Travel in India: Things to See in New Delhi

Spending the last three days in New Delhi completely changed my view of this city. 🇮🇳

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Gurdwara Ganj Sahib

And not in the bad way either. In a way that made me realize that I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

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streets of Old Delhi

Even before coming to New Delhi, I had been told that it was a dirty and ugly city. All my friends and family were concerned about me traveling there as well.

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walking around New Delhi- cows are sacred, and can be found wandering all over the city

To be honest, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, Delhi has dirt, poverty and pollution, but it is SO much more than that. It’s a city with emerging technology, eclectic cuisine, friendly locals, and jaw-dropping spiritual sites. 😍

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Akshradam Temple
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random mosque I found while wandering through Lodhi Colony 🕌

It’s also the perfect city on a budget! Here’s how my story all began. 🙂

Getting There: I arrived in Delhi after an overnight flight from Helsinki. There I validated the e-visa I had been granted, and took out local money from the ATM, which had an exchange rate of 62 rupees per 1 USD. Untitled collageThen I traveled from the airport to my hostel using the metro. I had to transfer metro lines three different times, and it took about one hour, but it only cost 1.20 USD, plus the metro system was quite clean and efficient.IMG_7316Accommodation: My hostel was called Joey’s. They had air conditioned dorm beds and complimentary breakfast. I thought the staff was very nice, but the WiFi was not very fast. 🛏IMG_7386IMG_7387
Cost: 6 USD/ night

Once I arrived at my hostel, I decided to inquire about booking my train tickets from Delhi to Agra, and from Agra to Varanasi. They told me that I would have to go to the train station to book these tickets, and I should probably go as soon as possible, since they book out far in advance. I felt slightly panicked and rushed, so I headed back on the metro in the same direction of the airport until I got to the Delhi Railway Station. DSC_2927From there I began a crazy rat race, which took over four hours to finish. Essentially I approached three different ticket counters, and was told to go to a different spot by each one of them. The spots were located all over the railway station and even down the block, which left me feeling frustrated and sweating, running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Here’s a short clip of me walking around the station. Such chaos! Hah!

Finally the 3rd counter told me to go to the international tourist ticket office. IMG_7334When I got there I had to grab a number and fill out a form of where I would be traveling. I waited for an hour for my number to be called only to get to the counter and be told that I had to go to a different counter first, so I could find out the exact train number before coming to this counter to book the ticket. WTH?! Anyway, I finally managed to sort it out after four hours of confusion.IMG_7333Side note: I tried to book these tickets in advance using the local website, but it seemed very out-of-date and insecure. The web pages would constantly crash, which is why I decided to book when I arrived.IMG_7321Anyway, after that frustration, I knew I would need to do something to make me smile again. I decided to head to one of the most beautiful temples in New Delhi, Akshardham.

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walking to the temple
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I love their beautiful dresses!

Akshardham Temple

Akshardam Temple is one of the largest Hindu complexes in India. It even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records! 😲DSC_2932The temple complex includes a lake and lotus garden, plus the interior is decorated with carved pillars, ornate domes, and over 20,000 statues of divine figures. The intricate details are just flawless!

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courtesy of Google images, since no photos were allowed

Cost and location: Free entry; Akshardam Metro- blue line

They don’t allow photos inside, and they keep all your cameras and mobile devices in a cloak room. 📷DSC_2937At least I managed to get some sneaky shots of my own through the gate.
IMG_7356DSC_2933From there I returned to my hostel where I chatted with a few Indian locals who run the place, plus a few long-term backpackers traveling through India. The one Indian guy was very active on couchsurfing. He’s hosted over 150 people in the past three years, and now he’s planning a big backpacking trip to reunite with many of them in Europe. He is also a former Sikh. Sikhism is one of the major religions in India. Among other things, they believe in one God, karma, and reincarnation. Sikhs also wear articles of faith, including long, uncut hair wrapped in a turban.

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Apparently the color of the turban doesn’t matter. My Indian friend says he just matches them to his outfits, like you would do with a tie. 🙂

He said he used to practice, but doesn’t any longer. He’s even cut his hair off, and only wears a turban when he sees his family, so that they don’t see what he’s done! I also talked with the long-term travelers about their experience in India. They all had rave reviews about the places they’d been; however, they did mention that they had gotten sick at least 2-3 times during their trip. They had vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and many even ended up in the hospital on fluids. It’s made me very apprehensive of the food I choose to eat. 🤔

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the street smoothies look refreshing, BUT….

Anyway, the next morning I left early with a plan of attack. I mapped out all the places I wanted to see, and a route of how to get there. I quickly learned; however, that New Delhi is not walkable in the slightest. Five minutes after walking on this path, the sidewalk ended and turned into a freeway. I realized the only way to get around was either by tuk-tuk, rickshaw, motorbike, taxi or metro.

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tons of tuk-tuks
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motorbikes, buses, and the metro in the background

Getting Around: 

I opted for the metro, since it’s actually incredibly cheap, hassle-free, and user-friendly.IMG_7395All of the signs are posted in Hindi and English, which makes it very easy to navigate. Each fare is around 30-60 cents, and can take you to practically anywhere in the city.

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Rajiv Chowk station even had a metro museum to show how the metro was designed

When you arrive at the metro you buy a token from a machine, which you then scan as you enter and exit to verify your travel.

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One time the machine wouldn’t accept my bills, because they were wrinkly. Luckily, the guy behind gave me some of his bills to use. 🙂

IMG_7313I really appreciated how accommodating the metro was for ladies too. Ladies here have their own security line at the metro, so they don’t have to wait in long lines with the men.

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Score! For the first time in my life, the women’s line is shorter than the men’s! 🙌🙌

They also have women-only seats, and their own separate cabin in each metro. IMG_7396

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cute mother and daughter sitting in the ladies-only seats
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a help line to call if you have problems as a woman

The metro is also air conditioned, which is something I looked forward to as the heat of the day brought temps soaring over 100 degrees.

Rules, rules, rules! 

I also noticed that there are a ton of rules here, with each having a very specific, and unpleasant penalty. I guess I’m glad it keeps things nice and orderly. IMG_7490IMG_7319IMG_7421IMG_7420DSC_3049 Anyway, my first stop of the day was to the Lotus Temple.

The Lotus Temple (The Baha’i House of Worship)

The Lotus Temple is known for its flower-like shape.
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It is composed of 27 marble “petals”, which are arranged in clusters to form nine symmetrical sides. 💮

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Cost and location: Free entry; Kalkaji Mandir- purple line

A short 15-walk through a public park took me to another temple, ISCKON Hare Krishna.

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peaceful public park with chipmunks and an open gym

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ISKCON Hare Krishna Temple

Believers of the Hare Krishna movement take part in yoga, meditation, vegetarianism, and studying sacred texts.
DSC_2956DSC_2957They also believe in the ideals of one supreme God, karma, and reincarnation through grace.DSC_2961DSC_2962IMG_7408DSC_2966To make your life divine, you must always chant the name of God, “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna…”DSC_2967Here is a short clip from my visit.

Cost and location: Free entry; Kalkaji Mandir- purple line

From there I walked back towards to the metro to my final stop here: Kalkaji Mandir Hindu Temple.

Kalkaji Mandir Hindu Temple

The holy shrine at Kalkaji Mandir Temple is believed to be a place where one receives blessings, which can fulfill all their wishes and desires.
IMG_7415IMG_7417Because of this belief, the place was a madhouse, with everyone waiting in line to visit this shrine.
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Instead I decided to browse the adjacent market for jewelry and snacks, then made a bee line to the exit.
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potato-filled pastries
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veggie fritters
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fried bread

Cost and location: Free entry; Kalkaji Mandir- purple line

Side note on drinking water: Clean drinking water is easy to come by here. Most markets sell bottled water or water by the glass.
DSC_2972I even found a water ATM. With this heat, hydration is key!DSC_3054

Side note on WiFi: There’s also free WiFi in most metro and railway stations. The problem is that you need an Indian number to register, so I’d recommend getting a local sim card if you plan to stay here for awhile.UntitledAfter I took the metro to visit two more temples. The first was called Jantar Mantar, which is actually an observatory used in the 18th century to predict the movements of the sun, moon, and planets. It looked OK from the outside, but the entry fee was 500 rupees, so I decided to pass.DSC_2973

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I didn’t go inside, so this is courtesy of Google images.

As a pro, the local entry fee is very cheap, at like 15 rupees, which is great for Indians that want to visit these sites.DSC_2974

From there I went to the most impressive temple of the day, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib.

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is the most prominent Sikh temple in New Delhi.DSC_2980It was originally the home of 17th century spiritual leader, Har Krishan Singh, who helped thousands suffering from smallpox by giving them fresh water from this pool.DSC_3017The home has since become a special place of worship, where at least 15,000 visitors come each day to bathe in its healing waters.DSC_3004DSC_3005DSC_3007DSC_3012DSC_3013They also have a community kitchen where visitors receive a free meal of curry and paratha, plus free drinking water and restrooms on site.IMG_7464IMG_7463DSC_3022DSC_3023All are welcome in this place, regardless of race, class, gender, or religion. This represents the foundation of Sikhism: equality, unity, and selfless service. As a sign of respect, visitors are simply asked to remove their shoes, wash their hands and feet, and cover their heads.DSC_2983DSC_2984DSC_2990 (2)As I walked the perimeter of the pool, I listened to the chant of spiritual hymns echo through the complex while birds gracefully flew overhead. Such a feeling of peace and serenity! ☮ 🕊IMG_7460DSC_3002DSC_3021
Cost and location: Free entry and free meal; Janpath- purple line

Before entering I had to remove my shoes and socks, and store them in this foreigner room. When I returned to the room to get my shoes I met two Israelis and a Canadian traveler. We got to talking and decided to head to Old Delhi together, to do a bit of exploring.DSC_3028

Old Delhi (Chandni Chowk)

The appeal of Old Delhi is in its chaos.DSC_3025DSC_3026DSC_3041DSC_3047DSC_3045DSC_3046DSC_3048There are tons of markets in this area, which are good for both shopping and eating. DSC_3051DSC_3040DSC_3093

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sacks of spices and chilies
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fresh ginger and garlic
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curry and rice

I even passed a McDonald’s, which had some unique Indian food options.fdd

Old Delhi is also home to many important historic sites, dating back to the 16th century, including the Red Fort.

Red Fort

The Red Fort is comprised of massive red sandstone walls, and used to be the home of India’s 17th century emperor during the Mughal dynasty.DSC_3035Now it’s home to many museums, and has even been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
DSC_3039Cost and location: 500 rupees to enter; Chandni Chowk- yellow line

Upon leaving I went to try my first Indian dish, dahi bhalla. This traditional snack is a nice balance of crutchy lentil balls, creamy and tangy yogurt, plus a sweet chutney drizzle. 4820872_0OMq9PDoOcQVA5AQ4Jwnn4Ae7MwrxnPrvyI94yAqlM0I also grabbed some prepackaged Indian snacks to try later on. 😉IMG_7409

Cost and location: Free to wander; Chandni Chowk- yellow line

My last day in Delhi I headed to Lodi Gardens.

Lodi Gardens

The gardens are an idyllic city escape, filled with flowers, birds, and refreshing ponds.
DSC_3052DSC_3055It also house the tombs and religious relics of many elite 16th century rulers from the Lodhi era. DSC_3070DSC_3074DSC_3065DSC_3063I saw many people (and dogs) hanging out in the public gardens. DSC_3083DSC_3081DSC_3086DSC_3087The place was also well-maintained with gardeners and cleaning staff.DSC_3092DSC_3085DSC_3077Cost and location: Free entry; Khan Market- purple line

From there I wandered to Lodhi Colony, to view some of its modern street art.

Lodhi Colony Street Art

Lodhi Colony is Delhi’s first open air public art district.DSC_3151Many of the pieces were inspired by the beauty of nature. DSC_3133DSC_3131DSC_3144Others stress the importance of community, or the ability to see things from a different perspective.DSC_3148DSC_3139DSC_3129

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Later I went wandering around the neighborhoods surrounding Lodhi to get a better feel for the residential districts of New Delhi.DSC_3118Some of the homes looked quite upscale, while others were crumbling in ruins. DSC_3094DSC_3156DSC_3117While walking around, I watched families out in the streets eating together, playing soccer, and kids riding their bikes. Sure, I stood out like a sore thumb, but nobody hassled me. They merely looked in curiosity, and many smiled and said, “Hello”.DSC_3123Hinduism is the main religion here, and it seems very ingrained in the culture. Although it’s a chaotic city, it still maintains a spiritual and calm feeling as well.

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pictures of the Hindu God are found all over the city

DSC_3098Heck, it’s even forbidden to harm cows here, since they are seen as sacred. DSC_3107

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holy cow 🐮

To be honest, I saw lots of animals on the street. I even found a dog that looked exactly like my parents’! 🐕DSC_3110After, as I was walking back to the metro, I randomly walked into an old friend I had met in Bulgaria a few years back. He was actually here in Delhi to pick up some medicine to help his ill father. He said it was too expensive back in the US, and it wasn’t covered under his health insurance. Apparently, India is a good place to go for getting pharmaceuticals at a fraction of the price. Anyway, we decided to catch up while walking through the Khan Market. The market had a lot of modern chains, like Subway and Starbucks, but they also had unique shops, like this trendy boutique called, Play Clan, which sold modern bags, paintings, and clothing, all with an Indian flare.fklj
Cost and location: Free to wander; Rajiv Chowk- yellow line

Anyway, I ended the evening with a meal at a cheap local restaurant near my hostel. They served some lentil curry with poori (a puffy bread), accompanied with onions, pepper and a spicy paste.

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Cost: less than 2 USD

Well, that concludes my time in New Delhi. Up next I’m heading to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. Stay tuned to hear all about it. Until then! 😀

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