Impressions of Delhi – First Days in India

Landing in Delhi as the first stop on a two-week India trip can be some of the best or worst travel experiences you’ll have.  Here, there’s such a multitudes of paths that can be taken, changed, altered, all by one small decision or one slight move. You might hop into one Tuk-Tuk and then be lead to a scam, or you could find a great driver who will help make sure you get to the right place. One time you may end up in a bad part of town near the railway station and have to hurry to get to a better area. Then there’s time where you can walk the streets and enjoy the sights and smells and sounds freely. It’s a land of huge contrasts and city filled with all destinies possible. I enjoyed my time here. A large part of it was from the people I met, both local and foreign. Thanks to all those whose path we crossed. 

And early morning ride in the iconic green and yellow Tuk-tuks past the India Gate helps you feel the grandness of the country. 

It’s worth a short stop to stroll the grounds. Here you’ll escape some of the noise and various people asking for things. Only a couple times we were asked if we wanted photos.

It’s hard to capture the living here, but here’s my attempt at showing the noisy and dirty streets, and then to the right – the crowded wires and people laboring from dawn to dusk. Something to know about India is that it is heavily still reliant on human labor. Things that could be automated or improved for the sake of the people might just be given to the next person who will do it for even cheaper. I haven’t explored much on the caste system, but I imagine that this is a partial or direct result from it. 

Then its off to the first temple. Gurudwara Sri Bangla Sahib is one of the main Sikh temples in Delhi. We were eager to visit because we saw the Golden Temple in Amritsar and that one was supposed to have fed 100,000 people a day – regardless of their race, religion or caste. I think that’s one of the more beautiful parts of the religion, in that they would help anyone regardless of who they are. The temple itself is beautiful and worth visiting. 

Religion is a huge part of the life here in India. From the cows being holy under Hinduism, to other religions like Jainism, you’re directly in a melting pot of human life. It’s hard to believe they coexist together with minimal disruption. 

We visited the spice market in the heart of the city. Here, it feels like the whole India converges. Spices from all over the country make their way to be sorted, processed, and redistributed back within the country and internationally. The air is so thick with the different smells that it’s hard to breath. And yet, there are hundreds if not thousands of laborers carrying large bags back and forth all day. I heard they only make a few dollars a day from this extremely hard labor. 

Luckily we never got food poisoning or “Delhi Belly” as some put it. We tried all types of food from curries to samosas to lassis. It was an adventure to try so many different foods.

A day in Delhi wouldn’t be complete without a Chai Tea. There’s a stall every 20m in the city and each have their own recipe. Some are more ginger flavored, others are more balanced. All are full of sugar and perhaps less caffeine than any coffee equivalent. It’s either 10 or 20 rupees for a small cup, which is 12 cents or a quarter each drink. 

While you can walk the city streets as far as your legs can take you, it’s difficult to walk in a straight line for more than 10 feet before the next pot hole or car in the way or Tuk-tuk makes you change your path. Riding in a Tuk-tuk, you’ll skip on the long walks and the dangers of the traffic. 

We visited the Jama Masjid, which is the largest mosque located in the old part of the city. It’s part of the same Mughal emperor that built the Taj Mahal and Red Fort. 

A final visit to Humayun’s Tomb turned into an adventure when we didn’t have enough rupees to all enter. We had to exchange money in the neighborhood adjacent to here, which was in a Muslim district and prayer time had just ended so the whole streets were filled with all. 

A shoutout to the Delhi Goblins who made the days here awesome. From beer towers, to a surprise music/flower festival in the town, and some good shopping with our friend Kabira who got us all a good deal on some stylish apparel. Thanks to Daan and Orion and Venkat and Suhel and Nitin and everyone else. 

Outside the craziness of the city, there are some respites. The Lodi Garden has some old architecture and is a good place for a picnic or just a stroll away from the city noise. 

And while there’s never enough time to explore all the different aspects of Delhi, we did get to see the Tibetan Colony. It’s a hidden enclave of those that escaped from Tibet and took refuge in India. We tried authentic Momos and watched traditional dances. A slight peek into Tibetan culture. 

And so that was some impressions of Delhi. I had almost a week here and that was a lot of time, but it allowed for slower days, picking and choosing what to do. The city can only be experienced in bits and pieces, otherwise it would be too much. 

Time for a quick rest before a Sunset at the Taj Mahal

Location:

Delhi is in the heart of India and is likely your first stop in the country from abroad. There are ways to get into India via bus, but you’ll likely do that from Nepal. 

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