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By SUEP
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June 21, 2006 – A journey to Delhi, India in Asia


Delhi

Gosh, preparing for a trip to India took a bit of research and planning (seriously, it seems like every other page in LP India has some text on warnings and how to avoid certain scams). After talking to some friends of Indian descent, non-Indian friends who traveled to India before, reading other travelers blogs on India, and flipping through LP India countless of times, we decided to go the hired driver route. From a reference in LP India, I pre-booked a driver along with accommodations and a flexible itinerary of Rajasthan with India Profile (also known as Indian Holiday). I'm glad to have Indian friends, because they have contacts in India who checked them out for me before I finally booked (thank you all!!).

So, we landed in Delhi late evening. Besides knowing that we may be bombarded by taxi/driver touts, I really had no idea what to expect the moment we stepped out of the airport. Was quite nervous and apprehensive about the driver showing up or not, since I coordinated all the bookings via email and the Internet (including payment). Luckily, our driver and an airport transfer guide met us, even though our flight was an hour and a half late. We were even greeted with deep yellow carnation leis (later, I found out that you can give these as offerings at Hindu temples).



having a delicious South Indian breakfast the next morning


For some reason, I had an entirely different idea of what Delhi would be like from what I've heard and read (e.g., Holy Cow by Sarah McDonald). Thought the city would be more like Shanghai or Beijing, with tall skyscrapers, tons of people, traffic, and smog. The picture in my mind also came with unbearable temperatures (at this time of year) and the pre-warned variety of pungent smells. None of this was actually quite true.

Delhi turned out to be a very green city with lots of trees and low buildings. Not as much traffic rifled the streets in comparison to Hanoi, Beijing, and Shanghai. Maybe I'm in the wrong area? The smells aren't as incredible as described in literature and by word of mouth either (I actually didn't really smell anything uniquely different). Yes, Delhi's hotter and drier than Bangkok for example, but not melting/dying hot.



a partial view of Delhi


One of the first activities we decided to do was to rickshaw around the narrow dirt streets of Old Delhi. This turned out to be like going through an adventure-travel movie set – something like Indiana Jones. Surprised to see that things are still done in the old way there. What I mean is that people still carry heavy loads on their shoulders or heads, use donkeys to pull carts, cook using old pots on a fire stove outside, and so forth. All sorts of animals were wandering around the old streets as well – the holy cows for one, sheep, goats, etc.



a random holy cow


After visiting the Jama Masjid Mosque, the biggest Muslim mosque in India, we drove through the British-influenced area of Rajpath. What a contrast in New Delhi. The Rajpath area has wide streets, sometimes lined with leafy trees, and imposing architectural pieces – such as palaces and governmental buildings.



going towards Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s House)


The diversity of the people is wide. For example, when met by the airport transfer guide, at first I thought he was Thai (since we just came from Bangkok and have been in Thailand for awhile). His Indian-accented English gave it away. So, I guessed he's probably from West Bengal or the Northeastern States. It turned out that he indeed is from that region. Walking around town also gave a much closer look at the diversity of the Indian population. Many look Tibetan or Nepalese. Some even looked Chinese. Quite a few looked Middle Eastern.

Not only are the people varied, but so are the religions. Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, and other sects all worship at their sanctuaries around the city here.



Lakshmi Narayan Temple, a Hindu temple


Jama Masjid, largest Muslim mosque in India


And varied is the traffic as well.



an elephant going with the flow




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