VLDB 2016; in addition, as usual, whenever I could I went to explore and learn more about the local culture and life. It was my first time in India and the whole experience was, not counting the super hot weather, very exciting and fun!
I had no idea what to expect for India to be like. The picture painted in my head wasn't particularly pretty. To illustrate what I mean, just read this actually dead-serious account of some guy's trip to India.. it's ugly. Well, I'm happy to say that at least in my limited experience, it's all quite exaggerated. Life is definitely different than in the typical places I've been to in Europe, America, Australia and Asia. Some parts along the railway seemed familiar, reminding me of the Gypsy communities I grew up next to in my hometown; incidentally, I just learned that the International Roma Conference recommended the Government of India this year to recognize the Roma people around the world as Indian diaspora.
Mostly I was just worried of being fooled in some way, online at least it seemed like there is a never-ending list of a million different types of scam stories. Well nothing ever happened, so I'm one happy tourist. People seemed mostly genuinely honest and helpful, while I was constantly on guard because of the above stories.. but I relaxed progressively over the days as it all became more and more familiar.
I tried to gather related photos in a few short stories / albums, scroll on to check them out :-)
This is the heart of metropolitan Delhi. Originally it was the capital of the Mughals with a seat at the Red Fort; nowadays it seems to be really crowded with bustling markets along the narrow streets for anything imaginable, from flowers to goat brains. One of the largest mosques in India, Jama Masjid, is also here.
It wouldn't be a proper visit to New Delhi without seeing the Taj Mahal, which is in Agra, 200km Southeast-ish. I decided to go by train, which eventually proved quite challenging.
Forget about just going to the train station and buying a ticket: this is impossible for mere tourist mortals I guess. There's absolutely no information about which train goes where at the train station itself that I could find. Unless you figure this out beforehand online, you will go nowhere. Moreover, the departure displays seem to be often out of sync and outright wrong.
As with anything in India, there's a learning curve.. and eventually when you figure out the rules, it seems to work. The trains are ok, and people are nice, chatty and ever curious. It was just incredibly hot in the most basic non-AC class that I took, a proper three hour sauna torture for only 170 rupees :-) Thinking about it, some extensive sauna training before you visit India in / around summer would probably be very beneficial preparation.
In Agra I arranged with the tuk-tuk guy that took me from the train station to the hotel to give me a tour around in the morning. The hotel had a good view on Taj Mahal and Agra, which got pretty amazing around the sunset. Ali, the nice tuk-tuk guide picked me up at 6AM in the morning, taking me to the garden behind the Taj Mahal, a smaller tomb place, and finally the Red Fort, which along with the Taj Mahal are the most famous places in Agra.
Taj Mahal is one of the most impressive places I've visited. It definitely satisfied all the appetite for symmetry and balance I've ever had! :-)Published on September 16th, 2016 by Dimitar Mišev