Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hi, everyone!
I know I'm quite late with starting this Blog since I promised to do this already from March onwards. To be honest, staying the first time in India there where so many breathtaking good and not so good experiences that I didn't really trust myself about what to write at all. But now, two months later let me sum up some of my experiences for you, starting with bid, troublesome, but beautiful Delhi. 


I stayed at a middle ranged budget hotel named Jyoti Mahal. The hotel with its very charming Rajastan Style architecture and furnishings itself was clean and the stuff extraordinary friendly, but travelling alone I should have better chosen a nicer area. The hotel is located at Pahar Ganj, a backpacker area, not really shady but quite poor with many children begging for food and goods and for sure the dirtiest streets I experienced throughout my whole trip.

My room at the Jyoti Mahal. I told you, the hotel itself was quite nice and cheap on top of that, too. 
They also had an extraordinary charming roof top restaurant.
Check here for further informations:  http://www.jyotimahal.net/

So what to say about Delhi... Most of the time I was working inside the National Archives and at the National Gallery of Modern Art (What an impressive new built complex... You should make sure to visit there when you're in Delhi), so I didn't experience the city to the fullest. It's a really big city and the pollution is so high, that I sometimes thought my breath would leave me. Compared to the other places in India where I've travelled, it really smells bad, even in the nicer areas. Nevertheless it has many intriguing places to offer and everytime I got really frustrated (on that later), there came some unexpectedly nice surprice. 
One place I'd like to recommend you for your own travel is definately the Lodhi Gardens. They are located a bit away from the City center (namely Connough Place) around a five minutes TukTuk drive behind the India Gate. There you can chill and enjoy fresh air, a great variety of tropical trees, flowers and friendly animals surrounded by beautiful ancient muslim architecture. If you go there at later afternoon, you can experience maybe one of the most romantic sunsets in the world and get a really nice "1001 Nights" feeling. But also here you have to be careful. After the tourists go back to there hotels, it becomes a famous place for lovers and the like to go, so definately don't stay there until it gets dark!

Speaking of muslim architecture, there is quite a lot to see from the Mughal period in Delhi. Especially if your time is running, I recommend you to take one of the three hours Rickshaw Tours through Old Delhi. I did and it was breathtaking since you will be able to experience places, like for example the Spice Market and a daily Fleamarket in the Muslim Quarters, that you wouldn't find as easily and convenient alone. That's also a good place to get a good bargain for Saree and the like with a much better quality than the ones they sell at Pahar Ganj (although I'd recommend Karol Bagh if you're looking for affordable quality). This tour will also bring you to the Jama Masjid, that is the biggest mosque in India, as well as to the Red Fort. Here are some impressions: 

Another UNESCO World heritage which is really worth a visit is Humayun's Tomb. It's not only impressing because of it's incredible size and architectue, but also offers one of the nicest parks in Delhi as well as a magnificant view over the city. There are a lot of squirrels there, so watch your lunch boxes! ^_^
Here, I once more experienced that the stories about dogs dying from hunger on the streets in India are not as true as the rumor says. Actually many of these dogs I saw were in a quite acceptable condition regarding their circumstances (quite better in shape than for example in some regions of Spain). Actually, there are many people caring for the wild and domestic animals throughout the city since it will help to rise their Karma. For example, in the shadow of the outer walls of Humayun's Tomb, I watched a family sitting on the grass and cooking some kind on open fire of stew for the many (friendly) stray dogs living in the park and the dogs laid patiently around them and waited for their meal to get ready. It was really a cute sight.

But one of my highlights in Delhi I experienced in the company of an elderly TukTuk Driver, who after a long nice talk during the ride took me (without additional charge ^^) to Delhi's main Sikh Temple, where we met up with his wife and daughter who where currently cooking for the devotees in the temple kitchen. He was patiently answering all my questions, showed me around the place and told me about the ritual / religious customs of the Sikh. All in all that temple was a really overwhelming place and I'm still impressed about the voluntary work they do there for the poor, as for example cooking around 16.000 warm and tasty meals a day in a stunningly clean kitchen! 

As I said, I spend many pleasurable moments in Delhi, most of them because of the striking friendlyness of the people there. But, as every nice place hosts also some dark aspects, all in all Delhi really stressed me out. First of all, especially around Connought Place, even if I dressed very modestly and with the obligatory scarf drape around me, I couldn't move one step without beeing spoken to by one of the many young men hanging around the city center and doing nothing the whole day it seems than to bother female tourists to be treated for coffee or enjoy their "loose morals" (I hope you get what I want to say). I can deal with beggars and also with the many touts that wanted to get you into some travel agency or handicraft shop, but this was quite disturbing, especially since one could get really mean towards them and they still wouldn't leave so easily. Therefore, I just couldn't get the feeling of beeing relaxed of feeling completely safe at all and decided not to take longer stroll which I otherwise love to do and travel to every destination by TukTuk.... I have to admit, that I not once experienced even the slightest hint of someone wanting to to me harm, steal my bag or anything like this. Compared to cities like Paris or Naples, robbery didn't seem to be very present in Delhi. But one the other hand, I was always very careful not to make a wrong step. 

So all in all I think if you travel to Delhi in a group, I think it can be a really nice experience. For me travelling alone and on a buisness trip it was mainly a lot of stress. And to be honest, I was sometimes very happy to be so occupied with my work there, so I don't have to spend my time out on the street.
Compared to my following time in Bengal, it was not such a good experience I think. Like I will tell you the next time, Kolkata (the city of which everybody has warned me to be nothing but a big slum) turned out to allow me to make much more beautiful memories ^.^