Discovering Delhi

For almost a whole year, I had been planning my trip to Rishikesh, India. Since I had a stopover in Delhi, I decided to take two days in addition to experience the capital of India. Before I knew it, it was time to leave for Delhi / Rishikesh, away from the haze of Southeast Asia.

Before travelling to India, I was told of all the squalor and filth that India has to offer, aside from the beauty and soul. Yes, for I was told by a frequent traveller and yogini that no matter where she goes, no place has soul like India. So it was really surprising that my first impression of the country did not reflect the poverty and dirtiness everyone was warning me about.

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A neighbourhood colony in Delhi

Pretty cool city

Indira Gandhi Airport is like any other major airport, and the trip from the airport to Masjid Moth also was pretty nice. Traffic was lighter than Hanoi, but with a more impatient energy. However, our visits to Hanoi, I think, prepared us for the traffic so we were pretty cool and relaxed in the taxi. Saying this, our first impression of Delhi was pretty late on a Friday night.

We spent the morning of the first day recovering from the flight (and I too was not very well). We then spent some time walking around the neighbourhood before lunch. It is interesting because we learnt that in Delhi (at least), people live in gated (literally) communities that are totally cordoned off and have their own say as to what happens in each little square (e.g. how many times the place is fogged to get rid of mosquitos etc.).

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Lots of parks and playgrounds in Delhi neighbourhood colonies

We also learnt that most of the houses began as single-storey buildings, with further floors added as additional flats above. This explained why each unit looked so different to the next, even though the houses were mostly terraced.

Yoga is a big deal, with many temples offering yoga classes, often free. Each neighbourhood had a few grocery shops as well, and maybe one cafe as well, together with numerous parks and perhaps a taxi kiosk (usually a hut). Our impression of Delhi was really a green city, notwithstanding the dustiness arising from the traffic.

A temple in a neighbourhood colony
A temple in a neighbourhood colony

Typically Malaysian, we went to a shopping mall

In the afternoon of the first day, we ended up in a shopping mall, or rather a number of shopping malls. What was interesting was how tight security was: at the entrance and exit of all shopping malls, you would have to go through a security check, metal detector, frisking etc. This is good, especially considering the possibility of terrorist attacks, although a bit inconvenient in terms of freedom of movement.

You haven't experienced Delhi until you've ridden in an auto rickshaw
You haven’t experienced Delhi until you’ve ridden in an auto rickshaw

The shops were not very different from those in Malaysia, except perhaps the cultural and arts and crafts peculiar to India only, such as the joss sticks and incense, statues of deities and sandalwood soaps.

Statue outside the shopping mall
Statue outside the shopping mall

Our host plied us with food and we were constantly stuffed. I noticed eating out wasn’t really the culture, which I suppose is just as well, considering the warnings we were given about eating food in India.

Shopping mall sculptures to commemorate a national holiday
Shopping mall sculptures to commemorate a national holiday

Sightseeing

Anyway, the next day had us visiting some tourist attractions, after having rented a car with a driver for a day. We began with the Bahai Lotus Temple, because it was nearby. After the Ghandi Memorial, it was so hot that we decided to let the driver drive by the remaining sights while we sat in the car. Very untouristy behaviour but we are spoilt, I guess!

Ghandi Memorial
Ghandi Memorial

Even though we sat in the car for India Gate and a drive through Parliament Road, we were really feeling the heat, and were glad to have arrived at Dilli Haat Market for lunch and some shopping.

Arts & Crafts at Dilli Haat
Arts & Crafts at Dilli Haat

The crafts and traditional clothes were interesting, and so was the stall sold “chowmein” we decided to have for lunch. I even managed to get a little Nataraja figurine which I had wanted to get for a long time.

Bahai Lotus Temple
Bahai Lotus Temple

By the time the end of the second day came about, I was kind of glad we were leaving the city for Rishikesh. I used to be such a city boy, having been born and bred in one, but nowadays, I really enjoy the countryside, whether it be hills and rivers, or seasides. More on Rishikesh soon!

Peep show at Dilli Haat
Peep show at Dilli Haat

To be fair, we didn’t really see Delhi, I feel. When I travel somewhere, I like to see the little things and I felt, aside from walking in the neighbourhood colony, we just saw the big things. I wouldn’t mind visiting Delhi and spending a little time just exploring the city a bit more.

Have you been to Delhi? What are your thoughts?

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