I arrived in Delhi in the wee hours this Sunday morning and have had 2 days of good exploration. Including layover time it was 26 hours from San Francisco – nonstop to Shanghai and onto Delhi. China Eastern was respectable and both aircraft were new Airbus 330s. Did not like their terminal in Shanghai (I’ve seen a lot better at almost any American airport) – a transfer anywhere else would likely have been better.
The interior of Delhi’s 2 year old airport, from what I saw, is an artistic stunner including an entire wall sculpture most definitely Indian.
I’m on an organized tour for luxury travel advisors sponsored by Peirce & Leslie and the six of us have 12 days to visit Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur and Varanasi. I just learned yesterday that a city ending with “pur” designates a Hindu city versus ‘bad” i.e. Hyderabad, as Muslim.
Our hotel in Delhi is The Lodhi, until earlier this year part of Aman. It’s one of the top hotels I’ve ever stayed at with the service levels going well above the norm of your average five star property. The aesthetic is cool modern which I love, along with very Indian touches like marigold and rose petal cauldrons to create a definite sense of place. The 40 suites are over 1,300 square feet with private plunge pools, large balconies, open stone showers and soaking tubs. I could move in here, easy.
Delhi. The air smells like there’s a huge fire burning somewhere nearby and subsequently it’s very hazy. Initially it was hard to breathe, got better over time and the locals don’t even realize it so I can’t advise whether it’s better in the winter when it’s not 100 degrees every day. The City isn’t as scary as I thought it would be — I was expecting child amputees crawling along the streets. Yes there are homeless, and beggars (including young boys) at traffic lights but it’s not more than I could take. And I thought it would be, and maybe it should be. Apparently the back story is that many of these kids were kidnapped from Bangladesh and from the villages across India and forced to beg and give the proceeds to their enslavers. The reality is too shocking to absorb. But it is – slowly.
Many of the storefronts looks like they could collapse if the Big Bad Wolf just blew hard. In Old Delhi, the power wires are strewn about above street level like nothing I’ve seen anywhere. The guide said about 90% were not authorized. Nonetheless this is where people of varied socio-economic backgrounds come to shop. There’s one street for saris, another for wedding planning and so on. A groom has just mounted his white horse to ride to his wedding. The musicians who will be playing at his wedding are getting ready. And it’s all happening on the street as the Autos (aka tuk tuks) zip by on their 3 wheels taking school girls home after class.
Some of the amazing sites I saw were:
Jamal Masjid (#1 on my list)/ An outdoor mosque. Beside the scale and the beauty of the Islamic curves the people who have come to visit on a Monday afternoon in April are what make it so interesting. Young men there together, families with kids. Lots of kids.
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, the Sikh temple / A modest building and not attractive, the Sikhs I understand represent about 5% of the population but provide over half the charity. There’s a huge soup kitchen there feeding both the needy as well as your average citizen, Sikh or not, who wants a safe place to rest and pray. [FYI, tourists can participate in the kitchen].
Qutub Minar قطب مینار / The oldest stone minaret in India/the World. Can’t remembers. Quite breathtaking. And it’s in a park with other archeological ruins and a lot of families just enjoying their Sunday. Many of the visitors are from all over India and you’ll see women in saris or full burkas, and men in Western dress or in those white bloomers.
Humayun’s Tomb / the precursor to the Taj Mahal.
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josh friedman luxury travel
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Josh Friedman is a travel agent specializing in luxury travel for small groups and individuals – particularly ultra-luxury cruises, customized vacations and food & wine inspired journeys. Based in San Francisco, and with clients throughout the USA, his business is focused on 24/7 personalized service to the sophisticated leisure and business traveler. His personal relationships with the world’s top hotels, cruise lines and local agencies often allows for exclusive amenities and VIP status.
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