We flew from Varnasi to Delhi and proceeded to the stunning Imperial Hotel. As you approach this architectural masterpiece, the scent of jasmine fills the air, and you are greeted by men and women in British Colonial costumes offering the most friendly welcome. The hotel is massive, but because of its interesting eclectic layout feels much smaller, and every detail of this old property is crisp, flawless, and immaculate. Original artwork adorns the walls, and the interior marble floors and lush gardens are masterpieces in their own right. In other words, I love this place.
We reluctantly leave this oasis for dinner at Bhukarra, one of the best restaurants in town and are rewarded with an utterly delicious feast of perfectly seasoned tandoori meats and terrifically flavorful dal (lentils). After some extensive overeating, we came back to the hotel and sank into our plush duvets.
It’s amazing how easy it is to wake up after you’ve had such a great night’s sleep. Of course, it’s downright effortless to get out of bed when you know you have a huge breakfast and exciting day ahead of you. We enjoyed an exquisite array of Indian and British morning pastries, meats, cereals, eggs, and just about everything we could ask for. My group and I were seriously getting used to this at this point.
Our tour started with the Jama Mosque, one of the world’s largest. After taking our fill of obligatory photos, including many of the beautiful childeren at the Mosque, we took to the Rickshaws as we had in Varanasi, this time zooming through the narrow lanes of Old Delhi, occasionally stopping at the small craft stalls and shops that caught our interest. The turban shop was an especially big hit. Can you really go to Delhi and not try on a bright orange turban? I don’t think so.
Our highlights for the day included the Ghandi Memorial, with its stunning garden, packed with symbolism and significance, and finally Humayum’s tomb. This mogul’s tomb was a kind of precursor to the Taj Mahal, influencing its creation and design. It was important for us to see Humayum’s tomb today, as it set the stage for tomorrow’s adventure: visiting the legendary Taj Mahal.
The next morning, our train was almost two hours late leaving Delhi, and I had to channel everything I learned in India about peace and patience so that I wouldn’t go out of my skin like I would if I were back home. We finally started moving, and in about 30 minutes, another train passed us coming the opposite direction, and it was packed full of people. Actually, it was more than just packed. Men were literally bulging out of the train in the openings between the cars. Any could have fallen off quite easily, but that wasn’t what shocked us. What caught our attention were the smiles and laughter displayed on the faces of all these men. They waived happily at our train, their arms around each other, supporting their friends to stay on, as morning sunlight beet down on their bright faces. How typical of India to once again provide me with a subtle lesson about attitude and acceptance.
As our train moved along, we realized that India’s cell phone industry is thriving. Most of those who were not sleeping were on their mobiles, and of the dozen ring tones we heard on our journey, no two were the same. Phones rang simultaneously from all over the train car creating a kind of mobile symphony that entertained us on our way to Agra.