New Delhi Travel Blog

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Arriving in India is like arriving in another planet. We left from Helsinki where everything is clean and organized, and we arrived in Delhi, which is completely the opposite. Fortunately there was the owner of our hostel to pick us up from the airport, which helped a lot for the first moments. What first hits you is that everything is dirty and broken in India; even the brand new things seem old here.


 Our first hostel was terrible, or maybe it wouldn’t be that terrible from the Indian point of view. The place was in a private apartment, which was the flat of an ex-manager of Indian Airlines. Our room was disgusting: outside it seemed ok but looking carefully everything was dirty and broken. We didn’t sleep that well the first night. Second day was already better; I got used to it quite easily and slept well, Nico didn’t. Anyway, we searched for a better place to sleep at and found a nice hostel right in the centre area. In this place we will stay other two nights and then direct our way to the mountains.


First impression of Delhi is I guess for everyone a really chaotic and polluted city. There are people like in ants’ nest - I would imagine China is the same. Not only the people created the mess but the huge amount of vehicles and animals. You see people doing everything on the streets, like barber’s shop on a chair in the middle of garbage, many persons sleeping, some cows taking a nap, etc. It’s incredible. Then the people you see are mostly men; it seems that here are ten times more men than women.


We did try to go to the Old Delhi area but it was impossible, there were that many people with all sorts of vehicles you can imagine. It was a complete chaos and the situation didn’t get any better with thousands of Indian men staring at me. With small streets and that crowd you couldn’t even get forward, so we escaped to the calmer areas. In the first evening we went to eat in a Hare Krisna place. It was this huge Hare Krisna complex with temple, restaurant and exhibition. They served really good vegetarian food with all weird things we didn’t have a clue what they were.




Is this India?


In Delhi there are no high traffic moments. There is a flow, everywhere. But not a flow of cars, tuk-tuk, bikes, motorcycles, vespas… it’s really a flow of humanity, cause everything is immerged and melted in a big pot. You can’t recognise Delhi as a city: it’ a big region where you are lost in this mass of brown bodies, brown smog, brown constructions, brown cars.


But is this India? Of course not. Ops, sorry, of course yes.

I mean, how many Indias are there here? We know about poverty, disease, outcasts, but the reality hits you stronger. This is not only deep, it is wide. Even wider! Can you imagine 1 billion people? Probably not. Nor 1 million. Nor 10.000. But they are all over you. And they touch you, strongly, in every part of your body and your soul. It’s like going into a freeze river with the aim of not getting wet. You get completely wet and cold enters into your body, your bones and your mind. Although, this is not scaring, India attracts: Ghandi’s India is fascinating, religious. India is charming, Indians smiles can commove you, against Indian sufferance. I don’t know what I have to expect from myself next days.






On the third day in Delhi I could already see a difference in my way of observing India. I’ve got used to the chaos, and my stomach was a lot friendlier with Indian food, which is really good. Today is Sunday and the city was a calmer, there weren’t that many vehicles everywhere. We have now learnt how to bargain with the tuk tuk drivers. Since this we have only met one driver that was completely honest; he charged us like Indians with the kilometre meter. All the others ask you unreasonable prices. Today we got our first free ride accepting the driver’s proposal of doing “shopping” in a luxury souvenirs shop. In fact he sincerely told us that we shouldn’t buy anything, if we just spent there five minutes he would get a gas commission. It wasn’t that bad because we weren’t in a hurry and they had beautiful Kashmir carpets there.


I think the most visible thing in this city is the misery. I guess that is something you can’t get used to see. It gives you a sense of guilty when you are walking around knowing that you are on a holiday and they are living on the street.

In Delhi you really see horrible things, like people who are using their hands to move in the streets because their feet don’t carry them anymore or all the bare-foot little kids eating everything they find on the ground together with dogs and goats. For western tourists it’s of course annoying that everyone you encounter asks you money or food. But if you give something to one kid there are quickly other ten of them asking for something.


Today we saw some really nice pieces of Delhi, like Humayun’s tomb and Red fort. They are like paradises in the middle of this chaos with park areas full of green fresh plants and animals. The funny thing is that when I’m trying to take photos of the local people with colourful clothes, they want to take a photo of me because my Scandinavian face is that exotic for them. I try to take photos of the Indian women because I love their clothes, sari and salwar kameez.


Tomorrow evening we will say goodbye to Delhi and leave with a night train to Haridwar and Rishikesh. I think we are both happy to leave this city though it gave us a pretty interesting first impression of India.

Amanda says:
You both write so beautifully. Thank you for the realistic idea of how it is to arrive in Delhi. I am going in October, and have never been to India before. I know it will be a shock when I arrive, and reading things like this helps me prepare for how difficult it will be to adjust.
Posted on: Mar 08, 2009
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New Delhi
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