I’m not a K-Pop fan. But, I have a friend that is. Riley wanted to grab a new edition of EXO‘s newest release, and so we popped into SM Town‘s multi story building to pick up her stuff. Little did I know that I was about to embark on an adventure!
Before we could even enter the doors, Riley got distracted by a crowd of girls waiting around at an adjacent car park, and after plucking up the courage to ask fans who the hell we were ‘waiting’ for, we discovered that Red Velvet, a local girl band who were attending a signing event at SM Town, were expected to appear at any moment.
After waiting around for about fifteen minutes, Riley decided that since we didn’t know when they would appear, we could move on. We resumed our hunt for EXO’s “The War: Kokobop”.
We took the escalator up, and here, we found a hall with posters featuring bands managed and produced by SM Entertainment. After encountering some younger Korean ladies sprawled all over the floor in the hall, Riley explained to me that these girls had cards of pop idols that they wanted to trade. That explained why they had merchandise scattered around them. Essentially, when you buy merchandise like albums, they come with cards (like collectors baseball cards) featuring cute band members, and many girls have a favourite member. Often, girls receive cards that they’d prefer to trade for cards that feature their crush.
We stepped onto the brightly lit sales floor. The room was packed with mostly young women in their teens to mid twenties. A few boys were there too, mostly because they worked there, or were boyfriends waiting while their girls shopped.
Here, we found a large open area featuring all kinds of stuff: fancy record displays, live-sized cardboard cut-out pop stars, album displays, posters, tote bags, hats and clothing merchandise. There were even traditional style Korean items usually featured in museums on the display cases.
We got into a line up, and were handed a paper so Riley could mark down what she wished to purchase. At the paying counter, Riley handed over 45,000 won, and in return, received three albums. She explained that she was getting EXO’s The War: Kokobop version a, version b, and a private version, all sung in Korean and Mandarin. Apparently EXO pride market themselves as a band that release songs sung in various languages.
Happy with her purchase, which included poster gifts and trade-able cards, our adventure continued. We meandered up to the next floor, which opened up into another hall. It had a long, central display case of clothing used by band members while shooting videos that later became famous. There were many sexy posters featuring SM’s bands dotting the walls, and plenty more girls sitting on the floor displaying their pop idol cards. The environment itself gave a feeling of close accessibility to the stars, and this presumably, is why so many fans flock to this venue.
Riley explained to me that SM invites clients to experience various degrees of feeling like a star, by offering services like recording a video at their studio, for around 200,000 won (approximately $200 US).
At the end of the hall, was another large room named the SUM Cafe. It was filled with hundreds of girls sitting around tables, displaying their idol cards that they hoped to swap. There was a section dedicated to K-pop food, including tea and snacks, and there was a very long cafe counter, displaying macaroons and other delicious delights to entertain the fans that wile away their time with other like-minded girls.
Marilyn Monroe hair (fan blowing behind me)
My favourite feature was the ceiling lamps which had many idol cards hanging down. The arrangement reminded me of tree-like chandeliers. Everywhere I looked, fans were comparing and admiring cards. Signatures from the SM stars were applied to the backs of chairs and table surfaces. Girls played video games. Riley explained that these games were based on reactions to rhythm, and were designed by some of the pop idols themselves.
Leaving the room, we were about to go to the top floor, which Riley described as the best floor of the three because it contained handprints from EXO and other bands, and fans could place their hands within the handprints of their favourite stars. Unfortunately, the top floor was temporarily blocked off to the public because of the Red Velvet signing event, which presumably was taking place upstairs. I agreed to visit again with Riley as I would like to see the third floor displays.
Overall, the experience was fascinating to me. The entire building seemed like a sacred space for these fans, and I felt like an undercover alien discovering a young female ecosystem. It was fascinating, and I have every intention to return, if only to explore the treasures closest to heaven: the top floor.
Shout out to Riley Haslett, K-pop expat consultant and specialist.
What do you find interesting about the K-pop culture in Korea? Have you visited SM Town or any production studios that you would recommend experiencing?
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Standby for my follow-up blog: my SM visit to the top floor!
I had dreamed of visiting India since adolescence. The thing was, I had also heard that India is the pinnacle of challenging backpacking and that had made we weary, especially as a single female traveller. Interestingly, this made me even more determined. Apparently, if you can backpack in India, you can backpack anywhere.
I hadn’t been ready to handle the challenge of India for a long time. Two years ago, I travelled Thailand for a month with my friend Beth (see her blogsite, Empanada Girl), and we encountered several challenges. These included encountering scams, being treated like dollar signs, and nearly knocking myself out walking into a protruding chunk of concrete overhanging a side-walk.
Beth at Wat Phra Kaew, Grand Palace
With Beth in Bangkok
After a later emotional meltdown in Saigon Vietnam due to travel fatigue and feeling overwhelmed from different expectations about my physical safety, I decided that I definitely was not ready for India. My frustration and temperament was not in the right place.
But this Spring, something changed. I had changed, and I felt ready to visit this mystical country, and even do so on my own. I booked my ticket, and on April 22nd, 2017, I landed in India for the first time.
I arrived into Delhi international airport, and after changing American dollars for Indian rupees, I got my passport stamped at the e-visa immigration counters and exited the airport.
The 7pm hot Delhi air hit me immediately. Indian families were waiting outside the airport doors as only travelers were allowed inside. I needed to get to Delhi Cantt train station to get my overnight air-conditioned train to Jodhpur. Taxi drivers approached me immediately, trying to get my business, but I made a beeline for the Police Taxi yellow building in front of the airport. There, I encountered a bunch of men all trying to talk to the teller, and after some skillful and assertive maneuvering, I paid about 300 rupees to a tired looking man in a booth. He issued me a receipt, and waved me in the direction of the nearby rickshaw taxis. I was relieved to avoid haggling with the regular rickshaw and taxi drivers by using this regulated, prepaid service.
I ended up sharing a rickshaw with an education profesor who praised me for traveling to his country. Within minutes of arriving, I was so happy with my decision to visit, and for the immediate validation for having the balls and curiosity to learn about this country. We had a lot to talk about as we both work in similar fields. He emphasized the demand for English teachers to work in India and encouraged me to consider working in India someday. After a pleasant twenty minute conversation swerving through Delhi night traffic, the driver dropped me off at Cantt station.
I hung out at Delhi Cantt for about 3 hours, as my 9:45pm train was running a little late. I met friendly people on the platform, including a Jehovah’s witness fella. I must have asked at least five sets of people, who incrementally directed me to exactly where to stand to board coach 3, where the air conditioning section of the train would stop. My friend Jay who lives in Jodhpur and works for the local rail system was sending my pre-booked ticket along with coach employees and these employees were expecting me to rendezvous at coach 3. Also, the train would only stop for a minute, so i’d have to board quickly.
When the train arrived, there was a scramble to get on. Jay’s employee, coach attendant Rajanish, was not evident at first. I furiously looked around as I had a photo of him to identify him. Another fella pointed out Rajanish, who was distracted with his work duties. I hopped onto the train before it pulled away, and when the train did pull away, Rajanish had to run to get up onto the coach. He gave me a ticket, and directed me to an upper berth spot where I could hide away for the next 10 hours.
The upper berth required some agility to climb onto. I brought my small osprey backpack up with me as I didn’t have a lock and chain to anchor it to the luggage holding area by the doors. The coach attendants provided bed sheets and a pillow, and there was a net support to place my water bottle inside.
People came and went below me, and eventually, as we approached Jodhpur the following morning, I began talking to the people around me. There seemed to be a lot of couples and families traveling together. The men could often speak English, but these women only spoke local languages and Hindi. We hung out while I admired bichudi, ringed toes that signify that a woman is married. Before I knew it, we had stopped and Jay was already in my coach, looking for me!
Two berth air con. coach
With new friends
I gave Jay a big hug and said goodbye to my new coach friends. Jay asked about my trip, and then we slowly headed toward his motorbike, stopping along the way to make appointments with some of his employees. We passed some of the train cleaning staff, ladies in yellow saris who all looked adorable. They kept smiling at me and one lady kept trying to talk to me while Jay was distracted, conversing with employees.
Around 8am, we were speeding through the streets of Jodhpur on Jay’s motorbike, wind in my hair and wearing a light backpack. It was my first experience of the famous Indian traffic that I had only seen on TV. Here, the local vehicles were mostly motorbikes and rickshaws, and Ragasthan, I noticed, was quite sandy. It was frankly, exhilarating. My eyes were like sponges, soaking up every little thing about this new world I had been suddenly transported to.
We passed through the famous Ghantaghar clock tower, just as it began to chime at 9 on the hour. The ground was all cobble stones, and Sadar market was beginning to stir, as it was still early in the morning. I recognized this area from all my previous research and it was thrilling to see with my own eyes.
The first thing we did was head up to LG Paying Guesthouse, a wonderful place which I found through booking.com. On arrival, I discovered that Jay had visited the owner, Jitendva, a day prior to scope out the accommodation. The owner was welcoming, kind and attentive. The guesthouse was located on the side of the Mehrangarh Fort mountain, so the steps were all steep and deep. His family lived on the first floor, while the guests lived above them. The newly renovated area included a central courtyard with a great neighbourhood view, and an enclosed patio which made a nice spot to take tea and breakfast. The guest rooms all branched off of these central spaces.
We snooped around the property, and I admired my new room for the next three nights which had sexy Indian images painted on the walls. The room and bathroom was clean, and included towel and toilet paper, which I later discovered was something of a luxury in Indian guesthouses and hostels. We enjoyed a chai tea on the patio before I freshened up.
Jay and I headed directly to a local restaurant down the mountain to find breakfast. We had paneer with tea as the day quickly warmed up. We were joined by Jay’s acquaintance, Manish who would guide us around Jodhpur. Jay explained that he himself had lived in Jodhpur for four months, and this was his first opportunity to be a tourist in this city.
We were soon joined by Jay’s employee, Varun, and together, we headed to Mehrangarh Fort. After cramming my stuff into my camera bag because security demanded that I could not bring my plastic bag with me into the grounds, I paid the entry fee (500 rupees) plus a fee for bringing a camera. Jay, Manish and Varun, as Indians, paid a significantly smaller entrance fee.
We encountered massive metal entrance gates with protruding spikes to impale elephants if enemies tried to use elephants in warfare attacks. We wandered into restoration projects undertaken by foreigners and locals. The museum displayed chair carriages carried by slaves to transport monarchs, as well as elaborately decorated hookahs and other interesting royal items.
Imepdiments to elephant attacks
Caught Jay in a nice spot!
We also encountered courtyards made from marble, and gorgeous architectural designs. The view of the colonial cannons poised on the fortress walls overlooking the city was one of my favourites. Elements of detailing on the walls reminded me of the Moorish Muslim palace in Spain, Al Alhambra.
Interestingly, Indian boys and girls there wanted to take photos with me. I had read about this peculiar custom while researching ahead of my trip, so I expected this would happen. A group of boys asked Jay’s friends if they could take a photo with me, to which they replied, no. I found the situation hilariously funny, although somewhat sexist since they boys didn’t ask me personally. It appeared to be a respect thing, since it seemed I was traveling with an entourage of Indian men. Some of the locals were extremely attractive, with light eyes and gorgeous faces. I was having a splendid time!
The day was very hot, possibly 41 degrees Celsius, so we stopped off at an onsite café to have a refreshing Kingfisher beer. The café had a roof, but the front was completely open, much like a terrace. We were surrounded by paintings of Indian monarchs, and we watched the passers-by while we rested. The waiter had a huge maharaja mustache, and I noticed that many of the staff at the fort, as well as staff at other tourist sites I would later visit donned these huge, impressive mustaches!
Before leaving, we stopped by the gift shop as I wanted to pick up some postcards. Printed images on paper and fabric seemed plentiful, and some of these could fetch a pretty penny! They featured scenes from familiar Hindu stories. I have no place back home to hang these larger beautiful prints, so I contented myself with admiring the images, and buying small postcards instead.
On our way out, we passed a very large and famous Hindu temple. Jay explained that he didn’t want to visit it, so we skipped it and headed out. It was also exhaustingly hot, but if I visit Jodhpur again, I would like to see it.
Despite the heat of the lunchtime sun, we speed off to visit the Jaswant Thada(white) mausoleum. It was located about half a kilometer from the fort, so it was a quick motorbike ride over. The grounds had a lush green park, and after walking around a pavilion, we took some photos on the red brick steps which directed guests to the main mausoleum entrance. The interior appeared to be one huge room with ornate architectural features. Many portraits of deceased maharajas were displayed.
Funnily enough, Manish suddenly ‘became’ my tour guide, repeating the information on the wall painting descriptions for me, which I could plainly read for myself. Perhaps he was practicing his tour guide skills for a future job. The interior was cool and airy, and was a huge relief to be out of the unrelenting heat.
Outside, we took photos of the exterior features of the white marble architecture. I wanted to photograph everything, but settled on a handful of pictures. We returned to Jay, who had waited in the gardens because he refused to go into temples. His sister passed away recently, and he just didn’t want to be in spiritual places.
Soon, we were on our way to downtown Jodhpur. The fellas all had motorbikes, and I was paired with Jay. Often, we rode in formation, one after the other, but other times, we rode side by side while the fellas slowed on the winding dust roads to chat about directions. It was incredibly amusing and fun. Jay later told me that he had reduced his speed to make sure I felt comfortable and safe riding with him. I thanked him for that. I truly enjoyed riding around together, although every morning, It was a struggle to wash the sand out of my hair.
We went to dinner early, possibly around 5pm, because we had skipped lunch. The restaurant complex named Neralidani contained a downstairs bar, which Jay told me was full of drunks and we needed to avoid. We went upstairs, to a massive, banquet style hall where we four were the only guests. Below on the lawn, the staff were setting up to receive a wedding reception.
I cannot remember what we ordered at the restaurant. Only that the tables were so large that we were seated quite far apart, and also the air conditioner was blowing so hard that we played musical chairs to evade it. Jay explained that the restaurant was very popular, and that later in the evening, the entire restaurant would be packed.
After saying goodbye to Manish and Varun, we sped up toward my guesthouse. Since it was located near the top of a mountain, the paths were uphill, narrow, dusty and winding. At some point during our day, en route to my hotel (I forget the time sequence), we encountered a celebration procession of party-goers walking downhill, and we had to stop to wait for them to pass.
All the Ragasthani party women were wearing colourful, traditional clothing, and they seemed to be balancing dishes of food or gifts on their heads. Some were beating drums and playing music, and everyone was smiling and happy. Jay and I just sat on his bike, staring, as they slowly sauntered by. The colourful sights, the delicious cooked food aromas and the accompanying music made for an intoxicating sensory experience.
As if that wasn’t enough, once we resumed heading up into the mountain, passing local goats lingering outside their owners’ entranceways, Jay exclaimed, holy shit! We encountered two huge cows, and one of them was completely blocking our narrow path. We had to wait as we slowly inched forward, while the cow took her sweet time to swivel around. By the time we arrived at the guesthouse, I was so enamoured by my surroundings.
I have travelled to many places, and seen many things. This first day in Jodhpur showed me things I’ve never seen or experienced before. This first day turned out to possibly be the most exciting day of my life so far.
Jay and I agreed to meet the following morning, and I headed up to my guesthouse terrace. There, I chatted with a Korean couple and the guesthouse owner intermittently. Before heading to my sexily decorated room, I snapped some photos of the local neighbourhood at night and marvelled at the grand fortress, touring above the guesthouse. What an amazing place to experience!
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This was my first trip to both Delhi, and India, and thus far, I had found Delhi huge, overwhelming, the people seemed less happy (and less friendly) than in other parts of India. This is the conclusion of a three part series. In Part Two, I tell the story of meeting Ravi from Jaipur, and traveling around Delhi together, visiting Delhi Fort and Chadni Chowk market, an unpleasant encounter with an unscrupulous cycle rickshaw driver, and finally, a visit to India Gate.
I awoke in my hotel, the Su Shree Continental in Paharganj, to find out that my ex boyfriend, Wayne, had passed away earlier that week. My friend Van who was a mutual friend of ours messaged me from Vancouver to see if I was okay, however she didn’t realize that I actually didn’t know the news yet.
Wayne and I had not remained in communication over the last year and a half since our breakup, so I initially wasn’t sure how to learn more about what happened. I have severed almost every tie between us. I found some information online which confirmed Van’s news. At this time, I felt deflated and down, and all kinds of things were running though my mind. During the period of our excommunication, I had felt angry with him, but now, I didn’t know how to feel. I also noticed that the buddist service for Wayne put his age at 59, which was very confusing for me as he had always told me that he was about ten years younger.
I stewed all morning, experiencing conflicting emotions. I’ve never lost a former partner before. Eventually got myself going in the early afternoon. I headed south, toward Janpath lane and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, which actually turned out to be my favourite location in all Delhi. I wanted to see Connaught Place en route, and started walking in that direction. A cycle rickshaw picked me up en route and since Gurudwara would be the easiest place for his rickshaw to access, he took me there. I only saw the back of Connaught Place after all.
On entering Gurudwara Sikh temple I could hear prayers sung out from the overhead speakers attached to the main central building. I had to first leave my shoes with fellas in the lower level for safekeeping. Barefoot, I headed upstairs, waded through a little pool of water that presumably purified my feet, and then I was free to wander the grounds. The entire complex appeared to be built on a platform raised above street level.
I headed to the right, where a huge square pool of water glistened against the white temple. I walked around the large pool, and watched boys wade into the pool. Later, I saw a Sikh pool guard beat misbehaving boys with a string when they exited the pool. Public corporal punishment seems normal here, I suppose. I stopped there for a while, and recorded a videowhile a heron meandered in the pool.
I recorded a second videobefore leaving the premises, to show off the central courtyard where most of the action was taking place. I have never experienced a religious location quite like this. Gurudwara was an oasis in the mist of chaotic Delhi, and I really needed this peaceful alone time to reflect and rest.
On my way out, a friendly and charming guy started talking to me. Before long, I found out that he was a rickshaw driver, looked to drive me to my next destination. I agreed as I wanted to get to nearby Janpath Lane, however I never imagined that it’d take him almost two hours to get me there.
The rickshaw driver somehow convinced me to visit a nearby bazar en route to our destination, which apparently had ‘much better prices’ than Janpath market. It turned out that the bazar was largely aimed at settled tourists, who owned homes and had room to put all the heavy and pricy souvenirs. I, on the other hand, was traveling backpacker style and currently have no permanent home. This bazar was not for me! I returned to my driver annoyed because he had clearly misled me.
While halted at a traffic stop, kids approached, begging me for money. I gave them cookies I had in my bag. Once again en route to Janpath, the driver convinced me again to visit another Bazar, which he explained was an attempt for him to receive vouchers for gas. I agreed to the detour once again, but I was beginning to get impatient. We made a pit stop at the bazar so my driver could get his damn gas vouchers. That entailed me walking around the bazar looking like a genuine customer who intended to buy lots of luxurious items for a home that I don’t own yet.
When I returned to the rickshaw, I demanded that we go directly to Janpath, which was actually not far from Gurudwara, but I was now angry that I was wasting my last full day in Delhi doing what my driver was persuading me to do.
Finally, as I was about to pay him, he declared he had no change from my larger money dominations, and then hinting that I could pay him more, suggested I should pay him what I thought the trip was worth. I was so annoyed that he had wasted my precious time that I decided against tipping him, and with help from another rickshaw driver who broke up my larger bill, I paid my driver exactly what we had agreed at the outset. I was relieved to enter Janpath and be clear of that driver who I had initially trusted. I felt annoyed that I had to verbally battle with him just to go where I had intended.
Thankfully, Janpath was worth the long detour. The market was compact, short and had vendors selling clothing, costume jewelry, shoes, and belts. Sellers approached me trying to sell me board games, wooden pipes and other wacky items.
I spied a stall that had many pretty Gujarat handbags, and so I chatted with the owner for a while. I picked up some pretty local earrings from other vendors, and then exited the market, hoping to find Little Tibet market, located nearby.
As I approached Little Tibet, I noticed that shops suddenly became very western, and their prices did too. I was advised by shop owners en route that Little Tibet usually closed around 7pm, and by now, it was already 8pm. I began to feel that the area was in fact a pit stop for wealthy western ‘hippies’, and this was really not what I had in mind. I was actually on a mission to find local incense. I stopped by a store to pick up Delhi candy for my students back in Korea, and also purchased a couple of embroidered fabric pieces from a very grateful street vendor who had her wears displayed on the sidewalk. When I stumbled across Patel Chowk station, I decided to just head back to Paharganj. That night, I ate at a local restaurant in the sketchy alleys near my hotel. I hardly remember a thing about it, so I must have been very tired!
My flight was in the evening, so I had the whole morning and part of the afternoon before I headed to Delhi international airport. My flight was at 7:40pm, so I figured I’d leave Paharganj around 3pm. After packing and extending my check out time with my hotel, I stumbled across a local restaurant and ordered palak paneer (mashed potato and cheese sandwiched between hot roti bread) and a mango lassi.
While I waited for my food, more hungry customers arrived. I noticed a man dressed in rags, who seemed to have something wrong with his legs sitting on the sidewalk across the street. I thought how strange it was, for all the customers within to be staring at this man, while we ate and he looked so thin. When my breakfast arrived, I darted quickly across the street with a piece of my breakfast and the remaining water in my water bottle. He looked super happy as I gave him this small gift, and afterwards, I darted back to my table at the restaurant, to reflect on the wealth disparity between the Indian guests staying at my hotel, and the local poor.
Around the corner, I stopped for a sugar cane and lime refreshing beverage, before heading to Main Bazar Road where I intended to spend my last few hours before leaving India. The tiny alleys toward Main Bazar Road were poorly maintained which made wearing sandals a little challenging. I was surprised every time though, when I wondered into a cow on the street.
Main Bazar Road
I initially wanted to find a post office, so I could send three postcards, but this took me quite a while to find as there were no clear identifying signs above the post office. I must have asked at least five people before I eventually found it. It opened at 10am, so because I arrived too early, I decided to return later.
I headed to nearby Krishna café to check out their pretty embroidered Gujarat handbags that I had noticed on my previous visit. They were all too large for my taste, so I just stopped for tea. I ended up striking a conversation with a Japanese man sitting beside me, and he told me about his crazy schedule, visiting multiple locations in India, all within the space of a week. He explained that this was his eighth trip to India, and he was visiting many sites because in Japan, employees get short vacation breaks, and he was making the best of his time away from work.
After tea, I headed back to the post office. I poked my head through an entrance on the right, and headed up a narrow staircase, entered a small courtyard, and within one of the rooms lay the post office. The clerks were friendly, and postage, cheap. I was happy to successfully send my postcards!
spot the post office…
The next few hours were a shopping blur. I looked at afgani pants, cushions, wall hangings and backpacks. Eventually, I found myself in a small shoe store, Meenu Traders (1045-46 Main Basar Road), and chatted with the chatty owner, Mr. Manchanda, and eventually bought a pair of colourful leather sandals ( around 400 rupees) that fit me well. I’m apparently an Indian shoe-size 10! The store reminded me of the charming shoe shop I visited in Jodhpur a week earlier.
I decided by now that local restaurants served better quality food, their prices were local (unlike many of the tourist restaurants along Main Bazar Road) and I felt good about supporting the local businesses. I ordered a Thali at the entrance.
The restaurant upstairs-seating opened up into the street, and as my food arrived, some fella started splitting coal on the sidewalk pavement outside. As a result, I breathed in some of the dust that floated up toward me, and I found it interesting that it seemed that many here just didn’t know about the hazards of air pollution. Perhaps one of the benefits of attending tourist restaurants was that guests didn’t receive a complimentary side of coal dust with their birianis.
spot the charcoal hacking?
Thali with roti and rice
I made one last pit stop at a jewelers who specialized in silver. I had come across The Ornaments on my first day staying in Paharganj, and had seen a ring I liked. The owner, Raja, had given me his card so I’d find him again. I tracked him down at 1549 Main Bazar Road, and Raja explained that he designs jewelry. I purchased the same silver ring I had seen earlier, which had a dark African amethyst stone in the center. I paid just over 700 rupees for it and felt ecstatic to have landed this beautiful piece of jewelry.
Two memorable things happened while en route to the airport. Firstly, as usual, I grabbed a shared rickshaw from DB Gupta road across the big bridge to the Delhi metro station. I ended up sharing a rickshaw with a fella that in fact was going to another nearby train station. I wouldn’t have mounted the rickshaw but the driver led me to believe he was headed to Delhi metro. So, the driver let me dismount, to haggle with alternate drivers who were driving over the busy bridge. The weather was hot, and I was wearing a heavy backpack, but thankfully, a rickshaw driver soon stopped to see if he could pick up my fare. I hopped on, and all worked out.
At Delhi metro station, I discovered that I needed to locate the actual airport express line station, which was adjacent to the regular metro station. The ticket counter guy was ambiguous about exactly where the airport metro station was located, but a kind Indian fella in the queue approached me and explained that I had to head toward exit 4, where I would find the correct building and ticket booth to travel to the airport. I was pretty grateful for this guy’s help, and two minutes later, after emerging from the metro building and crossing the street, I entered the airport express metro station.
My 60 rupee one way ticket to the airport was cheap, as the airport was only about five stops away. I got to the airport within half an hour. The train was clean, had plenty of seating, and the train journey couldn’t have been smoother.
I arrived at the airport, furnished my paper airline itinerary to gain entrance, and had plenty of time to kill. The airport was a delight, with pretty shops in the Duty Free area and plenty of seating. My last little stint of time at the airport quickly evaporated, and before I knew it, I was on a plane headed home. Till next time, India!
Have you visited Delhi, or intend to visit? Please share your surprise experiences or future plans in the comments below. Please click the like button, and share!Thanks for reading.
My first ever trip to Delhi was the least favourite part of my India trip, however, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. In the latter half of my stay in Delhi, I encountered the most challenging and interesting situations, hands down. The following story picks up where Delhi, Part One, left off.
I had stayed in contact with Ravi, the manager of the guesthouse I had stayed at in Jaipur. He was visiting Delhi, so we decided to be tourists together, and visit the Red Fort and the famous India Gate.
My foreigner ticket to enter Delhi’s UNESCO heritage Red Fort cost 500 rupees, while locals paid 30 rupees. Foreigners and Indians were separated into different lines, each with different prices paid for entry tickets. While my line to get in was short, Ravi’s was long.
We were funneled through a picturesque walkway entrance, flanked by souvenir shops which opened up into the fort grounds. The entrance has a museum above, the Indian War Memorial, which Ravi and I visited on our way out. We immediately went to the colonnaded audience hall where the king received guests and heard their petitions. I sneakily listened to a nearby tour guide who was instructing her group in Italian. Her group, it seemed, could hardly hear what she was saying or were too busy taking photos to care.
We meandered through the grounds, encountering pretty bath houses, rooms and gardens. Some marble structures were very ornate and gorgeous to photograph, however most of them seemed neglected and were sectioned off, preventing visitors from accessing them. Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur, I thought, seemed significantly better maintained!
Returning to the entrance gate, we headed up the narrow stair case to the Indian War Memorial Museum. The museum was packed, and we were fascinated by the colonial rifles, revolvers, swords and other weapons used by Indians to help the British during the First World War.
Chadni Chowk, the famous massive market, was close by, so exiting the Red Fort, we headed in that direction. A cyclist rickshaw encountered us, and agreed to take us there for 50 rupees. Actually, the minute we hopped onto his rickshaw, we were already within the market as it was only across the street.
I wanted to see Jame Masjid, so he took us through the market up to the mosque so we could take photos there! It was lunch time, so since Karim’s restaurant was nearby, we decided to end our little tour there. The cyclist convinced us to continue with his services for 100 rupees total, with the agreement that he’d resume the market tour after we ate.
Karim’s looked exactly like the photos and videos I had seen from vlogs on the internet, however the restaurant complex was larger than I had expected! In addition to the kitchens, there was a vegetarian restaurant section, and several buildings for client dining. We ordered a mutton stew, dahl (lentils), rice and roti (local bread). The dining environment was casual and laidback and many local families appeared to frequent this restaurant.
As we stepped out of Karim’s, the cycle rickshaw fella waved us over, and we hopped back onto his seat for our tour of Chadni Chowk. We recorded a video while admiring the saris and clothing embellishments as we slowly progressed through narrow market lanes.
A most curious thing happened when I wanted to pay. Firstly, the rickshaw driver assumed that Ravi was not a friend, but a tour guide. When I went to pay, the cyclist driver began screaming and shouting that we had agreed to 500 rupees payment, and that I was cheating him. In my previous experience, I paid about 500 rupees to have a rickshaw driver’s service for about 5 hours, driving me between tourist destinations which were considerably far apart, so I was surprised at this cycle rickshaw guy. His loud performance drew a crowd around us and made the situation into a spectacle.
Ravi talked to him calmly, while the guy screamed and shouted. The situation made me feel frustrated because I knew this fella was doing this because I’m a white foreigner, and I was embarrassed because about twenty Indian men were all gathered around in a circle, which gave this guy an audience and seemed to validate his accusations directed at me. Also, I felt that if Ravi hadn’t been there, the rickshaw guy would never had behaved like this toward me alone.
I threatened that we’d call the police, and have them intervene, and Ravi, to my surprise, called them up immediately. He spoke to them, and then placed the shouting fella on the phone with them. Ravi later told me that the policeman had told the guy to calm down and accept the payment agreed at the beginning. This didn’t seem to have any effect.
While the guy continued shouting, Ravi and other random men approached me, saying, why don’t you just give the driver half of what he is asking. I felt somewhat ganged up on. I retorted to the driver that his dishonesty makes me feel like never returning to Delhi with my tourist money, and he retorted something (apparently vulgar) in Hindi to me. Ravi became very angry at what the cyclist had said to me, and suddenly shouted at the rickshaw driver. The driver suddenly seemed to calm down, and I finally paid the him double of what we had initially agreed. I walked away feeling frustrated and disappointed.
We then meandered through Chadni Chowk, and I picked up some delicious local cakes. I still felt shaken up by the drama from the cycle rickshaw guy. We cautiously grabbed another rickshaw, and headed out to India Gate.
The gate towers in the center of a plaza, and Indian tourists, particularly families, crowded around, taking selfies, while sellers approached tourists with all kinds of random knick knacks. We began walking toward the president’s house, and after resting on the grass that flanked the walkway, we decided to abandon the walk and get dinner instead.
We grabbed a rickshaw that dropped us off at restaurant in Paharganj. We ordered overpriced, mediocre Indian fare, ate and parted ways.
Stand by for Part Three.
What was your experience of Delhi? Have you visited the Red Fort, Chadni Chowk, Karim’s restaurant or India Gate and had similar experiences? What about these locations inspire you to visit Delhi?
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I’m totally down if you wanna eat at the new Korean restaurant, but you can order for us cause your Korean’s much better than mine, and I’m not even sure what all that stuff is on the menu.
Does this sound familiar? Korea has been my home for over two years, and yet, I still get anxious if I go to an unfamiliar restaurant and order from a new menu. This is especially true when the restaurant staff look busy, I feel that the staff will have little patience with me, and the menu is exclusively in Korean. I can read Korean, but I often let Korean friends both decide what we eat and communicate our order. But I’m fed up of being dependent on others. I need to finally learn how to recognize meals, and communicate basic orders with confidence.
On my quest for enlightenment, I’ve enlisted the help of foodie experts and local Koreans, all of whom know a ton more about Korean food and language than I do. Together, we present Korean grilled meals (cooked before you), meals brought to your table, useful words and phrases, and our personal favourites you must try! A big thank you goes out to Buyeon Kim who translated much of our menu list into hangul so that readers of Korean can identify these meals on street posters and menus.
Rather than attempt a comprehensive list of Korean meals, this is a simple guide, designed for tourists and expats. Hopefully, we’ll introducesome new Korean delights to your pallet. Many delicious meals are not included here. Without further ado, let’s delve right in!
Dduck bbokki(떡볶이) is an incredibly popular street food among local Koreans. Servings are made from thin, long rice cakes drenched in red sauce, and take-out portions are usually around 2,000 won. As a child growing up in Korea, I always dropped by a local restaurant en route home, and picked up dduck bokki. Today, I still love this tasty snack. Dduck bokki is available at pretty much every Korean market, however, you can also make it yourself. Bring water to the boil, add pre-purchased rice cakes, heat and drain. Add red pepper paste to add spice and flavour, and a little sugar or soda pop to sweeten. Stir in sliced green onions and allow flavour to soak into the rice cakes and enrich their flavour. Enjoy! By Buyeon Kim
OUR MOST POPULAR MEALS COOKED ON A GRILL AT YOUR TABLE
Bulgogi (불고기) 8,000-32,000 won (per person)
Origogi (오리 고기) smoked duck meat on the grill, 10,000 won (per person)
Samgyeopsal (삼겹살) prices based on cut of meat; 6,000-12,000 won (per person)
I’m always up for Samgyupsal (삼겹살 6,000-12,000 won per serving ) pork belly barbeque. The pork must have a perfect ratio of lean meat to fat, and the side accompaniments play an important role. Samgyopsal is usually served with greens (lettuce, kale, sesame leaves, beet greens, and others) used to wrap the meat and side dishes (banchan 반찬). Fire sources are charcoal or gas, and the hardware is often a grill, stone slab or iron pot lids. The iron pot lid have a large surface area which often hold onions, mushrooms, sour kimchi, sliced garlic, spicy bean sprouts, and of course, the pork belly. The meat and trimmings are traditionally eaten first. Round two entails servings of rice and a hot pot of soybean soup called Dwenjangjjigae (된장찌개). If you have room for round three, Bimbim Nengmyun (비빔냉면), cold, spicy noodles, or Mul Nengmyun (물냉면), cold, brothy noodles are recommended if you are particularly hungry! This makes the perfect meal. By Ji-Young Kim
Galmehgisal (갈매기살) 7,000-10,000 won (per person)
My favourite Korean meal is a type of Korean grilled Samgyopsal called Galmaekisal (갈매기살). I enjoyed this dish with Buyeon at a chain restaurant in Hongdae, Seoul, and the price was around 10,000 won per person. The grilled pork is cooked on a circular table grill accompanied by an omelette. The omelette cooks around the perimeter of the grilling dish. We also ordered a salty, soybean soup which complemented the meal very well. The galmaekisal cut of meat is one of the most tasty cuts I’ve ever tried. Also, making the omelette is a lot of fun because you get to distribute little vegetables, provided in a side dish, into the circular grill mold where the omelette cooks. Then you add the prepared egg mixture by pouring it over your vegetables. This meal is so much fun both to cook and to eat!” By Natasha Banky
Moksal (목살)leaner cut of grill meat, 6,000-14,000 (per person)
Deung Galbi (등갈비) 9,000-25,000 won (per person)
Gopchang (곱창) 7,000 won-15,000 won (per person)
SengSun Guwee (생선구이) 6,000won-40,000 won (mixed platter)
Jang-Uh Guwee (장어구이) 7,000won-50,000 won (mixed platter)
Chadolbagi (차돌박이) 10,000-25,000 won (per person)
Haemul gui (해물구이) fresh steamed or grilled seafood available at waterfronts and port towns; 25,000-90,000 (mixed platter)
Dakgalbi (닭갈비) 8,000-13,000 won (per person)
My favorite Korean food has to be Dalkgalbi (닭갈비 – 8,000-13,000 won per person)! It is an amazing combination of shredded chicken, rice cakes, cabbage, onion, pepper and red pepper paste, fried on a grill over an open fire in the center of a table. It is great accompanied by beer mekju (맥주) or rice wine makkeoli (막걸리). You can choose how spicy you want your platter, from #1 being the lowest, to #5 being super spicy. I usually request spice level #2 or #3 to help bring out the flavor of the dish. Usually, it is served with lettuce, cabbage and perilla leaves to wrap the chicken mixture in. Of course, there is always the usual banchan (side dishes) including kimchi, salad bean sprouts, and garlic that accompany the dish as well. Finally, there is often an option to add shredded cheese. When you have finished your meal, the server will bring out Bokembop (볶음밥)to cook on the same dalkgalbi grill. Bokembop is a mixture of spiced rice, seaweed and egg. It is a great way to finish this hearty meal. By Dan Schmidt
OUR MOST POPULAR MEALS BROUGHT TO YOUR TABLE
Mul Nengmyeon (물냉면) 6,000 won
Bibim Nengmyeon (비빔 냉면) 6,000 won
Bibimbap (비빔밥) 9,000 won
Dongkas (돈까스) 7,000 won
Kimbap (김밥) 2,000-5,000 won
When you’re in a rush, or want a low calorie food item, Kimbap(김밥) is an excellent choice. It consists of vegetables, pickled radish, and is often offered with Kimchi, tuna or spam rolled in rice and dried seaweed. Kimbap toppings and ingredients have transformed due to changing tastes and globalization. Kimbap is offered everywhere, from small kiosks to larger restaurants, and prices vary between 2,000 to 5,000 won. Popular chain restaurants include Kimbap Nara and Kimbap Sarang, while Baruda (바르다) and Gimsongseng (김선생) are well known for their quality and composition. By Sophie Kim
YuggaeJang (육개장) 7,000-9,000 won
Shabu (샤부) 9,000-60,000 won
Jok bal (족발) 20,000-40,000 won
Jja jang Myun (짜장면) 3,000-7,00 won
Jja jang Myun (짜장면) is a Korean adaptation of a Chinese meal, which Koreans have made their own. It is very different from the Chinese original, and it can be found in Chinese restaurants in Korea. The meal consists of thicker noodles served in a black bean sauce(Chunjang), and both the noodles and sauce are typically served separately. The client usually mixes the sauce and noodles together. There are variations of this meal which add seafood, and include different side dishes such as kimchi and radish to the basic noodle and black bean sauce combination. These meals are usually around 7,000 won, however, depending on the type of restaurant you go to, it can vary between 3,500 to 10,000 won per serving. These soups are even available in instant noodle form (Jjappageti) at supermarkets. By Buyeon Kim
Soondubu Jigae (순두부찌개) 7,000 won
Samgehtang (삼계탕) 10,000-50,000 won
Bo Ssam (보쌈) 20,000-40,000 won
I fell in love with Bo Ssam(보쌈 – 20,000 to 40,000 won) the first time I ate it. Initially, it was more of an emotional connection than about the food and flavour itself. It was served as school lunch one day when I had been in Korea for maybe two months. I remember being homesick to the point of almost crying that morning. When lunch came around, I served myself, and the other teachers explained how to eat the food. I tried the meat on its own first. It tasted exactly like one of my mom’s meat dishes, and it was comforting and precisely what I needed at that moment. It felt like a hug from home. Bo Ssam is pork belly that’s been boiled instead of grilled and it is less greasy with a softer, more velvety texture than samgyeopsal. It is also served in much the same way as samgyeopsal, except that it comes to the table already cooked. A little packet of ssamjjang, raw garlic, and lettuce, with a slice of bo Ssam and some bo Ssam kimchi makes the perfect mouthful of flavour. Bo Ssam kimchi also happens to be the best kind of kimchi in my opinion since it’s still quite fresh and a little crunchy. The relative lightness of the meat and the freshness of the kimchi makes this a great alternative to samgyeopsal. By Sariska Fortuin-Schmidt
USEFUL FOOD WORDS
Dak 닭“chicken” (Dakgalbi 닭갈비 “Spicy BBQ chicken”)
Seng sun 생선“fish”
Samgyupsal삼겹살 “BBQ pork belly”
Soon sal순살 “boneless”
Guk국 “soup” (Manduguk 만두국 “dumpling soup”)
Tong탕 “stew” (Galbitong 갈비탕 “meat stew”)
Myun면 “noodles” (Ramyun 라면 “noodle soup”)
Bap밥 “rice” (Gimbap 김밥 “Korean sushi rolls”)
USEFUL RESTAURANT PHRASES
Yogiyo! 여기요“Excuse me/ over here please” (used in a casual restaurant)
I inbun juseyo 이(two) 인분 주세요 “Please give me food for two people”
Yang-i ulmankum na wha yo 양이 얼만큼 나와요 “How big is the serving size?”
Mul jom duh juseyo 물 좀 더 주세요 “Please give me more water”
Dul mep gae haejuseyo 덜 맵게 해주세요 “Please give me less-spicy food”
Doe juseyo더주세요“Give me more please”
Kimchi jom doe juseyo 김치 좀 더 주세요“Please give me more Kimchi”
Mul tee shoo juseyo 물티슈 주세요“Please give me wet wipes” (to wipe hands)
Ap cheema juseyo 앞치마 있어요? “Please give me an apron” (Most BBQ places have these so you don’t get oil/food on your clothes)
Hwajangsil udieyo?화장실 어디에요? “Where is the toilet?”
MEET OUR CONTRIBUTORS:
Sariska Fortuin-Schmidt is an enthusiastic eater from South Africa. For the past seven years, she lived in South Korea and fell in love with the country’s cuisine. She is currently back in South Africa with her husband and hopes to continue their culinary adventures in the Middle East, and someday, have a restaurant of their own.
Buyeon Kim is a 30-something Korean, professional language instructor, and global traveller. She has lived in Canada, enjoys touring Europe, is constantly planning her next trip. She dreams of living in new cities.
Ji-Young Kim has resided in South Korea since December of 2006. She loves the outdoors and trying new things, especially food. You can see her and her dog (Conan) hitting the trails, biking, or on a picnic at a park. She’s loving her life in Korea. Follow Ji on Instagram: conan_from_korea
Dan Schmidt is a foodie at heart. After eating his way around Korea for six years, he has settled in South Africa with his wonderful wife. He is planning his next adventure in Saudi Arabia to not only teach English but also learn the art of Middle Eastern cuisine. He aspires to attend culinary school and transition career paths into the food services industry.
Sophie Kim is an international Korean, currently living in Berlin, Germany. Sophie grew up in Seoul, S. Korea, has lived in France, and travels frequently to get inspired! Sophie speaks Korean, English, French, and is currently learning German. She is an avid hiker, enthusiastic socialite and one of the most driven persons I’ve had the fortune to meet.
Author, Natasha Banky, is an English teacher, travel writer, yoga enthusiast, salsa-dancing wannabe, and loves outdoor activities, particularly hiking and weekend trips around S. Korea. She has lived in England, Canada, and now works in Korea. She plans to see, and eat her way around the world.
Papingsu 팥빙수 shaved-ice dessert; perhaps a topic for the next blog…