Starting our trip in Delhi was not our original plan. Talk about jumping into the deep end! As I mentioned in my last post, India was an add-on to the trip itinerary once we started expanding our plans. We knew it was going to be a culture shock but we decided to start the trip there because monsoon season starts in May-June and it becomes harder to travel. It is getting hotter by the day right now (up to 40 degrees during the day yesterday) but we are still glad we came.
Based on our research, when you fly to India from Toronto you have two options – Delhi or Mumbai. You can get to other cities but you generally have to connect through one of these two cities first. The flights cost about the same for each so we chose Delhi since it is in the north and is closer to the two things were really wanted to see – the Taj Mahal and Punjab.
Based on recommendations online, we booked an airport hotel package for our first night that included breakfast, late checkout (until 4pm) and an airport pick-up. Given that we were disoriented and tired, it was very reassuring to have a driver waiting with our names on a placard ready to take us to the hotel. After a good sleep, shower and breakfast, we felt more prepared to head out to our hostel in central Delhi called Madpackers. Madpackers was in a residential neighbourhood that was relatively quiet (my guess is there were only 30 honks per minute instead of the 60 honks per minute downtown). It was also very close to the metro and had some good restaurants nearby. We enjoyed walking around and people watching.
We didn’t actually do much sightseeing because our first few days were spent getting things organized. We had a lot of problems with our banks, which blocked us even when we had notified them we were abroad. Sorting that out took a while. We also wanted to get SIM cards for our phones but it seemed like a lot of red tape for tourists and ran out of time. We did manage to go to the famous and packed Chandni Chowk market and do an historical walking tour of Old Delhi. These areas are packed with people and tend to be chaotic. Basically, the stereotypical Delhi market scene. It was fun if not a bit overwhelming to visit. We were glad we didn’t book our accommodations there even though it was closer to the main monuments.
Uber is very common in some parts of India so we used that to get around or the very clean and modern metro system. We watched this show called “Don’t Drive Here” a long time ago and it was pretty accurate in terms of the driving conditions!
People said to plan 4-5 days to explore and there is definitely enough to do for that length of time but it is an exhausting city if you are not used to the pace. After 2 days, we were ready to move on to Rajasthan.
We grabbed our first thali (a popular set style of meal that includes several ‘dishes of the day’ plus rice, yogurt, dessert and naan, which is in the foil) at the train station and we were off!