Monday, September 15, 2008

Delhi cont./Rishikesh/Haridwar/Amritsar

We ventured to Old Delhi by metro and wandered the streets of the bazaars. We had some delicious snacks and sweets at Hardiram's after following the crowd inside. It turns out that it is a huge chain around the world. Eventually we made our way to the Jama Masjid, a huge muslim mosque. We didn't enter but sat for awhile on the steps just outside having a rest.  After continuing our walk we made it to the Red Fort, a massive fort, and one of the main attractions in Delhi. But, since we had just been in two other forts in the last 2 days we decided the view from the outside was sufficient. Then we caught a local bus down to the Ghandi Museum, which had some great pictures, memorabilia, and explanations of Ghandi's life and events. We crossed the busy intersection and entered a beautiful area Raj Ghat, where Ghandi was cremated. After a light snack we jumped on another local bus back to our neighborhood to prepare for the night train ahead. We had dinner with a couple Chileans that we met earlier that day and then took a wild ride on a rickshaw to the old Delhi train station.

Our train bound for Haridwar arrived the next morning where we promptly hopped on a bus to Rishikesh. Our guest house in High Bank, up a hill above the city, was a nice place to relax from the big city for the next couple days. After getting settled we explored the area. We walked down to Lacksman Jhula, crossed the bridge and walked down the river to Swrag Ashram area. We were less than impressed by Rishikesh but we enjoyed our time at the guest house with our eclectic neighbors and great views, not to mention delicious potatoes.  Rishikesh is the Yoga capital of the world and so the next couple mornings we started our day in a yoga class, Daph's first yoga ever. Michael even ventured across the river again to visit the ashram that the Beatles had stayed at. A 50 rupee bribe is all you need to see the crazy meditation huts in the abandoned ashram...

The next day it was time to leave our quiet abode...we took a bus to spend the day in Haridwar before our next night train. Haridwar is a Hindu holy city and so we went up to one of the main temples there. Please no-one take offense, but getting there on a cable car was like a Hindu-temple Disney style ride. We waited in a long line, then went on the really fast cable car up the mountain, where we were shuttled from the taking shoes off station to the give offerings station back to getting shoes and directly into the line to go down the mountain. It was all a very crowded and surreal experience. From there we walked down to see the evening river ceremony at the ghat, that was very short and modest compared to Varanasi, and then it was time for dinner and a train. We took a sleeper class train (like the ac class but no ac,  no linens for the "beds", doors that are always open, people walking around and general stench). As you may imagine we didn't sleep too much and were happy to disembark in Amritsar.

So we arrive in amritsar and discover that yet again, the lonely planet recommended hotels are dumps. So after some searching and bargaining we leave our things and decide to begin exploring the new city. We attempted to see a "must-see" museum that is under construction and probably has been since it opened. From there is was off to the newer area. The main road there is a mishmash of old buildings and attempts at new buildings (a la Kiryat Shmona). Deciding that we would not stay too much longer in town we went to see the main event: the Golden Temple. This Sikh temple was absolutely amazing! The temple was beautiful (in gold) surrounded by water and marble all around. You go in barefoot and circle it, and the place is very peaceful despite the swarms of pilgrims. After enjoying it for a while we got some really bad Indian pizza and then returned to see the temple after dark when it was all lit up. We waited in line on the bridge and entered the temple seeing the various floors where scriptures are kept in elaborately decorated rooms and people singing and playing music as pilgrims give offerings. The next morning we couldn't help stopping by one more time at the temple before heading north.



 


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