I admit to being nervous about traveling in and around Delhi on my own. Also, after over a month of public transport I was ready for some luxury and ease in my travels, which is why I hired a car and driver for my first 6 days back in India to tour Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra (the Golden Triangle).
The good thing about having a car and driver is that you get to see many things in a short period of time. You also get hassled less by touts and rickshaw drivers and you can have them help you with finding an ATM and a SIM card, which I needed to do right after landing. I started touring at 3:30pm and managed to see Humayun’s Tomb (a beautiful mausoleum built by Emporer Humayun’s widow in 1565-72 A.D.), the Parliament Buildings (great architecture), the Delhi Gate, and Lodi Gardens.
Lodi Gardens was full of healthy/fit people running along the perimeter path, beautiful temples, a lake, and many people walking dogs. It was really beautiful and even in the dark I felt safe. I was actually surprised at how clean and modern New Delhi was. I was really expecting it to be more like Kathmandu.
The next day was another busy day of touring. I saw the big Mosque where despite wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, I still had to wear the stupid gown. They asked me to pay afterwards and I said no, especially since I had to pay for a guide I didn’t ask for. I then took a cycle tour through the Old Delhi bazaars. Now this was how I thought all of Delhi would look. It was dirty, chaotic and full of markets and people. Each street specialized in a different item: shoes, sari’s, spices, flowers, books, paper, etc. My rickshaw driver took me into a spice market and up to the roof. It kind of looked like the crack houses you see on TV except instead of crack and junkies, it was full of spices (and rats, garbage, and people sleeping in corners) with a smell that made you choke. It was fascinating, really.
I then went to the Hindu Temple complex, Swaminarayan Akshardham. The main attraction, Akshardham Mandir was the most amazing architecture I have ever seen with intricate carvings including 148 life-sized elephants. Sadly we were not allowed to take our cameras inside, but I just stood there in awe talking to myself in my head about how incredible it was. It was actually refreshing to not have a bunch of tourists snapping pictures. If you go to Delhi, do not miss this!
Next up was the Raj Ghat where Mahatma Ghandi was cremated and then the Lotus Temple (Baha’i House of Worship) where I happily took some time to meditate. We finished off with a visit to the Sikh Temple and then Qutb Minar, a 73 meter rubble masonry minaret.
I really enjoyed my brief time in Delhi. I felt safe and I enjoyed the eclectic mix of old and crumbly with modern and new. Add to that the crazy driving, the elephants and horse drawn carts on the highway, the nice people, and beautiful peaceful parks and you’ve got Delhi.