India is a huge country with a colourful history and colourful cities. It can be overwhelming and inspirational and challenging. For us India takes time to understand, 2 weeks is not enough and one part of the country doesn’t give you the whole picture. Our short snapshot of the state of Rajasthan began as it ended in Delhi.
We flew into India on 9th March 2019, at the time there was unrest in the areas close to the Pakistan border which led us to an extra long flight time due to closed airspace. Flying is not our favourite pastime and flying squished into a small seat overnight is definitely not a favourite pastime. Either way we made it, navigated arrivals and a drop off at our first hostel. The first thing you notice is the traffic, now we’ve been to busy places, we’ve seen traffic but nothing quite prepares you for the organised chaos that is Indian traffic.
Food Tour of Delhi
Luckily for us Delhi also has a great metro system, it’s only when you step on the trains and see the distances do you realise quite how big Delhi is. Our first outing was on a food tour – perhaps a little brave but why not just go for it! We took a private tour that took us to several different spots and lots and lots of food. Some in restaurants, some from stalls on the street. All pretty delicious. Even if you think you know Indian food it won’t compare. Each area of Indian has a different style and different signature dishes. We worked our way through paneer shawarma, spicy momo’s covered in honey, don puri, aloo tikka, and not forgetting the sweets, pistachio and saffron kulfi, condensed milk pudding and a cashew nut and silver slice – to name a few!
Our guide took us around the streets of Delhi, first by a rickshaw then on foot. It’s a popular route which gives some reassurance that you’re not going to get super ill. I possibly wouldn’t jump straight into a food tour again in future but it certainly took away some of the fear.
Jama Masjid Mosque
Other than the food Delhi has plenty to offer, from its old small streets filled with markets to the wide leafy streets of New Delhi. You could spend days and days exploring the city, on your own (if you brave the traffic) or on a small tour. We had the same tour guide take us round the sights the next day.
Starting with the Jama Masjid Mosque which had an air of Uzbekistan about it. It isn’t 100% renovated but is still very popular. The mosque itself was built between 1650 and 1656, over the years its become the symbol of Islam in India. Still active today you have to remove your shoes and cover your arms and legs if you’re female. I’d recommend taking a scarf but if you don’t have anything suitable they’ll send you something! It’s quite a special experience walking around with your toes on the ground along with everyone else. Apart from the dried rice of course – for some reason it was everywhere and had a habit of sticking to the bottom of your feet.
Another great thing to do in Delhi is experience the Sikh temples. Famous for their generosity and kindness to human beings, Sikhism is popular in India. The first temple we went to we seemed to almost stumble across, although I’m sure our guide knew where she was going. I don’t know the name but it had an amazing golden altar inside. Again we removed our shoes, dropping them off at the shoe drop off, covered our heads and ventured inside. We were able to sit at the back and listen to the service for 10 minutes before following the crowd round to see the altar up close.
Before leaving we headed into the kitchen. Sikhs will offer food to anyone and everyone and it has become part of their identity. We watched the ladies at work in the kitchen making chapatis, we attempted to help but there were quite a few giggles, before seeing the automated chapati machine. We were thankful for this as it wasn’t too busy, when we made it to the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib temple we had no chance of getting near the kitchen. It was extremely busy with queues and basically a conveyor of people wanting to get inside. Still beautiful and still a great experience, just a slightly different one.
Don’t visit on a Sunday!
Another popular activity in Old Delhi is a rickshaw ride through the market, unluckily for us it was Sunday and so everything was shut. As we quickly came to learn that still meant we had to do the rickshaw ride just passed endless closed shops!
Perhaps our favourite thing we did was visit Humayun’s Tomb. A peaceful oasis in the middle of Delhi. It’s a garden tomb of a Mughal emperor designed by Persian architects. A lovely walk through the gardens leads you to the tomb in the centre. Steep steps take you up to the entrance where you get a great view across the park. Families were around, playing cricket, making TikToks (first time I’d ever heard of it) and generally milling about. In the UK it would be packed with people in the summer chilling with picnics and books. We could have easily spent hours there relaxing and to be honest, hiding from the traffic!
Our time in Delhi was short, just 48 hours, but we were ready to move on. It is not a place I would rush to go back to, it isn’t somewhere I’d recommend for your first experience, but it was the starting point for our adventure and I’m pleased to have been.
Next up was our first experience of Indian trains and the beautiful city of Udaipur.