Prior to my virgin trip to India, I did some research on what to expected and what to be wary of before embarking on this flavourful trip, but truth be told, nothing can really prepare you for the assault on your senses when you arrive in India. We decided to just hire a guide for our 6 days throughout our trip so we wouldn’t waste time finding out how to get around, plus having a guide with you for your first time in a foreign country can be extremely helpful. Our flight landed in New Delhi at about midnight, and after passing through immigration and collecting our bags, our guide Mr Honey was there to collect us. Departing the airport in the middle of the night into the city didn’t really give us a sense of how hectic things were going to be the next day. I noticed the closer we got to the city, the more cars started honking on the road. Our driver then said to us “it’s very noisy yes?” I also started to realise that most cars/lorries have a bumper sticker on the back of their trunk emblazoned in neon colours “BLOW HORN” or the more common ones “HORN OK PLEASE”. I guess it’s their way of saying hello on the streets while driving, heh. Our driver then turns around to us and says “You need three things to drive in India,” Mr Honey smiled and said “good horn, good brakes and good luck.”
When we arrived at hotel around midnight, the honking did not die down, in fact it was magnified 10 times fold as our hotel was situated nearby the New Delhi railway station. Felt as though it was new years eve. It did feel a little festive to us tourists, till when it was time for bed, I praised the creation of earplugs. The next day when we rose up early, the first thing that assaulted my senses were the honking once more. Breakfast roti with curry while groggily trying to get all pumped up about our first day out in Delhi.
Mr Honey greeted us with a big beaming smile when we met him in the lobby and he briefed us on our itinerary for the day. Day 1 :
- Jama Masjid, or known as the Jama Mosque
- Trishaw ride around Chandni Chowk market
- Official residence of the President of India
- India Gate
- Humayun’s tomb
- Lotus temple
We first hit the streets of Delhi and made our way to the Jama Mosque, which according to our driver would be packed during the afternoons so a morning visit would be a better idea, plus the weather would be kinder to us as well. We arrived at a huge complex and realised this is why it was known as one of the largest mosque in all of India. Our local guide met us at the entrance and guided us in, whispering a warning for us to be wary of our belongings, petty crime is rampant in the area even inside the mosque compounds. Once we took off our shoes and entered through the gates, we were greeted magnificently with the colossal and ornate Jama mosque, what a beauty. Good morning Delhi!
With limited time given to us to explore the complex, it was a shame we had to leave so soon. I could have easily spent the entire day here photographing everything. The mosque was just so symmetrically pleasing to take in. Our guide showed us the way out, and loaded us onto a very touristy rickshaw ride around the old market of Chandni Chowk.
To be honest, I expected this to be very touristy and that I wouldn’t enjoy it much, but when you’re thrown in the middle of traffic with crazy cars honking everywhere your adrenaline starts pumping like crazy, and can’t help but enjoy the heck out of a rickshaw ride. The lack of personal space in India is also something you’d have to get used to, I found it a little uncomfortable at the proximity of people who would gather around you, but this also extends to vehicles on the road, and the feeling is heightened when you’re in a tiny rickety rickshaw with cars almost bumping into you during a traffic jam. Ay! Please don’t let me die! Thankfully we soon turned away from the main roads, and headed down into tiny alleyways where there were only other rickshaws, bicycles & motorbikes.
After that harrowing rickshaw ride through the local market, our next stop would be the very opulent and uneventful visit to the official residence of the President of India. It was grand and all, but we weren’t allowed to go anywhere nearby the building, so if you plan on visiting this place for photos to get a glimpse of the former home of the Viceroy of India, make sure to bring along a camera with good zoom range. Apart from that, you can totally scrap this from your itinerary, it’s a waste of time in my opinion.
After that quick 5 minute stop outside the residence, it was down a long straight road to the pay a visit to the ‘Arc de Triomphe’ of India, known as the India Gate. Although it was just another touristy site, a giant war memorial monument in the middle of the city, people from all walks of life could be seen here. From ice cream vendors, to the local visitors of the area you get to dive into the centre of the chaos that makes India charming.
Our best visit of the day would have to be the next location, Humayun’s Tomb. A gigantic garden-tomb which was a first on the India continent which was built by the wife of the Mughal emperor Humayun after his passing. The opposite love story of the Taj Mahal, where it was built out of love for his wife who passed. The complex was magnificently large, and again I could have easily spent the entire day here. Too many photos to take, and too little time. I would highly recommend spending as much time here as you possibly can for the day, so you can take your time to stroll around at your own pace to appreciate the beautiful architecture of the complex.
After that wonderful visit to Humayun’s tomb, our final stop for the day would be a short visit to the Lotus Temple. One of the most iconic buildings in India. I would have loved to do a fly by with my drone over this magnificent building but unfortunately drone usage is completely banned in India when I visited, such a shame. The lotus temple prides itself on welcoming anyone inside regardless of religion, a safe place to just be spiritually present. The crowds were massive, the longest queue we have yet to encounter on our trip in India.
Our very tiring and eye-opening first day in India did not disappoint. The sights and sounds are something very new to me which takes some getting used to. The only constant warning that came from our tour guides is that Delhi is not a very safe place as compared to other parts of India and that we would feel safer in Agra & Jaipur where we would be during the next couple of days. He even insisted we do not venture out of the hotel after dark saying that there would be dangerous people on the streets that would target us, and that we would be safer to explore anywhere else but the city of Delhi. With that warning coming to us 5 times throughout the day, stories of murderers and robbers roaming the streets (as unlikely as that sounded) we ended up going to a mall. Since we were not too keen on meeting any murderers as foretold by our guide, thank you very much, we ordered an Uber straight back to the hotel after grabbing dinner where we rested up before embarking on our road trip to Agra the very next day. Taj Mahal, here we come!