Trip to New Delhi, the capital of India
I took advantage of my vacation to fly to New Delhi and travel around India for 3 weeks. If I had a country to look forward to after 6 years in Asia this was India. Southeast Asian countries are all great but they have reasonable similarities and after several years in China I needed to see something totally different. The country of contrasts and colors seemed to be the ideal destination.
New Delhi, the capital of India, is the most populated city in the country and the fifth most populated in the world. The capital, unfortunately, also ranks first among the most polluted cities. It is estimated that pollution causes 10,000 premature deaths per year and has even exceeded the level considered acceptable by the World Health Organization by as much as twenty times.
Arrival at New Delhi airport
How to get from New Delhi airport to the city centre?
I traveled with two friends. From Kunming (Yunnan) to New Delhi it only takes 5 hours flight, so we were quite close. Just arriving at the airport of New Delhi, once we got rupees we went to the office of Prepaid Taxi. In that office you say where you want to go and pay the fare in advance.
You go outside the airport to look for the black taxi queue. You give the taxi driver the receipt for the journey and that’s it. Very easy and uncomplicated. This is a very useful service for those of you who don’t want to waste time negotiating a taxi or are afraid of being ripped off just to get there. Because, don’t worry, you’ll get ripped off sooner or later.
Is New Delhi worth visiting?
The amazing thing about New Delhi is that it’s a whole city of suburbs. Everything is too far away and everything is too equal. Maybe because of that and because of the pollution the capital of India is not a tourist city at all. Few people stay more than a day but we stayed two nights in Delhi taking advantage of the fact that I had a friend living there, in Great Kalaish, the residential area.
Although I didn’t expect much from Delhi, I have to admit that the capital surprised me. There are a lot of very well preserved old monuments, different types of temples, big bazaars and huge parks.
To move around the city the most comfortable thing to do is to use a tuc-tuc. If you are a few, it is also worth using the Ola application to order a taxi. It is ideal since you have the option to pay in cash.
What to see in New Delhi?
1. The Tomb of Humayun
The first thing we visited was the Tomb of Humayun. It’s a complex of buildings dedicated to Humayun, a former emperor of the Mughal Empire and considered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 1993. For the foreigners the entry is of 500 rupees (6 euros) and for the Indians 50 (60 cents).
Among the complex we find tombs and mosques of Moghul architecture, an ancient empire that existed between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries and covered most of the territories of present-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The tomb of Humayun, which dates from the 16th century, is considered the pioneer in the style of the Taj Mahal. Just seeing the tomb in the distance, with its symmetrical and imposing reddish structure, you know it was worth coming here.
2. The Chandni Chowk bazaar
Chandni Chowk is located in the old part of Delhi. Rather, it’s the heart of old Delhi and still beats strongly. It’s one of the oldest markets in the city. It is located right in front of the Red Fort and is characterized by its chaotic streets crowded with people.
Just arriving, you are practically thrown over by rickshaw drivers (lightweight two-wheeled vehicles pushed by a person on foot or on the pedals of a bicycle). They offer you a ride through the market while they guide you. The price for the ride is negotiable and the guiding function is included in exchange for a tip at the end of the ride.
They all speak perfect English and babble a little Spanish, French, German, Chinese… And any language they can use to attract customers. The price of their services is very cheap as they charge commissions for taking you to other shops during their walks.
We agreed to pay 500 rupees (6euros) for a two-hour rickshaw ride. After 30 minutes and not having gone more than 500 meters through the congested streets of Chandni Chowk we decided that it was better to get off and walk.
Walking the streets of Chandni Chowk
As you wander through its saturated streets, your senses try to get used to so much movement, so much noise and so many smells as you go around people, cars, motorbikes, bikes, cows…
You don’t have time to assimilate everything that’s going on around you. In the end, you just let yourself go. During the tour our friendly and knowledgeable guide warns us several times to watch out for pickpockets.
He takes us to a tea and spice shop where he shows us various blends that exist in India. He expects us to buy something to take a small commission and of course we end up buying some tea.
In this tangled market you can find everything: spices, nuts, clothes, jewelry, carpets, tapestries, religious ornaments, local delicacies, etc. And if that’s not enough, you can also stop and visit different types of temples, such as: Hindu, Buddhist, a Sikh temple, a Christian church, mosques…
3. The Khari Baoli Spice Market
We continue our journey to the Khari Baoli spice market, which is located inside the Chandni Chowk bazaar. Just entering we start coughing, our eyes sting and we have to cover our faces because of the dusty atmosphere surrounding the place.
We come across giant sacks of all kinds of spices, nuts, herbs and tea. Although it is a wholesale market where traders from all over Delhi come to buy, if you want, you can also buy small quantities.
We go up to the roof of one of the buildings and watch as Old Delhi slowly darkens. A few meters away we saw some monkeys prowling around the roofs looking for something to put in their mouths, and we took the opportunity to give them a couple of bananas that we carried.
With this first contact with the wild fauna of India we finish our route through the crazy market of Chandni Chowk and we go back home. In my opinion, if you go to Delhi, and want to see the most authentic India it is worth visiting this chaotic and labyrinthine market. Mind you, you might not want to come back once you’ve seen it.
4. Visit to the Lotus Temple
The next day we went to visit the Lotus Temple, the most modern temple I have seen so far. Built in 1986, it is characterized by its spectacular white structure in the shape of a lotus flower and for being a temple open to all religions. The entrance is free. Anyone can go to pray or meditate as long as they are respectful of other religions.
5. Hauz Khas, the “hipster quarter” of New Delhi
In the afternoon we went to a neighborhood called Hauz Khas, which is known as the “bohemian area of Delhi” or the “hipster neighborhood”. In this neighborhood there is a huge park with a lake and beautiful gardens where you can walk among tombs and old buildings in ruins.
There is also an area of bars and shops where you can go shopping or have a drink in the evening. If you are looking for a relaxed walk during the day or an atmosphere at night, this is the place for you.
From New Delhi to Agra
Our third day in India we left New Delhi for Agra to see the Taj Mahal. In my next article I will tell you about our experience visiting the most famous funeral monument in the world (with permission from the Pyramids of Egypt).
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Live like you’re going to die tomorrow, learn like you’re going to live forever.
– Mahatma Gandhi –