After four plane changes and 24 hours of flying, we finally arrived in Delhi. What a place! Big, dusty, HOT, busy, there is no end to the ways to describe this outrageous city.
We arrived at 10pm and when we exited the airport we hit a wall of heat. The average daily temperatures since we’ve arrived have been in the low 40’s Celsius. It’s so hot that when you sweat it immediately evaporates off your skin so you’re surprisingly dry but in a constant state of dehydration. We drink at least 4 liters of water a day each and it’s barely enough.
One of the things that we noticed immediately was the poverty that is so prevalent everywhere in Delhi. So many people live on the streets or in garbage piles with nothing more than tarps (or less) for shelter. However, these people seem to have a quiet acceptance of circumstance and handle themselves with dignity which is very different from the often surly homeless people in our home city of Vancouver. There are countless children wandering about begging and it’s very difficult to resist giving some of them money.
Delhi is hosting the 2010 Commonwealth games in October and so the entire city is under construction. Everywhere you look the sidewalks are torn up and a lot of the monuments are closed for renovation. As a result of all this construction the air is absolutely thick with dust. By the end of a day out, we have a fine coating of dust all over us and feet so dirty that when we take our flip flops off you can still see the outline of them.
One of the things Delhi is famous for is its insane traffic and with good cause. There are more vehicles on the roads of this city than I have ever seen. It makes the traffic in a place like New York City seem like a Sunday cruise through the park. There is absolutely no regard for lanes and barely any for traffic lights. One of the best ways to get around the city are the auto or cycle rickshaws but you really tempt the fates cruising around in these in the thick of traffic.
The people of Delhi are a true 50/50 mix of good and bad. We draw a fair amount of attention everywhere we go and many people are very friendly. They happily greet us with big smiles and questions about where we’re from and the kids are stoked to practice their English with us.
On the other hand, we are also constantly harassed by folks trying to drag us to travel agencies or restaurants and who tell us nearly anything to convince us to come with them. If we’re not beating these people off, we’re fighting tooth and nail to not get ripped off for even the smallest things (such as paying 40 rupees for a bottle of water that should only cost 15). We’ve learned quickly to always question any prices we’re told and to assume that the initial price is usually double what something should cost. It can be very disheartening to have so many people try to take advantage of us but we try not to blame the entire city for the shoddy behavior of some. As a wise man that we met during our travels said to us when discussing this very issue… “You can’t go to college without paying tuition”.
Two of the most interesting places we’ve visited are the Jama Masjid mosque (Muslim) and the Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir temple (Hindu). Both were very beautiful but the feeling of them was completely different. We felt very conspicuous at Jama Masjid and were charged both an entrance fee as well as an additional fee to take pictures there. In contrast, we were welcomed at Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir with no entrance fees. However, we weren’t permitted to take pictures inside the temple so are unable to share the place with you (you’ll have to Google it).
Delhi is filled with temples, gardens, monuments and ruins.
The food in Delhi is delicious, spicy and CHEAP. It might cost us 150 rupees (equals around $2.40 Canadian) for a meal easily big enough to share and we’re both left full.
Delhi is broken up into Old and New Delhi. While New Delhi has the more modern buildings and shops, Old Delhi is where the true heart of the city lies. It’s definitely grittier on this side of town but there are countless bazaars to wander around and the sheer mass of people is mind blowing. We’ve discovered that the folks in Delhi have very little sense of personal space which takes some getting used to!
All in all, Delhi is a far bigger experience than we could have imagined. It’s fair to say that it has really been a great intro to India. What a crazy place!!