The Travelling Teacher: Dashing around Delhi and a brief pit stop in Kolkata
Last week’s blog entry was all about Agra, more specifically, the beautiful Taj Mahal. Quite deservedly this place is now listed as one of the New 7 Wonders of the world! If you didn’t get a chance to have a read about this place, have a look at last week’s blog. The Taj Mahal is unreal! I know I’ve said it before but it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
This week, on our way North we head to Delhi for a few days and visit the historical Purana Qila as well as learn about the stories of its past. The Purana Qila is a magical place that is steeped in history and stories, read on to find out more!
Whilst making our way to Havelock Island, we make a brief stop in Kolkata. During this pitstop we go back to our English roots and squeeze in a visit to the Queen Victoria memorial.
From Agra to Delhi
Again, we found the cheapest way to work our way North from Agra to Delhi was by taxi. It took around 3.5 hours for this trip. This journey was so different from what we’d seen on our other taxi journeys through India. The roads seemed more developed here with roadways that weren’t too dissimilar to the roads and motorways at home. We even spotted numerous signs for restaurants.
Though my initial feeling was that Delhi had a much more modernised feel than the other parts of India I had experienced, there was still an abundance of tuk-tuk drivers and motorcyclists …and within this abundance, many if not most, not wearing helmets. Which under the law, all passengers should have been wearing.
It definitely felt much more developed here and seemed more affluent. People were dressed differently and in one place we found a mall that contained 3 malls inside of it. To get in the mall we had to be scanned. We almost got lost in this place! It was unbelievably huge. The prices here were also A LOT higher than we had been paying previously. It was a bit of a shock to the system when we went for dinner and it was on par with the costs of back home in the U.K. Even though this place felt more westernised and it was clear that the industry was growing, there were still people begging. It made me wonder what impact a huge development like this mall had on the local shops.
Purana Qila is one of the oldest forts in Delhi, its name quite aptly translates as ‘Old Fort’. It almost feels like a large park area and is a popular picnic spot where you are surrounded by ancient red-stone monuments. There is a cost of around 200 rupees each, which is approximately 2GBP and for this bargain you witness some great scenery. Amongst the many ruins there is the Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque. This is a single domed mosque and is a fine example of pre-Mughal design. There’s also the Sher Mandal, an octagonal tower that was originally intended to be much higher. It was used as an observatory and is one of the first observatories of Delhi. Sadly, this building is also where Humayun (known as ‘The Lion King’), the son of the Babur (who had originally ordered the construction of this) fell to his death from the 2nd floor.
Inside the Qila complex it feels like it has many stories to tell. The ruins lay around and what’s left in here has plants slowly creeping around it, hiding its secrets and past. You do feel a sense of being back in time when you walk around here and you can feel the exciting life this place once had.
Though this place may not be the oldest monument it is rich in history and it tells the story of Delhi’s urban development. Excavations here suggest that the fort area has been inhabited since 300 B.C. Some also believe that under Qila are the remains of a legendary city. A Mughal chronicler from years ago mentions that this fort was built on the hallowed site of Indraprastha. I love that Qila is intertwined with history and myths.
This Qila was a living part of the city until 1914 when it was cleared. It’s crazy to think that this place was forgotten about for a while. It has been the home to many temporary settlements.
Even though it was once temporarily forgotten, it is still greatly loved. For instance, after Humayun’s rule it was actually the British who decided to move the capital of Colonial India from Kolkata to Delhi in 1911. In order to establish a symbolic connection, a House was built at an elevation to look upon the old Fort. Today, this house is now the residence of the president. I would definitely love to live in that house, wouldn’t you? Not sure I stand much chance of becoming the Indian president though.
From Delhi to Kolkata
We only spent a few days in Delhi and were soon on our way to Havelock Island but before this we had a connection flight to Kolkata. Kolkata airport was quite a large airport and had some really interesting artwork. This unique project was initiated by Airports Authority of India to bring the vision and talent of artists out to the community – I love this idea! It definitely gave us something interesting to look at.
As we like to try and make the most out of our time and with only having a brief stop over here, we went exploring. If you do the same, be prepared. It did take us a while to be able to leave the airport. We were sent from desk to desk explaining we wanted to do sight-seeing before we came back to get on our next flight. They ended up taking our tickets and holding them until our return.
Then we were off in a big yellow taxi to see what was about. These taxis were very ‘old school’ and having looked up their age some were almost as old as me (a young 28 years). Though they had no air con, we had the windows down and it was great that the back seats were slightly elevated, as this meant we had a better view. There were lots of people bathing in the streets, men seemed to openly shower themselves. Just taking in the view from the taxi was a great way to see most of this place. The streets here had an eclectic feel with lots of shops and buildings close together and clothes hanging from one side of the street to the other. It had a really lovely charm about it and it was a shame we didn’t have more time to explore. It’s common practice around here that you will often see men open their car doors or stick their head out their tuk-tuks and spit. Often, this is because they are chewing on tobacco products. Some chew on ‘betel chew’ or ‘paan’ which is made up of fragrant spices, rose preserves and nuts. Though there are many sights to see here, we decided to head to the Queen Victoria Memorial.
Kolkata: Queen Victoria memorial
It took us around an hour in the taxi to get the memorial and cost approximately 350 rupees, which is around 4GBP. Unfortunately the gardens were closed on the day of our visit. The women and men queue separately here so as I got to the ticket counter first I ended up purchasing 2 tickets as the queue for the men was much longer. A good point to note is the location of the toilets (as this is not very well signposted), they are right near the entrance, so if you find yourself caught short, head there.
The building was magnificent. I loved the white marble architecture. This place not only acts as a reminder of the rule of the British Crown but is an architectural gem! This memorial was built following the death of Queen Victoria and the idea of Lord Curzon to create a grand building for all to have a glimpse at the rich past. By the time this building had been completed, it became a part of a provincial city rather than a capital city as the capital of India was transferred to New Delhi.
It does get quite busy here, there are a lot of Indian visitors and we had MANY photo requests. I guess I was asking for it, I couldn’t have looked more British with my pale skin, freckles and ginger hair.
Our return to the airport from here cost us around 400 rupees, which is around 4GBP. What a wonderful way to spend our layover. I definitely love maximising my time and seeing as many places as possible. Have you managed to fit in a visit during a layover? I’d love to hear about it!
Kolkata to Havelock
At the airport there are only a few places to eat. We found ourselves eating upstairs in an Irish bar. Then on the way to our departure gate, I could smell warm cookies. How can anyone not like the smell of warm cookies? I had to try them, they smelt delectable. However, the taste was a bit disappointing – so be warned not be lured in like me.
Our flight to Havelock took around 2.5 hours and we were on quite a small plane. It seemed there were few foreigners going here. As we landed, it was nice to see the island covered in trees and not built up. Finally! I was back to my kind of place! I also knew just from seeing the tiny airport that this place was going to be undeveloped– perfect! I always want to see as much of a place before it gets altered, just to see it as close to its raw, natural beauty as possible.
What’s it like to work here?
The internet in Delhi was really good. We stayed in a reasonable hotel and had a good Wifi speed.
In Kolkata we only had the airport Wi-Fi to connect to as we were only there for a few hours. This worked well and we were even able to squeeze in some work before our flight.
In next week’s blog I’ll be sharing how I got on working on the Andaman Islands I visited!
What’s up next?
Next week I’ll telling you about my time in Havelock and telling you all about my experience travelling the Andaman Islands. I hadn’t even heard of this place before travelling but these islands are not one to be overlooked.
If there’s more you’d like to know please do not hesitate to contact me via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org .