That Time I Woke Up In India: Food Poisoning?! (8.10.2008)

Apologies for the alarmist title. I don’t get food poisoning. Well, I only get it in developed countries.

Raj Ghat was indeed the final resting place of Gandhi, so at least I got that right. It was a rather interesting place, lots of people outside the entrance, but not quite so many people inside. I took my shoes off to get closer to the actual resting place, a thing I would quickly learn to get used to. The taking off my shoes, I mean. It didn’t seem like anyone would tried to steal shoes here. I mean, it would be rather tasteless to steal shoes in front of Mahatma, right? There wasn’t much to note about Raj Ghat, so I went back to the car. Next stop? India Gate.

India Gate. I forgot why they built it, but it’s really really big. The usually riffraff annoyed me here, as always. You know, vendors trying to sell tourists gimmicks that really have no relevance to the site. No relevance at all. It happens everywhere. Anyway, I took some pictures of India Gate, got bored with people trying to sell me sticks that could fly in the air and other nonsense, so I went back to the car. Kumar drove me past what he called “President’s House” (I laughed silently at this quaint name that he called the residence of his head of state. Later I learned that “President’s House” was the official name. Idiot.) and then he drove me to the National Museum.

L'arc d'Inde.

L'arc d'Inde.

The National Museum was…a spectacular disappointment. Half the exhibits were going under some sort of renovation/construction, and the rest of the exhibits were very poorly labeled. It didn’t really help that the layout was a ring and there weren’t any clear directions to anywhere. I went around the museum several times trying to find the exit. I mean, some of the objects were probably very impressive, but no sign told me that they were, so I was completely clueless. Plus I don’t think they were being maintained properly. I mean, the museum was really warm and humid. I don’t think those are ideal conditions for priceless artifacts. I mean, they aren’t ideal conditions for me, and who knows how much I’d cost. So I guess, the highlight of the museum for me was the giant temple chariot outside the museum. And I didn’t even need to pay to see it. That was disappointing.

But the temple chariot was pretty cool.

But the temple chariot was pretty cool.

Next was lunch at the All American Diner. It wasn’t really All American, since they didn’t serve beef, but it was still pretty interesting. I ordered a Mexican Chicken Burger and a spicy smoothie, which was basically a lassi with mint and ginger and some kind of fruit. The smoothie had an interesting flavor, which I think was mainly due to the mint. I was suddenly struck by the idea of making mint vodka by buying a bottle of good vodka and stuffing a bunch of mint leaves into it. Yum. And then I had an idea for green tea vodka. And then an idea for mint-flavored green tea vodka. And then I stopped.

Alas, lunch was not all fun and games. The moment I bit into my burger, I realized that a bit of the chicken was a little pinkish. I would’ve inquired into whether the chicken was properly cooked or not, but there were a lot of tourists and I figured that they wouldn’t make such a mistake at such a popular tourist location. Alas, I was still suspicious but I was too chicken (haha, get it? It’s a pun.) to do anything about it, plus I was really hungry. I so decided that I’d already eaten enough of the chicken to give myself salmonella, so it was already too late to do anything. I sat there nervously, planning my daily dose of antibiotics and other food poisoning remedies, making a note to buy a really big bottle of water to keep myself rehydrated while I threw up constantly and ruined my trip. Thankfully, my suspicions and paranoia were proved to be unwarranted by my later healthiness. But I didn’t know that at the time.

I walked out of the restaurant fearing that I might collapse at any moment due to some horrible disease the uncooked chicken might have given me, found Kumar, and traveled to my next destination: Humayun’s Tomb, the tomb of Humayun. No, I really don’t know who he is.

Naturally, the admission prices were ridiculous. I went inside and visited someone else’s tomb which was, although impressive, not too much a deal to make of. I honestly don’t know what that last bit of the previous sentence means. Oh well. I climbed up the ungodly steep stairs of the mausoleum, took a few pictures, then carefully made my way back down. I later learned that Humayun, a great Mughal emperor, died when he fell down the stairs. If they built stairs like that back in the old days, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more stair casualties. I walked towards the gate where Humayun’s Tomb actually was, looked to my left and saw a pack of deer. A PACK OF DEER! They were adorably small, but maybe that’s because they were really far away. I took a few pictures, then walked up to the real entrance to Humayun’s Tomb. The man at the gate asked me for my ticket, but I realized that I couldn’t find it in the pocket were I thought I had put it. I had to frantically search my pockets and my ridiculously cluttered bag outside of the tomb until I found it folded in my pocket. I handed it to him with a sheepish smile, and he smiled understandingly. I’m guessing he got a lot of tourists who did stupid things like that.

I had no idea what Humayun’s Tomb actually looked like (I forgot to look at the pictures in my book), so I was very impressed. It basically looks like the Taj Mahal. With colors. Which probably made it even cooler than the Taj Mahal. I would later recant this statement and beg for Shah Jehan’s mercy when I saw the actual Taj Mahal, but Humayun’s Tomb was very beautiful in its own way. I enlisted the help of a Chinese couple to get a picture of me at the mausoleum, since it’s very difficult to get pictures of yourself when you’re traveling alone. Plus Asian tourists would never steal another Asian tourist’ camera. I mean, despite our rivalries and bad blood within our respective countries, in a place like India, Asians have to stick together. The couple obliged to take my picture, and I offered to take their picture in return, using my unbelievable camera skills to give them a fabulously picturesque photo. I thanked them and approached the gorgeous mausoleum.

The Taj Mahal in color?!

The Taj Mahal in color?!

As if to make fun of the Mughal emperor’s unfortunate demise, the steps up to the platform where the building was were also very steep. Evidently the architects didn’t learn their lesson. I mean, it was all beautiful to look at and admire, but the stairs were still steep. Apparently the otherwise advanced Mughal society failed to develop safe stairs. After admiring the architecture and taking the mandatory tourist photos, I went back to the car, where Kumar was waiting for me. I was getting used to this, but alas, it was not to last.

Next stop? The Lotus Temple, named as such because it looks like a giant white lotus. Duh. And wow, it really did look like a lotus blossom ready to bloom. No, that’s not sarcasm. Sarcasm would be used if the Chinese built a temple and said that it was built in the form of a dragon shooting up towards the heavens with beams of light emanating from its noble mouth. Seriously, the Lotus Temple impressed me. It really looked like it was about to unfurl at any moment, and I half-expected the petals to move or something. That’s pretty cool, especially considering the fact that I’m not usually the one to say such things. I’m usually the one who really can’t understand why a mountain looks like a sleeping dragon or such.

A likeness of the Cloverfield monster's mouth.

A likeness of the Cloverfield monster's mouth.

I walked toward the temple, all the while taking photos like a proper tourist, taking off my shoes like a proper tourist, and finding myself inside the temple, getting ready to pray like a proper tourist. Wait, what? Now, I don’t know the particulars of the Roman Catholic dogma (I consider myself Roman Catholic. We’re awesome and we believe aliens are God’s children too), but I’m sure God wouldn’t be too happy to find that I’d been praying in a temple for a different religion on the Sabbath. I mean, I didn’t even know what religion the Lotus Temple was for (apparently it’s Baha’i, which I figure is the Esperanto of religions) so I figured that I should get out real fast. I didn’t want to tempt fate again, not after that brush with the chicken burger. So I joined the group that was walking out and got back in my shoes and returned to Kumar, who drove me back home. Despite my adventures, it turned out that it was only about 3:30 in the afternoon.

After a nice shower (the water kept running this time), I joined the family to go out to a nice Indian dinner. Although the restaurant was located in a very nice hotel, the menu didn’t seem too expensive, at least to my untrained eye. I would continue to have trouble with the conversion rates, but at least this time I wasn’t paying. We had a very interesting conversation at the dinner table, but I won’t tell you what it was about. Maybe later. Okay, it was about Mr. Mun’s meetings with some of India’s big shots. Anyhow, we ate dinner and went back home. I had made reservations to stay at a hostel near train station, but the Muns tried to convince me to stay at their place another night, as it would be safer. So I was convinced. After all, I knew I was still unprepared for the chaos that is India. So yeah, I went to sleep to rest up for tomorrow, when I would leave Delhi for the city of the Taj, Agra.

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