It was an early rise today, and my friends I had made arrangements to meet for breakfast. The breakfast buffet is apparently one of the things the hotel is known for. And I must say, we were very impressed. The plan for after breakfast was to lay by the pool for a bit, before heading out to see some sights. On our list, the Swaminarayam Akshardham, and Old Delhi.
My friends and I decided that we would brave the Delhi subway system to see the Akshardham. It was quite the adventure, and I must say, the Delhi subway system is very clean! But then again, coming from New York City means that most other subway systems are probably cleaner. Overall, it was very easy to get to our destination by train, even with the bag scanner and pat down at the entrance. I appreciate the fact that they are keen on subway safety. I also found the plastic coin that they give you pretty cool as well. You basically scan it on the way in, and then on your way you, you deposit it back into the turnstile. Pretty clever, except for if you lose the coin, like I almost did, then you might be in trouble. The one thing that we noticed though, was that the subway map we were using and also the map on the subway wall was outdated, as they have added some new stops since. The stop we took near the hotel, particularly, was not on the map, which was a bit confusing. But once we were on the train, the map inside was updated which helped.
The train ride was quick, and we soon arrived at our stop. As we exited the subway station, we were forcefully greeted by rickshaw drivers who offered to take us to the temple. However, being that it was less than a ten minute walk from the train, we kept moving and made our way over. The sun was scorching, and the air was thick. It was also my first time experiencing the interesting smells of the city. Some were not all that pleasant, but in comparison to what I was to experience in Old Delhi, this was mild.
After arriving, we followed the signs to where we needed to go. The first stop would be the bag check. The temple has very strict policies on cameras, cell phones, and other electronics. Basically, you aren’t allowed to take anything in there, except for you wallet and bottled water. So unfortunately, I am unable to share photos of the beautiful grounds and temple. However, we did take a group photo for purchase once inside.
After filling out the bag check form and handing over our things, we were given a token to claim them later. We then headed over to the security area, where we had to pass through a metal detector, as well as get patted down. Again, it sounds daunting but I have an appreciation for the security factor. Our female friend entered through a separate area and luckily, she had a scarf with her so she could cover her legs in the appropriate manner. The next stop was the ticket counter, where we purchased our admission to all three activities, as well as the temple itself, for a very small amount in USD. I don’t remember the exact price, but I think it was only a few dollars per person.
We stopped to take the group photo on our way to the first exhibit, which we would pick up at the gift shop upon leaving. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect, but a staff member at the hotel had informed us before leaving, that the entire place would be similar to a “Disney World” type of entertainment place, with one exhibit being remnant of the the Its A Small World ride. Well it turns out he was right!
The complex is stunning, with a garden that you are free to wander without having to pay. Donation boxes line the entrance halls, along with information brochures of the park. Its no wonder why this place is a huge attraction. The sheer size is incredible with beautiful landscaping and glorious architecture. Unfortunately, the fountain show was under construction so we were unable to enjoy that.
Upon entering the first exhibit, we weren’t sure what to expect. We were seated in a small theater with a movie screen. The movie started playing and we were told the story of Neelkanth Varni, a child-yogi, and his journey in becoming one of the most revered gurus in India, who still has a following to this day. The exhibit leads you from room to room, continuing the story through mechanical puppetry. At first, it was rather entertaining. But to be quite honest, we realized after a few different rooms, that this was definitely more of a children’s type of exhibit. The moving figures became monotonous for me, but overall it was entertaining and informative. After about 45 minutes, we exited the building and moved on to the next.
We were told that there would be a quick boat ride as part of the activities. It turns out that it was the third exhibit, so we decided to skip the second show, which was an IMAX movie about the history of India. The main reason was that the English version was not going to start for another 20 minutes. And it was so hot, we didn’t feel like waiting outside. The boat ride was about to begin in ten minutes or so. We soon entered the building and boarded the little boat.
Our hotel friend was right. It was just like being on the Its A Small World ride! However, this was much more informative with narrative throughout the ride. We learned a lot and I was impressed at how elaborate it all was. The one thing that I have to say, is that at one point there were so many different displays that it was hard to keep up with. But overall, another great experience and you have to take it as it is.
After the quick boat ride, we made our way to the Akshardham temple. But before entering, we had to check our shoes at the booth in front. Luckily, the white stone slabs on the ground were cool to the touch, so walking barefoot was easy. The temple is very large with various pieces of artwork on the inside. However, its only the main hall that you are able to visit.
The temple itself is grand and awe-inspiring. Exquisite detail can be seen in its construction and the building itself stands out amidst the expansive grounds. We spent a total of about 30 minutes taking a look around, before we decided it was time to go. We headed to the gift shop on the way out to pick up the photo we took earlier, and exited the grounds.
We decided earlier on that we would take a tuk-tuk to the Old Delhi, which was going to be something that I would experience for the first time. I was very excited, and was able to capture some great photos on the ride. We quickly found a driver, hopped in, and went for a very fun ride, literally!
More posts on India here.