Tag Archives: delhi

Lotus Temple

Lotus Temple, Delhi

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December 2, 2011 · 6:24 am

Shopping Smart in Delhi

I’ve heard great things about Delhi and not so great things. For one, the shopping is supposed to be awesome: great, colorful selection of clothes, good prices, and lots of markets. Also, the buildings and sights are pretty fantastic. The problem was that it can be very unsafe for foreigners or people traveling alone. If they know you are not an Indian (local resident) they will rip you off with everything. The safety issue here is that because they are very pushy with sales, you can find yourself badgered a lot my many different people wherever you go, and some people will take advantage of the fact that you don’t know how things work or how to get around. Originally I wanted to go by myself, but I’m so glad Lydia came with me because she speaks Hindi. The first thing people ask us is where we’re from so they can gauge how much they can get away with, it’s just the nature of the beast. When necessary, I kept my mouth shut and let her do the talking when we were shopping. I’d highly suggest going around with a local if you can, but if not just be prepared to pay a lot more. I know no one wants to be ripped off, so bargain your way as much as possible, and then don’t let it get to you too much. Besides, you’re buying something you typically won’t get back home, so a few more dollars/euros/yen is probably worth it.

Word of caution on shopping: I felt inclined to write about this after a particularly bad experience at one of the more popular markets, Dilli Haat. Lydia and I were both excited to check it out, and when we got there they told us that they didn’t do bargaining at all here. We thought it was odd but went along with it. They had a great selection of clothes with all these beautiful patterns and good material. Lydia had her eye on some sarees and we also saw a few scarves. However, the guy was acting a little shady, and quoting us different prices for virtually the identical item. They said the quality of the material was different, but it was difficult to tell (was probably the same thing.) We were getting annoyed by that, but it wasn’t until we overheard a transaction next to us that Lydia got really pissed. There was a foreigner looking at a nice scarf next to us, and his salesman quoted it at 3600 rupees, which is absurd. Lydia was sneaky and waited until they left and then inquired about the same scarf – the price he quoted her was 1400. That’s when she started telling the guy off in Hindi while I stood to the side, trying to convey my annoyance by waiting by the door and ready to go. The salesman was terrified that we would cause a ruckus and tell everyone around us what was going on and threw in two scarves for free; we only bought some small items which we knew were priced well and impossible to find in South India, and veto’d all other purchases. If you are planning on visiting Delhi to do some shopping. I would check out other markets instead where you can bargain. Don’t believe what they tell you at Dilli Haat – its dirty business! As Lydia said, if they rip you off through bargaining it’s your own choice, but lying and saying it’s the same price for everyone when it’s clearly not is so wrong, and you’ll have a lot harder time getting a fair price in the end. Remember though that Delhi does have great shopping though, so don’t let this dissuade you from venturing out and doing some fun bargaining. Good luck!

 

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Agra

I saw the Taj! And it opened up my eyes, I saw the Taj.

Alright, so I know there’s a lot of hype about the Taj Mahal. And a lot of people think its overrated. But nonetheless, I still really wanted to see it for myself. And it was just as breath taking as I had hoped it would be. The day started off somewhat rough. Our driver was a grumpy man, who disagreed with us about mostly everything. Lydia and I didn’t feel so great with him so we ended up ditching him halfway, and caught a cheap train ride back instead. Word of advice: never use Bagmati Car Service if you’re looking to go around Delhi or Agra. They are unprofessional, and gave inaccurate info when we spoke to them (their 2 1/2 car ride was really 5.) Hands down the best way to go is to catch the 6am express train (there’s two, but one is called Taj Express) and get there around 8am. We would have booked that but we had very limited options by the time we were looking since we were so last minute about everything. These trains fill up quickly so the earlier you book, the better. The train we took back was about 3 hours, which was still fine even though it wasn’t an express. Also, my cousin recommends getting a tour guide from the station because they have official guides – there are many guides at the front entrance but they bother you a lot if you don’t have a guide, and some aren’t really tour guides and can give you false info. Also, Lydia had a hell of a time getting local rate tickets (local rate is 10 rupees vs. foreigner rate of 750) and she herself is an Indian resident! After that whole drama, we decided to dress me up more Indian, which included wearing a shawl, putting my hair up, trading bags with Lydia, and not saying a single word. Either it fooled the guards or they just didn’t care, but we got into the Taj with no problem. I know it can be frustrating having to pay such a higher cost, but if you aren’t Indian (and you can’t fool them) then you’ll have to suck it up. Heads up if you go!

Regardless of the ride over and the madness getting in, I really enjoyed seeing the Taj. It is so peaceful once you get into the garden area. We were there for 2 hours, but I could have easily been there for double that time and taken more photos. We loved capturing the reflection of the building in the water as well. The story itself is pretty sad too. I knew that he made the Taj for his wife, but I didn’t know that he was so sad when she died that he wanted to build a black Taj replica across the river. However, he was fighting with his sons over the funds for the Taj, and so they put him in prison at Agra Fort. The saddest part was that he could see the Taj from his window, and he died in jail. Sigh, how can family be so cruel. The place was super crowded so I’d love to go back when it’s quieter. So happy I can cross that off my Bucket List though of places to see!

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Delhicious!

Arun had plans to go to Delhi on business, and I was excited to tag along and see the Taj. However, on Tuesday he got word that his trip was pushed to the following week. I really wanted to go anyway and was planning on catching a flight on my own out on Thurs morning to see the Taj at sunrise on Fri. Well, that plan also got crushed when I found out the Taj is closed on Fridays (remember this if you ever visit!!) As I was taking a second to feel sorry for myself, Lydia took pity on me and came up with a wild plan: we ran home, packed our bags, headed to the airport and found the next flight to Delhi that night. Since she knows the language, she decided to join me. 5 hours after leaving the house we were in Delhi, staying at a posh hotel thanks to Dream-Ality’s Starwood Preferred Guest points. I haven’t seen the other hotels in Delhi, but I absolutely recommend the ITC Maurya Sheraton. It’s gorgeous, has every amenity including a nice pool, and is also a little cheaper than the Le Meridien. It’s also in a safe part of town because all the embassies are closeby (knock on wood.) Once we got in. Lydia made some calls at 1am and by morning we had set up a private car to take us there. She’s so great! I’m so glad she decided to come with me, thanks Lydia! So here we are, 8 hours later after we landed in Delhi, heading to Agra. Bollywood music is playing on the radio, the sun is shining, and we have a yummy hotel breakfast in our bellies: I am one happy NRI. More on Agra later!

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