Our second day in New Delhi was one of cultural discovery. The day began with some very heavy smog, but that cleared up in the afternoon, so we considered ourselves grateful. We also didn’t spend the first few hours of the day in a tuk tuk (which are open and very windy), so we were able to watch the city fly by fro the comfort of our hired car instead of huddling together for warmth.
These were taken at Qutb Minar, one of India’s National Treasures
There are wild parots in this strange city!
After visiting this beautiful UNESCO world heritage site, we were brought to some shops where retailers tried to sell us Pashminas, paintings and Saris. I left with a Kashmir scarf and some tea, which didn’t leave the salesman very happy, but I felt pretty good about my purchases!
This is a piece of petrified wood that was used to support the building!
After a tasty Indian lunch, our driver took us to the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial. There, we learned about this national hero’s life and death, and visited the place where he was assassinatedIndian. The country owes a lot to Gandhi, and it’s apparent from the time you enter the country. His face is printed on all of their money and many buildings are named after the man.
His final steps were taken on this path
A newspaper announcing India’s Freedom
Gandhi’s worldly posessions (on the top right, you can see his iconic glasses)
Our final stop was at the National Museum, where we were able to see art that dated back to 3000BCE! Having studied classical history in University, I was so excited to see some of the artwork, pottery, jewellery and weapons that have been found across India. The artifacts provide crucial clues regarding the lives of our ancestors and without them we would know very little about the people who lived before written records were kept. Through studying classical Greek history at the University of Winnipeg, I learned that what may seem like a pot to you, can actually tell an archaeologist a lot about the people who made it.
Some of the beautiful jewellery we saw today
A carving of Shiva and Parvatti, two of the Hindu gods. In it, they are crushing the head of ignorance
Ganesha…the son of Shiva and Parvatti
This carving is 4000 years old! It depicts a foreigner and it is one of the earliest discovered pieces of art using this specific technique. The artist began to polish the stones in a different way to give it a shine and make the art more life like
Tomorrow we head to Agra, the home of the famous Taj Mahal!!! I can’t wait to tell you all about it!
New Delhi is a place like nothing else i have ever seen. I expected the crowds and the pollution and I knew that that poverty here would appall me, but nothing really prepared me for one aspect of Indian society that I’d read about, but had ever seen first hand…
We woke up this morning and enjoyed western breakfasts that were recommended by a local tuk tuk driver. As we were leaving the restaurant with our stomachs then appeased, the same driver offered us a ride once more, which we actually did need.
He brought us over to one of his drivers (this was a manager I suppose) and they both made us feel very welcome and promised that they’d get us to our location (an HSBC; the only bank that will let us withdraw from our Chinese bank account) and we were off.
Our driver showed us landmarks along the way and asked us questions about our lives. He told us that he has 4 children (2 boys and 2 girls) and that tomorrow is he and his wife’s anniversary (years!). He was very easy going and friendly and we didn’t feel pushed at all by him. Many taxi drivers in China will try and scam you, and I kept waiting for that from this guy, but he seemed legit.
After taking us to the bank, he drove us down to a government tour office. He said they could us plan any train trips we needed and that we could save some money if we got set up with a rail pass. We agreed to stop in, and he said he’d wait outside.
The tour agency ended up being immensely helpful and we booked our next 12 days with them. We’ll be able to see 2 extra cities and have everything taken care of for us because of our Tuk Tuk driver friend.
The agent at the office offered us his driver for the rest of the day as a ‘bonus’ for booking with them, and a few minutes later, our Tuk Tuk friend came in so we could pay him and he could continue on with his day.
Now, this is where things get infuriating for me….
As he entered the room, our jovial and friendly driver turned meek and quiet. At first, we didn’t understand why, but we soon realized that it was because of our company. Not only did these tour guides talk to him like he was a small child (or a dog), but they laughed at me when I said that he should be receiving commission for bringing them so much business.
What we witnessed this afternoon was the Caste system. The tuk tuk driver was treated as some sort of sub-human, all because he doesn’t make as much money or belong to as wealthy of a family as the tour guide. It all happened so quickly at the time that it took us a few minutes to even realize what had happened, but we also know that being in India, this is to be expected. Things have improved here, for the lower castes and women, but they still have a very long way to go.
This entire situation has been bothering me all day (especially the way this man was spoken to…) and I feel that it will forever change my perspective on travel and culture. As much as I try to respect other cultures and embrace their norms, this is something that, had I caught on more quickly, I could never have allowed to happen.
Frankly, my favorite people so far are all “lower caste”. The servers at the restaurants, the tuk tuk drivers and the ‘bell boys’ at the hotel have been nothing but kind and welcoming to us since we arrived. I can promise you all this: my goal for the next 28 days is to be as kind as I can to these people in an attempt to help balance out the way they are treated by others in their culture…even if it’s only for a moment at a time…
In the afternoon and evening our new driver (who is also a fantastic guy) took us to a few sights around Delhi. This is Humayun’s tomb.
A very cool shot I got with our new camera. This bird was high up on one of the towers
a close up of a bird that was about 20 feet away
The sae bird on top of the building
I loved this building. And it’s always amazing getting a shot that’s void of tourists
Around 7 years ago now, I decided to sit down and come up with a bucket list. I decided that there would be 100 items on that list and I knew, even before I began, that a lot of those items would involve traveling. In the last year I’ve been fortunate enough to cross 10 items off of that list, and I plan to be crossing off several more before 2015 ends. One of the things I’ve accomplished this year was our trip to Angkor National Park, which was the main reason we traveled to Cambodia for China’s May Holiday. Although I planned on finishing what I had to say (and show) about Angkor in 1 post, once I went through my pictures again, I realized that that would be impossible. There’s just too much to see and too much to tell to do it all in one post. So this will be part 1 of 2 on our stay in northern Cambodia, where we toured temples, met locals and visited a floating village.
The Cambodian Empire
Angkor National Park is all that remains of the Kampuchea empire, which reigned for over South-East Asia for over 600 years. Covering parts of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and even Burma, the Cambodian Empire was fierce and wealthy, and as such, its kings erected massive temples both in Cambodia and in its conquered lands. The most impressive group of those temples is near Siem Reap (named after a defeat against Thailand at that location), which is where we visited during our stay in Cambodia. Interestingly, during Kampuchea’s hay day, there was both Hindu and Buddhist influence in the area, so these temples vary quite a bit from one to the next, making Angkor National Park a fascinating visit.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Angkor National Park spans an area of over 400kms square and contains over 100 individual temples, ranging from Angkor Wat (an enormous temple with many buildings within its walls) to small ruins that are merely a wall left over from a previous sight that was destroyed.
Written records weren’t kept at this point in history, and much of what we know about the 9th-15th centuries has come from Angkor Wat and it’s surrounding temples. Carvings in the stone, as well as refinements of past culture still remain in these spots and they’ve told archeologists a great deal about South East Asian history. As someone who studied classical Roman and Greek history in University, I found that aspect of the park to be enthralling. Because of its cultural relevance, Angkor National Park was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is preserved and has been repaired as a result. People flock from all over the world to see these sights, which are some of the most famous and awe inspiring temples in the world.
Our first stop in Siem Reap was Angkor Wat, the temple after which the national park was named. It spans 1km square and is the home to several libraries, halls and pools. It’s fared well against the test of time and has been restored through the years, where needed. We were lucky enough to visit Angkor Wat twice…I’ll be writing about our sunrise visit in my next post. Our first stop was a very hot one (the temperatures in Cambodia during the dry season go up to 40 degrees celcius…and stay there…all…day….long…), but well worth the trip. Our guide was a decent photographer too, so we even got pictures of the two of us in Angkor National Park, which was nice 🙂
The heat definitely played a factor in our enjoyment of Angkor Wat (along with our guide’s underestimation of the amount of water we’d need…we ran out early…), but Dave was brilliant enough to make a video before we got too exhausted:
We left Angkor Wat and hopped into a nicely air conditioned van, where we enjoyed the rest of our iced coffees to cool down. Iced coffee is AMAZING in Cambodia!!! Instead of sugar, they use sweetened condensed milk, which gave it a nice flavor. Plus, they get their coffee from Vietnam, which has some of the world’s best :). My favorite part though…it’s served in a bag…
Ta Prohm is, without a doubt, one of the coolest looking places I’ve ever seen in my life. It was built in the late 12th – early 13th centuries and unlike Angkor Wat, which was built under a Hindu King, Ta Prohm was built primarily as a Buddhist school. What makes Ta Prohm so interesting though isn’t it’s Buddhist ties. The fact that the temple has been kept as it was found, wild and grown over by trees, makes it the perfect spot for photos.
Ta Nei is one of my favorite spots we visited. It was a long way away from all the other temples, (our driver had to go down some roads that looked like they were just walking paths in the middle of the jungle in order to get us there), but once we arrived, we saw why it was worth the trip.
Not only were there no other tourists there, but the sight is gorgeous! It’s definitely seen better days, and it hasn’t been restored the way Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm have been, but there is such a rawness to this old temple…I got some of my favorite pictures of the whole trip during this visit.
We loved this sight so much, we even remembered to take a video for it! I love how beautifully quiet it was there 🙂
Bayun (or Bayan) Temple
Our last stop on day one of our Siem Reap Tour was in Angkor Thom, the last (and longest enduring) city of the Cambodian Empire. Although there are several sights to see within Angkor Thom, Dave and I were suffering from pretty terrible heat exhaustion, so we only saw some of them from within the air conditioned vehicle. Our tour guide wanted to save our energy for Angkor Thom’s greatest masterpiece: Bayon Temple (I’ve also seen it spelled ‘Bayun’ Temple).
Built in the late 12th century, 100 years after the building of Angkor Wat (our first stop of the day), this is clearly a Buddhist temple. From afar, it is a beautiful sight to see, but when you see it up-close, you realize how fascinating this temple truly is.
Each of Bayon’s 54 towers has a large face carved into each of its 4 sides. That means that this magnificent temple has a total of over 200 faces. It made for some incredible photos!!
I should add that these faces are enormous…here is Dave and I standing directly in front of what is considered Bayon’s most beautiful Buddha.
I was very happy to have a guide at this point, as he was able to point out some of the best shots. There were so many faces everywhere that I could have easily missed shots like these ones:
He also got some great pictures of the two of us. By the end of this part of the tour, we were both feeling like we did on our wedding day…tired of smiling! But it was all worth it in the end! I would have been devastated had I not gotten some of these pictures!!
So that was day 1 of our Siem Reap stop. I’ll be back next week with Day 2, where we experienced Angkor Wat at sunrise, a floating fishing village and Cambodia’s beautiful ‘Lady’s Temple’.