My trip to Nepal starts in New Delhi. The flights i was looking at at all went through New Delhi, so i thought i should spend a few days there. I hadn't been to India before. I have wanted to but just hadn't made it. Too many places within it to visit made it intimidating to try to cram in to 2-3 weeks, but on this trip i can at least see Delhi.
I arrived after over 24 hours of travel, flying through Shanghai. I landed in New Delhi at 2am, but by the time i made it through immigration, baggage, and money changing it was 3:30. I took a rickety taxi to my hostel. The drive was great. The air was warm and the traffic light so we sped through the streets, with the driver telling me about the Holi festival, helping me with my Hindi, and spotting monkeys. We also smoked in the taxi. An invitation to smoke in a taxi is always welcome.
As we drove into the area where my hostel is in the main bazaar area of Pahar Ganj, the streets narrowed and we dodged early morning rickshaws, people sleeping in the streets, piles of stuff, and cows chilling out eating scraps left over from the market. I took all of this that i was staying in the right area.
My hostel is the Smyle Inn, a modest budget hostel on a narrow side street. I have a room which lacks any charm and while it doesn't look it, i believe it to be clean. The staff are very nice and helpful and there is a free breakfast. I am content.
I slept for 2 hours, ate and headed out.
The streets that had been quiet a few hours earlier were and are now wonderful madness. A whirlwind of rickshaws, tuk tuks, scooters, bicycles, vendors with carts of food and other items, medium sized brown dogs, and pedestrians. No sidewalks, so i snaked my way through it all, brushing against the people and motorists.
I made my way to the nearest metro station and rode a few stops north into Old Delhi, which is all the chaos of the previous neighbourhood, but intensified. Men called out constantly, wanting me to take their rickshaws, wanting money, trying to sell my things, or just wanting to talk. This will grow tiresome, but today i minded it not at all. That being said, their was one boy who followed me for blocks. He spoke no English but walked too close and chattered to me. I shooed him away repeatedly and with increasing sternness. Finally, when i though he was gone, he grabbed my ass and ran off.
I walked through a market, past a bird hospital (imagining parrots with tiny wing casts and crutches), and went to the Red Fort, one of New Delhi's main attractions. It was a complex of lovely buildings set in a peaceful park. It was pleasant but not amazing.
From there i walked for ages, convinced i could find my was to Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque. Miraculously, despite the dearth of street signs, i found it. It is a massive mosque, teeming with tourists. Beautiful, but not on par with those of Egypt or Uzbekistan. The tourists detracted from the solemnity i think. I did relish in the mandatory shoe removal, wandering in stocking feet on the worn, warm stones.
I went back out into the streets. I walked, again for ages, to Connaught Place, a very British designed, circular shopping complex, with wide sidewalks, and a nice park in the centre, where i sat under a tree for a while, people watching.
I then walked, stopped for lunch at a vegetarian restaurant where i was overwhelmed with options, and walked down to the India gate where throngs of people strolled around and sat in the park or splashed and bathed in the pools in the park.
At this point it was only afternoon, but i was exhausted. I took the metro back to my neighbourhood through more markets and then for a nap.
A note about the metro. It is great. Cheap, fast, and there are stations all over the city. You have to go through metal detectors and get wanded to board, but the security does not seem very thorough. Each train has a car just for women. I rode the train three times today. The first time i rode in a regular car, which is just like riding in any crowded subway. The second two times i rode in the ladies' car, which i think i will do from now on. It is far less crowded and it smells infinitely better. Plus, there are no men chatting me up.
I am amazed by the women here, how dressed up they are in beautifully coloured saris, with glittering jewelry and sandals, exquisitely long hair, and beautiful makeup. I felt so scruffy by comparison.
After my nap i went out for a stroll and to a restaurant for some dal and tea and a cigar on a nice second storey balcony, overlooking the street, enjoying a cigar.
Before coming here everyone told me how bad the city smelled, but this has not been my experience today. Sure, sometimes i would pass a spot that reeked of urine or body odor or exhaust, but more often i was treated to the wonderful smells of strong incense, roses, and frying chilis and spices. No complaints here.
Ready for bed now. Tomorrow i head to Agra for the day.