Okay, truth be told, we are behind on our blog. We are now in Sri Lanka after a month in India, but we are just getting the chance to add these posts. Luckily for Delhi, we have had a month apart. If we wrote on the train leaving the place, it would not have been pretty!
We had read so many good reviews about Megha Home Stay but we, along with a few recent guests, were not really impressed. The place was nice but you get pushed into having to do everything through the owner or the driver. Taking advice of previous guests we asked what we should do and the result was hiring a car for two days, driving from tomb to temple where honestly, we weren’t that interested. It may have been a lot better if, when at the monuments, the packs of young men would gather together trying to get a sneaky photo of all the western girls there. When they weren’t leering and being sleezy the would be spitting the red paan all over the floors and walls of their own historic monuments.
We wanted to try some street food but trying to get the driver to go somewhere where he will not get a commission is near on impossible. Where we did eat the food was delicious, just out of our poor little, and now well worn, wallet’s budget. Delhi seemed to be a bit of a hate-love-hate relationship. Hating that we had to pay to go somwhere we didn’t want to be, just to be hassled by creepy guys, then loving it when we tasted the delicious biriyani at Red Onion or the incredible Chicken Tikka at Hot Chimney, then going back to hating it when we had to get back in the car to go to a tomb that should have been better maintained with remnants of spit everywhere. So frustrating.
For three days we said we wanted to go to Old Delhi to wander the streets and get lost. But everyday we would be told it’s a bad day to go or most of the shops were shut. Instead, on the first day, we were taken to Humayan’s Tomb, Safdarjung’s Tomb and Qutb Minar before some lunch. We were taken to a shop we didn’t want to by anything from that was right near the Garden of Five Senses. This place was bizarre. We walked around for ten minutes that consisted of continuously stumbling across couples “making out” in the corners and shadows with their friends acting as look outs. I’m not sure about five senses but there was definitely an abundance of at least three. Not wanting to disappoint our driver by returning back so quickly we spotted a garden restaurant and ordered a couple of cheeky Kingfisher Beers.
We decided it was time for an early dinner, and realising we will never get the street food we wanted, asked the driver if he knew a place where we could grab a beer as well. Yes, was his response so he took us to Hot Chimney. We sat downstairs and asked the waiter if they had any beer. No, was his response. He must have seen the despair in our eyes as five minutes later we were asked to move to the upstairs area where to cans of of – aluminium foil – were placed on the table in a plastic bag. The bill at the end said we had two big juices but it did taste a little different, but just as sweet. It went very well with one of the best meals on the trip so far – the Chicken Tikka. Loving India again.
Day two in Delhi and we were in the same old car heading for the same old temples. When will we learn. We went to Akshardham Temple, the largest Hindu Temple Complex in the world. Actually it was not really old, but pretty new – opened in 2005. The most incredible part was the elephant carvings around the plinth that depicted the role elephants have had since the early stages of the Hindu religion. Although, we thought the whole story was a bit backwards.. then we realised we had walked around it the wrong way…
We shrugged a off few more creepy guys before heading to a park that our non-knowledgable guide couldn’t tell us about. We walked to the busiest area, took off our shoes as required (actually opting for the unattended free pigeon holes rather than the fee paying option with the guards you would normally guard against) and walked into a memorial. Unfortunately, the architects of Delhi’s monuments decided that stone tiles with metallic minerals inside were a great option for such historic places requiring the removal of footwear, resulting in visitors not being to able to stand or walk on the extremely hot flooring warmed by the burning Delhi sun. We ran in, took a photo of something we had no idea about and ran back to our thongs (flip flops).
Following this, we were taken to Mahtma Ghandi Museum. It was here we realised the monument we saw was actually the memorial of where Ghandi had been cremated. We spent quite a while reading his story before heading to the National Museum. We walked to the gate and were said no bags. Fair enough. Walked back to the car and tried again. We got through but when paying for the tickets we were told we would be charged the equivelant of another person for holding a camera. Considering the state of all other government maintained monuments we opted to leave. We are glad we did.
Even though it took two attempts to walk into the next heritage site, Indira Ghandi’s house, we made it in and read her story. Not related to Mahatma Ghandi, she was still a product of the plight that Ghandi stood for, that being she was the daughter of of Jawaharial Nehru, the first Prime Minister of an independent India. Indira was assassinated, just meters from her home, by her own guards, and when her son took her role, he to was assassinated.
They closed the doors behind us as we left which meant all the monuments were now closed, meaning we would have actually missed something that interested us if we were still stuck in the national museum.
We opted to skip lunch and carried on to the next stop. The Red Fort. Considered a national landmark, we were disappointed to see, behind the largest concentration of creepy guys, it unmaintained and in parts decaying. Imagine the governments of the relevant countries allowing St Paul’s Cathedral in London, the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Sydeny Harbour Bridge in.. er… Sydney to fall into a state of disrepair. Grrrr
We wandered into busy and bustling Old Delhi before wandering the the backs streets back to the car to head to India Gate. Basically a big arch surrounded by tourist, guards, hawkers and what do you know… Some more creepy guys! We spent two minutes there before jumping in the car and trying in vain to take us to an area with street food.
Too far away so we could go somewhere expensive or back to Hot Chimney. Well the do have Chicken Tikka that’s amazing as well the next door alcohol shop that is just as good. You get pushed to the side by all the whiskey hungry patrons with wads of cash – trying to out yell each other and get their booze first. It was like a famous meat auction in London we had been to one Boxing Day. We went in London style. Frowns and elbows which soon had everyone out of our way. They went silent when we asked for some red wine. But we got some and headed on back home.
After a long sleep we woke for our last full day in Delhi. We walked out to the front and said, we need to go to old Delhi, leave us there, we just want to walk around. They did and we had our best day yet. Getting lost in the back streets watching the clinking and clattering of the food hawkers amongst the crowds and cows, it was great. We eventually made it to the spice market with the hessian bags full of dried chillies, chilli powder and turmeric. In between the small wafts of canal, the spices smelt amazing. Then lightning struck and thunder rumbled as the monsoon rains you here about, poured down. We stood in an awning near, what appeared to be optician street, for forty minutes until it eased. There was just enough time to wander down the Lal Kuan, the kite market.
They were packed with all items required for kites, as in a couple of weeks it would be their biggest trade, Independence Day. We wandered past Jama Masjid Mosque to get some food from Karim’s, one of Delhi’s oldest restaurants and one that kept being reccomended to us. We arrived sat down and then were told there was no food until 8pm as it was Ramadan.
We went back to homestay to order some food as we had read they had really nice home cooked food. We asked what they could cook, they gave is a delivery menu. We wanted a traditional Indian meal, but ended up with Chinese Chilli Chicken and a naan. We went to bed straight way as when we woke for our 4am train.. We could leave.