PM after a 13 ½ hour flight from Newark, plus sitting on the tarmac for an additional three hours due to a thunderstorm delay. What’s ironic was that for once, I had paid additional money for the not-cheapest ticket as that one arrived Delhi at 11:15 PM and I thought that was kind of late! (Back to the cheapest-cheapest tickets!)
Delhi had changed since my last trip, no doubt about it, which was 14 years ago. It didn’t even smell like India! However, when the taxi got to ‘my’ neighborhood where I had made a reservation to be very near the train station, it was old-old Delhi, once again. There were cows, bicycle rickshaws, and plenty of smells. The desk clerk couldn’t check me in right away, as he was eating his dinner (at midnight!). Finally I was in my room, asleep.
The next morning I took a bicycle rickshaw to the train station for my 7:40 AM train to Chandigarh. Porters offered to carry my bags the brief distance to the entrance of the station for 150 R! (I carried my own) Then someone intercepted me when I was on my way to Platform 2, and told me I should go upstairs to collect my boarding pass. I had made my reservation on the internet and only had a printed reservation paper.When I got upstairs an un-official-looking person said my train had been cancelled. I thought not as I had seen the listing on the announcement downstairs. (I think I fell for this scam back in ’91 when I was going to Agra; they told me the train was full and I wound up taking a car and driver!) I found my platform and train and was on my way.
North of Delhi the landscape is dry (I gather that the monsoons haven’t come yet) and flat farming. I saw no horses and oxen in the fields, but I saw several tractors. The train was a little down at the heel, BUT! First I got a free newspaper, followed by a large bottle of cold water; then a tea tray with biscuits, and then breakfast! This, complimentary, all on a $10 train ticket to go 3 ½ hours!
Chandigarh is a new city, built in the ‘50s after partition. The highs in temp are 104 degrees F. or more at this time of year. I did some sight-seeing, but in this heat it is a challenge. I fortified myself with a favorite breakfast—Masala Dosa. I attempt to make them at home, but they look nothing like these; they are paper thin!
I went on a tour to see the sights of Chandigarh for 50 R. I visited the Rose Garden, which is said to have 1500 kinds of roses, but in 104-degree heat, they didn’t look so great. These local yellow-blossomed trees were spectacular, though.
This rather un-touristed city has an outstanding museum and art gallery. They have a really extensive collection of Buddhist sculpture from the 2nd C. onward. The Buddha looks different in these very old sculptures—more like Alexander the Great, who was here, too. They also had many beautiful 16th C. bronzes.
Then there was the Nek Chand Fantasy Rock Garden. Apparently some one person decided to create this and nobody knew anything about it for 15 years, even though it was on government land. He was hauling junk home, which he picked up from rubbled villages, which were leveled to make way for Chandigarh. Finally the town fathers saw it, thought it would be a good tourist attraction and gave him some workers and money to keep going. It really is a fantasy.
Then there was the artificial Sukhna Lake. Now it’s pretty hard to maintain an artificial lake when highs reach 114 degrees F. in the summer. There actually were people boating on this Sunday afternoon, but I can’t believe that the boats didn’t scrape bottom! Still, the breeze was nice.
The locals here all speak Hindi and not much English. We have trouble understanding each other, but, as always, we make do. Part of the problem may be dental—I’ve never seen such bad teeth. Still, there are some very good-looking locals, too!
I think I’ll send this off as there is such a nice bar in which to sip a Kingfisher Beer and use their wifi. I don’t know if I’ll find as good in Shimla, a hill town (much cooler!) where I’m going tomorrow.