Home > India > New Delhi – Extreme and Bazaar.

New Delhi – Extreme and Bazaar.

Crash Bang Wallop. We certainly came back down to earth with a bang! Arriving at New Delhi station at 8.30am and straight into the thick of taxi and hawker hell. We had our hotel address ready, and we had looked on Google to check where we were staying. Turns out that the map was wrong and no taxi driver was prepared to take us to the address we had.

 

 

After 10 minutes arguing with the dismissive pre-paid taxi man, we were rescued by a very nice Indian traveller who saw our plight, had a discussion with the unhelpful taxi stand and escorted us with a taxi into Old Delhi where we were actually staying.

Instead of staying near the nicer area of Connaught Place as expected, we were actually in Paharganj down a back street off  the Main Bazaar. For anyone who has been to Delhi – they will know that this was a baptism of fire. As we rattled along the dusty roads surrounded by beggars, cows and the mayhem of the bazaar, our hearts sank. But as with all these things, you acclimatise quickly and within a couple of days it was quite normal to step outside, over the rubbish, through the hawkers and hecklers, into the bustling market and flag a rickshaw to take you out.

our welcome party! This was our street, the hotel takes centre stage in the middle picture. Yes the area was as awful as it looks. The toilets made us laugh, they oozed and stank.

As it was out first day in Delhi, and also Kai’s birthday, we headed to Connaught Place (the Lutyens designed centre piece to New Delhi) and stopped for something to eat. As a treat, we escaped the dal and had a pizza. Never has Pizza Hut tasted so good.

Next stop the sculptural 17th century astronomical observatory of Jantar Matar. This was largely designed to measure time and observe celestial objects; now the curvaceous grandeur is more like sculpture park meets playground. As a timepiece it remains enthralling, watching the shadows inching over the curved walls, tracking time minute by minute – it must have been a thing of real wonder in its time.

the observatory, makes everything look like you have a fisheye.

At some point, parts of New Delhi must have been really quite pretty.

The market area in the old town. Another poor little kid begging everytime we stopped the tuktuk at the lights. You are advised not to give them money, but you feel dreadful. It is very sad to see them and even younger ones living on the streets.

After a rocky start to Delhi, we survived the first day and without being too insensitive, we felt much more relaxed after a couple of beers. They say that tigers are used in Chinese medicine, over here, a Tiger or two cures all stress. Even the cockroach scurrying over the dinner table did not register as Jo brushed it away between mouthfuls of rice and roti.

Next day bright eyed and bushy tailed we hailed the auto-rickshaw and made for the impressive Red Fort. You are struck immediately by two things, the exquisite detailed carvings on such a huge structure, and the fact that it remains largely unharmed. After travelling through war ravaged Vietnam for so long, Indian heritage remains palpably well preserved.

the Red Fort, our first brush with Indian sandstone and carving - beautiful

One things that is a real pain when travelling with white kids - you are constantly, and I mean constantly being mobbed for photographs. Theo now just sqwaks and turns away.

Inside, as is typical with any large fort or citadel the world over, a few of the key buildings remain, while most of what would have been living space is given over to grassed areas. For some reason the ponds and fountains were dry, but one can imagine how beautiful it must have been in its heyday.

I had also arranged to meet up with an old friend and work colleague in the afternoon, and over a coffee Vinish helped plan and organise a driver and itinerary, thus avoiding having to play Russian Roulette with a tour operator. Trusting anyone in india is a risk, so knowing someone reliable is a massive benefit. Later that evening we enjoyed a very nice dinner courtesy of Vinish and his lovely wife Garima in the rotating restaurant overlooking New Delhi – you could have a very different impression of Delhi depending on where you stayed – for us it was good to see both sides.

the two sides to Delhi... there is lots of this......

and plenty of this too - our view over Connaught Place from the revolving restaurant.

Delhi is certainly intense, summing it up is impossible – it is too extreme, the poverty is as unreal as the white Bentley next to the rickshaw, as unreal as the golden temples next to the tin squats. We found it quite tough, with occasional sighs of relief when the pressure eased off. Thankfully Vinish was kind enough to show us a more pleasant side the New Delhi, but it was still a pretty tough introduction. As adults, it would be fine – you can just deal with it: taking kids and living in Old Delhi is not really recommended.

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  1. Bambula Indijana xxx and kiwi Pauli
    March 14, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    HI travellers and delayed Happy Birthday to Kai from all of us!

    Looking at the photos is taking me back in there…Delhi is certainly crazy and it took me more than a month of traveling through the Northern India to finally get it and reconcile with those mega contrasts. I also visited the Jantar Matar and really enjoyed it. I very much recommend Rajastan’s countryside, Himalayan foothills and Darjeeling.

    • March 15, 2012 at 11:15 am

      It is the contrast that is shocking! We are currently heading SW of Delhi into the hills around Udaipur before heading north into the desert. The plan is to do the foothills of the himalayas north of Delhi, Darjeeling is a bit far over for us. Still it should be nice.
      Hope you are all well, is Paul back from the boat yet?

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