Previous month:
September 2012
Next month:
November 2012

Enchanting India - New Delhi and Agra

 

New Delhi and Agra, India

An enchanting land....

 

 

Taj altered 2

 

 

 .... the people

 

 

Old woman

 

 

..... the colors

 

 

New delhi india (4)

 

 

.... the culture

 

 

New delhi india (5)

 

 

Henna

 

New Delhi


This trip was different from most of our trips as we were with a conference and every minute of the week was planned out for us.  D started work at 2:00 on Sunday (we arrived very late Saturday night).  We were able to squeeze in a local market Sunday morning.

 

New delhi india 3 6

 


New Delhi is the capital city of India and is part of metropolitan complex of Delhi.  Delhi has close to 15 million people living there.

 

 

New delhi india 8

 

 

The ladies of the market...

 

 

New delhi india 3 1

 

 

New delhi india 3 3

 

 

 

New delhi india 3 2

 

Isn't she precious?


 

New delhi india 3 4

 

 

Colorful kurtis - very popular outfits for women, along with saris.

 

 

New delhi india 3 13

 

 

A mid-morning nap - I wonder if all this color made him have good dreams?

 

 

New delhi india 3 12

 

 

Old Delhi is one of the oldest cities in the world, with a history dating back 5000 years.  The British developed New Delhi in 1911 - it is only a hundred years old.  In 1931, during British rule, India was forced to shift its capital from Calcutta to New Delhi. 

 

 

New delhi india 3 5

 

New delhi india 3 73

  Lady

 

 

New Delhi is one of the fastest growing cities in both India and the world. It is the government, commercial, and financial center of India.

 

 

New delhi india 12

 

We saw very young men, really boys, working in the streets.  Notice this sewing machine is working with a foot petal, not with electricity.

 

New delhi india 3 15

 

 

New delhi india 3 16

 

They are making a sweet donut-like treat.

 

New delhi india 3 17

 

 

New delhi india 3 18

 

This was the only street food D managed to get!  I passed on tasting it.  It was our first day and I had heard that most everyone gets sick in India.  I am happy to report that no one got sick, including the three that tasted the street food!

 

New delhi india 3 19

 

A temple on wheels.  Close to 80% of India is of Hindu Religion and the vast majority belong to Vaishnavite and Shaivite denominations.

 

New delhi india 3 20

 

People put money in the temple and then wave their hands over the incense to direct the smoke to their face. 

 

New delhi india 3 21

 

A camel walking on the main road.  Now that would be a fun way to get to work each day!

 

New delhi india 3 24

A refreshing lemon drink - no we did not try it.  You really should not drink anything that is not bottled commercially.

 

  New delhi india 3 10

 

Sights we visited:

 

Part of the conference was a trip to the Taj Mahal in Agra.  It took us four hours each way but it was oh so worth it!  The view as we approached the Taj.  Did you know that the Taj Mahal was a labor of love?



Taj

 

The photo below is actually a reflection of the Taj in a pool in the front garden.  I did NOT alter this photo!  This is one of my favorite photos of the trip.  The Taj Mahal is UNESCO World Heritage site.  

 

Taj upside down

 

It took 22 years to build the Taj Mahal  (1631-1653).  The story behind it is one of the greatest love stories of all times.  The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built it for his third and favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.  Their marriage was a "love" marriage, not an arranged one.

 

  India 129

 

Because  Mumtaz Mahal was his favorite wife, she traveled everywhere with him.  Even though she was in the ninth month of pregnancy, she traveled with Shah Jahan when he set out for Burhanpur with his armies to subdue a rebellion.  

 

 

New delhi india 3 75

 

While on this journey, the queen gave birth to their fourteenth child.  She suffered complications and did not survive.  According to legend, on her dying bed, Shah Jahan promised her that he would never remarry and would build the most beautiful mausoleum over her grave, more beautiful than any the world had ever seen before.  


 

New delhi india 3 76

 

 

The queen is buried in the exact center of the Taj and the Shah is buried by her side.   

 


New delhi india 3 74

 

The mosque and the guesthouse in the complex are built of red sandstone in contrast to the marble mausoleum.  It is also a beautiful structure.

 

New delhi india 3 78

 

 

For twenty-two years, twenty thousand men and women labored day and night to create the emperor shah Jahan’s promise to his beloved.  It is primarily made of marble with inlay work of precious/semi precious stones. It truly is a breathtaking sight!


 

6a00e55288aaf88833017c32af96ae970b-500wi

 


The road to Agra and the Taj Mahal...

 

Most of the following photos were taken from a bus window while the bus was moving.  A rarity for us, as we never take bus tours, but this was part of the day's events.  We had a great time despite not being able to walk among the locals.

 

New delhi india 3 65

 

India is a poor country and not many people own cars.   It is common to see people jumping on and off the back of trucks to get to where they are going.

 

New delhi india 3 66

 

 

 

New delhi india 3 67

 

There were also motorcycles on the road, but nothing like some of the Asian countries we have traveled to.

 

  India 114

 

The countryside side was quite beautiful, with many people working the fields.

 

India 23

 

Agra is a very touristy town, yet they were quite intrigued to see our caravan of buses coming into town.  A brand new toll road just opened up, but there was hardly any traffic on it and the police stopped us frequently.  Eventually, the police gave up and escorted our five buses to the Taj with their siren lights on.  We also had armed guards on our bus.

 

New delhi india 3 46

 

 

 This truck has seen better days.

 

 

New delhi india 3 47

 

 

New delhi india 3 57

The people were very friendly and waved at our bus as we went by.

 

New delhi india 3 49

 

Love this photo - look closely, the woman is carrying milk and the cow is trailing behind her.

 

New delhi india 3 51

 

 

New delhi india 3 52

 

So colorful!

 

 

New delhi india 3 53

 

 

Looks like this one is getting in a quick nap before he goes to school.

 

 

New delhi india 3 54

 

 

New delhi india 3 56

 

As always - safety first!

 

New delhi india 3 58

 

New delhi india 3 59

 

 

New delhi india 3 69

 

 

There were many women with children begging for food and money.

 

 

New delhi india 3 71

 

The Agra Red Fort

 

 

Less than a mile from the Taj Mahal sits the Agra Fort.  Like the Taj, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 


  New delhi india 3 81

 

The Agra Fort (often called the Red Fort) was designed and built by the great Mughal ruler, Akbar, around 1565 A.D.  It derives its name from the extensive use of red sandstone on the massive walls that surround the fort.

 

  New delhi india 3 (1)


 

New delhi india 3 84

 

It was initially built as a military establishment, and later it was converted into a magnificent palace.


 

New delhi india 3 85

 

Shah Jahan was imprisioned in the Fort by his own son for the last eight years of his life. 



New delhi india 3 79

 

 

Diwan-I-Am or Hall of Public Audience, constructed between 1631-40, was the place where the emperor addressed the general public as well as the nobility. 

 

 

New delhi india 3 80

 

 

New delhi india 3 83

 

The town of Agra was very busy in the evening as we departed.  It made for some challenging maneuvering for our bus driver.

 

 

New delhi india 3 87

 

New delhi india 3 86

 

 

New delhi india 3 88

 

 

New delhi india 3 89

 

 

We got to see many other sights during the week including:

 

The Lotus Temple

 

The Bahá'í House of Worship, also known as the Lotus Temple because of its flowerlike shape, is a fairly new structure, completed in 1986.  Like all Bahá'í Houses of Worship, the Lotus Temple is open to all, regardless of religion.  Inside is a giant empty room with chairs.  You must be completely silent when you enter.  This was a challenge for a few of us girls  :  )

 

New delhi india 3 36

 

India Gate


India Gate is a national monument in India. Situated in the heart of New Delhi, it was inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.  Originally known as the All India War Memorial, the India Gate was constructed in 1931 as a memorial to honor 90,00 soldiers who laid down their lives during World War I.

 

  New delhi india 3 35

 

We also did a lot of shopping and we got to see a real fashion show, stop by my art blog to see more photos of the show.



India Fashion show 11

 

 

Evening Events

 

Each evening we had dinner and a performance.  They were a bit touristy but I really enjoyed each and every one of them!  Below I am getting a "bindi" as I enter the show.  

 

 

New delhi india V2 28

 

Bindi is derived from the sanskrut word ‘bindu’, which means dot.  It is an ornamental mark placed on the forehead between the two eyebrows. 

 

New delhi india V2 29

 

A common assumption is that a bindi is a mark of the married women, but all women can wear one.  In India, a 'bindi' on a woman's forehead or a 'tilak' on a man's forehead signifies the individual's spiritual eye, also called the 'third eye.'  The third eye is a mystical symbol of higher consciousness, and is thought to be the center of the base of creation.  It is also said to protect against demons.

 

 

New delhi india V2 30

 

Notice what I am wearing... I purchased a beautiful kurti.

 

New delhi india 3 43

 

There were colorful characters at the entrance of the show.  The show was a bollywood performance and it was awesome.  We were not allowed to take photos.

 

New delhi india V2 31

 

New delhi india V2 32

 

New delhi india 3 42

 The next evening we were entertained with fire.  Women dancing with pots of fire on their heads and ...

 

New delhi india V2 16

 

A fire-breathing man!

 

 

New delhi india V2 17

 

New delhi india V2 18

 

New delhi india V2 19

 

While balancing all the pots on her head, she managed to stand on two swords.

 

New delhi india V2 20

 

Guess who was pulled from the audience to dance with the performers?? Love that look on my face.

 

New delhi india V2 21

 

The next evening we saw traditional dances from different regions of India.

 

New delhi india V2 22

 

 

New delhi india V2 23

 

New delhi india V2 24

 

And I leave you with the fun little three-wheeled contraptions called “autos”, a common mode of transportation in India.

 

New delhi india 3 63

 

 

New delhi india 3 64

 

 How many people can they squeeze into one auto?  Obviously many!

 

New delhi india 3 60

 

 

New delhi india 3 61

 

Safety first!

 

New delhi india 3 62

 

 

The girls did end up using them one day.  But we got two of them for four of us.  That was probably considered a luxury!

 

 

New delhi india 3 23

 

 

New delhi india 3 (2)

 

 

New delhi india 3

 

Farewell India!  For a country that was not high on our "to see" list we really enjoyed our trip and hope to go back and explore more of this interesting country.  Good news.... it's looking like a trip to Bangalore in the spring!

 

New delhi india 3 77

 


Saigon Vietnam

 

The sights, sounds, and colors of Saigon 

 

Saigon lantern

 

  Saigon 4 copy

 

 

Rice

 

 

Bike scratch

 

Now known as Ho Chi Minh City, it is the largest city in Vietnam with more than 7 million people living there.  Many still call it Saigon, which I prefer - it sounds so exotic.   This was a quick trip, only two and a half days, so I did not take as many photos as I normally do.    


 

Saigon 6

 

It was a more modern city then we expected, and more people spoke English then we anticipated.  When walking through local streets, people went out of their way to say hello.  They especially liked to have their small children practice English with us.  They would bring them up to us in stores, outside their homes, on the sidewalks, etc to have them say a few words.  And, the teenagers would wave to us, smile, then take photos of us with their cell phones.   It was very sweet and fun.

 

 

Saigon building

 

HCM City was originally known as Prey Nokor, and was part of Cambodia.  In the 17th century, the Vietnamese conquered the city and named it Saigon.  After the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, Saigon became Ho Chi Minh City, named after the Communist leader who led Vietnam's independence from France.  The official name is Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh.


Saigon 7

 

Despite the fact that modern high-rise buildings have begun to dominate the skyline, there are still many examples of French colonial architecture such as the Notre Dame Cathedral.  French colonists built the Cathedral  between 1863 and 1880.

 

 

Saigon 5

 

 

Neighborhoods and apartments

 

 

Saigon 10

 

 

In Cho Lon, HCM City’s Chinatown, almost every building has a shop or workshop on the ground floor and the shop owner has their house on top. 

 

 

Saigon 11

 


Saigon 12

 

 

There was a very large park close to our hotel.  One morning we took a walk through it and were surprised to see hundreds of kids having school lessons outside.  Some were exercising, some were being lectured to, and some were reading.  I asked at our hotel and they said that as long as the weather is nice, they hold classes outside.

 

 

Saigon (1)

 

 

We also saw a group of children having an exercise class outside on the sidewalk.  They were having so much fun.

 

 

Saigon 16

 

 

Saigon 17

 

Donald with the little street gypsy... her mother had her ask us to buy little bracelets.  M, who was with us, couldn't resist her sweet smile and bought a few. 

 

Saigon 32

 

 

Saigon 31

 

Street Food


Like most of the Asian countries we have visited, street food is very popular in HCM City.  This is efficient, selling homemade noodles off the back of a scooter.

 

 

Saigon 18

 

Now that is a bowl of soup!  I would struggle cooking a bowl this big on a regular stove, how she is managing this on the street is impressive!  

 

Saigon 19

 

Love this one, he is cooking away in the middle of the road, traffic whizzing by.

 

Saigon 20

 

 

A pack of cigarettes with your lunch?

 

 

Saigon 21

 

 

Saigon 22

 

We love Bánh mì, a Vietnamese sandwich you can buy on the streets.  Bánh mì really is a term for all kinds of bread - more specifically, the baguette, introduced to Saigon by the French during its colonial period. 

 

Saigon 23

 

The sandwiches are made with meat such as roasted pork belly, Vietnamese sausage, or grilled chicken.  They usually start by spreading a layer of pork liver pâté and a layer mayonnaise.  Then a few vegetables like fresh cucumber slices, cilantro leaves, and pickled carrots.  Common condiments include spicy chili sauce and sliced chili.

 

Saigon 24

 

How much did the beer cost?  Most bottles were 10,000 Dong (50 cents USD).  In Singapore, they average $10 (USD) a bottle!  


Luwak

 

 

Saigon 30

 

Traffic and Scooters

 

Like Hanoi, there were thousands of scooters.  I took this photo from our taxi.

 

Saigon 33

 

Check out this confused lady going the wrong way on the road... note that she is not wearing shoes.

 

 

Saigon 34

 

 

Rush hour.

 

 

Saigon 35

 

How about a flower delivery on a scooter?  A very large flower delivery!

 

 

Saigon

 

Fun to see how he is actually carrying the arrangement.  How on earth can he see?  As always, safety first!

 


Saigon 2


 

The coffee

 

We LOVE Vietnamese coffee.... hot or cold.  The taste is very different from regular beans.  One reason is they add chicory to the bean.  Another reason, once brewed, they add sweetened condensed milk.  Our favorite brand is Trung Nguyen - Gourmet Brew and Creative 5. 

 

Coffee

 

 

You can buy Creative 1 - 5, but we like 5 the best.  It is fragrant, smooth, and has a distinct taste from the pea berries.  It is also the most expensive.  We bought 5 boxes and 4 bags to carry home.  We can only get it at one store here in Singapore and it is 3x the cost.

 

 

Coffee (1)

We were in a sweet little cafe, "iCafe" (25 Trinh Va Can Q.1), and decided to try the siphon coffee.  We have read about it and were curious.   Most places it is fairly expensive, but in Vietnam it was only $2 a cup.  Deal.  What’s so special about it?  It's supposed to provide a much gentler, less bitter, flavor to consumers.


 

Saigon 25

 

They brought it to our table for us to watch it being brewed.  To make coffee using this method you fill the lower carafe of the siphon with water and the top with your ground coffee and a filter.  

 

Saigon 26

 

 

The burner heats the water and it "magically" travels into the top chamber.  She then let it sit 5 minutes and before adding condensed milk and ice, and she shook it hard in a silver martini mixer.  

 

Saigon 27

 

I have to say - this was THE BEST cup of iced coffee we had ever drank.  Seriously!  If you are in Saigon and are a coffee fan - it is worth going out of your way to have a cup.  Did I mention it was only $2 USD? 

 

Saigon 28

 

 

The Hotel

 

We were there during the rainy season, which lasts May through October, but lucked out with beautiful weather.  Our hotel said it had been raining for 4 days straight before we arrived.  We loved our hotel.  A sweet B&B, Ma Maison, a French Colonial home in a very local neighborhood.  We highly recommend it if you are visiting Saigon.

 

Saigon b&b

 

 

We really enjoyed Saigon.  The people were very friendly.  We were told by one of the expats living there that south Vietnamese like Americans, as we fought alongside them in the war.  You could really feel the friendliness when going off the beaten path and walking through the local neighborhoods.

 

 

Saigon 13