A Day in Delhi

Trip Start May 17, 2012
Trip End Jun 03, 2012

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

(S) One very positive side effect of being completely screwed up on what time it is: you get up miraculously early. This is a big deal for us. We are used to staying in campgrounds and not sleeping all that well, thus we end of sleeping in. And starting our day around 10:30. Not in India! We were up and at breakfast at 7:30 in the morning. And what a breakfast feat it is! Acres of breads, yogurts, lassis, mangos (and other fruits, but who really cares when you have all the fresh mango you can eat?), vegetables, Indian breakfast items, cereals, meats, and cheeses. Good work, Imperial Hotel.

After breakfast we walked across the street to an absolutely huge Indian handmade items store, Central Collage Industries, owned by the government. Here they showcase work from all over India. And sell it. I bought some Indian clothing so I could be more prepared. So comfortable!

After changing into my new shirt, we set off (via air conditioned chauffeured car – who ARE we – this is so not how we usually travel?) with our previously arranged by our hotel guide for the Red Fort. It's easier to read about these places on the interwebs than me typing them on Indian hotel wifi so that’s what I’ll let you all do. It was beautiful. It was here we also realized we are going to be a bit of a circus sideshow for young Indian children. We posed for about 10 photos with kids (and some moms and dads). Our guide explained many of these people visiting Delhi and the Fort are also tourists, from other parts of India. Few have ever seen Americans, or people who blond/red hair. He said "you are going to be very popular in India" and that we looked like movie stars to them. Nice! I hope this doesn’t go to my travel partner’s head. Because it will probably go to mine.

Our next stop was the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India. But the method of transport was the amazing part. We traveled by bicycle rickshaw, which means our poor driver actually pedaled our fat butts around the old part of the city, while pointed out interesting things to us the whole time. This part of the city is called the Chawri Bazar and the main street is the Chandi Chowk. And when I say street, I mean something that is about 7 feet wide, which must be enough room for rickshaws, animals, and people. The sights, sounds, smells, and more sights were a sensory overload. And I loved it.

We finally made it to the Jama Masjid in one piece. We had to take our shoes off and I put on a very attractive blue house dress type item. I also had to wear some slippers because let me tell you, the stone floor was burning. Literally burning the skin of my feet. My partner opted for NO slippers and suffered very toasty toes.

I’m not really sure how to describe this mosque, except to say it was uncomfortable. Our guide was Hindu and it became evident to us after we thought about it for a few minutes that he had little respect for the Muslim men in this mosque (there were women, too, but only along the outside). While our guide was showing us the architecture of the mosque, we became surrounded by about 25-30 Muslim men. It quickly became hostile when they yelled at me to take off my slippers. Our guide had to inform him they were ok with the people running the mosque and to take it up with them. It was not a positive place of worship experience. We quickly left, even though the guide said we could take as long as we wanted. We received glares and hostile comments as we walked by.

The guide then took us to the president’s house and parliament, which was interesting. It was on a slight hill and we could see the India Gate from the top. After our first day of excursions, we were ready to relax and back to our little piece of tranquility at the Imperial. We took a swim in the enormous, beautiful pool and then got ready for dinner.

Ahhhh….dinner. You didn’t think we would do a travelblog without talking about food did you? While the wine in India is not as plentiful as we are used to, the food is amazing. We ate at the Spice Route in the hotel, which Conde Nast Traveler just rated as one of the top 10 restaurants in the world. And it’s right in our hotel! And we didn’t have to make reservations months ahead of time! The interior was very interesting – it reminded me a bit of Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark when he goes to Nepal to find that woman and goes in her bar – it’s a bit like that. Only a thousand times nicer. And we didn’t have to take 24 shots of random liquor to make it out alive.

The cuisine is from the entire old spice route – so not just a clever name. For appetizers, we had pork and prawn spring rolls with a raw garlic sauce (which I ate way too much of and was tasting all the next day) and stir friend chicken with peppers, onion, and baby corn. I had a glass of Sula Sauvignon Blanc (from India ) and Chad had a chardonnay. Main course: I had the Kerala (area in the very south of India) spiced chicken, which was cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, and a few other things I cannot remember, but the flavor was to die for. Chad had a Malaysian style coconut curry with chicken. Wow. We went to bed satisfied and exhausted.

Final thoughts on Delhi: It’s not nearly as difficult as so many people make it out to be. Granted, we stayed at an amazingly nice hotel, but we got out into the city and it was manageable. I think maybe camping our way across Europe in the off season has prepared us for difficult situations. The guests in really nice hotels are not that nice. We smiled at countless fellow guests at The Imperial and got nothing in return. I love the luxury, but this would never happen in our campgrounds or more budget accommodations. People need to lighten up.

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