Delhi, India in 4.5 days: a personal story – Part One

Let’s be honest. Ragasthan is way nicer than Uttar Pradesh. I loved Jaipur, and especially Jodhpur, but what I saw of Agra and Delhi didn’t grab me in quite the same way. In fact, of the four cities I visited in Northern India over two weeks, Delhi was my least favourite.

The people didn’t smile like they did in Ragasthan. Delhi is huge and sprawling, so it took time to reach sites. Also, economic inequality seemed more prevalent in the tourist areas that attracted many beggars, and some beggars were quite aggressive approaching tourists.

I had read articles by other writers prior to my travel, and they often professed dislike for Delhi, but I wanted to experience it for myself and make up my own mind about it. In preparation for my visit, I had prepared a loose itinerary of sites, including temples, forts, palaces and markets that I really wanted to see. I was also eager to eat my way around the city. Here’s my story.

DAY ONE

I arrived into Delhi on the express train from Agra. I traveled with another solo traveller, Chrisie, originally from Germany, whom I had met in Agra three days prior. On arrival at New Delhi train station, I headed to Paharganj, located just behind the station. A wee bridge, filled with trash along the sidewalk, made crossing it difficult, however when I arrived at my hotel, the Su Shree Continental, I was delighted with my room. It was clean, well presented and the temperature was cool, although the room had no exterior window, and lunch on the hotel roof was a little boring as there was no view.

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Su Shree Continental hotel

 

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Late lunch: Aloo Gobhi (Potato curry with rice)

Soon, I discovered the winding allies and general touristiness of my local neighbourhood. I stumbled across a newly constructed guesthouse called the Jyoti Mahal. The architecture and furniture looked old, and was styled in a colonial Indian fashion. I snooped around, exploring the rooms, and enjoyed tea in the lobby area. The reception staff explained that their rates are usually around 2,000 rupees ($40) per night in off season, and 2,500 ($50) in peak season. If I revisit Delhi, I’d like to stay at this guesthouse.

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Jyoti Mahal

 

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Joyti Mahal
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Joyti Mahal

IMG_20170517_130214I meandered on, discovered a neat shop which sold bed coverings, and told the sales fella how to better display his items! Afterwards, I stumbled across Main Bazar Road, where I discovered cafes, silver jewelry shops, pretty craft shops selling leather items, local handmade bags, and basically, everything a tourist could be enticed by. After a nice walk, I returned to the Su Shree to sleep.

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Grocery bag souvenirs

DAY TWO

Qutub Minar, the archaeological site housing the tallest minaret in the world, was highest on my to-do list. After a late morning start, I headed to the Delhi Metro station as I discovered that the yellow line would take me directly to the Qutub Minar. I hopped onto a shared rickshaw which took me to the Delhi metro station for 10 rupees, and bought my metro ticket at the booth for about 20 rupees. The metro station was large, and the trains air-conditioned. The train carriages were full, and everyone was squished together, like packed trains in Seoul, S. Korea. While traveling, I read up on my destination, so I knew a little about the structures located there. When I emerged, I shared another rickshaw with tourists going between the station and the Qutub Minar site. Within the rickshaw, I met two young Indian girls who I’d bump into later.

The Qutub Minar entrance fee was 500 rupees (or $10), as seems to be the usual foreigner price in Northern India for entry to sites of this scale or fame. The site was filled with Islamic tombs, made from red-stone, sand stone and marble. The weather was hot, and while resting, I got chatting with a Afgani-Japanese couple.

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Qutb Minar

 

 

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Qutb Minar

Shortly thereafter, I left my bottled water on the ground while I took a photo, and meanwhile, a local child walking by with his family furiously kicked it over. I demanded that the child pick it up right away, and when he didn’t, the mother came back and picked it up. Seeing this, an Australian tourist, accompanied by her husband, expressed her approval of my admonishment of the child. I explained that I’m a teacher and deal with children all the time. She then explained she was also a teacher, and so we got chatting for twenty minutes about their travels. We were soon besieged by locals who asked to take photos with us. I replied that they could take one photo with me, but after that, I’d begin to charge. The couple found that funny, but the new Indian friends didn’t know what to make of me.

I had talked to the couple about experiencing diarrhea in Jaipur, and how I wasn’t even sure whether it was heat stroke or something I ate that caused it. They explained to me that over their numerous travels throughout Asia, they always take a supplement called Acidophilus. They said that this product taken daily whenever they travel helps balance their stomach acids and thus far, in combination with being careful to avoid unfamiliar bacteria, they have never fallen sick. Perhaps I’ll look into this supplement for my next travel adventure.

And then I bumped into the girls from the earlier rickshaw. I learned that Nandini was visiting her cousin Samia, who lived in Delhi. Nandini was quite the history student. We walked around taking photos together, and discussing Persian monarchs in India’s history.

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Samia (black trousers), myself and Nandini

 

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Qutb Minar: Smith’s Cupola

Finally, they invited me to join them in Sarojni Market, which was the next stop on their agenda. I had planned to go to Chadni Chowk market, but I wanted to see Sarojni too, so together, we headed to INA station, where we grabbed another shared rickshaw which brought us to Sarojni. To my surprise, the rickshaw driver piled four of us ladies into the back seat, and another next to him in the driver seat to maximize his profit. I was glad to be crammed alongside ladies, not fellas, and happy to be traveling local style, experiencing India as the locals do.

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Riding Delhi’s metro system!

At Sarojni market, Samia and Nandini weren’t messing around! They were serious shoppers. I wanted to hang out with them, just to enjoy the experience of hanging out with locals and learning about their culture, but after spending at least ten minutes watching them trying on watches and fifteen minutes rummaging through clothing in a shop, I excused myself so I could meander at my own, faster pace. Aside from shops with western clothing, I discovered lady’s ali baba pants that go under traditional suits, entire indoor market stalls of dedicated to saris, stores with shelves loaded with two piece suits, and a corner of the market where machinists tailored newly purchased suits for clients.

The best location was Mahendra Sweet House. I walked up to the counter, and a friendly manager helped me select a meal. I paid another fella at a cash register for a token equivalent to the meal price, and then submitted my token to receive my delicious dahl and rice lunch. Before leaving, I purchased some delicious local sweets! I got a spongy green sweet made from ghiya burfree (bottle gourd vegetable), and also a coconut sweet. I had these packaged up for a later snack.

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Sarojni market

 

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Dahl and rice at Mahendra, Sarojni market

I ate my sweets later that evening, on the corner of my street (DB Gupta Road) by Su Shree hotel. They were oily and delicious! There, I ordered a street chai tea, and sat with some local men on a make-shift seat beside the tea wagon. It was fun observing the tea specialist throwing spices into a boiling pan, and then after a couple of minutes, straining the tea into a small cup.

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Street chai tea, with delicious sweets from Mahendra

After tea and a quick stop by my hotel, I headed out to find postcards and food. I ended up in Krishna café, having been enticed by their pretty bags hanging outside their stepped doorway. I ordered a Paneer Butter Masala.IMG_20170502_225733

 

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Paneer butter masala

 

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Street view from Krishna café terrace

An older German fella, Winfried, asked if he could join me, and after listening to his adventures, as well as upcoming retirement plans, and intentions to do the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, he decided I was amazing, just what he was looking for, and if only he had met me earlier in his travels. It was an interesting evening.

Standby for the next blog, Delhi, Part Two.

 

Have you visited Delhi? What are your must see sites, or your experience of Paharganj? Please leave your comments below, like, share, and subscribe to my blog! Thanks for reading!

Keep learning!

 

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15 thoughts on “Delhi, India in 4.5 days: a personal story – Part One”

  1. I’ve only done Goa in India and from what you’ve written and the stories I’ve heard it’s a completely different experience from the rest of India. I can’t wait to visit Delhi. I know it wasn’t your favorite but like you said it’s a place to experience yourself and determine on your own. It’s great you ran into so many travelling companions despite being off on your own!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d love to visit Goa on my next trip to India… I’ve heard Goa is far more ‘western’, per se. And yes, i’m glad I bumped into friendly travellers, despite the low season. It really was slim pickings during April/May!

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  2. Oh the food! I wonder if its like walking a double edged sword – wanting to try it all but super cautiously. I’ve heard many people mentioning diarrhea while in India and taking a supplement or something similar should probably be better than just winging it. Also, I admire your solo travel and your outfit is super fun!

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    1. Yes, essentially, the rule of thumb for westerners is to only eat what is cooked, or that you can peal without washing. Actually, this rules soooo many things out, and the heat makes you crave all the fruits and local sugar drinks conveniently available in the local neighbourhoods. Exposure to unfamiliar bacteria is difficult to avoid. Thanks, btw 🙂

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  3. Those are some interesting places you visited. I’m kind of shocked that the entrance fee of Qutub Minar is so steep. I though that India would be cheaper. From a photography standpoint I am very interested in going to India, but the diarrhea and poverty stories hold me back from going.

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    1. I was also very surprised at the entry fees for the non Indian visitors to sites like the Delhi Fort. There are other places that are not so dear, but with my limited time, I had to prioritize what i’d most like to see. Regarding your last point, i’d say that India is well worth the visit, despite the diarrhea and poverty. The country is so rich in other ways. I’m already looking for my next flight back there.

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  4. Looks like you’re having an awesome trip, your pictures of the food look so delicious – making me hungry! But yes, I’ve heard a lot about people being sick whilst in India. We visited Delhi and I can relate to it not being the best city in India, so chaotic, but still something that is worth experiencing at least once!

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    1. Yes, I really love Indian food generally! And yes, I’m glad I at least experienced it. I suspect i’ll be going there again sometime soon, if only to fly into the country, and then head to Ragasthan or Veranasi.

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  5. I very much enjoyed this blog post and hearing your account of this Indian adventure! It’s refreshing to hear a candid discussion about which places lived up to expectations and where you most enjoyed yourself. I can’t wait to someday visit India and explore it extensively, but until then, I look forward to living vicariously through your stories.

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    1. Excellent! A few more candid stories coming! I’ve decided to present this blog series just the way it happened, with no real agenda other than to tell of my experiences and impressions.

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  6. Oh man, I totally echo your thoughts! I did a monthlong trip around India back in 2015 and Delhi and I had a rough time with one another. There were some beautiful places, don’t get me wrong, but certain interactions really marred my time there. My favorite part had to be the chai wallahs. We found a small chai stall in Paharganj that redeemed all the bad qualities. I wish I had known about Acidophilus this whole time I’ve been traveling around in Asia! Arghhhhhh!

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    1. Ahhhh…. yes, the interactions are mostly what seem to cause disappointment, I suppose. I think the unpleasant experiences just seemed heightened perhaps, because I travelled alone most of the time. Perhaps it’s time for me to grow a stronger backbone, if I intend to travel India alone for months sometime. I also loved the chai tea stops 🙂 Yes, Acidophilus… I intend to try it out next time.

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  7. As usual you have me intrigued and smiling throughout your blog!
    I loved the part about you needing to charge for photos! Hahaha!!
    Am just about to now read part 2!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha… yes… I said i’d charge for photos cause it all got too draining posing at everyone’s whim. Photo posing with the locals wore me out just before I arrived into Delhi, at Agra and specifically, the Taj Mahal and gardens opposite!

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  8. Acidophilus is a definite when travelling to new places. It is also good to take it prior to travels and actually, on a daily basis. It is really good for keeping gut flora healthy and is also found in yogurt 🙂

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