Delhi: Bamboozling

Cayley and I are in Delhi now after a few days in Goa, and the two places are very different. Whereas Goa was very laid back and beachy with a hippie vibe, Delhi is more intense and varied. Our hostel also happens to be 100 degrees all the time and is filled with mosquitos and mice, but other than that we’re really enjoying the city.

Yesterday we hired a driver to take us on a drive through the city and to all the famous monuments around Delhi. It was a steaming hot, sunny day and we went through about 5 litres of water each, and we managed to visit several World Heritage sites. The car had air conditioning and our driver blasted Hindi dance music the whole time, which was quite entertaining. Good thing neither of us are prone to motion sickness, because driving Delhi is quite an experience. Though there might be a line marking two lanes on a road, that line is ignored completely. In a line there will usually be about 3 cars, 4 motor bikes, 3 rickshaws, and several people squished across a road. All of the vehicles are constantly honking, as opposed to North American rules, people in Indian simply honk in order to let another car know they are there. Passing a car?: honk. Stopped behind another vehicle?: honk. Want to change lanes?: honk. Trucks actually have it painted on their back bumpers: “Honk please.” The driving is similar to Mumbai, but the population seems to be more concentrated here, so everything seems more congested and packed tight.

However, there are areas of Delhi that are nothing like that. For example, the area near Parliament reminded us of Washington, D.C. and the strip between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capital building. Parks on either side of a wide, neatly paved road flanked by the India Gate (different than the one in Mumbai) and the Parliament buildings. Police everywhere, making sure no cars stop. Huge press vans crowding. Like the area of Mumbai that reminded me of Paris, this area of Delhi was completely different from what I imagined the city to be. Actually, most of the city beat my expectations. Sure, on our drive a few kids came up to our windows asking for change, but it’s not the extremely stressful, foreign experience I was anticipating.

India Gate- New Delhi

The closest we came to our expectations of Delhi was when we went to a certain area, near the end of our tour. Our driver couldn’t speak very good English, so we weren’t sure if he understood our pleading for “food!” or our reservations about the infamous Delhi Belly. We were especially worried when we entered an area that seemed a lot more poor, cramped and dirty than other areas of the city. Every restaurant we saw at the side of the (extremely busy) road seemed to be coated in soot. The best way I can describe them is this: imagine the dirtiest bathrooms you’ve seen…and now imagine eating in them. Ah.

Finally we stopped in an area that can only described as ‘the slums.’ Though the bathroom restaurants we saw were dirty, they were also plentiful and packed on a busy city street. The place we stopped at seemed more like a free-for-all. As soon as we got out of the car, a man who was approximately 150 years old begged for food in Hindi. We began to follow our driver, and I almost stepped on a man that may or may not have been deceased. Water that smelled like urine flowed over our toes. We finally got to another busy street, and our driver lead us into the middle of traffic. My toes have never felt so vulnerable. We were so close to the cars that we had to turn sideway to fit between them. Clearly, Cayley and I continually glanced at each other with a look saying, “Where could we possibly be going to eat in this area. We are going to die of dysentery.”

Eventually, the driver stopped us in the middle of chaos and pointed to a little ally on the side of the road. Oh, great. Entering the ally, we spotted a busy little restaurant called Karim’s. It was slightly bathroom-looking, but we were hungry and decided to go with it. Surprisingly, the food was actually delicious (and not too spicy!). The best part: we have yet to experience Delhi Belly. Here’s to hoping.

Some other adventures that day included a visit to the Red Fort, where we were stalked by groups of underaged boys who kept asking to take our picture. We’re officially famous. We also saw the memorial for Mahatma Gandhi, where he was cremated. There, we had to take off our shoes, though there was a runner that made sure we didn’t burn off our feet on the hot tile. Not so at the Lotus Temple, a Ba’hai place of worship shaped like a flower. We were asked to take off our shoes and it immediately felt like stepping on hot coals. The temple was very grand and surrounded by bright blue pools of water, which we were tempted to jump in to save our toes. They were off-limits though. I learned a lot about the Ba’hai faith there, and it was actually very interesting. We also visited a tomb that was the prototype for the Taj Mahal, so clearly it was quite opulent and stunning. We were continually shocked at how intricate and well-preserved the stone carvings were at all of the monuments, especially considering all of them were hundreds of years old.

Hanuman’s Tomb- New Delhi

Lotus Temple

Our day in Delhi was hectic, so we spent the night ordering Dominos pizza (a trend during our time in India) and watching a Canadian movie.

As mentioned before, our time in Goa was quite different. After my last update, we met a fellow Canadian girl, and decided to go out for drinks with her. After trying the pungent local liquor Coconut Fenny, we met some locals who suggested a bar at a neighbouring beach called “Cape Town.” Later, we got a cab ride there and were shocked at how different the Baga Beach area was from Anjuna Beach, where we were staying. Anjuna had a very hippie vibe, whereas Baga was filled with busy, fancy bars. We were shocked by the bathrooms at the bar: Mirrors! The toilet flushes! Sinks! Soap! Something to dry your hands with! Clearly, we have low standards at this point.

That bar happened to have a “buy 1, get 1 free” deal going on, so we went for it. Turns out, this means they bring both drinks out at the same time, so you’re constantly holding two drinks and looking like an alcoholic. After some dancing and talking, we found that the bar scene wasn’t that much different from home. They do have a 10pm noise curfew in Goa, but that didn’t seem to stop the outdoor band. The band was playing North American favourites like Drops of Jupiter, and the indoor dance-y area of the bar was playing Enrique Iglesias. Typical. I’m finding that Top 40 American music is absolutely everywhere, and it’s concerning.

That night was followed by a flight out of the tiniest airport I’ve ever been to the next morning. Though Goa was sticky and monsoon-y, Delhi has been sunny and hot hot hot so far. Today, we’re off to find somewhere with air conditioning. We also plan on sampling McDonalds India, which sells a wide assortment of Indian veg options. India really is the best place to eat if you are vegetarian. Well, as long as you can avoid Delhi Belly. Or dysentery. It sounds easy, but it’s easy to be constantly suspect when the places you eat look like places to pee. I’m pretty sure McDonalds will feel high-class. Wow, I really am developing very low standards.

Bye for now!

Delhi Belly? Try Delhi feet.

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