Rickshaw mayhem

by Eliza Myers 7. June 2011 22:18

“If you want to experience the sights, the sounds and the smells of “real” India all at once, the best way is a rickshaw ride through Old Delhi,” said Anil Bahal, my India tour director.

So on my first day of touring India with Globus Tours, I climbed into a tiny rickshaw to let all of India come rushing at me all at once. The rickshaw driver must have legs of steel to be able to bike two people and their covered seats into the mass of people in the Old Delhi markets without ever showing signs of weariness.

There was barely enough room for the rickshaw and the amount of people walking past the market's mostly pedestrian streets. But for such a narrow street, I felt like my senses couldn’t soak everything in fast enough. Everywhere I looked were bright colors from bejeweled fabrics, fresh fruit and store signs. Incense hung in the air, as well as excitement from the bustling activity of people buying, selling and honking to get through. Then of course there is always the occasional man pushing a cart of bricks or woman carrying a large bag of clothes on her head.

The rickshaw turned out to be a perfect way to safely watch the madness of the market without the headache of trying to navigate the labyrinth of streets. People would even take the time to wave a friendly hello as we passed by.

My first day also included a quieter side of India at Delhi’s Jama Masjid and Tomb of Humayun. These magnificent buildings made me realize that the country has managed to preserve a vast quantity of ancient structures. Built in the 16th and 17th centuries, these two historic sites provided a glimpse into the time of India’s affluent Mughal Empire.

One colorful scene on the rickshaw ride

At the Tomb of Humayun

At the Jama Masjid

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Experiencing India

A Home in the Hutong

by Brian Jewell 26. February 2011 13:38

As a city, Beijing is a sprawling mass of high-rise buildings, many of them apartment and condo towers built to house the 19 million people who live here. But in the Hutong area of the city, just a block behind the skyscrapers on busy city streets, quiet neighborhoods and charming one-story homes maintain a semblance of the old life in Beijing.

We toured the Hutong by rickshaw today, going two-by-two in carts powered by a bicycle driver. It’s about the only way to go -- motorcoaches can’t navigate the narrow passages, and the labyrinth of streets and alleys makes trekking through on foot an intimidating prospects.

Our drivers brought us to the home of a local family, where the mother invited us in, served us tea, and talked to us about her family’s life in the small Hutong home. The house, she said, has been in her husbands family for four generations. The couple currently live there with their youngest son, as well as her father. Like most of her husband’s family, her oldest son is a kung fu master, and he now teaches in the United States. No on asked how the family managed to get around China’s infamous one-child policy.

The home was modest and crowded, but lovingly decorated in celebratory Chinese symbols. Though the Hutong is much beloved by residents, its days are probably numbered -- as Beijing’s population continues to grow, the government is tearing down the one-story buildings to construct more high-rises. The lady tells us that by the end of this year, she and her family will have to relocated, as their home is being demolished to create a public garden and a wider road.

There is one upside for the family, though: Because traditional homes in the Hutong are highly coveted by locals, their values have skyrocketed relative to other real estate in China. When it is time for the family to move, the government will reimburse them for their tiny home, which should be worth about $600,000. That will buy a great condo somewhere else in Beijing.

 Jasmine tea with the lady of the house.


Visiting in the family room.

The family's display of Kung Fu weapons.

Enjoying a rickshaw ride through the Hutong.

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