As some of you may recall, I am travelling around India for the majority of the month with my husband, Ricky, and our friends Sarah and Anthony. This trip began as a bit of a pipe dream, but after some encouragement and pro-active planning on Ricky’s part, we finally bit the bullet. I have never been to India before, but it has been on my bucket list since high school. Needless to say, I am pretty excited that this trip is finally happening.
We decided to focus our trip mostly on Northern India. We are beginning the trip in Delhi and then will be heading to Amritsar, Varanasi, Agra, Ranthambore, Jaipur, Jodhpurs, Osiyan, Udaipur and finally Goa for a couple of days over Christmas. The whole trip is 29 days, which means we will be getting home just before New Year’s Eve.
For whatever reason, the amount of time that we were set to spend in Delhi seemed to mysteriously shrink every time that I looked at our itinerary over the last few months. We did quite a bit of tweaking to our itinerary, and somehow at the end of it all we have managed to schedule ourselves such that we have just over 24 hours here in our initial location.
Ricky’s dad is originally from Delhi, so he has been here a number of times and seen quite a few of the sights before. Because the rest of us are total newbies, however, he was gracious enough to re-visit some of the major attractions during our short time here (and provide some commentary along the way).
We started our day with a quick drive-by of the Red Fort and the Lotus Temple, two major sites. Unfortunately, our Delhi day was the only day of the week that these two locations were closed – Monday. Consequently, we had to make due with viewing both of them from the outside. (Note to self: double-check that the things you want to see are open on the days you’re in a given City…).
From there we headed to the Jama Masjid, one of Delhi’s oldest mosques. This Mughal-era mosque is one of the largest in India and is a truly beautiful piece of architecture. Keep your eyes peeled for the pigeons, though. We were swooped more than once and Anthony was lucky enough to get blessed on the back of his shirt with one of their falling little “gifts.”
After Jama Madjid, we took a walk through an adjacent neighbourhood, Chandni Chowk. I had heard a lot about this busy marketplace from Ricky’s Family, because his Dad used to live quite close by it. In essence, it’s a bustling honeycomb of intertwined alleyways filled with food stalls, shops, people, bicycles, dogs, decorations, flowers, fruit, scooters and a whole lot more. Let’s just say when you think of the sights, sounds and smells of India, you’re probably thinking of Chandni Chowk. We wandered through the Chor Bazaar, which sells small pieces of home decor and trim for clothing, eventually making our way to Parantha Wale Gali.
Prior to our trip we had watched a show called Raja Rasoi Aur Anya Kahaniyan, which describes the history of some of the regional specialities across India. The episode on Delhi includes a small feature on an alleyway filled with little shops that churn out different flavours of Parantha, a fluffy Indian stuffed flatbread. We each ordered a few (cauliflower, potato, and besan methi which is made with chickpea flour) and enjoyed a quick (deep fried) lunch before continuing on our way.
From there, we visited the Gurdwara Sis Ganji Sahib. This is one of nine historical Sikh temples in Delhi. It marks the site where the ninth Sikh Guru was beheded on the orders of a Mughal emperor for refusing to convert to Islam.
After a quick coffee break at Indian Coffee House in Connaught Place, we headed to Gurdwara Bangladesh Sahib, to visit the temple that Ricky’s dad used to attend in his younger years.
Eventually, we hit the road again in order to drive past a few of Delhi’s other landmarks, such as the India gate, the parliament building and Rastrapathi Bawan, the president’s palace. At this point we also had the pleasure of enjoying a true Delhi experience: debilitating gridlock. As is the case whenever you’re with friends, we made a good time of it, watching the tuktuks manned by their multi-tasking drivers and having a series of naps, but this city has more just traffic. Just to put it into perspective for you, one of the family friends we met up with while we were there commutes for 1.5-2 hours every day. The total distance between his home and his office? 16 Kilometers.
Our next stop was Humayun’s Tomb. Back in the day, Delhi was a stronghold of the Mughal empire. Consequently, it has a number of stunning architectural sites that date back far beyond the days of bumper to bumper traffic. Humayun, a Mughal emperor, died in 1556. Fourteen years after his death, his son began the construction of his tomb, a beautiful Persian-inspired structure that looks a bit like a ginger Taj Mahal. The best part? It is surrounded by acres of parks, making for a very relaxing sanctuary from all the craziness just outside its walls.
From there, we headed to the Qutab Minar, the tallest stone minaret in India. Stretching to 72.5 meters, this red and white sandstone monolith was built in 1199 AD, for the mu’azzin (crier) to use when making the call to prayer.
We wrapped up our day by joining Ricky’s family friends for dinner at the Punjabi Grill in Select City Mall. I’m not going to lie, it was a bit strange to go from wandering the tangled web of streets in old Delhi to standing in the middle of a contemporary shopping mall filled with familiar brand names and over-the-top Christmas decorations. It felt a little bit like being transported back to North America. By this time, the jet lag had properly set in and I was starting to get that exhausted feeling that feels kind of like walking underwater. We (by some miracle) managed to stay half-ways alert through dinner and then went back to our hotel for some much-needed sleep.
OKAY so – first thoughts? I had kind of prepared myself to not like Delhi. I had heard so much about the noise and grime and that people will try to rip you off, but in spite of the fact that those things are probably largely true, I LOVED it. Yes, there was a lot of noise and pollution and it was kind of crazy, but there is something energizing about all of the action. There is so much colour and life everywhere, and it is kind of invigorating to be a part of it all.
Our next stop is Punjab – though only for a few days. Keep and eye out for more posts on our visit there!
Lots of love,