New Delhi could be any city in the world. You could “transplant” it and put it anywhere in the world and it would fit. It has a new part and an old part and I have been told that the new part, built by the English, was planned. Driving around the city, it reminded me in parts of Maputo, capital of Mozambique. The architectural styles, the wide leafy boulevards and pavements.
This was the first city I toured when I left Pune, a mere 2 hour flight away. I landed in New Delhi airport and walked for 20 minutes before I got to the baggage carousel. The airport is huge. It could also be an airport anywhere in Europe. I was reminded in parts of Madrid airport which is truly spectacular. So is Delhi’s airport, the Indira Gandhi International Airport. Wide boulevards with manicured lawns lead into and out of the airport.
We stayed in a hotel in central Delhi but I will not mention it here because I do not recommend it at all. The first room I was shown to had no windows, a broken door and dirty linen. After a call to the travel agent we were upgraded to another room in the front of the hotel – with a window. I am a South African girl, and I need to breathe in fresh air and see the sun and moon.
New Delhi is a city of diverse sights, sounds and textures. I will attempt to describe some of them here.
There are fruit vendors everywhere. In fact, throughout India there are many fruit vendors, carts piled with colourful, abundant fruit. This vendor had positioned himself outside one of the subway entrances.
Info on the Delhi metro system (wikipedia): It is one of the largest metro systems in the world. Daily, 1.6 million people use it. We could definitely use such an extensive system here is South Africa. It is the first metro and rail-based system in the world to get carbon credits for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
I loved the taxi cabs – the make of the cars and their colouring. They vied with auto-rickshaws and bicycle-rickshaws for fares.
On the streets, cars, rickshaws, hand-steered fruit carts and elephants vied for space. Outside Raj Ghat, we turned a corner and what did we see? An elephant!
In Jaipur, on any given street, I saw cars, rickshaws, bicycles, motorbikes, elephants, camels and horse drawn carts, all being steered, people going about their business.
We came across a snake charmer, straight out of the story books. I thought they didn’t exist! Well, here was a real live one. The cobra seemed a bit tame, hardly affected by the charmer’s repeated taps on its head to continue dancing.
Qutb Minar – a spectacular structure made out of red sandstone and marble. The tallest minaret in India. In the Qutb complex, evidence of a Hindu temple can been seen, which was destroyed. Construction started in 1193 and 27 Hindu and Jain temples were demolished and the materials used to build it. Our guide said that at one point it was open and visitors were able to climb all 379 stairs. But it since 1979 it has been closed to the public when about 60 children died in a stampede during a school trip. It is a truly magnificent structure.
The Iron Pillar of Delhi – it is 7m tall, weighs 6 tons and made out of solid iron. It has been standing since circa 420 AD. It has baffled modern metallurgists because it has not corroded at all! There is a lot of mythical lore around this pillar. One of the stories is that if someone could completely encircle the pillar with their arms, with their backs to the pillar, all their wishes would come true. Needless to say, many people tried this, and some of the inscriptions started to rub off. It is now encircled by a fence. The inscriptions are in Sanskrit.
India Gate – a monument built to commemorate the 90,000 Indian soldiers who died fighting for the British Raj in World War 1 and the Anglo-Afghan War (wikipedia). There is a perpetual flame, lots of flower garlands and a permanent guard.
There are many ice cream vendors outside India Gate. I bought 2 (Rs40 each), gave a Rs100 note and got Rs10 back. I asked for my other Rs10. The vendor started arguing with me in Hindi…off course I responded in English. So a cross language altercation took place. Our guide tried to translate. Eventually I understood that the Rs10 he kept back was to pay the cop a bribe to allow him to sell ice cream outside India Gate. My issue is if an item is marked a certain amount, an expectation is set. If he really has to charge an extra Rs10, then he should mark his prices as such. It is not about the money. #justsaying…
As mentioned is previous post, next time I go to New Delhi, I will spent a whole day at Akshardham Temple because I did not manage to visit it during this visit.
Note: I travelled on Jet Airways to India and within India, and I got the best service! I highly recommend this airline.