New Year in New Delhi- the city that takes your breath away (quite literally)

DELHI- Part VI of INDIA travel series

Overview

  • When:  27 December overnight and 30 December, 2018 – 1 January, 2019
  • Where (accommodations):  Shangri-La’s-Eros Hotel
  • Transportation: Drive to Delhi from Agra (3.5 hrs) for the first visit. Flight from Delhi to Jodhpur round trip –Jet Airways for New Years.
  • Sights/attractions:  Rashtrapati Bhavan- president’s house, Akshardham Temple, Lotus Temple, Jama Masjid Mosque, Humayun’s Tomb, Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Chandni Chowk Market.
  • Food/drinks: Saravana Bhavan restaurant (southern Indian food), Parawthe Wala in Chandni Chowk Market, Tamra restaurant.  Try anywhere you can masala chai tea– best made on the street, for desserts- gulab jamun balls.

This is actually our second time in Delhi- first one was just an overnight visit after touring Agra and before our morning flight to Jodhpur. The first time we did not go anywhere, except spent a night at the beautiful Shangri-La Eros hotel.

Since it’s centrally located in the Connaught Place, heart of New Delhi, we decided to stay here for New Year’s Eve as well. It worked out really well, because hotel offered to store our suitcases before we went to Jodhpur, so we only went with one carry- on and one backpack. Reflecting on that time I remember being grateful we have such light bags, because we got to the airport a little later than we should’ve and had to sprint for about fifteen gates barely making the flight to Jodhpur. A reminder again- airport security in India is very strict, so allow yourself plenty of time even before the domestic flights.

FIRST DAY IN DELHI

It’s December 30th and we are back in Delhi, capital of India and the place where air pollution is worse than Beijing and is well over all advisable healthy limits. We are not overly excited to go sightseeing, considering that the bad air quality caused Sean to develop a sinus infection. However, we don’t want to miss out on seeing the capital, so after arriving from the airport (take a taxi, hotel cars are WAY overpriced), we meet our guide and grab another cab for the few hours of daylight that we have left. Today we plan to visit Rashtrapati Bhavan– President’s house, Akshardham Temple, Lotus Temple, and drive by the Red Fort.

Rashtrapati Bhavan

It’s close to our hotel, so we make our first stop near the president’s residence.

You cannot enter the place where India’s president lives, so we walk as close as we are allowed, take a few photos and move on with our tour. Next thing you know- we are in a thick Delhi traffic. Oh how I don’t miss that traffic! 25 million people city, surrounded by factories- no wonder the air is hard to breath and there is a constant haze. According to our guide, the city was built to accommodate 5 million, so it is by far overpopulated.

Akshardham Temple

We reach Akshardham Temple, but just by looking at the insane amount of cars in the parking lot and a huge line to get in- we decide that it’s not worth it.

Sun is setting in about an hour, no cameras or bags are allowed in the temple, so even if we manage to get it, we’ll barely be able to enjoy it. The temple suppose to be beautiful and is the third largest Hindu temple in the world. If you are in Delhi and can get there first thing in the morning, I’d say do so. It is closed every Monday, so we cannot check it out tomorrow,  even though we will still be in Delhi. We passed the Red Fort– also closed Mondays, but this one we were not interested in seeing.

The real interesting and a lot bigger one is in Agra, which we were lucky to spend a good amount of time at a few days earlier. The fort in Delhi is essentially a smaller version of Agra Fort.

Lotus Temple

We get back in the car and continue this traffic filled tour to the  Lotus Temple. img_3458

It was closed by the time we arrived (it was expected), but according to the guide, there is nothing to see inside. It’s empty and it is meant for the quiet sitting and meditation. I would not have minded having some quiet after all the traffic, but since it’s closed on Mondays too, we are not going to be seeing it from the inside either.

We felt tired and not really that accomplished today, but it’s only so much you can do with the limited time and things out of your control (like traffic jams). We paid the guide (he was all right, but the least favorite of all of the ones we had so far) and asked our taxi driver to take us to Saravana Bhavan restaurant  for some southern Indian food. About the driver. We opted out of the hotel car, which was being charged by the hour and I am so glad that we did. The amount of time that took us to drive all the places above, plus the driver waited for us while we had dinner- we would’ve paid hotel through the roof. With the taxi, we agreed on a set amount (1600 INR ( 22USD) for the day, we tipped him so it ended up being 2000 INR). Hotel car for this amount would have been rented  for  only about 1.5 hr time! Since the driver was very nice, we asked if he wants to be our chauffeur the next day as we had a full day tour planned. He happily agreed for the same 1600 rupees.

Now about the food! Restaurant is simple, VERY cheap, but busy. Be ready to wait. At the end it was worth it. Southern Indian food is different, a lot milder than northern and we liked that change.

All of this was less than 15 USD. Things are looking up in Delhi 🙂 !

SECOND DAY AT THE CAPITAL

We got a good night sleep and are ready to tackle the new day. Hoping that by starting our tour in the morning, we will able to see more of this city and not just from a taxi window. To make it more convenient (and a lot cheaper than a breakfast buffet, which was 25 USD pp), we order room service and enjoy our breakfast with the view. img_3479We go downstairs and meet our new guide for today. The plan is to see Jama Masjid Mosque, Chandni Chowk Market, Humayun’s Tomb and Qutub Minar. Let’s see if we feel accomplished by the end of this last day of 2018!

Jama Masjid

We jump in our cab- the driver is waiting for us already and soon we are at the largest mosque in India! First success of the day, we beat the rush here at least! You are not allowed to wear shoes to enter the premises, but for 200 INR (less than 3 USD) you can get the slippers and I would recommend them, as it would be cold to walk around barefoot or in socks. I was wearing a top with sleeves and long pants, but still had to wear a cover up that you can borrow at the entrance.

This huge mosque took over 6 years to complete and is made from the red sandstone and marble. Jama Masjid was finished in 1656 costing at the time 1 million Indian rupees!

Chandni Chowk

As it’s close by, we go straight to one of the busiest and largest wholesale markets in India- Chandni Chowk. According to our guide, it’s the largest spice market in Asia!

As we are here, we stop at the famous Jalebi Wala for the sweet Indian donuts that look like mini hot dogs and some other sweet liquid dish that I cannot remember the name, but I ate it and liked it 🙂 .

We grab lunch at Parawthe Wala and after a quick stop at the market for some bracelets (they were made for us right there), we are leaving the area before it becomes too crowded.

Humayun’s Tomb

The tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun was built by his wife Empress Bega Begum. This UNESCO World Heritage site was completed in 1570 and was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. It was also an inspiration to Shah Jahan when he decided to build Taj Mahal.

Upon arrival we saw a very very long line. Then we noticed a separate line for tourists, which was also extremely long. Some people were waiting for over an hour and apparently the electricity was down, so they could not buy the tickets. That’s what caused this hold up. We were considering leaving, checking out another site and coming back here. However, I did not want to be repeating yesterday’s story- sit in traffic and arrive everywhere when it’s already closed. We decided to wait a bit and see if electricity comes back. We were in luck! Not long after we were inside and it was so worth it!

It is not Taj Mahal, but then of course there is nothing like Taj Mahal anywhere in the world. It’s harder to appreciate the beauty of any other monument when you’ve just seen the most incredible building a few days ago 🙂 . But if you are in Delhi, this is a place to spend some time at. We walked around, went inside, saw another beautiful tomb in the same garden and after a selfie with our guide we parted ways.

We still wanted to go see Qutub Minar and the guide had a sick child at home that he wanted to get back to. It’s all good, we have our taxi driver patiently waiting for us- he will get us anywhere we need to go to in Delhi!

Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar, also spelled as Qutab Minar is a 73 meter tower built in 1193. Close by the tower is Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, the first mosque built in India.

Qutab complex is a UNESCO heritage site and is open every day of the week. Honestly it was my favorite place that we’ve seen in Delhi! There are a lot of ruins, some grass, it’s clean and well taken care of.

This and  Humayun’s Tomb I would say are two MUST visit places if you are in Delhi on a short visit.

I was very happy we came here and ending our last day of 2018 in a nice place rather than sitting in traffic 🙂 .

India Gate

Just like Mumbai has it’s Gateway of India, Delhi’s got India Gate. 42 meters tall arch commemorates the 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during the World War I. img_3736 This was our last stop before going back to the hotel and getting ready for the New Year’s dinner.

New Year in Shangri-La Eros, New Delhi

We booked reservations at Tamra restaurant gala dinner, which was conveniently located right at our hotel. We’ve heard enough from the guides and our taxi driver that it will be a lot of drunk people in the streets and that we should not be wondering outside this evening. We really never went out in the dark while on this trip, so were not about to start it now.

Dinner was not cheap, 70 USD without alcohol and 90 USD with. But from the incredible amount of food options they prepared, I think it’s a very reasonable price, especially on a New Years Eve. There was everything- from sushi, raw seafood, cheeses, appetizers of many different kinds to lamb, steak, chicken that you could have prepared several different ways, to Indian food, to dumplings etc. It was impossible to try everything. I was a bit disappointed in the desserts- they looked a lot prettier than they tasted, but maybe I was just full and too spoiled already 🙂 .

As we were dressed up, we checked out the dancefloor with the DJ, but the music was not really our style, so we went back to the room with every intention to come back before midnight. Well, that never happened. We got so comfy that ended up staying in and going to bed as soon as we gave each other a “Happy New Year” kiss. Little did we know that one of the most popular Delhi’s nightclubs was in the same building as our hotel…The party was heard loud and clear in our 17th floor until 4am! We got pretty much no sleep and cannot even say that we had partied all night for this New Year’s celebration 🙂 . Either way, vacation is not over, we still have time to sleep in. The relaxing part is only starting, as in the late morning we are flying to SRI LANKA!

CONCLUSION

This is my last India travel series post (we started and ended in Mumbai, which I already wrote about), so I feel like I should say some closing words of wisdom for those planning a trip to this country of contrasts. I provided a lot of tips throughout the six posts, but my main advice would be – stop worrying about what everyone is saying and just go and see it for yourself. Everyone will have different views, opinions, emotions and experiences. India will never be a very relaxing place to visit, unless maybe if you don’t leave luxury resorts and fly around in private jets. It has so much beauty mixed with poverty, so many smiles between the tears, so many incredible man made monuments and untouched nature. We barely scratched the surface with our ten days there. Ten days that felt like weeks, but also flew by way too quick. Don’t waste the short time we have, go on, explore!

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