Admittedly, we have “done India” backward. We arrived into the total chaos and craziness of Varanasi and have gone on to the 2nd most chaotic city, New Delhi. If we had it to plan again, I’m sure we would have started on the western side and traveled East instead to ease into the madness.
Things got off to a rough start for us with some trouble getting to our hotel, but after we got that sorted out, we were off to check out the sites.
New Delhi is the capital city of India and has so much to see, we could hardly wait to get started.
We started out at the Red Fort, which used to be the main residence of the royal family. The fort is huge and full of history.
This was the first time we noticed a strange habit with soldiers here that most of the western world is unfamiliar with. As we rounded a corner of the fort, we both looked back to check out the gate we’d just come through, when we saw it… a shot gun pointed directly at our heads from behind a guard post. No, we weren’t in trouble and the guy wasn’t intentionally pointing the gun at us, it’s just where how he chose to rest his rifle. As more time passed for us in India, we grew accustomed to seeing guns pointed at us, and, even more strangely, the guards often point their guns at themselves or other guards. I think gun safety is glossed over a little here. So, please don’t be alarmed if you visit India and notice the same.
We were fortunate enough to hang out all day with the same auto-rickshaw driver, Muhammed, and he told us about the cool sites to see.
He drove us over to the government and military buildings in the area, which were pretty impressive. Here, offices of the Ministries of Defense, Finance, Home Affairs and External Affairs are housed as well as the office of India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.
Next we went over to the Indira Ghandi Memorial Museum. Indira Ghandi was a four-term Prime Minister of India, who was assassinated in 1984 by her own body guards. The memorial is impressive and beautiful and made me want to learn more about Indira herself.
Finally, as sunset was approaching, we headed over to The Bahá’í House of Worship, also known as the Lotus Temple. The building is shaped like a giant Lotus flower and is one of the coolest designs either of us has ever seen. It has 27 petals and 9 pools outside, which contribute to the cooling system for the main sanctuary. As Christians, we’re not into searching out other religions, but we can always appreciate good architecture! (Plus, it was free!)
After that it was back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep.
We checked out a good part of the Main Bazaar area where we were staying as well. Griffin got his camera bag fixed by a local taylor for about $1 (U.S.) and we frequented a great restaurant with killer Indian Thali. Yum!
From here, it was back on the train to Agra, home of the Taj!
Hotel: While in New Delhi, we stayed at Hotel Payal, which we actually do not recommend. The rooms were fairly clean, had air conditioning, and wifi, but it was the service and staff attitude that really put us off. Being tourists in India, especially when one of us has blonde hair, means we elicit a LOT of attention from just about everyone. Touts LOVE to see us coming. For this reason, we try to get our hotels to come to the train station to pick us up, thus keeping us from being ripped off by people who think we don’t know any better. When I asked for a pick up from Hotel Payal, the guy told me to “ask someone” when we arrived at the train station. This basically invites every con artist around to make up wild stories about our Hotel having burned down in the night, being full because of a festival, or that it’s only for prostitutes and druggies. It took us more than an hour to find the place, which is only about 10 minutes away from the train station. When we arrived, we were not even acknowledged at the front desk until the guy behind the counter finished cleaning and dusting back there. Forget the fact that it’s 6:30 in the morning and we’re still carrying our giant backpacks… Let’s DUST everything. We were asked for our passports, but the guy told us he wouldn’t be able to check us in yet as his scanner was broken and he would need to go down the street to copy our passports. When I expressed some concern about that, he became impatient with me and starting yelling at me, demanding our passports. I reluctantly gave in and gave him my passport, which he tossed on the counter and walked away to show us to our room. The door was wide open to the outside and guests were coming and going. I took the passport and placed it on the chair behind the counter so it wouldn’t get stolen. Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we were given a room to wait in for the next 4 hours until it was. We were asked to pay for the wifi, despite it being advertised as free on the booking site. We refused and were given the password for free. Finally, at around Noon, they said our room still wasn’t ready, but we could stay in the one we had been waiting in… for a higher price. Again, I refused this and told him we would just wait until our room was ready. He gave in and gave us the upgrade for free… the only highlight of that place. Please do yourself a favor and do not stay here.
Transportation: Train trips can be booked online at cleartrip.com. Be warned, the trains fill up weeks in advanced and should be booked accordingly. For more information about the trains, including types of cars and train routes, check out seat61.com and click on India under the Asia category on the left.
Daily Budget: $45.00 for both of us including lodging, food, transport and activities.