The Red Fort and Humayun’s Tomb, Old Delhi

Well it’s about time I continue on with the Delhi sights, isn’t it? Our very first afternoon in India, we headed off to explore The Red Fort, or Lal Qila.

The red sandstone walls of the fort rise up to 33 metres above the bustle of Old Delhi and are an impressive sight.  Built in 1638, The Red Fort  is one of many built throughout northern India to keep out invaders. We would, in time, become a little fort-ed out, especially when on guided tours, but we were still fresh and eager on this our first day.

Obligatory couple shot in front of the magnificent complex:

The fort was once circled by a moat, now filled with verdant grass and noisy cicadas in lieu of water and crocodiles. The entry, however, remains as grand as ever:

Red Fort, Delhi Red Fort Delhi

Entry and exit is through the Lahore Gate, and once inside you sashay past a cornucopia of bazaar stalls selling tourist trinkets, before setting eyes on the architecture.  This sign below shows you the various halls, gardens, masjids and pavilions that can be explored once fully inside:

Red Fort in garden

First you walk towards the Hall of Public Audiences or Diwan- I-Am, also constructed of red sandstone.  The Hall of Private Audiences, or Diwan-I-Khas, is made of beautiful white marble, and gives a sense of serenity as you pass through its pillared portico.  It was also marvellously cool and offered respite from the heat. (No, hubby Dom didn’t wear Indian garb as I did).

Red Fort Diwan-i-Khas

You can easily see the Mughal style, not only in the graceful archways and onion domes, but also in the delicate designs inlaid in the marble of the interior halls.  In Islam it is not allowed to use human form, and so geometric and other patterns are designed, using inspiration from nature, such as flowers and stars. Unfortunately my poor photography does not do the designs justice.

One of the things we most enjoyed, apart from the beautiful design work, was just seeing people having a rest in the gardens. We too decided to sit for a while on the grass, and even cool our feet in the puddle that one of the dripping hoses made in the lawn. Just a simple pleasure on a hot day, that made us feel at one with the others.  Large gothic ravens also stepped gingerly on the grass, sipping at the pools of water, as did the friendly temple dogs:

Another little pleasure was seeing the mega-cute little squirrels that we saw everywhere, including here. They’d just scurry along the grass and climb up the trees, their little bushy tails aquiver.  Leaving the complex by a path that would take us to Chandni Chowk, we looked back to see the sun light up the marble brilliant white.

The next day we travelled south to see another unmissable sight,  Humayun’s Tomb. It is quite a way from the centre of town and the quickest way to get there is to take the metro to Nizamuddin station.  The tomb combines red sandstone and white marble, and can easily be seen as the forerunner of the Taj Mahal in Agra that would come later.

Isa Khan, the architect of the Taj Mahal, was also buried here, and his tomb is an example of Lodi architecture, being octagonal in shape. (You can also just make out my salwar kameez outfit).

And how about a shot of me in action, taking a photo in the gardens, and Dom with gardens and gleaming white Sikh temple beyond (another day, another rock t-shirt!)

After this visit we went to Nizamuddin, near the darga, to have a look for Karim’s – a great Mughal restaurant. Alas, we’d just missed the lunch cutoff time of 3pm – so promptly had lunch at the restaurant right opposite the darga. Absolutely delish!  To round off the day, we went to another suburb in the south Delhi area.  Having heard from my friend the night before that Lajpat Nagar was good for buying ladies fashions, we then high-tailed it there, being close by.  But I think that buying spree can wait for another post!

First stop in India: Delhi

Delhi is the quintessential mix of “old and new” (yes, travel cliche #1, yawn…)

While most people who haven’t been to India often think about poverty and slums (or maybe call centres), in fact there are spacious wide boulevardes that greet you from the airport. The airport itself sets the tone with soaring glass and chrome architecture, and gleaming metallic art installations on the walls.

 

As we drove from the airport into town, we first saw middle-class peeps walking their well-groomed dogs, others doing their morning calisthenics, still others waiting for the bus to work, with nary a whiff of poverty for some 20 minutes or more.

Dahl stall Delhi India

Only after some time does this impression of orderliness and wealth give way to the dusty streets with little markets and chai stalls, the hordes going about their daily business, lean-to shanty houses, people sleeping on footpaths, temples, masjids, auto and cycle-rickshaws, the smell of smog and wood-fire mingled, the ubiquitous cows and even more numerous street dogs. I remember my first trip here, having been been to Mumbai previously, wondering “where’s all the character?”

I kept looking slyly at my husband to see when he would get his first shock  – but it was a long time coming, much to my disappointment.  I’d made him watch doco’s about slums, the railways, even Bollywood movies to get him acclimatised, but secretly thought he’d find it confronting his first time around.  After a few days he declared that, in terms of smell and grubbiness, he thought Thailand was worse!

In truth, it was ME who in the first few days wondered what the heck I thought I was doing back here, when we could’ve been sunning ourselves on a beach in south east Asia (see pics of dusty hot littered roads near our hotel, below). But more on that later.

 

Every other time I’ve stayed in Delhi, it was in Main Bazaar – the Khao San Road of Delhi – in the appropriately named district of Pahar Ganj, right near New Delhi railway station.  As you can see, the road is fairly narrow, and utterly congested with tourists, shops/market stalls, auto rickshaws, cycle rickshaws, and the odd cow and dog. With the constant honking of traffic over here, it’s NOT a peaceful place to bed down for the night.

 Pahar Ganj, Delhi

But being older, wiser and a little less noise-tolerant, I decided to book us into the other main accommodation area in Pahar Ganj, Arakashan Road. It’s just a little more upmarket, although still dusty and noisy by day, and festooned in neon by night.

This is the road from Delhi Station to Arakashan Road; note temples, autos, cows and dogs:

 Delhi cow

Arakashan Road alive at night – admittedly the road is not much wider than Main Bazaar, but it is mostly hotels and restaurants, and more local Indian foot traffic.

Pahar Ganj by night 

We stayed at Hotel Raj which was relatively clean, and fairly quiet, being back off the main road. But every morning this pigeon fancier who lived on the roof (we surmise) would make his cooing noises to atract the birds and he would feed them.  So for some half hour from around 7am, there would be this “craw!craw!” and we’d screw our earplugs in just a little bit tighter.  But by Pahar Ganj standards, this was no big deal 🙂

The hotel had a nice little restaurant attached, at which we ate breakfast a few times.  But we weren’t going to restrict ourselves to a hotel restaurant, and planned a little exploratory walk after a well-deserved nap – with no stopover on the way to India, it had been a LOOONG flight!

Anxious to try out the local nosh, we happened upon a great little Bengali restaurant around the corner – Gagan Restaurant. No, I’m pretty sure it’s not in the Lonely Planet, but it does the BEST thali plates, with refills of all but the meat curries. OK, it’s a bit grungy on the inside, as you can see below, but it’ s the food that counts, right? And queues of locals waiting to get a seat is always a good thing:

Gagan resturant, Delhi 

Gagan DelhiThali plates, for those who don’t know, are these tin plates with an assortment of different curries in them so you get a variety (a bit like the bento box concept in Japan). You will also get rice and sometimes pickle or raita, and roti or naan bread upon request. Sometimes you even get a dessert, like a gulab jamen.

Dom ordered the mutton curry thali plate and I had the chicken, along with the usual dahl, 2 veg curries, rice and pappadum – oh, and the rice was topped with teeny tiny french fries – aww! I tried Dom’s and…I shoulda had the mutton. Delish. We went back there 3 or 4 times after that, and the little boy who did the refills always had a big smile for us.

 Indian thali plate

We were about 10 minutes walk to New Delhi Railway Station, and a short walk further on to the Delhi Metro Rail, which is a great way to get around Delhi. We used this a lot to get to various parts of town; much quicker than a taxi or auto rickshaw.  To access the Metro station, you can either walk through New Delhi Railway Station (there’s an overpass with views over the railway lines like the one below), or take the bridge to the left of the main station and walk over.  The pic below right is the view from the bridge at sunset – see how the smog makes for a lovely diffused colour glow?

 

If you choose to stay in the ritzier Connaught Place area, where there are 4 and 5 star hotels, there is a Metro station there also to get you about town.  Mind you, the Inner Ring Road is getting torn up now and looks like a bomb hit it. It looked like they were replacing plumbing, as pipes were exposed. But India being India, the shops and businesses remained open; people just resign themselves to walking over the rubble (which also provided comfy beds for the street dogs). And even Connaught Place has pockets of grunge – check out the filthy auto below! I don’t think it’s been used in some time, heh.

 

In the next few posts I will share some of the sights, such as Chowry Bazaar in Old Delhi, the Red Fort, Jama Masjid etc (with beautiful rather than grungy pics), but I just wanted to give a bit of local flavour here and show what the daily streets are like.  There was a lot of beauty in architecture, scenery and fashion later in the trip, but Delhi is like the mean streets, with a grit that gets under your skin even as it gets up yer nose!

Goth fashion at Wave Gotik Treffen 2011

I haven’t yet posted properly about WGT…and there’s so much to say! In all, it was fantastic to rub shoulders with so many other alternative people…and just see a whole city taken over by goths.

I was pleased to see many many different goth subcultures represented, from deathrock to Victorian to neon Cybergoth to Horrorpunk to Steampunk to fantasy to vampires and more…. There was just so much amazing fashion and make-up that floored me every single day, and often I was too reticent to ask awesome people to stop for a photo. However, here are a few fave pics from the ones I’ve uploaded so far, as I know you all want to see pretties to inspire you! (Click on any to see it full-size).

Cyber geisha and steampunk creations at left, and an amazing costume designer from Scotland, right:

 

I met a girl with the same Louise Black corset as me, but in black – who could resist a photo?

 

A stylish steampunk couple, and a horrorpunk skeleton guy:

  

Psychobilly and deathrock – on the right is a great couple from Mexico:

  Mexican goths 

I’m seen here with Rachael from Melbourne and Satine from Denmark. Right is a Vampire Lestat type.

 

Why not sneak a few more friends’ pics in? Left is me with Sisen and G-sus, right is with Brigitte Handley of the Dark Shadows, and a dutch friend.

 

More romantic goth looks, and cyber steampunk:

 

Of course, one of my favourite groups and looks is the Deathrock look, seen magnificently here:

 

How about some looks in white, just to be different? (And spot the Takuya Angel-clad Sisen lookalike next to her; one of many)

   

…and back to black….

   

I have a lot more crowd shots, photos of the architecture of Leipzig, as well as my own outfits and partying photos, but these can wait. I haven’t had internet since I got back (save through my phone), so when I move into my new house this weekend (squee!!) I will have a LOT more to share with you.

What is your fave make-up /outfit? Are you inspired to try something similar yourself? Have you adopted new looks through attending alternative festivals? Do tell 🙂

WGT, here I come!

It’s now just one week until I leave for my next travel assignment: just under 3 weeks in England and Germany.  Why? The 20th anniversary of Wave Gotik Treffen!!

WGT, as it’s known, is the oldest worldwide goth festival – and I’ve never been before! It seemed a good time to go, what with old school faves like the Damned playing. There are waaay too many artists to mention, but some I’m looking forward to especially are: Killing Joke, Misfits, Cinema Strange, Bloodsucking Zombies from Outer Space (psychobilly), Balzac (Japanese punk/deathrock), Fields of the Nephilim, Zombina and the Skeletones (horror punk),  and a few others I’ve heard are coming but are not confirmed yet.

I’m particularly pleased that there are psychobilly and punk bands there alongside more traditional gothic, deathrock, industrial and ebm bands. There’s nothing like variety! I’m also looking forward to seeing the spectacular way people will be dressing up, as well as their hair and make-up – be sure, I’ll be taking, and posting, lots of inspirational pictures for you all!

Here are some from the WGT website from last year:

 

 

 

I haven’t bought any new clothing, but am sure I will do actually at WGT, as well as in London the week before.  Boy, is packing gonna be a nightmare anyways… packing old Victorian style gear, cyber clothing, Japanese goth stuff, platform boots and shoes…

I’m seriously considering getting rid of the orange/red in my hair and going back to turquoise – and have already bought some dreads in brown and turquoise to install before I go. I wish I’d made some stunning headpieces already…look at this for example:

Apart from WGT, I’m hitting London for the weekends before and after, and definitely heading to Slimelight, Electric Ballroom, Dead & Buried (if it’s on), and whatever other alternative nights I can find. Do you know of any I should look up?

So there will most definitely be a lot of outfit shots, for those who’ve been missing those of late. If you are heading to WGT, or clubbing around Camden in June, do let me know, and maybe we can meet up!

Hongdae on a Saturday Night

Well it almost seems a dream now, but back in March I was in Seoul for a week, staying right near Hongdae, which is the student and entertainment district.

I have mentioned Hongdae before (Hangin in HongdaeCoffee & Drink Palace Hongdae and shoe-store glimpses in My Travelling Wardrobe), but here I show a little video so you can get a feel for how mad the place is on a Saturday night. There was a break between bands I was seeing, and so I walked around, checking out the other people walking around, the street markets, the street food, the bars, cafes, clubs and boutiques that litter the place. Oh, and the traffic jams. Boy, do people like to take their cars out there!

If the above isn’t visible, visit the link Saturday Night in Hongdae. And make sure you go, when you’re in Seoul!