Sticky humidity, car horns, people barefoot, tuk tuks jostling for position, animals in the street, dust, piles of litter. A sensory overload. Welcome to India.
We landed in Delhi. Having travelled from New York with a brief stop in London our clocks were all over the place and the tiredness was overwhelming. Our e-visa's were processed at immigration and we were stamped in; 60 days to get a taste of India, it's landscape, its people, its food. Our driver met us and took us to Hotel Su Shree, a welcoming place down an alleyway strewn with litter. We'd pre-booked our first hotel to help with the culture shock that everybody who'd visited India had warned us of. The hotel was no five star resort but it was nice enough and better than what we were accustomed to. We settled into the brightly coloured room and ordered some room service, the food was delicious and despite being delivered to the comfort of our bed cost merely a few pounds.
The next day was spent indoors, I was suffering with a splitting headache presumably from all the travel and the idea of going outside felt too daunting. The aloo gobhi, butter naan and hot chocolate certainly helped to lift my spirits, if the food continued to be up to this standard then I'd be one happy backpacker.
With a rest day in the bag we decided the following morning to hire a driver arranged by the hotel and see some of the city sights without the hassle. Dressed modestly in long trousers and a shawl I couldn't wait to get to a market and buy some loose light clothing, it was intensely hot. Our driver took us on a whistle stop tour of Delhi, we visited; Birla Temple, Indira Ghandi Museum, India Gate, Parliament and President House, Qutub Minar, The Lotus Temple, Raj Ghat, Red Fort, Jama Masjid and a local bazaar with lunch at a nice restaurant thrown in too. The day was jam packed and hectic. The heat was as I imagined it to be, sweltering and too much to handle. I felt myself going faint at India Gate and couldn't consume water quick enough. Knowing that there was a car waiting with a friendly local guide and air conditioning meant that we could muddle through but we knew instantly that we'd have to go at a much slower pace in India than what we're used to.
Highlights of our day were the Indira Ghandi Museum documenting the life and work of Indira Ghandi, India's first and so far only female prime minister. I had no prior knowledge of Indira Ghandi and assumed wrongly that she was of some relation to Mahatma Ghandi. The museum taught me so much about her political beliefs and sadly how she was assassinated in the grounds of her home and now museum, the spot marked for visitors to reflect on.
You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist. - Indira Ghandi
The Lotus Temple was another favourite due not only to it's modern architectural beauty but also because inside it is so peaceful, guards hush any person who makes a sound, birds chirrup and a cool breeze whips through the doors making this one of the quietest and most calming spots in all of Delhi.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Qutub Complex was a memorable stop, the complex is famous for Qutub Minar, a 72 metre marble and red sandstone tower. Building of the tower began in 1192 AD, it is known as a Victory Tower and remains to this day an important monument in Islam. As we walked a guard approached us and offered to take our photo, after a straight forward one inside a beautiful intricately carved archway he encouraged us to stand in a position to capture a cheesy 'pinching the top of the tower' shot. Luckily there weren't too many people around to watch, it was pretty embarrassing.
After an exhausting but interesting day we decided to be brave the next day and go out exploring on our own. After a breakfast of paratha's, a filled flat bread we took a tuk tuk to Humayan's Tomb. It is said that the tomb provided inspiration for the Taj Mahal and so we were very excited to see it. Upon walking into the site we got chatting to another tourist who took our photograph. It had felt like a long while since we had another backpacker to chat with. The tomb was beautiful, a red sandstone wonder surrounded by beautiful lush gardens. It was far quieter than I thought it would be and being stood in the grounds surrounded by exotic plants and intricately carved monuments felt very much like how I imagined historical India to be. We met Jo, her husband and friends at the main tomb and had a lovely chat about our travels and our plans for India. Jo and her husband were visiting from the U.S.A, the friends they were with Jo had met many years ago when she was working in an orphanage in India.
We left the tomb and took a tuk tuk to Lodhi Gardens which were lovely and free to enter. We spent a lot of time in the gardens sat on a bench under the shade of a tree, after a while two boys came up to us. We were a little wary at first, we have become cynical due to the amount of scams and cons that backpackers can be subject to but in this case all they wanted was a simple chat and to have their photograph taken with Craig. They asked the usual questions that we seemed to be asked whenever we came into contact with a local, where were we from and were we married? We grabbed a cold drink which in the heat quickly turned warm and had a walk around the monuments in the park.
After leaving the park we made our way to Ghandi Smriti where Mahatma Ghandi spent his last days and where he was killed. It was fascinating reading the signs about his life, I read every word. Footprints have been cast, leaving a trail from where Ghandi spent his final days to where he fell after being shot, a poignant and very moving sight. After Ghandi Smriti we visited Connaught Place which was a strange mish mash of designer shops, fast food restaurants and bazaars. We had lunch at Wengers Deli a popular sandwich and cake shop before looking round the bustling bazaars. I finally caught sight of some bright elephant print trousers and after Craig indulged in a short haggle battle they were mine. We returned to the area surrounding our hotel and were lost in a maze of alleys lined with shops, rickshaws and tuk tuks blocked our path while dogs run amuck. The smells were so putrid I needed to mask my nose, women in beautiful silk saris sashayed past, children in tow. Our introduction to India was over and Delhi had turned out to be far less daunting than we were led to believe, the heat was something else but as it turned out it was nothing compared to what was to come.
Next: Catching our first train to Agra and The Taj Mahal.
🎥 India video:
Have you been to Delhi? If so, what did you think? Maybe you're planning a trip? I've got tonnes of advice and tips I can share. Let me know in the comments below.
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