I first travelled to the capital of India (New Delhi) in August 2017 and from the moment I landed, everything took me by surprise. Coming from England I could only imagine how different this culture and country would be for me. And I wasn’t prepared for the incredible journey I was about to embark on.
I arrived late at night and the first thing I noticed was the amount of people sleeping in the streets and the cows lying in the middle of the road. In the taxi on the way to my hostel I found myself constantly turning my head in awe of everything. It felt like a different world. The thing that interested me the most upon our journey to the hostel, was that when there was a cow sat on the road - it has priority. You move around it or wait. There are so many small dark streets situated near where our hostel was so even the taxi driver found it really difficult to find. It was 3am so we were tired and it was very dark. We drove around for an extra 30 minutes trying to find it. Eventually the taxi driver got out with us and walked us directly to our hostel as cars couldn’t go down the small streets. First thing that hit me was the smell. It was foul. But we chose a cheap hostel in a cheap area so this was our fault. However, I didn’t mind. I like to experience the real part of India. We finally arrived at the hostel, all the lights were off and all the staff were sleeping on the floor so we had to wake them up, which made me feel slightly uncomfortable. Nevertheless, they were very friendly and we went straight up to our rooms.
My first day in New Delhi was very surreal. We arrived on Independence day so the streets were full of people, celebrating, painting and waving flags. We paid a taxi driver very little money to be our chauffeur for the day and show us the main sights in the city. Our first stop was the India gate - which is a great arch and war memorial. What happened to me here I was not prepared for but I loved it. From the moment I got out of the taxi, everyone was staring at me. Then, groups of people gathered around me with cameras and phones asking for a photo with me! I felt like a celebrity. Women were painting my face, everyone had their phones out and it became a big scene. After the chaotic experience outside the India gate we went back to our taxi because it’s too hot to stay outside for too long (for me anyway) and headed to the qutub minar which is a 73-metre tall tapering tower of five storeys. There is always huge cues to enter into the tourist spots but the great thing about being a westerner is that you skip all the queues. I think this was because we pay more than the locals. But still not expensive. We had a walk around the park area, spoke to some locals and then relaxed in the shade and watched the people go by, as the heat was unbearable at times. We then went for a walk around to familiarise ourselves with the place and it really is a different world. Animals everywhere, horns beeping constantly, incredible food stalls - there is so much going on that I could walk around all day (if it wasn’t for the heat) and just watch the wonderful chaos of New Delhi.
We then went to visit the famous red fort - which was one of my favorite places in New Delhi. Beautiful place to see and very big. So it’s a great place to have a walk around. Be prepared to get pestered for a ride on the back of a rickshaw or to buy a souvenir outside the main gates. If you show any sign of interest they will not leave you alone. Old Delhi is absolutely hectic, even more than New Delhi, which I didn’t think was possible. but I kind of enjoyed it (for a short time). It felt like the real India. There is so much going on around you and everywhere I went, I seemed to be the centre of attention. At first, I obviously thought it was because people assumed I had money (most times this was the case) but it felt like they had never seen a white person before. It was very surreal. It is so incredibly busy full of people and food and clothes and gadgets etc that you can’t help shopping here. You can buy almost anything you want in old Delhi and super cheap. We did however feel very naive when our tuk tuk driver convinced us to go to a shop to buy something to wear as it was our suggestion that we wanted some typical indian clothes. Once you go in the shop, the staff become so interested and excited that you almost find it really bad to leave without buying something. So I bought a typical indian clothing to wear, at what I believed to be incredibly worth its value - until I was later told that I overpaid for it way too much. However, it was still that cheap for me that it didn’t bother me. You eventually get used to the prices of things and how much you should be paying.
We had some lovely food inside the red fort, could not tell you the name of anything or what it actually was that we ate but it was delicious. I can honestly say that I never once ate anything disgusting. All the food I tried was absolutely delicious. After a long day of shopping, eating and walking, we decided to treat ourselves to food and beers back in New Delhi where we found a bar with live singers and live music. We stayed there for most of the evening then headed back to our hostel.
The next day we went to the biggest sikh temple in New Delhi called Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. This is a MUST SEE. It is so beautiful. You have to wear a bandana type thing when you enter wash your feet. They also cook free food for everyone that goes and let me tell you, this is a huge amount of food. There are so many people. There’s a sort of holy pool in the middle of the temple which is beautiful. And there we met a local who was telling us all about the sikh religion. It was all an eye opening and very interesting experience. I felt blessed to experience that temple more than anywhere I visited in New Delhi. We moved on an hour or two later and decided to try and book tickets and head to Agora.
Now, as suspected, there will always be someone trying to get money from you one way or another so you need to be clever. To get a train ticket in India can be a bit of a nightmare so there are companies who can book these tickets for you. Some people recommend booking the tickets online in advance which would have made things easier but non the less it is still possible to book them when you get there It’s Just much more difficult as they are mostly full. But for the right price they can always find a seat for you. Be careful because I had so many problems with the staff because all I wanted was a train ticket to Agora but they kept adding on hotels and other cities that I hadn’t planned on going to. I wanted to find my own hostels and travel to the cities I had chosen so this was quite annoying. Everytime I told him I just want a train and nothing else, he was planning my route and cleverly twisting things to make me feel like that was my only option. I then began to get frustrated with the guys relentless attempt to sell me hotels in places I hadn't planned on going to so I left and searched for somewhere else. I found somewhere else and then explained to the staff that I only want a train ticket to Agora. Nothing else. Same problem happened there. They add things on. Stand your ground and don’t accept it. Eventually after several attempts and discussions, I got a train ticket to Agora and to keep the man happy I let him book me in a hotel for when i arrived. IT seemed like the only option. They give you a piece of paper with the seat number, train number and platform number.
During the night time in New Delhi we found some great little bars and a karaoke bar. They love it when when westerners get up to sing a few English songs. We got up on the microphone whilst 2 indian musicians played the guitar, we sang a few songs and everybody loved it. The bars in New Delhi are actually normal priced. Seemed quite expensive compared to other parts but this was normal as there were lots of tourists. There’s great options for live music too. We then stumbled our way to a bar called junkyard cafe, where there was a DJ playing house music. The atmosphere was incredible. Everybody was dancing, it was full of tourists and overall a great party. As is well known in India, there is a lot of poverty but the thing that surprised me the most, is how happy everyone was and above all, how welcoming everyone was. You can see families that live on the streets and while you can’t help but sympathise for them, you also see smiles on their faces almost all the time. This made me feel more grateful about my own life and what I have. There were times when I thought people were being nice to me just because they wanted money from be but this wasn’t the case. The people were the best thing about India for me. Everyone will always tell you that you are a guest in their country and therefore you are treated with the utmost respect. Most people treated me like royalty. This was the experience I received, however, that doesn’t mean that everyone has been treated the same. The cows and dogs and goats wandering the streets always took me by surprise. It’s lovely how they treat most of the animals.
Our tuktuk driver who had been driving us around all day had convinced me and my friend to go drink some whiskey and have some curry with him and some of his friends on the rooftop of an unfinished hotel. We like to party so it was an offer we couldn’t refuse. Upon arriving there, it looked like an abandoned hotel and we were greeted by a really rich indian man and some other tourists there. We ate delicious food served by waiters and drank some nice whiskey. After so long, they announced the real reason they brought us there. They wanted us to smuggle some diamonds back to England with me! Once I refused, the mood changed and they weren’t as friendly as before. They weren’t aggressive but they felt it was a waste of their time. I kindly asked our tuktuk driver to take us home as the situation became a bit uncomfortable. He took us back to our hotel and we went our separate ways, before he tried demanding we pay more. This doesn’t mean that all the drivers are like this though but definitely be a little bit careful. Most of our drivers were really friendly people and definitely worth a tip. The next morning we headed to Agora, the city of the Taj Mahal. We took a taxi to the train station and then discovered how confusing it all was. But, most of the Indians were so friendly to help us get to our exact carriage that it wasn’t too much of a problem. But they are so busy! The trains are quite uncomfortable and really busy so after this train ride, we always paid for first class, as it still wasn’t that expensive. Everytime the train stops, be prepared because a lot of people run on the train and sell tea and snacks. It’s good when you are hungry but not good when you want to sleep. The trains overall are chaotic, I would recommend paying the extra for first class. It is still not expensive.
Overall my short few days in New Delhi was incredible. I think a few days is long enough there before you head off to another destination. Delhi can be beautiful yet really dirty in some parts.