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.41080065234_136240e15d_cThen 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.39928598960_b15a51ca8c_cMy 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. 🛏27891571948_528ea560ff_c27891571858_8ff2140450_cCost: 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.26868453457_5bd76d1402_cFrom 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. 27867266708_934da3f6d7_cWhen 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.27867266738_44dcca2afc_cI 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.27867266778_6178292fc4_cAnyway, 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! 😲41695860502_7ded98e3ea_cThe 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. 📷27867669318_8efd9bc094_cAt least I managed to get some sneaky shots of my own through the gate.
26868318997_40a0da1f16_c41695860552_4f53740a3f_cFrom 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.27891572088_6c586364f9_cAll 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. 🙂

27867669458_9fa6f25071_cI 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. 41767304011_1423cd4395_c

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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. 27907980388_95b2e0027c_c39928599020_0e1c9b0a95_c39952681900_f9bf9a1e9c_c39952681960_7614c447f4_c41049359124_c28457c7e1_cAnyway, 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.
26890385797_3c355e8283_cIt is composed of 27 marble “petals”, which are arranged in clusters to form nine symmetrical sides. 💮

26890385697_65db50747c_cCost 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.
40859319725_e97938d693_c40859319805_8ff19efdf3_cThey also believe in the ideals of one supreme God, karma, and reincarnation through grace.40859320005_0da05af5fe_c27889600418_719844a05b_c40861530475_4c66fb3d5b_c27889600478_81e5abcb50_cTo make your life divine, you must always chant the name of God, “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna…”27889600598_ca336caf48_cHere 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.
40861530365_2678ab3cf4_c39952682050_6419c17041_cBecause of this belief, the place was a madhouse, with everyone waiting in line to visit this shrine.40861530405_09fe90c4a4_cInstead 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.40860357805_2302b8ca94_c

I even found a water ATM. With this heat, hydration is key!39968968440_159f043eb7_zSide 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.41080440334_f63b99037b_bAfter 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.40860357825_f974d380d1_c

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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.40860357925_0860a6be82_cFrom 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.40860513795_b067d5376c_cIt 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.41760482181_7582e451b9_cThe home has since become a special place of worship, where at least 15,000 visitors come each day to bathe in its healing waters.40861122405_b5b299cc64_c40861122315_737ff20000_c40861122535_540a8062be_c41760481971_9780001562_c40861122635_740e18c912_cThey also have a community kitchen where visitors receive a free meal of curry and paratha, plus free drinking water and restrooms on site.26892224257_6e4c06133b_c26892224397_5dd5372155_c41760482301_585437217b_c41049243444_91121234fd_cAll 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.40860513995_9003211807_c40860514095_68d5c09da5_c
40861036135_4fc76eff48_cAs 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! ☮ 🕊26892224457_9d0f6c1370_c40861036515_89ebe784c1_c
41760482331_4de005deac_cCost 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.41049243584_42e4125205_c
Old Delhi (Chandni Chowk)

The appeal of Old Delhi is in its chaos.40867911805_223ffcb8ef_c41049243644_b7acd69418_c40868114865_8b6ba5689f_c41049359034_bbd34e6be0_c41049358984_12e16ea783_c41049359004_37911d3d14_c41049359084_a4ce910f45_cThere are tons of markets in this area, which are good for both shopping and eating.41726162382_0d1285a3a6_c40868114815_ba358dc82d_c39968958020_f2cfe3210f_c

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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.41061358954_b444ddc7e8_cOld 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.40868114645_10e1cdf5f5_cNow it’s home to many museums, and has even been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
40868114755_7765710dcc_cCost 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.41735230672_14c5945c8d_zI also grabbed some prepackaged Indian snacks to try later on. 😉40861530445_538d8a4fe7_cCost 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.
39968968410_4dc087db80_c41734891842_cdb46eb248_cIt also house the tombs and religious relics of many elite 16th century rulers from the Lodhi era.39968962950_bcbe21c98b_c41776514901_484a3695ae_c41058992094_a290f59b42_c27907922808_cedcfbbf81_cI saw many people (and dogs) hanging out in the public gardens. 39968996280_455250c144_c39968996230_7ea9b12ee8_c39968968490_59e34d290d_c39968957880_a3e7f38a76_cThe place was also well-maintained with gardeners and cleaning staff.39968957950_2c604da288_c26908333787_a40af1d622_c39968963070_2815fa13df_cCost 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.39969107130_826612df4a_cMany of the pieces were inspired by the beauty of nature.39969141730_8c6d51f254_c39969141640_737107d8fa_c39969193730_fbfe927423_cOthers stress the importance of community, or the ability to see things from a different perspective.39969193530_3d19bf503a_c39969141820_d27029c2e6_c39969141520_bfb718eb94_c39969106810_6ef0177393_cLater I went wandering around the neighborhoods surrounding Lodhi to get a better feel for the residential districts of New Delhi.41735330882_607af0dda0_cSome of the homes looked quite upscale, while others were crumbling in ruins. 26908333927_9bd27e6a21_c39969106720_95a3efe0fd_c
41735330832_2c44c9cb3c_zWhile 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”.41735330932_bea2d12da6_zHinduism 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

26908334017_562be63d6f_cHeck, it’s even forbidden to harm cows here, since they are seen as sacred. 41059143954_f62d55971b_c

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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’! 🐕41059144074_2d76c77913_cAfter, 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.39968930240_71d01705e1_zCost 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.

39968926130_ca5c88c519_zCost: 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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