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Introduction to a great post-covid international trip.
Once covid was out of our way, we planned our trip according to our desires for spiritual teachings, vacation adventures, family connections, and new destinations. Originally planned for midyear, several situations occurred that bought us to travelling earlier than planned and this meant a rich itinerary of our favourite things could be experienced and fully enjoyed.
Ten days in Delhi: Food, friends and culture
Anticipation rose, our planning was complete, the tickets were purchased, and we were on our way.
First stop: Hauz Khas, Delhi
We had booked accommodation in the heart of Hauz Khas, an area of Delhi known for its variety of food and cultural experiences; but also for us, it meant location, location, location.
On arrival we met our friends, Andy and his daughter Kaya from Bavaria (Germany), who had come to India to experience the teachings and blessings of a Buddhist Master—the 17th Karmapa, also known as the ‘King of Yogi’s’ in Tibetan Buddhist culture.
We greeted them after 5 years of separation due to bugs and time, and just like that 5 years melted away as our connection re-established itself immediately. Unfortunately, Alex, Andy’s wife and mother of Kaya was unable to join them for this trip but we supplied her with daily photos and stories of our journey.
KIBI: The Buddhist Institute and the course we had come to India for
The following morning, we took an auto (tuk-tuk) to the KIBI (Karmapa Institute for Buddhist Instruction), about 15 minutes ride, and began our week of spiritual immersion, teachings, and blessings. It was amazing to meet other ‘old friends’ from our life before covid whom we had met either in New Zealand or in Europe or Spain. The teachings of other Lamas and professors inspired us, and the whole atmosphere was one of joy and connection.
Enjoying Sanjay Van Park: right across the road from KIBI
In our lunch times we wandered the nearby park and enjoyed the squirrels, gardens, and visitors. The history of the area was explained to us by visitors to an ancient Shiva shrine we happened upon.
Images from the park
A little KIBI history
The area of the KIBI was gifted to the 16th Karmapa by the late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1979 and, following the wishes of the Karmapa, the institute building was completed.
It is built in traditional Buddhist Tibetan style and is beautifully decorated with Thankas (painting) of the Buddha in many ‘forms’ and the soft but beautiful colours of pink, green, white, and blue. The teaching platform is dominated by a large, golden statue of the Shakyamuni Buddha. The teachings were inspiring with the Karmapa attending every day and giving two empowerments (special ceremonies and blessings), which were a joy to receive. We even got to enjoy the premiere of the movie of a great Yogi.
Exploring and enjoying our neighbourhood
We did not attend every session over the 8 days; instead, some mornings we explored the area where we were staying. We discovered this was an area prolific in medical and dental specialists, and rich in cafés serving delicious food and Indian grown coffee with carts of fresh fruit along the street.
Celebrating birthday and reunion with great friends
Featuring Entrepreneur, Nilza Wangmo Longpo – Ladakhi’s celebrated award winning chef – among many accolades, Nilza was awarded the highest award for women in India – Nari Shakti Puraska in the year 2019.
I was fortunate enough to have my birthday while we were in Delhi. Before we left New Zealand, I had connected with friends in Delhi from our pre-covid life. I arranged to meet with Suresh, a travel organiser I had first met 20 years before, and have travelled many paths together since, along with his wife Kumud and son Kartik. I also learned that one very special lady, whom we had met in Ladakh in 2017, and who has made a great impact in Ladakhi and Indian food culture supporting Ladaki women in the art of cooking, was ‘wintering over’ in Delhi and was running a ‘pop up’ restaurant at her home. I was excited at the prospect of all of us meeting again, over dinner, on my birthday, and so made a booking – which, by chance, was not far from where we were staying in this very large city.
Nilza Wangmo Longpo had already won many awards for her entrepreneurship in her chosen field when we met her in Ladakh in 2017. We loved the local apricot tea and other finger food we tasted on that beautiful day in her restaurant in the small village of Alchi. We had kept in occasional contact via social media and it was a pleasure to introduce her to our Bavarian friends as we reconnected over 7 amazing dishes and birthday cake.
Learning a little more about why she had come to love these special recipes, ingredients, and food features, she shared with me a little of her history. Her father had died before she was born and her mother, following tradition, had gone home to live with her parents as a now pregnant widow. Nilza grew up in the kitchen of her grandmother with the added influence of her mother, local fruits and nuts, fresh vegetables, meat, and herbs used in her cooking. The images I conjured up about life at the feet of great cooks was not so different from my life with my mother who cooked and provided for a large and extended family. Even though at that stage my grandmother was too elderly and unwell to cook any longer, she was an influence in both hers and our kitchen.
We started with birthday cake and graduated to a feast of flavours and dishes that I can only describe as different and delectable, and included momos with chocolate, a modern addition to the usual local fare. Nilza had two of the Ladakhi young woman whom she mentors and teaches working with her and it was wonderful to meet them and thank them for their contribution to this beautiful meal.
Farewell to our German friends
Meeting friends in India at the KIBI and my birthday dinner was amazing but after 9 days our time together was over. On our last day, Andy and Kaya joined us for breakfast at the local cafe before they left for the airport and a week in Bodhgaya, home of the Buddha.
Hauz Khas Village visit
Manfred and I had decided to explore the nearby Hauz Khas village and lake.
We went to the lake first and spent time watching Indian flying fox, otherwise known as the Greater Indian Fruit Bat, which are one of the largest bats in the world and a native of the Indian subcontinent. Nocturnal creatures, we were surprised that they were out in the daytime, flying and hanging upside down in true bat fashion. They feed on banana, mango, and nectar; and although they are pollinators and seed propagators, they are considered a nuisance due to the damage they do to trees and fruit farms. Here in this park they were prolific and have maybe taken up residence as sanctuary to predators.
We also watched children collecting nuts and fruits under trees whilst foraging in the grass before we headed up to the village to find lunch.
Delicious food and tea in Hauz Khas
We settled into a tea shop and had a delicious lunch of buckwheat pancake with spinach, tomato, goats cheese, and pine nuts, accompanied by delicious tea. Set on the edge of the Hauz Khas Village complex, the tea shop was quite a find—small, quaint, and very busy with people happy to wait for a table.
The name of the shop was ‘The Tea Room – from Blossom Kochhar’ and on the ground floor they had a shop with a variety of gifts, cosmetics, and spa essentials with massage rooms, a hairdresser, and nail studios.
The lanes of Hauz Khas village and discovering Indian art
Following our luscious lunch, we wandered the lanes happening upon a beautifully presented art gallery where we found some very eye catching art, some reminiscent of Australian aboriginal dot painting and Rogan Art for which I had seen in Gujarat, and surprisingly from the same family studio I had seen over 3 years ago on a trip to Gujarat and the Great Rann of Kutch.
All too soon it was time to go to the airport and embark on the next leg of our journey. Join me in my next story where I’ll take you through our 2 ½ weeks travelling and exploring Spain.
Some final photos
I am planning a journey of about 10 days to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in North East India – if you are interested in visiting India – message me and I will let you know when the itinerary is ready to be sent out!!
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