Chandigarh

Sunday 11 February 2018

I tried to have a lie in, afternoon sleep the night before. But only managed 8am.

I didn’t do much for the morning. I went up to the roof – great views over the city. And a pool! But way too cold for that.

And breakfast. Was surprisingly good. I had a local chickpea ‘chole’, which comes with a fried bread type puff (poori). And some sambar (the lentil and vegetable soup which is eaten with idli and dosa), but no idli or dosa here (those are South Indian). This food is North Indian.

I had booked a taxi for 10.30am. But it didn’t arrive until 11am, after many phone calls and starting to worry that it wasn’t going to.

We headed out of the chaos of old Amritsar town and onto the highway.

Very quickly we were into countryside. Zooming past rice fields. Sugarcane fields and people on the sides of the roads selling sugarcane juice and oranges.

Literally zooming. So fast. Weaving inbetween the other cars and trucks and buses. Rather scary.

The drive was long. And took over 4 hours. Nothing too exciting along the way.

I’m now in Chandigarh.

Chandigarh is officially a Union Territory, but along with this it is the joint capital of the states of both Punjab and Haryana.

This city is very different to anywhere else in India. People obey the traffic rules (ie they stop at lights and drive in lanes!). All the roads are wide and lined with trees and flowers. There are cycle paths! There was no chaos anywhere.

Shops are in designated concrete blocks, rather than spilling out onto the streets from every angle.

It felt very like Malaysia.

Chandigarh is the first planned city of independent India and is only 60 years old.

It was 3.30pm by the time I was at my hotel. A nice boutique, in one of the standard ugly concrete block of shops.

I headed back out, in an uber to the rock garden, which was only about a 10minute drive away.

The rock garden is dedicated to Nek Chand. He was a local transport official who, starting in 1957, spent almost 20 years creating more than 2000 sculptures using stones, debris and other discarded junk that was left over from the 50-odd villages that were destroyed in order to build the city of Chandigarh.

There was a designated pathway through the park. The first half an hour was passage ways and waterfalls. All made from rock. It was like a rock theme park. The Indians were loving it. Needing every kind of family photo by every waterfall. (They were fake).

Eventually, it opened out into a large open area. A stage with loud music, seating areas and swings. Very weird.

It was only on the way out, for the last few minutes, that we actually saw any of the statues. Which the whole place was supposed to be for. And there were no people here.

The statues were odd. People. Giraffes. Dogs. Elephants. Dinosaurs. Peacocks. All decorated with bits of debris.

And this area was deserted. No one was interested in this bit.

From here, I got a tuk tuk for the 10 minute drive across to the rose garden.

This is a large open, green space. With flower beds full of roses.

Very unlike India. It was quiet. You couldn’t hear the sounds of any traffic. It felt like you had entered a whole different country.

There were some snack stalls here. I bought some chaat. Which was like a spicy cereal – with cornflakes and Rice Krispies! Was tasty.

Then caught a tuk tuk back to my hotel.

One of the shops on the street was a sweet shop. So I went to have a look. And buy some random local sweets made from lentils and sugar. They also served savoury snacks here – so I had some golgappa. Really tasty.

It was gone 6pm when I got back. And after sorting myself out, basically time for bed!

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