Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An easy day

Having just gotten out of the hospital yesterday I'm still feeling the need to take it a bit slow. My respiratory infection isn't quite all out of my system yet so my mom won't let me do too much. Insists I listen to the doctor and get some rest.

But I did need to stretch my legs today and we needed to move to a new hotel today anyway as our time up at the apartment was up. The landlord met us this morning and after paying we took a taxi from Vasant Kunj to Gurgaon. Gurgaon is a small city southwest of Delhi and is where the upper class live and shop. It's actually quite nice here. Fancy homes and complexes, lots of malls and a few markets, many sky scrapers and even the cars here are fancier. We're staying at the Ahuja Residency which is a very small hotel, but very nice. Mom and Steve got a suite which has a lot of space to stretch out in and even my standard room is much larger than many hotels I've stayed in. The mini bar is every well stocked and the most expensive thing in there is the Diet Coke at 80 cents. At that rate I could clean out the mini bar and not feel guilty (about charging it to my mom's card :). The wifi here though is really slow so the photos with this post will have to either be uploaded in small files or uploaded later.

We arrived at the Ahuja at 11am and during check in I asked about the complimentary breakfast for tomorrow. It starts just as our taxi is scheduled to arrive but he did let me sneak in there today and eat. It was really good, even at the late end of the morning. There was a selection of juices, coffee, tea, breads and such as well as scrambled eggs, very nice omelets that were a bit spicy but just right, and french fries. Well, it may not have been hash browns but they were still good. And the best part on the breakfast table was a south Indian dish known as idly and sambar. Idly is a steamed dumpling made of fermented rice dough and sambar, the spice vegetable soup, is poured on top. It was outstanding. Actually, to be honest, right now everything is outstanding. You could serve me rotten milk and I would say it was outstanding. That's because one of the drugs they have me on is a steroid which usually gives me severe munchies. I could eat all day. Dangerous, especially for the waist line.

An hour later we all decided that we needed to stretch our legs. We first took off for a short walk of a few blocks to the Citibank so Steve could visit the ATM. Inside was a Nestle coffee shop. Looks just like a Starbucks but different colors. The menu is almost the same too, and very nice looking pastries (that could be the munchies talking). The most expensive thing on the menu was a buck. A coffee shop where you can get a real cup of coffee for 50 cents, a latte for 60 cents. I need to find a hotel next to one of these coffee shops.

After the ATM visit we decided it was time for lunch so looked for a cab to take us to a recommended mall. I know, we're eating at the mall again. I would have preferred walking around and finding restaurant but I'm not kidding, the smog here is so thick right now that you can't see past two blocks. Even a block is blurry and taking a photo at 50 feet shows the thick smog. So the mall really was a good choice, we needed the clean air while I'm recovering. We actually walked around quite a bit but for the life could not find a taxi. Lots of rickshaws, but no taxis. So we ended up taking an auto rickshaw (motorized one versus cycle rickshaw) and got charged twice the one dollar fare we should have paid. Guess that's the tourist rate. I'll get over it, but not today. Anyway, at the mall decided to eat at Haldirams which is a national fast food type of place, actually maybe more like a cafeteria. Very good, very cheap. Steve ordered the paneer (cheese cube) curry and rice while mom and I had four different samplings of chatt (chatt is the Indian word for snack). The chatt we ordered were items normally found as street food but served here in a sanitary environment. So we had the bhel puri which is puffed rice and other savory snack items including an Indian version of a spicy chip topped with tamarind and mint chutney and a bit of chili powder. The other were two types of Dahi Vada. Both types are basically the same though one uses a puffed dough pastry and the other a hard crispy cracker. Either one is covered in yogurt, a bit of onion, sometimes potato and topped with tamarind and mint chutney and then a light dusting of chili powder. Google a photo of it.  Also in the restaurant is the very nice sweet and savory snack shop. Sitting at the table next to the sweets display counter is NOT recommended when one has severe munchies.

Before getting to the photos I'll mention the staring. Indian men love to stare. Especially at Caucasian women. They are very obvious and will stop what they are doing, turn to face, stare wide eyed and sometimes smile. Now I've been getting stares to but usually just mild ones. I'm not really white, so  maybe that helps. But today everyone and their dog stared at me. I think at times more so me than mom. It wasn't until I was sitting at Haldirams eating lunch that I realized why. I was wearing shorts. Men in India do not wear shorts. And many times you don't even see kids wearing shorts. I'm not sure if it's a North Indian thing, and Indian thing or a city thing. But walking after lunch I was very conscious about every one staring at my legs. Though maybe I have nice legs and didn't know it before :)

Here's some photos. Bad quality because I didn't have my camera and ended up using my cell phone instead.

Dahi Vada, a common North India street food. This one is served
with the hard crackers topped with yogurt, chutney, onions, puffed rice, peanuts and spices

Another version of the Dahi Vada but with the dough balls instead of crackers

Bhel Puri with puffed rice, a variety of cracker type stuff, onions,
potatos, peanuts, chutneys and other goodness

Two dogs napping outside the Wine and Spirits shop next to the mall,
Auto rickshaws waiting in line for customers

Here are some photos of the previous week, mostly from Central Market in Lajpat Nagar that I forgot to post the day I took them.

Man roasting corn over coal and some being boiled

Good thing this guy wasn't around when I had the munchies, I would have bought the whole cart.
Peanuts, crackers, popcorn, roasted chickpeas to name a few.

A trendy shop where the cost of a black belt was a few hundred dollars. Notice the mannequins hanging?

Looking down from the Lajpat Nagar metro station to the waiting line of rickshaws

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