Saturday, 30 January 2016

An early start and two breakfasts...

After last nights run round the Chandni Chowk market, a late dinner and lots of faffing around the proposed early night became after 1 am and this was on top of the the fact we had virtually no sleep the night before!  So when the alarm(s) - we made sure we'd set plenty - made their presence know at 4am (!!) we were too stunned to be stunned.  So we just got up and went.  Bet none of you though either of us were capable of such an early and prompt start!

What a difference the journey to the station was this morning compared with the chaos of last night.  Think they must have all still been abed, where I would have been if we weren't catching the 6 am Bhopal Shatabdi express to Agra. 

Bicycles are everywhere,  including modern art installations in the railway station.  Think this must belong to the tea wallah.

We made the train with 30 minutes to spare  - according to the station clock.  

Once we settled into our seats we rolled off into the darkness.  Having never travelled first class before I can't compare our Indian service with British Rail, but the Meals on Wheels team were stars on the service front.  Complimentary English language newspapers, bottled water and not one but two breakfasts, one of which was cooked. All curtiously provided madam!

Breakfast one, provided by the hotel with coffee onboard quickly followed by

breakfast number two.  Southern Indian savoury doughnuts with dipping sauces...

In the palm of my hand is a complimentary digestive mix of fennel seeds and sugar crystals; strangely pleasant and mildly addictive!

And it's nice to know that womens' welfare is of lease in writing.

And before we know it we have reached Agra

Where even the car was happy to see us!

Welcome to India!

A new day was dawning as we flew into Dubai

and despite my dodgy track record in making flight connection we made it onto our connecting flight bound for New Delhi!


Welcome to India.

With only one evening in Delhi we had booked a whistlestop walking tour of the street markets of Old Delhi: Say hello to Harry (, 

our fast talking, fast walking guide who led us through the manic maze of visual delights that is Old Delhi.

First of all we had to drive to Old Delhi from Friends Colony, where our hotel was situated.  Now there may be rules of the road and even possibly a mandatory driving test in India; but you wouldn't have thought so.  The horn seems to have replaced the indicator lights, white road markings have become road art and Sacred Cows have the right of way: welcome to driving the Indian way!

Each street and alleyway in the Old Delhi  Chandni Chowk market has its own specialism, from silver (Dariba Kalan) and gold, fabrics and beads, spices, fruit and kitchen utensils. The children need some new shoes?

Whatever you want you can buy in those narrow streets.  And if all this shopping makes you hungry then squeezed in on every corner or smallest space are the food sellers. 

Street food looks so tempting, even when there is a dodgy looking guy on a mobile phone in the way...

From crunchy spicy snacks

to parathas in town, so they proclaim - made by different generations of the same family stretching back to when Noah was a boy.

But this evening we weren't so brave...besides which there wasn't time! 

However,  the betel seller was doing a roaring trade.

Off we went, nipping here and there - first up, 
Li air Bazaar, the Wedding market.  Now weddings are BIG business and bling and colour in excess seems to be the order of the day, so down here we went.

Hundreds of rolls of braids

and lace edges to be sewn down the sari lengths and

beads, beads and beads *sigh*

It was a visual feast of colour; tempting... very tempting!

A bridal sari?  No problem,

there are plenty here for you to choose from. Red and gold are the traditional colours, but if you are after an everyday sari then have a look in here

There seems to be plenty on offer.  Take your shoes off as you enter please, our floors are padded and soft.

Want to stock them in your shop?, no problem we can wholesale them, but first we need to sort them

then stitch them into bundles,

book the carrier,

before finally send them on their way.

By the way,
don't forget the party bags, Indian style!

The evening is moving on and as we race along we looked left 

and then right,

catching glimpses of faded splendour

in inspirational colour palettes,

as well as everyday life. We all need to do the laundry every now and then.

If you lift your eye gaze up high, is this what they mean by the 'world wide web'?

But we needed our wits about us, get ready to jump out of the way,

 because no prisoners are taken - there's supplies to be delivered on hand carts or

by ox cart if your order is large.  

If you tire of walking / running then a cyclo-rickshaw is on hand.  All the rubbish bothering you?  Sorry, but the street cleaners are on strike, just don't look down and see where you are walking...

Before we head off down the spice market, look carefully, see what is hanging to the right of this rather splendid front door?

A long string of bright green chillis - to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.

And this dainty affair ensures our car stays safe...phew!

Central to India life and cuisine are the spices, 

buy them whole to grind when needed

is the best way to do it.

Although if it's dates you're after, then try him.

It's getting quite late now, we're hungry, the shops and stalls pack up their wares,

closing the shutters and heading off home.

although some are just as happy to curl up and sleep on the pavement.

We walk back, through the bicycle district

And reward ourselves with...

a refreshing G&T.  Purely medicinal you realise...