Friday, 10 August 2012

New Delhi, India

Landing in Delhi mid afternoon, I was instantly hit by the noises, smells and general chaos that surrounds any trip to India. More touts than you can shake a stick at, all vying for top spot to 'help' you and get you to where you want to go. By and large, just avoiding them is the best plan of action, that, and I knew I could just get a public bus to where I was going, much to the constenation of the crowd.

Managed to find a cheap and nasty guesthouse in the Pahar Ganj area of town, close to the Main Bazaar where most visitors come. Plenty to choose from but just went for the one where my rickshaw (similar to a tuk-tuk) driver dropped me off, if you could be bothered you could wak down the length of the street and in the local area and find one.

The Main Bazaar Road runs through the heart of Pahar Ganj and pretty much runs from the Delhi Railway Station, a total circus of a set up, and R.K. Ashram Marg metro station which provides links to the rest of the city if you can't be bothered with the hassle of a taxi or a rickshaw, just be prepared to stand the entire time.

The street and surrounding side alleys are exactly the picture you conjure up if you close your eyes and think of India: dirty, smelly and loud, but full of life and a vibrancy you'd expect from one of the busiest cities in the country. Touts and hawkers trying to sell you everything from memory sticks to fried potatoes; tobacco to sunglasses, tours of the city, one hour trips in a rickshaw to a store of their cousins, clothes, flights and treks out of town. It's just an attack on all the senses. Not to mention the constant tooting of children flying around on motorbikes, chiming of bells from those poor buggers on bicycles pulling a dozen kids to school and the general din of half of India screaming in your earhole.

Main Bazaar Road (early morning)

Typical shop fronts

As always, tucked into some of the local fare with far too much enthusiasm and wouldn't you know it, within three days I had caught Delhi belly. Not the kind that leaves you alone either, lasted a whole week. Nasty stuff. Obviously staying in Delhi for so long doing nothing is hardly the most inspiring thing to happen to anyone so managed to catch up on some reading before I felt well enough to head out and see some of the sights.

Rather than going for a tour or meticulously going from one spot to the other, the comforts of a tourist taxi for the day were much more appealing. That and it was dirt cheap to be effectively chauffeur driven from one spot of your choosing to the next.

With Independence Day looming, August 15th, Delhi is gearing up for some serious celebrating and flag raising, so figured the Red Fort would be a great place to start and get mixed up with the gathering crowds. Of course, it is closed the week prior to the actual day, perfect. Why couldn't anyone tell us this, especially the driver who drove there and then informed us that it was not open. Nice one.

Following that, and with the use of a tourist map, the other highlights of Delhi were all easily accessed and open, allowing for a day of taking in the sights, something which I had wanted to do for the past week but found myself unable to do.

India Gate, a rip off of the Arc de Triumph, was quiet enough, main presence being the touts wanting to take your photos, even though I had a cmaera in my hand anyway. Humayun's Tomb had spacious grounds with plenty of places to soak up the sounds and views around the area, although the main tomb itself is currently under renovation. Lotus Temple, also known as the Bahai House of Worshi,p is shaped like a lotus flower and is a quiet place to come to meditate and pray, regardless of your religion. Finally, Qutb Minar, a favourite haunt of the Mughal emperor Humayun.

Red Fort from a distance
India Gate
Humayun's Tomb
Tomb with the surrounding gardens
Lotus Temple
Qutb Minar

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