Lucknow

Friday 16 August 2019

Leaving Bangalore for the final time this trip. I always love staying here.

It was a relatively quick trip up to the airport and took just over an hour. It’s annoying because you never know if it’s going to take over 2 hours, or just 1!

So I arrived in plenty of time for my flight. It was only 3.30pm and my flight is at 6.30pm.

I’m heading up to northern Indian for the next couple of weeks. And first stop, Lucknow.

We landed at 9pm. My bag was first off (I had paid for express luggage – and it worked!). And was picked up by the hotel for the 30 minute drive into the city.

Saturday 17 August 2019

It’s 8am and boiling hot already. Everywhere in India seems to have such a different climate compared with Bangalore.

After some idlis for breakfast, I was picked up at 9am for a day around the city.

Lucknow is the capital of Uttar Pradesh and an old Mughal city – so a lot of the architecture is Muslim style.

The first stop was La Martiniere. This is a school, and I’m not really sure why we were wandering around! The guide told me that he has permission to bring tourists to look at the buildings. The school was built as a palace, by the French man who was once the richest in the city – due to his indigo business. But the French man died before the building was finished, and in his will ensured that no other person could own the building. So it’s been turned into a school. A very fancy school, with huge grounds, horses, and a church. It costs 10,000 per year to attend (about £1,000).

The surrounding area were small villages and houses. Apparently this was a fancy area where diplomats and government officials live. It didn’t look particularly fancy, more like a normal Indian village, except it had a gate to enter the road.

Next up we stopped at Dilkusha. This is a ruin of a summer house, which was built in the style of an English country house in 1805 for the sixth Nawab. Now it’s a small quiet park, with the brick ruins of the houses.

We stopped very briefly at the Sadat Ali & Begum Tombs. Elaborate stone buildings, for the tomb of the fifth nawab and his wife.

Next up, Lucknow Residency. This cost 300rp (£3.50) to get inside. The area is now just a large garden, filled with ruins of buildings. But was once home to over 3,000 Europeans after it was built in 1800. Most of whom died in the 1857 First War of Independence, when Indians cut off all supplies to the area for over 3 months.

It was a fairly large space, with scattered ruins. And a shell of a mosque.

Then into the main city centre, to the Asfi (Bara) Imambara. An imambara is a tomb dedicated to a Shiite holy man. This complex was again full of lots of buildings. And cost me 500 (£6) to get in.

The main structure here was built in 1784 when there was a famine in the area. The rich man who owned the land paid all the people who were hungry to build a large complex. And in return, he gave them food.

The main hall here is the largest unsupported room in Asia. Something they seem rather proud of…! It is instead supported by a maze of corridors running around its walls and ceiling.

You can go into the corridors, called the ‘labyrinth’. If you’re a western couple, you have to have a guide – there’s signs up everywhere about the requirement. And it seems to be to prevent you finding a quiet spot together….

I was alone and had a guide anyway, so wasn’t hassled!

It’s not much of a maze. The corridors are quite clear and end up on various different rooftops.

I was quite exposed up here. And soon had numerous people approaching me for photos. And suddenly a crowd was forming.

The guide had left me to wander this part on my own. But he clearly changed his mind after seeing the chaos I cause, and pulled me away and never left me to do anything by myself again!

We made a random stop at the river side, to watch men washing and hanging clothes. It was pretty cool. I like random side stops of real life.

We passed through the Rumi Darwaza, a gateway. In pictures it looks really impressive. But in real life, I wasn’t even sure it was the same thing. It just looked like an ordinary gate and it was only afterwards that I realised this was such a big sight (and I didn’t get a good picture!)

We drove past the Clock Tower. This is 67m and the tallest in India. Not hugely exciting!

Next stop, the Husainabad (Chota) Imambara. Another tomb, constructed in 1832. I had to wear a headscarf here. An elaborate building filled with chandeliers – apparently most were brought over from Belgium.

I had asked if we could stop at a tea shop to buy some tea leaves. We stopped at one which is apparently the best place in the city to buy tea. It was essentially a hole in the wall. They had tea leaves in little pots on the counter. You choose your tea and they weight it out. They sell in kilograms here! They were trying to sell me bagged tea – apparently only poor people drink and buy loose tea! But I wanted loose tea. After a lot of negotiating, they finally agreed to find me some proper loose leaf tea that wasn’t dust. And it was 400 (£5) for a kilo of it! Very cheap. But I’m now carrying around a kilo of tea…!

We then headed into the Chowk bazaar. The old city is famous for its market. It was just one long narrow street. Not wide enough for cars, but motorbikes were zooming through, weaving between people and carts.

We saw flower stalls, kebab shops, indigo printing, silver leaf foil, chiken embroidery, gold embroidery, perfume shops…everything Lucknow is famous for. It wasn’t as chaotic as I was expecting.

We stopped at a restaurant for lunch. I got some vegetarian koftas and a tandoori roti.

Then I got taken to a chiken shop. This is a clothes shop, that are made with chiken embroidery on them (a Lucknow speciality). This shop was typical of most Indian shops, beds to sit on, whilst a shop man pulls things from the walls to sell to you. I didn’t want to shop. It’s intimidating and not enjoyable at all. I pretty much ran out.

A bit of a disappointing end to a day which had actually been ok.

I got dropped back at the hotel at 2.30pm. Time for swimming.

I did nothing else for the rest of the day. It was just hot.

Sunday 18 August 2019

Today I did nothing.

I had breakfast (idlis). Went swimming. Then it was 11am and time to head to the airport.

I got an Uber (£2.30). The hotel charged me £14.50 on Friday!

And then the chaos began. Indian airports really frustrate me. They are all equally as ridiculous as each other.

1. Show your passport and ticket to get into the airport (fine. But they take about a minute looking at each one. It’s not that hard)

2. Scan all your bags

3. Scan your bags again. This is where Lucknow failed. The machine wasn’t working. So this was a 40 min wait

4. Drop your bags at the check in desk. Again, a 30 min wait – with only 5 people in front of me.

5. Show your boarding pass to a person

6. Scan yourself and your hand luggage

7. Including an obligatory pat down

8. When your plane is boarding – show your boarding pass to one person

9. And the next person

10. And the next person

11. More bag checking

12. Finally on the plane

What is all that absolute nonsense. Annoys me every time. A simple task is just made so unnecessarily frustrating.

At least the plane was on time. And at 2pm, off to Delhi.

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