HEART OF INDIA: DELHI
If you are dreaming of going on a trip to India, Delhi must be your starting point. Because, Incredible Delhi, with their own words, seems like another planet at first sight. If you would like to get to know more of "Incredible" India, spending couple of days in Delhi, so called miniature of India, will provide you an unbelievable experience in a short period of time. Having lived in Delhi for 3 months, I'm telling you this frankly. Daria, Badal, Badshah
Delhi consists of 8 cities established by various empires throughout history. Now, you might be wondering why so many empires established 8 several cities as if there was no other land in gigantic India. I would like to reply that with an old Indian proverb:
" Three things make a city - Daria, Badal, Badshah. This is to say, a river, rain- bringing clouds and an emperor".
Delhi has been the preference of empires throughout history because of the fact that Delhi is located in a triangle of Yamuna and Aravali rivers and the narrowest part of rainy Himalaya mountains.
First seven cities, in other words 'Old Delhi', represent vernacular architecture of the Mughal empire, colorful streets and lots of movement. However, eighth city New Delhi represents more modern and British part of the city due to the fact that New Delhi was established by British empire.
Where to stay in Delhi? When to go to Delhi?
The centrum Connaught Place called as 'CP' by original inhabitants, is the best option for accommodation. Even though accommodation in CP is little bit higher than other places, I suggest you to spare no expense and stay in at least a four-star hotel. Because, unfortunately things you have heard about India such as; pollution and rats are not just an urban legend.
I think the best time to visit Delhi is october-november and april-may period. In these periods the weather is neither too hot nor too cold. Humidity rate is way too lower compared to summer.
In Delhi, people with different religious beliefs live in peace. So one of the most fun activity in Delhi is to visit prayer halls sheltering different religious beliefs.
Swaminarayan Akshardham: A Hindu temple completed in 5 years. It takes you to a deep journey throughout Indian history. It's one of structures that influenced me deeply in whole India. In addition to its impressive architecture and relaxing gardens, Akshardham has become a center of attraction with demonstrations staged about India's and temple's history. I suggest you to spend at least half of your day by the flagpole in the garden to feel at peace.
Owing to the fact that entrance with digital devices is not allowed, you're not able to take any photos.
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib: The most beautiful and relaxing Sikh temple of the city. In order to get inside the temple located in the centrum CP, women and men are obliged to wear headscarf. The temple surrounded by tall flagpole. Moreover it has a golden dome and nonstop hymns in it which will make you feel peaceful.
If you happen to visit it, I would highly suggest you to ask a Sikh who you may recognize by his puggaree, about the story of the temple. Sikhs are always friendly and talkative and they will be willing to take you to a tour in the temple.
Jama Masjid: Construction of the biggest mosque of India was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (Taj Mahal commissioned by him for his wife Begum Khan). Jama Masjid has a fascinating architecture and location. Entrance is free, however you may be asked for entrance fee by frauds who want to take advantage of your being a tourist. During Friday prayer (weekly Friday noon congregation prayers of Muslims), you may witness unbelievable crowd. I suggest you to visit there any day except friday unless you go with the purpose of praying.
Lotus Temple: A Bahai temple is inspired by the lotus flower. According to Bahai faith, all religions are equal under the name of the god and the temple is open to anyone who would like to pray. It has an extraordinary architecture. You are only allowed to enter without your shoes as the same as in other temples. There's nothing much inside. Therefore, I do not suggest you to stand in line just to take a look inside of the temple unless you have plans of sitting in silence and meditating.
It's every traveler's dream to visit Taj Mahal. Well, what if I told you Taj Mahal was inspired by Humayun's Tomb located in Delhi? They both have similar stories: The Mughal emperor Humayun who was about to die, told his wife that he had passed away in his dream and had gone to the paradise garden which had an extraordinary architecture surrounded by beautiful and lush gardens. After a short time of Humayun's death, his beloving wife commissioned a paradise garden with every detail her husband stated and placed his tomb in the middle of the structure.
Taj Mahal which was constructed after Humayun's Tomb, commissioned by following emperor Shah Jahan in order to embalm his beloved wife Begum Khan in a tomb.
After seeing both of the structures I can tell you that , both of them look very similar but Taj Mahal get more attention because of its shining white color.
Red Fort (Lal Quila): Once again the construction consists of a palace and fortress commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. It takes place in the list of UNESCO's world heritage sites. Since the walls are made of red-sandstones, it's named as 'Red Fort'. A fort lies along the Yamuna River is a peaceful place without hustle and bustle of the city.
Chandni Chowk: Located in the centre of Old Delhi, it's the most exotic and cheapest place in the city (Maybe in Universe). If you are good at bargain, you may buy textiles, spices, ethnic jewelers and souvenirs for pennies on the dollar. But remember to keep your eyes open for your bags since it's one of the most dangerous places of Old Delhi.
New Delhi is British part of Delhi. Therefore, you may see many of British structures. Many of them was designed by the architect Edwin LUTYENS. He designed the famous boulevard of Rajpath, the biggest parliament building of the world (Sansad Bhawan), Presidential House (Rashtrapati Bhavan) and Indian Gate constructed in the memory of Indian soldiers who died in wars fought with Britain.
Another tourist attraction of New Delhi is Connaught Place (CP) which is the most important plaza of the city. It's surrounded by many modern restaurants and shops. It is also most crowded part of city of Delhi with over 16 million population.
Within walking distance of CP, Janapath Bazaar offers various colorful souvenirs. Dilli Haat, Sarojini Nagar and Lajpat Nagar are other options for shopaholics. You can buy traditional Indian clothes, silk weaving shawls, traditional Indian jewelers and many more traditional souvenirs from these bazaars.
If you like jewels, precious stones and leather, you may pay a visit to Yashwant Palace. (also known as the place I spent most of my money :))
Taste Map of Delhi
Indian cuisine is very delicious if you eat in the right place. For me that place was "Indian Accent". Indian Accent is the best restaurant to try delicious Indian food. I tried chief's tasting menu. Everything was just perfect. Even though I have sensitive stomach and cant tolerate many of the Indian spices, I didn't have any problem eating there. Eating in this very fancy restaurant which offers world standard tasting experience costed me only 40 dollars.
Being Frauded In Delhi: An Inevitable Ending
You have to be careful for every step you take in Delhi which is a chaotic metropolis. Your first test would be at the airport. You may witness frauds coming by you and telling your hotel burned and they will escort you to another hotel or some people wearing fake uniforms and offering you help. Simply ignore.
Being overcharged by taxi drivers and street vendors is ordinary innocent thing in India. But since the transportation is very cheap compared to western countries, its not a big deal. The key is to know your travel destination and bargain. If you bargain with a rickshow driver, he will drive and escort you whole day for 700-800 rupees ($11-12).