When looking at our flight options to get from Turkey to Seoul, we noticed one potential route was going through Delhi; and just like that, we got an e-visa and booked a few days in a hotel to at least have a small taste of India.
Walking around Delhi could be described as something like entering a dream. Its enormously vibrant history is all around you, in the chaotic streets, colorful saris, stunning sunsets and sizzling street food. Total sensory overload.
Come to think of it, if I had to choose one word to describe Delhi, it would be 'intense'. As much as that intensity comes from the awe-inspiring mosques, temples, and tombs, it can also be intensely terrifying and overwhelming at times. Like crossing the street for example. There are no rules. The cars just go and you literally just have to cross and hope you're not run-over by a car, motorcycle, rickshaw, or bus. Getting 'out of your comfort zone' is an understatement. Overall it was undeniably, a thrilling, terrifying and exhilarating experience. It was absolutely unlike anything we had seen or experienced in our trip so far. I'm also very proud to say we successfully avoided getting the "Delhi Belly" AKA getting sick from the food/water so IT'S POSSIBLE. You just have to be super careful.
Some of the first things you will notice in Delhi are:
#1: The crazy amount of people everywhere.
The population is about 16.3 million, making it the second most populous city and second most populous urban agglomeration in India. so yeah, lots of people.
#2: Dirt and dust in the air.
The World Health Organization ranks Delhi as the world’s worst polluted city. On a twistedly dark bright side, I thought the polluted air made it look even more stunning and dreamlike. Especially at sunrise and sunset.
#3: Poverty is very real here.
It's heartbreaking to see so many people living in such bleak conditions, but here, it's a part of life. This hardworking culture however, doesn't let that get them down. Their determination propels them forward with a high chest and a beaming smile.
Our friends were able to convince us to stay near Hauz Khas Village rather than staying in Paharganj (apparently backpacker’s mecca according to online blogs?). We ended up staying in The Visaya, very close to Hauz Khas - It was lovely. How often do you read that? I must have read thousands of reviews of hotels in India that sounded like horror stories. But no, our experience was very different. The hotel is modern and clean, the beds are comfortable, the Internet works, the hosts and attendants are very responsive and helpful, there’s a delicious Indian breakfast buffet - overall great! At first, we were worried about the location, because it was so far from many things we wanted to see, but this ended up not being an issue at all. The hotel is located in a quiet neighborhood, with no loud street vendors nor crazy motorcyclists. However, it’s very well connected to sites and attractions through the Metro, which worked out great for us.
Because of our short time there, we wanted to make our own plans and follow our own schedule in India. We avoided tours and instead did tons of research to be ready before arriving to Delhi. Honestly, it probably wasn’t the best way to go about doing it. As much as we tried to avoid it, the best way to see Delhi on a tight schedule might just be to hire a driver for a day and ask him to take you to all the sites you’d like to see. Then, you’ll have the rest of the time to go back and explore other areas on your own. You can hire drivers through your hotel, in tourist bureaus, or even by just taking to taxi drivers at the airport. They’re not tour guides, and many don’t speak English. They just take you where you need to go and wait patiently in the car while you check out the sites. It’s definitely not the way we’re used to travelling, but it did help to go with it in the end to see a lot of sites fairly quickly.
Other than hired drivers, there’s Uber which has recently been implemented. The drivers are very polite and professional, the cars are spacious and clean, and its super cheap compared to even the local taxis - a great way to get around if you can manage to find Internet!
The metro is also surprisingly modern and clean. It was very cheap as well (but cash only), and a great way to get around. Try to avoid rush hours… from what we saw, some stations can get pretty hectic at certain times.
Our Favorite Sites
There are soo many breathtaking monuments and landmarks in New Delhi & Agra. I would say my personal favorites were the Lodi Gardens, the Qutub Complex, and the Taj Mahal. Other sites we visited include the Red Fort (Lal Quila), Jama Masjid, Bahai (Lotus) Temple, the India Gate, Connaught Place, Chandni Chowk, Hauz Khas, and Khan Market.
The hustle-and-bustle is REAL.I'm still mesmerized by the madness we experienced in Delhi. It can get pretty crazy. But it’s absolutely fantastic. If you’ve ever been, you’ll understand. There’s people EVERYWHERE (mostly men to be honest) and the tuk-tuks, rickshaws, motorcycles, and cars rush by with speed, honking their way through. The smell of the street food mixed with incense and sandy dust from the street creates an atmosphere unlike any other. There’s a constant chatter of people as they buy and sell goods. It’s an experience that can either be exhilarating or terrifying… or a bit of both.
Either way, the streets fill with color everywhere. That was my favorite thing about India. The AMAZING COLORS everywhere. Women strolling around in beautiful orange and pink saris, spices and fried foods oozing with bright purples and greens I’ve never seen in food before, hand-done signage in bright yellow, red, and turquoise, it was magic.
The Search for Wi-Fi
It’s impossible. There’s no internet anywhere. We were very lucky to have internet in our Hotel, but it seems to be extremely difficult to find any cafés or restaurants (not even McDonalds had WiFi) that allow you to use WiFi. Some places do, but they require an Indian phone number. However, getting a phone number registered (or SIM card) apparently takes about 3 days to work… so we we’re out of luck there! Lack of connection did make traveling around a little bit more difficult, but we managed. Most people we ran into were very kind and eager to help us out. Overall though, if you’re planning on making a living off an internet-based job, maybe plan India as your vacation days and enjoy freedom from the web focusing your time elsewhere. If you’re upset you can’t instantly post a selfie on Facebook… India is probably not for you to begin with.
The Non-Crazy Side of Delhi
There were so many parts of Delhi we missed out on by only staying for such a short amount of time. Two cool non-crazy-hectic areas that we got to see were Khan Market and Hauz Khas Village. These areas are filled with cute (western-style?) shops, cafés, and restaurants with adorable rooftop bars. Definitely worth checking out to see a totally 180 degree view of New Delhi when compared to Chandi Chowk and Paharganj. Another great getaway from the wild side of Delhi is to take a nice stroll along the peaceful Lodi Gardens (they’re so beautiful, really!).