Monday, January 1, 2007

Day 2: Happy New Year's!

Sunday, December 31, 2006, 12:10 AM IST. I just returned from a wonderful New Year's Eve celebration in the hotel. The big parties here take place at the hotel and the largest (and best) parties were sold out by the time we checked in to the hotel. We celebrated by having dinner at the hotel's Italian restaurant and listening to a local singer perform his best renditions of 1980s US hits. The two key lessons of the evening: eat Indian food in India when at all possible (unfortunately for us this was not possible), and Indian music sounds much more fun than loud off-key 80s hits. All in all, it was a fun evening, made several friends and as you can see by the time, I was exhausted and went to bed shortly after wishing all a happy new year. Happy New Year to you all as well!

Earlier in the day, Nicole and I decided to venture out of the hotel area for some more sightseeing before we meet up with the remainder of the group. There is something to be said for venturing out without a group of 25 - definitely a more authentic experience. We found a taxi driver who was excellent. He was extremely proud of his city and took us past all the embassies, the presidential palace, parliament buildings and other city marks. All for the regular taxi fare of about 800 rupies or $20 for the day. Our destination plan was to visit Jama Masjid and the Red Fort - two historic areas in Old Delhi. As silly Americans we had forgotten about Saddam's recent demise and the neginning of a Muslin festival, so were well advised by the taxi driver to visit the mosqoe another day (see tomorrow's post). The Red Fort, however was amazing and the adventure to get there was as good or better. We took the taxi to a bicycle rickshaw where we made our way through the crowded Old Delhi streets - not for the weak hearted.

The Red Fort included several historical buildings for the palace of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan's capital city of Jahanabad. The architecture and scenery was filled with history and amazing detail, which is inspiring. Yet it was also eye-opening to walk through the crowds in the bazaar to see armed guards in their jeeps with machine guns perched atop, aimed and ready for anything! The armed guards were everywhere.

Here are a few shots I took of the buldings inside the fort. They are all constructed of red sandstone and marble - nearly 500 years ago! We decided that it would be best to get back to the taxi before sunset, so the visit was relatively short, but worth it. Tomorrow will be the mosque and the grand bazaar with the group. If you are curious about the lack of clarity in the last photo, I was not as close and the haze/smog/pollution has been terrible the last few days.