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yakshaver
24th June 2007, 10:20 PM
On the way to Kathmandu in three weeks time, we'll top in Delhi for a day and a half.

I am thinking of the following program, and invite help/comment about how realistic it is:

1. In the frist half a day
- Old Delhi mainly, maybe a little bit of central Delhi.
- Red Fort and Humayun's Tomb, as well as the hindu temple, church and mosque build by a general named Skinner in the 18th century in Old Delhi - these would be the main points of interest

2. The full day:
- The Khrishna Balaram Temple complex at Vrindavan,
- Aggra - the Taj Mahal
- Jaipur

Not sure if I can fit everything on the wish lists into either of the days... For the second day (the full day) we intend hiring a taxi from the hotel for the whole day. Can we fit Jaipur in as well.

It may be obvious that for this particular trip we're not looking at "depth", just at "surface".

We've booked Suncity hotel in Karol Bagh (central Delhi). Anyone knows anything about it? It's not too late to change hotels, as the price on hotels.com, was pretty cheap... I don't know what's gotten into me to book a cheap hotel...

kolobar
25th June 2007, 04:33 AM
One of the best places to visit in Delhi is Nizamudin Dargah - a tomb of a sufi saint Nizamudin Auliya. It is a great place to spend an evening. Nizamudin is worshipped from the times of his death in 14th century until now with great fervour including Mughal emperors (probably not Aurangzeb). Qawali music is played there to his honour. There are tombs of Amir Khusro, great sufi poet and Shahjahans daughter Jehanara. You can combine the visit with culinary treat at Karim, which has a restaurant there. There is an amazing way to feed 20 beggars with 100 rps by buying coupons from one of the restaurants there. Qawali starts after evening prayer so you can plan your visit to be there at the right time.
Karol Bagh is a good place to stay - you can find plenty of good hotels in amazingly quiet streets though I dont know about the hotel of your choice. Karol Bagh is not loaded with fancy restaurants, Crossroad is one of the best.
The best way to go around now is metro so the area is not a bit far from Old Delhi or Connaught anymore and you dont have to negotiate with riksha wallas all the time - metro is fast, AC and dirty cheap (otherwise very clean).
When in Old Delhi it is worth going to Jain temple opposite the Red Fort and Sikh gurdwara nearby on Chandni Chawk. Especially gurdwara is very visitors friendly and you can get a good insight in Sikh religion... Also Old Delhi is famous for its street food (if you dare).
A trip to Agra will take the whole day and will be even tense if you want to include Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri and Sikandra. Jaipur is probably too much for a daytrip.

yakshaver
25th June 2007, 10:01 PM
Thanks kolobar, excellent stuff!

I am printing your advice sheet and taking it with me.

Spaceman347
28th June 2007, 09:56 AM
You could go to the movies and watch the latest Harry Potter film :p

Per
28th June 2007, 12:46 PM
I think you take too much on your plate, even without jetlag it is next to impossible to see the Taj and Jaipur the same day without helicopter.

For the first half day the Red Fort and the Connaught Circus area is quite sufficient. Doing that you can go through Old Delhis famous Chandni Chowk (walking distance from Red Fort) and have a look at Karol Bagh. Karol Bagh is essentially a market for fabrics: it is where you find Benares silk etc, in Delhi.

Around Connaugt Circus you also find the best shopping, have a look at the state emporia, each Indian state has its own with local specialities for sale.

I would stay near Connaught Circus, at Jan Path. The best resturants and shops are in the area: have "idly sambar" at United Coffee House, Ice cream at Nirula. Nirula also has splendid breakfast unless you are into puree bajee.

The second day you could make it to Agra and see the Taj Mahal. There is a special counter a New Delhi railway station that sells air con tickets to foreigners, leave early in the morning be back at sunset.

Per

yakshaver
28th June 2007, 02:36 PM
I think you take too much on your plate, even without jetlag it is next to impossible to see the Taj and Jaipur the same day without helicopter.

For the first half day the Red Fort and the Connaught Circus area is quite sufficient. Doing that you can go through Old Delhis famous Chandni Chowk (walking distance from Red Fort) and have a look at Karol Bagh. Karol Bagh is essentially a market for fabrics: it is where you find Benares silk etc, in Delhi.

Around Connaugt Circus you also find the best shopping, have a look at the state emporia, each Indian state has its own with local specialities for sale.

I would stay near Connaught Circus, at Jan Path. The best resturants and shops are in the area: have "idly sambar" at United Coffee House, Ice cream at Nirula. Nirula also has splendid breakfast unless you are into puree bajee.

The second day you could make it to Agra and see the Taj Mahal. There is a special counter a New Delhi railway station that sells air con tickets to foreigners, leave early in the morning be back at sunset.

Per

Thanks for the tips Per. I will add your comments on the page with advice from Kolobar.

I have in fact two full days, I just discovered. I think I will folow yours and Kolobar's advice and not do Jaipur.
I may I well spend a day in Delhi (new and Old) and one day for the trip to Aggra.

Thanks again.

Per
29th June 2007, 03:35 PM
I have in fact two full days, I just discovered. I think I will folow yours and Kolobar's advice and not do Jaipur.

Jaipur is kind of far, I think five or six hours one way. It is absolutely worthwhile, in my opinion far more interesting than the Taj Mahal; which I find slightly vulgar, a manifestation of royal megalomania, lots of tiles, a bit like an enormous bath room. Nevertheless it is worth seeing.

On the other hand to see Jaipur properly you need at least a full day, preferably two or three. As you are coming back you can always do it at some visit to India. We did it when we came down from Ladakh and had a week over.

kolobar
30th June 2007, 02:57 PM
It is definitely an example of royal megalomania as is practically all Mughal architecture - which is the main reason why everybody wants to see it.
I am doing regular daytrips to Agra. My advice is to leave Delhi as early as possible (like 4am) if you will hire a vehicle to avoid morning traffic jams in Delhi suburbs which can make a journey much longer.
If you dont want to rush through Taj you should limit your sightseeing to Taj and Agra Fort (similar but better preserved than Red Fort in Delhi) and maybe a glimpse into Akbar tomb in Sikandra (you will drive by). Fatehpur Sikri and Itmad ud Daula tomb are both worth visit but only if you dont mind to return to Delhi very late.
Jaipur is definitely worth visit. It might be doable in a day if you rent a vehicle and leave early (though there are very comfortable AC buses by Rajastan state operator-RTDC) since the road (highway) is good. Main attractions (palace, Jantar Mantar, Wind Palace) are all concentrated in the pink city but for more extensive sightseeing one whole day would not be enough.
But it is worth to do Rajastan as a muti day trip since there are much more interesting places there.
Few more tips about Delhi:
Shopping
Emporiums are interesting places but prices are quite inflated. I prefer Dili Haat - a market in southern Delhi where local craftsman from all over India sell their products. It is cheap but a bit far (30-45 minutes drive by rickshaw).
In Connaguht (CC) it is worth to check Khadi next to Regal Cinema which sells hand woven cotton products - "Gandhi style" (plus many other things like silk, spices, ayurvedic medicines etc.)
Another interesting place is People Tree, kind of alternative shop: mostly clothes and bookstore. It is just around a corner from Regal on the way to Jantar Mantar in Delhi (which is a smaller version of Jantar Mantar in Jaipur)
Palika bazar - a huge underground market under central CC, interesting just to take a look in its hustle&bustle.
Books: Bookworm in CC is my compulsory stop.
Food:
My favourite in CC is Embassy, interesting clientel of local babus with their families...
Barista at CC has excelent coffee. My order: large capuccino+extra shot of coffee+a whip of cream.
Cheap, clean & tasty indian food: Malhotra in Paharganj next to Imperial Cinema just behing the corner from Metropolis (see below).
Popular with tourists - a relaxing terrace restaurant with chilled Fosters is on the top of hotel Metropolis on Main Bazar, Paharganj not far from metro station (Ramakrishna Ashram) - just one stop from CC (Rajiv Chowk) and 2 stops from Karol Bagh...
By now your day in Delhi should be over.

yakshaver
1st July 2007, 06:20 PM
Thanks Kolobar and Per. Good stuff, love the details, lots to decide and ponder. If it were not July... I would definitely change my return tickets and stay an extra week in Delhi and Rajastan...
I am told July is a killer in terms of heat etc.

Per
2nd July 2007, 02:36 PM
I am told July is a killer in terms of heat etc.

Not necessarily. The absolutely worst season is late May and early June before the monsoon breaks. Then, it is generally extremely hot and the haze is so bad that you can not see the sky. Once, the rains have started the air gets more clear and temperatures cool down. You will occasionally have hot days but also days with cool showers, and pleasant temperatures, it is nowhere near as bad as late May.

As for the state emporia, Kolobar is right, they are best used for discovering each states speciality. Then, you shop the stuff elsewhere.

We usually buy carpets. There are excellent carpets in the market. However, unless you know carpets there is a very high risk that you will wind up with a fake silk carpet (made from mesnerized cotton) or a rug with trippleknots which is not only totallly worthless it is also likely ot have been made with child labour. Avoid all carpet shops in Agra, unless you have specialist skills in separating a good carpet from a bad one.

For the Agra trip I would use the train. Safe and fast. Book the evening before you go.

yakshaver
3rd July 2007, 12:57 AM
Not necessarily. The absolutely worst season is late May and early June before the monsoon breaks. Then, it is generally extremely hot and the haze is so bad that you can not see the sky. Once, the rains have started the air gets more clear and temperatures cool down. You will occasionally have hot days but also days with cool showers, and pleasant temperatures, it is nowhere near as bad as late May.

As for the state emporia, Kolobar is right, they are best used for discovering each states speciality. Then, you shop the stuff elsewhere.

We usually buy carpets. There are excellent carpets in the market. However, unless you know carpets there is a very high risk that you will wind up with a fake silk carpet (made from mesnerized cotton) or a rug with trippleknots which is not only totallly worthless it is also likely ot have been made with child labour. Avoid all carpet shops in Agra, unless you have specialist skills in separating a good carpet from a bad one.

For the Agra trip I would use the train. Safe and fast. Book the evening before you go.


Good stuff. If the first two days are bearable in terms of temperature, then I will extend my stay on the way back from Nepal and do Jaipur. Thanks for the tips about the carpets.

Per
3rd July 2007, 01:51 PM
Good stuff. If the first two days are bearable in terms of temperature, then I will extend my stay on the way back from Nepal and do Jaipur. Thanks for the tips about the carpets.

Jaipur is hot as it is in a dessert, but it is a dry heat, that is easy to live with, if you get too much you can always sneak into LMB, one of Indias best resturants, it has no daylight and very powerful AC.

As for carpets you have to know a good carpet from a bad one. If you do not there is a 90 or even 99 percent probability that you wind up paying a lot for crap. If you are interested I can tell you about the most common scams in the business. We have brought some 30 carpets home over the years, stopped when we had nowhere to put them.

yakshaver
10th July 2007, 11:06 AM
Jaipur is hot as it is in a dessert, but it is a dry heat, that is easy to live with, if you get too much you can always sneak into LMB, one of Indias best resturants, it has no daylight and very powerful AC.

As for carpets you have to know a good carpet from a bad one. If you do not there is a 90 or even 99 percent probability that you wind up paying a lot for crap. If you are interested I can tell you about the most common scams in the business. We have brought some 30 carpets home over the years, stopped when we had nowhere to put them.

Bro,
Tell me about the scams. How to make sure you get the real carpet?

Or have you got a shop in Delhi which is "safe"?

I am now quite interested (well, my wife is...) in getting one.

Per
10th July 2007, 01:22 PM
Bro,
Tell me about the scams. How to make sure you get the real carpet?


The only carpets produced in India that are of any value are produced in Kashmir. There are are number of things you must know:

i) there is a large production of fake silk carpets from mercerized cotton, these carpets are often in gaudy colours and may feel slightly wetish to touch, test by burning a thread of each colour. These carpets are absolutely worthless. Most silk carpets produced in Agra and Jaipur is of mercerized cotton, know locally as “staple.” Don’t even think about buying one. Carry a lighter with you to burn threads, if you are friendly they will demonstrate the difference between mercerized cotton and silk. As soon as you take up the lighter all “staple” carpets will disappear from the floor. Silk burns like hair and gives of a similar smell, “staple” burns like cotton, kind of fizzles into nothing.

ii) the warp and waft is often of cotton. Silk warp ones are more costly, and harder to make. For this reason they sometimes cut off the cotton fringe and replace it with a silk fringe, which only serves to ruin a cotton based silk carpet. These fringes come off and those carpets should not be bought. Test by pulling in the warp close to the fringe with a needle, if it is fake you will get up stubs of the cotton warp.

iii) there are different types of knots. The highest quality is the single knot: i.e, each "knot" on the backside corresponds to one thread of pile. Inferior qualities are double knotted: i.e., two "knots" on the backside corresponds to one thread of pile. This makes for less distinct patterns. Lines are not as perfect as in a single knotted, etc. The difference between single and double knotted is hard to tell, often some sections of even the best carpets are double knotted: e.g., one coloured fields. Weight may give som guidance. A single knotted carpet is always heavier.

A third type of knot is the tripple knot: three knots on the back make one thread only in the pile. Carpets of this quality should always be avoided. They are not worth more than a towel. At that they are often wowen by children or under aged. They sell a lot in Europe under brand names as Pakistani Bokharas, or Indian Bokharas. Collectors will have nothing to do with these carpets, and as they are asociated both with child labour and destruction of fine craftsmanship they should preferably be completely boycotted. Note that a tripple knotted carpet will appear to have an enormous amount of knots on rear side.

Buying carpets in Delhi or anywhere else is always tricky. You have to know quite a bit not to get cheated. However, if you do Delhi has a wonderful market for carpets. It is dominated by Kashmiris Be aware of the fact that there is more or less a daily rate for carpets meassured in square feet and quality. Most dealer thinks in these rates. So it is a lot easier if you find out the going rate for the quality you are looking for.

The best carpet market is no doubt in Srinagar. Though, due to the conflict in Kashmir, it has largely moved to Delhi.

Or have you got a shop in Delhi which is "safe"?

No, there are no safe shops. My advice it that you are really sweet and friendly, have tea in the shop, and ask them to demonstrate the difference between staple and silk and between different knots. Once you have smelled and seen the difference in how silk and mercerized cotton burns you will not buy a fake silk carpet. It is also easy to recognize tripple knotted carpets. They should be avoided all together. Don´t buy in the first shop you enter, go through a few, when you leave the shop saying that you want to think about it you will often get quotes close to the market rate. Do that in a couple of shops. And, if you buy a silk carpet, ask them to burn threads before you buy.

Take it really easy and be exceptionally friendly with the dealers. Looking at good carpets is rather like looking at art. You can look around a lot before you buy, and if you do not buy you have merely enjoyed some beauty. Better carpet dealers take no offence, on the contrary.

A good start is one of the major shops at connaught circus. Sometimes there are also good shops in or near the five star hotels. Avoid all locally made carpets in Agra and Jaipur. It is not even worth spending time to look at them.


I am now quite interested (well, my wife is...) in getting one.

Yes, they are wonderful things to bring home and, unlike a lot of stuff on sell, they don´t make your home look like some garrish hippie den.

At last some words about Nepalese and Tibetan rugs. They are of a completely different quality, much fewere knots per square inch, prize and grading are instead dependent on the yarn (machine spun imported from NZ or hand spun from high altitude sheep) and the dyes (industrial or vegetable).

yakshaver
13th July 2007, 12:09 AM
Man... so much to know... Please tell me how does cotton burn differently to silk. Short of burning my Earth Sea Sky silk t-shirt and a cotton pair of underwear I have, in order to experience the difference.

I have been around Connaught place and will go again tomorrow morning.

Delhi is just and amazing, amazing place!!! Both in the positive, the negative and everything inbetween, above, below etc... One thing is for sure. I now have the opinion that Kathmandu is a clean city...


The only carpets produced in India that are of any value are produced in Kashmir. There are are number of things you must know:

i) there is a large production of fake silk carpets from mercerized cotton, these carpets are often in gaudy colours and may feel slightly wetish to touch, test by burning a thread of each colour. These carpets are absolutely worthless. Most silk carpets produced in Agra and Jaipur is of mercerized cotton, know locally as “staple.” Don’t even think about buying one. Carry a lighter with you to burn threads, if you are friendly they will demonstrate the difference between mercerized cotton and silk. As soon as you take up the lighter all “staple” carpets will disappear from the floor. Silk burns like hair and gives of a similar smell, “staple” burns like cotton, kind of fizzles into nothing.

ii) the warp and waft is often of cotton. Silk warp ones are more costly, and harder to make. For this reason they sometimes cut off the cotton fringe and replace it with a silk fringe, which only serves to ruin a cotton based silk carpet. These fringes come off and those carpets should not be bought. Test by pulling in the warp close to the fringe with a needle, if it is fake you will get up stubs of the cotton warp.

iii) there are different types of knots. The highest quality is the single knot: i.e, each "knot" on the backside corresponds to one thread of pile. Inferior qualities are double knotted: i.e., two "knots" on the backside corresponds to one thread of pile. This makes for less distinct patterns. Lines are not as perfect as in a single knotted, etc. The difference between single and double knotted is hard to tell, often some sections of even the best carpets are double knotted: e.g., one coloured fields. Weight may give som guidance. A single knotted carpet is always heavier.

A third type of knot is the tripple knot: three knots on the back make one thread only in the pile. Carpets of this quality should always be avoided. They are not worth more than a towel. At that they are often wowen by children or under aged. They sell a lot in Europe under brand names as Pakistani Bokharas, or Indian Bokharas. Collectors will have nothing to do with these carpets, and as they are asociated both with child labour and destruction of fine craftsmanship they should preferably be completely boycotted. Note that a tripple knotted carpet will appear to have an enormous amount of knots on rear side.

Buying carpets in Delhi or anywhere else is always tricky. You have to know quite a bit not to get cheated. However, if you do Delhi has a wonderful market for carpets. It is dominated by Kashmiris Be aware of the fact that there is more or less a daily rate for carpets meassured in square feet and quality. Most dealer thinks in these rates. So it is a lot easier if you find out the going rate for the quality you are looking for.

The best carpet market is no doubt in Srinagar. Though, due to the conflict in Kashmir, it has largely moved to Delhi.



No, there are no safe shops. My advice it that you are really sweet and friendly, have tea in the shop, and ask them to demonstrate the difference between staple and silk and between different knots. Once you have smelled and seen the difference in how silk and mercerized cotton burns you will not buy a fake silk carpet. It is also easy to recognize tripple knotted carpets. They should be avoided all together. Don´t buy in the first shop you enter, go through a few, when you leave the shop saying that you want to think about it you will often get quotes close to the market rate. Do that in a couple of shops. And, if you buy a silk carpet, ask them to burn threads before you buy.

Take it really easy and be exceptionally friendly with the dealers. Looking at good carpets is rather like looking at art. You can look around a lot before you buy, and if you do not buy you have merely enjoyed some beauty. Better carpet dealers take no offence, on the contrary.

A good start is one of the major shops at connaught circus. Sometimes there are also good shops in or near the five star hotels. Avoid all locally made carpets in Agra and Jaipur. It is not even worth spending time to look at them.



Yes, they are wonderful things to bring home and, unlike a lot of stuff on sell, they don´t make your home look like some garrish hippie den.

At last some words about Nepalese and Tibetan rugs. They are of a completely different quality, much fewere knots per square inch, prize and grading are instead dependent on the yarn (machine spun imported from NZ or hand spun from high altitude sheep) and the dyes (industrial or vegetable).

Per
13th July 2007, 01:50 AM
Man... so much to know... Please tell me how does cotton burn differently to silk. Short of burning my Earth Sea Sky silk t-shirt and a cotton pair of underwear I have, in order to experience the difference.

Silk burns like hair, melts, tiny bubbles, and smells like burning hair, cotton fizzles into dust and does not smell like burning hair. Most respectable carpet dealers will make a demonstration if you get on them the right way. Ask them to do it. If you do it good humourably they will be glad to demonstrate hoping that you will buy one of the real silk ones.

Yes, Delhi is amazing, I like the shopping spree and the good food a couple of days but soon get enough.

Cosmo
13th July 2007, 03:32 AM
So glad you are finding Delhi fascinating - an amazing city hey!? We loved it
- and as you just posted Yakshaver - you will now find that Kathmandu feels like a clean paradise when you arrive... with the added bonus that since leaving India it will be the first time you will be able to 1. walk on some footpaths, not on the road, 2. actually be able to look up and see something in a shop window without the need to have your head continually down dodging cow pats, 3. get the ringing out of your ears produced from the noise pollution, 4. and finally of course not to be overlooked just the wonderful overall relaxation of Nepal and its people. .... oh so jealous... keep posting so we can live vicariously through you.

Per
13th July 2007, 07:27 PM
So glad you are finding Delhi fascinating - an amazing city hey!? We loved it
- and as you just posted Yakshaver - you will now find that Kathmandu feels like a clean paradise when you arrive...


I disagree completely. I find Delhi a lot cleaner than Kathmandu: e.g., in Delhi I will occasionally drink the water, something I would never do in Kathmandu.


with the added bonus that since leaving India it will be the first time you will be able to 1. walk on some footpaths, not on the road,


If you are referring to sidewalks, then there is a lot more sidewalk in Delhi than in Kathmandu.


2. actually be able to look up and see something in a shop window without the need to have your head continually down dodging cow pats,


— ???

I never had any problem with cow pats in Delhi, nor in Kathmandu for that matter. However, the free roaming cows in central New Delhi are regretably something that of the past. They were bannished in the nineties. Since, traffic has become much worse. Crossing some streets is like a gauntlet. The sacred cows used to slow it down and make it far more pleasant around Connaught Circus.



3. get the ringing out of your ears produced from the noise pollution,


— hmm, I find Delhi almost rural. There is hardly any night life, after 10PM everyone seems to be at home or sound a sleep.


4. and finally of course not to be overlooked just the wonderful overall relaxation of Nepal and its people.

Well, yes Nepal has its advantages: e.g., unlike in most of Delhi I do not feel a need to escort my wife everytime she wants to go somewhere. On the other hand I have never lost a day in Delhi while mobs of young frustrated men have ruled the streets and forced all shops to close up. Something I cannot say about Nepal.

yakshaver
14th July 2007, 08:58 PM
No in Kathmandu.

Well I am not going to enter into the debate about Delhi and Kathmandu... I find both places fascinating and will go back to both if it is the will of Allah/God/TheBuddha etc...

One point though... The hassling touts are definitely less hassling in KTM, and the population generally seems gentler.

We did face a taxidriver's bandth today, affecting taxis going to the airport. It did not affect us, as we arrived yesterday. The government introduced a regulation allowing only taxis which are newer than a certain year, and have passed techincal tests - to pick up and deliver from the airport. And of course, the drivers have promptly called a strike. Hotel minibuses with "tourist only" written on them could go to the airport and back. Not normal taxis though.

Else we went to Northfield Caffe last night meeting some good friends. This morning I took my trekking friends to Swayambu and Patan. Swayambyu looks as impressive as always. As we visited the gompa, Santaman told me a good story about guru Padmasambha, who converted the Tibetans to Buddhism.
He went there expecting an easy battle against the Bon Shamans. But for about 14 years he achieved nothing, despite his fervent preaching and trevels...
After that it finally dawned on him, that he must study these people, see what they like, dislike etc. He found out they really like big colourful ceremonies, with lots of dancing, masks, drums, trumpets etc.
Tibetans just loved it. So he and his disciples decided to put on shows, bigger and better than the local shamans. Bigger and more coloruful masks, more spectacular dances, much bigger drums and trumpets, etc. In a very short time Tibet was converted. Which to me ilustrates the fact that if you want to evangelise, you need to know a bit more than just your gospel.

There's another story about Padmasamba I will tell next time.

A note here: Santa is more Bon than Buddhist, so he's not to complementary towards hinduism, nor buddhism... I love his iconoclasm

Per
15th July 2007, 03:37 AM
No in Kathmandu.

Well I am not going to enter into the debate about Delhi and Kathmandu...

I prefer Kathmandu too, but not because it is clean ;)

By the way if you do the Annapurna Trek there is a Bonpo village a bit off the trail, Lupra, sometimes spellt Lubra, an old friend of mine did his PhD on it. It is nice detour to hike from Muktinath to Jomosom via Lupra, though one ford is pretty fast. Instead of going down to Jarkot etc, you head across the pass south of Muktinath into the valley where Lupra is.