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India: New Delhi

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So far, India has far exceeded our expectations. I'm not entirely sure what our expectations were, but they've definitely been surpassed. We arrived in Delhi at 8:30am and after a bit of a faff with money exchanging (we were given only 1000 rupee notes which are too high to buy a 30 rupee bottle of water), we were on our way to our hotel; C Park Inn in the Karol Bagh district.

We were met at the airport by a lovely young man (unfortunately neither of us can remember his name) who is 21 years old but looks more like 17. He took our bags, bought us water and organised our transfer to the hotel. He is from an area of North India called Haryana. His mother is 34, a fact that made Lauren feel very old. He told us his favourite food is green mustard (a dish from his village) which we obviously are now keen to try. He is studying Hindi, English and Economics in university in order to improve both his and his family's lives. Of course he was incredibly polite, helpful and inquisitive but what struck me the most was his purity. He had a childlike innocence that was infectious. But then again he may have laced our water...


The first thing that hit us about India was the temperature; it was around 10 degrees but felt more like 5. The local people were all wrapped up in big coats, hats and gloves and there we were in our vest tops and light cotton hoodies. More fool us for presuming it was going to be hot. Luckily we brought enough trousers and socks to cope for a while.

The hotel was pretty basic but perfectly adequate. I was actually pleasantly surprised that the en suite had a 'Western' toilet. After a much needed nap, we decided to venture outside to sample some street food. As we made our way to the lobby, the hotel staff seemed a little reluctant to let us outside. They asked us what we needed and whether we wanted them to book us a ride. Of course the ever defiant me declined and proceeded to step over the threshold into deepest, foggiest Delhi.

It was everything you would expect from the capital of a country with a population of 1.3 billion (and growing). The word stifling describes the experience quite well; the polluted air, the traffic noise, the pungent smells of burning diesel, sewerage, hot oil and the sheer quantity of humans (and animals).

We held onto each other tightly and threw ourselves into the chaos. There were a few (easily-allayed) stares but our main concern was not getting mowed down by the relentless traffic. We walked only a few hundred yards from our hotel and found a stall selling samosas which Lauren was more than happy to test for contamination. Said samosa was deep fried there and then on a makeshift stove and tasted amazing; yours for 10 rupees (approx. 10p).


Hunger removed, we decided that for both safety and navigation we shouldn't venture any further so we went back to the hotel to chill for an hour before meeting with our group.

We sat down with our tour group that evening and met Raj (the tour 'CEO') and the other 6 travellers. In the group there are two other Brits (a couple), one Norweigan, two Aussies (a couple) and one American. We were pleasantly surprised by the mix of ages (youngest 22, eldest 32 and the rest in between) and they all seem to be on a similar wave-length to us. Raj is an excellent guide and a meticulous planner; in fact we've been spoiled by him and are a little concerned that we'll be useless when left to our own devices!

After our introduction, Raj took us to a restaurant a 20 minute walk away. As before, navigating the streets of Delhi was an experience, especially at night time, but we got to grips with it pretty quickly. In order to get across the heavily congested carriageways, junctions and roundabouts, pedestrians have to just walk out into the traffic, raise their hands making a 'stop' gesture and for the most part, have a blind faith that drivers will stop for you. It certainly gets your adrenaline pumping and your sphincter twitching. And it's not only cars you have to contend with, there are tuk tuks, mopeds, motorbikes, bicycles, buses, trucks, horse-and-carts, cows, dogs and occasionally a camel or elephant. Here's some accompanying video footage;

The restaurant was good; we stuck with vaguely familiar dishes such as paneer and lentils all washed down with massive Kingfisher beers. The thing I was most impressed with (and this says it all about me) is how the bills were organised. Each individual's order was itemised and processed on a bill and given to the customer. So each of us had our own bill with only what we ordered on it. This practice is India-wide and makes bill paying 10 times easier and fairer without all of the awkward 'splitting the bill' scenarios we get at home.

At the end of the meal a small tray of what looked like white gravel was passed around. Raj explained that these were sweet fennel crystals that are traditionally chewed after a meal as a digestif and to freshen breath. Although neither of us are big fennel fans we were immediate converts and now look forward to the 'fennel gravel' when we go for food.

After a busy and somewhat overwhelming day we retired to bed, filled with excitement, apprehension and curry, ready for the first day of the tour tomorrow.

Posted by advensha 23:14 Archived in India Tagged traffic india travelling backpackers new_delhi g_adventures

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