Winding Down: Chandigarh, Delhi and Amsterdam


Chandigarh wasn't a planned stop on our itinerary. It was Antonia who convinced us that we wouldn't regret shortening our time in Delhi in exchange for a day in the Punjabi capital.

The main reason for stopping in Chandigarh was the Nek Chand Garden, which we visited on our first morning in the city. The story is that Nek Chand, a public servant, spent his spare time collecting debris from demolition sites around the city. He used the scrap to build sculptures and figurines and scatter them in a maze of courtyards and walkways, also built from recycled material. His garden, on public land was discovered almost 20 years after Nek Chand had begun his work, and was slated for destruction. A public outcry saved the garden which is now a booming tourist attraction in the state of Punjab. With good reason, as the garden is delightful. Although nothing could quite soothe the effects of the stifling head, the park seemed to provide the best respite we could have hoped for. In the afternoon, we rickshawed between Chandigarh's other tourist attractions, most of them municipal buildings designed by Swiss architect Le Corbusier. Chandigarh is an entirely a planned city, conceptualised by Le Corbusier in the 1950s as a capital for the recently partitioned state of Punjab. The city is divided into rectangular numbered sectors (0.5 mile x 0.75 mile). The result is an organized although somewhat bland city, where even the rickshaws obey traffic signals. It is unlike any of the other cities we'd visited in India, and despite the lack of bustle, was a rather pleasant place to visit even in the 35C heat. After a long day of sight-seeing we treated to the comfort of our double room which the four of us were sharing after a hard-bargaining session with the hotel staff.


Delhi is a terrible place to be in the heat. As our bus from Chandigarh approached the Indian capital, the passengers seemed to get meaner, the odors worse and the heat more oppressive. On the advice of other travelers, we had decided to reside in the Tibetan Colony, away from the city centre. This might have been the best decision we made on our entire trip. In addition to having an amazing restaurant and air-conditioned rooms, the Peace Hotel was a sanctuary from the noise and madness of Delhi. As usual, Yann's anti-air-conditioning policy was in effect. He agreed to have an air-conditioned room on the condition that all four of us share a room, which we did, and its 2 single beds (note that this arrangement was still more expensive than two separate non air-conditioned rooms)

The only disadvantage of staying in the Tibetan Colony is its location. Everyday we had to renegotiate with the rickshaw drivers who would originally refuse to take the four of us in one rickshaw and then proceed to give in to our request a few minutes later. The roughly 10km journey was never comfortable with the four of us piling one on top of each other.

We visited the Delhi sights: Red Fort, Jama Masjid (Great Mosque), Gandhi's Memorial. But my fondest memories of our few days in Delhi are the hours spent negotiating with rickshaw drivers and eating Indian fastfood in the comfort of our Tibetan hotel. This might be an indication that after 2 months in India and Bangladesh, we were all totally exhausted. So our morning visit of Amsterdam, on a stopover between Delhi and Montreal, should be considered all the more impressive. We had an eight hour stopover and we arrived in Amsterdam at 6am. By 7am we were downtown waiting for the first coffee shops to open. In just a few hours we took a boat cruise through the city's canals, strolled the red light district, drank our first real coffee in months, downed Heinekens and ate stroopwafles. We landed in Montreal completely drained, but grateful for an amazing, and pretty hassle-free trip.