Singapore to Bangalore, and then via Goa to Delhi and Chandigarh
18.07.2008 - 30.07.2008 30 °C
From Bali, we flew with Lion Air direct to Singapore. It was a red-eye flight, leaving at midnight and arriving around 2am. Horrible, but cheap. We then stayed in Singapore two nights waiting for our flight to Bangalore. We did as little as possible, as Singapore is so expensive. We just walked around, or took the metro.
We were in Bangalore for one night, before leaving for Goa on another flight. We only came through here due to the connection to Singapore on budget airline Tiger. Bangalore, now officially Bengaluru, is known as the IT capital of India. With such a booming industry here, and so much money going around, we were expecting something rather modern. The airport lived up to this, as it is brand new, and looked much sleeker and more modern than any other we have seen in India. Once our of the airport however, the traffic was the main thing we noticed - we got caught in a traffic jam and took several hours to drive the 40 km from the airport into town - and this was around midnight to 2 am! Apart from this traffic issue, which is typicall Indian, there were signs, however, that Bengaluru is different - we saw huge luxury shops side by side here, that I don’t think you find elsewhere in India - Jaguar dealership, a Louis Vuitton flagship store and even a Tiffany’s. Crazy. We only stayed the night, and returned to the airport next morning to head back to Goa.
In Goa, we stayed a few days with Philo in Maina. It was hot, humid and raining, so the place was green and beautiful, and Goa seemed empty of tourists. We had shipped our guidebook from Chennai back to here when we left India, so happily we could now use the same book to plan our new trip here. We decided to head up north, far north, in order to escape the monsoon, and so booked a train to Delhi to get us started. The express train does not run during the monsoon unfortunately, so the journey took around 40 hours.
In Delhi, it was even more hot than in Goa - unbearably so. We shopped in the glitzy stores in New Delhi, who all had a monsoon sale on. The next day, we walked around the crooked streets of Old Delhi, taking it all in, but it was so hot and sweaty we could hardly stand to move around. The mixture of people here was fascinating though, and so many language were spoken. On our brief encounter with it, Delhi seemed to be a multidimensional and interesting city.
We heard news while we were here, that there had been a large number of bombs set off in two Indian cities - 15 in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, and seven or so in Bangalore, where we had come from only recently. Scary and confusing, as there seemed to be no clear reason behind this. Due to this, the police presence in Delhi was very high. We therefore stayed only a few days, having a quick look around India’s capital, before fleeing the heat and the oppressed mood.
We came to Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab and Haryana, to escape the heat of Delhi, but that turned out to be impossible as the air here seemed even more hot and still. Only when the rain broke did it cool off a little bit. Chandigarh is an Indian anomaly - an entirely ‘modern’ city, with a clear ordered city plan and organised housing and shops etc. It was built as the new capital of the mainly Sikh state of Punjab, after the partition. Designed by Swiss architect Le Corbusier, it was envisaged as a modern utopia, and a democratic and open city of the people. It is full of open plazas, straight tree-lined streets and public gardens - all very different to other Indian cities. It is still Indian though, and there are traffic jams and cows walking the streets etc. We went to see the massive concrete High Court building, also designed by Le Corbusier. It was an interesting building, but it was in a state of disrepair, which took away from its modern clean lines.
Also in Chandigarh, we visited a so-called Fantasy Rock Garden. Essentially a huge area of sculptures, pillars, doorways and mosaics, it was constructed by a man named Nek Chand. He began working on this during the construction of Chandigarh city. Working as a road inspector for the city, he collected large amounts of the waste generated by the constructions, and used it to build his sculptures and other fancies. He eventually created tens of thousands of sculptures and other forms. His work was undiscovered for 15 years, until a government survey crew stumbled upon it in 1973. He had built it all on government land, and so they could have torn it all down. Instead, the local council saw his work as an asset, and gave him labourers as well as a wage, to continue his work. Today, he is in his eighties, but still working on the garden, and it receives and average of 5000 visitors per day. We spent a few hours walking around this rambling garden, creeping through the little doorways, stumbling upon hidden waterfalls and surprise open spaces, all of which are inhabited by figures made of china shards or broken bangles, and decorated with mosaics of other shards or electrical sockets. All in all a very strange place.