Namaste - Welcome to India

In my last post, I said that this post was going to be about our arrival in New Delhi, our journey out to Agra, and then on to Jaipur. As it turns out, I have too much to say! This is going to be about New Delhi and Agra only. I’ll leave Jaipur for the next post, and include it with our time in Rajasthan.

Our day of travel to India was laid-back. Our flight was at 2:00pm, and it only took a couple of hours. When we left Kathmandu, it was pretty hot, perhaps 27 or 28 degrees. Unfortunately for Boy and I, Kathmandu heat was nothing compared to New Delhi heat. Stepping off that plane was like stepping into a humid oven; my hair went from straight to ‘Monica Geller’ in about four minutes.

We caught a cab from the airport to the backpackers. In the cab ride over, we noticed a few things:

  • India is far more developed and modern than we had expected
  • there are more children begging on the side of the road than in Kathmandu
  •  there are a ridiculous amount of people here.

We stayed at the Madpackers Hostel in Panscheel Park - fantastic hostel if you’re planning on going to India. The hostel had several activities to sign up to; we went on a New Delhi sightseeing tour, and on a Delhi Belly food tour. I enjoyed both of these tours because they were a “safe way” to ease ourselves into India. On the New Delhi tour, we went to the Sikh temple, the Government Buildings, India Gate, an Indian Coffee House and a few other places. We went all over New Delhi using Uber, the metro, and tuk-tuks. It was a really great way to spend the day. I have absolutely no idea where we went on the Delhi Belly tour as it took us through Old Delhi; Old Delhi is a wonderful maze of narrow roads. We were led down laneways and alleys, stopping at a random stall every so often to feast on another delicious snack – we were introduced to paranthas and they quickly became a favourite.

breakfast in old delhi! left to right: paul, boy, me and ollivier

breakfast in old delhi! left to right: paul, boy, me and ollivier

As a side note - a few people have asked me (or I’ve just told them whether they’ve asked or not) “what are some good things to do when you go travelling?” Such a broad question because there are countless good things to do when you go travelling but, I think that, if it’s possible, you should go on a food tour. In India for example, the guides know where the best and safest food stalls are. You get to enjoy an integral part of the culture of that place, and they’re pretty good value.

We spent one more day in both Delhi, both New Delhi and Old Delhi, exploring the sites and wondering around the shops before heading out to Agra by coach. This journey, again, only took a couple of hours. We arrived late afternoon and formed our plan of attack. After consulting our very knowledgeable host, he recommended going to see the Taj at dawn because it would be far less busy, and far less hot than if we were to go at 9:00am.

The next morning, our alarm went off at 4:00am, we actually got up (which surprised ourselves), and headed down to see the Taj. It costs tourists ₹1000 each, and this includes your entry fee, a pair of ‘slippers’ to wear over your shoes (to protect the mausoleum floor), and a bottle of water. We lined up, waited, and entered when the gates opened at 5:00am. It’s odd to say, but I didn’t expect to be as excited as I was to see the Taj. I knew it was going to be beautiful, but as we walked through the garden, towards the archway, I had butterflies in my stomach - it dawned on my that I was about to see the Taj Mahal! As we peeked our head around the corner and it came into view through the arch, it took my breath away. It really is so beautiful; perfectly symmetrical, gleaming, majestic. We spent a good three hours looking around at the gardens, the mosque, the mausoleum, taking it all in. A young chap took lots of photos of Boy and I on my phone. We paid him ₹120, and it was worth it.

After a few hours at the Taj, we went back to the hostel for the day. I was feeling really under the weather at this point, so spent the rest of the day in bed sleeping, while Boy walked around the city. We only spent two nights in Agra, and that was probably enough. Unfortunately (and this may chime with things you have heard), Agra isn’t a particularly pleasant city; from our perspective, it appears that all of the money the Taj brings in is spent on the Taj, and the Taj alone. 

trying to remain as elegant and composed as the beautiful taj in the sweltering agra heat

trying to remain as elegant and composed as the beautiful taj in the sweltering agra heat

Before we left Nepal, quite a few people told Boy and I “your time in Nepal is good practice, because India is like a busier Nepal”. With respect, I disagree. There definitely are similarities with regard to the climate, and the general hustle-and bustle of a highly populated city, but for me, that is where the similarities ended. Nepal and India are different: Nepali people are very relaxed, Indian people are quite emphatic. Nepal was less developed than India with regard to infrastructure and economy. The disparity between wealthy and poor was far more prevalent in India. They’re different places, and our time in Nepal didn’t provide nearly as much preparation as I thought it was going to, but, I can only say that in hindsight. Had we arrived in New Delhi straight from New Zealand, I probably would have felt just as overwhelmed as I did when we arrived in Kathmandu...

So, that was our first week in India! As I mentioned at the beginning, my next post is going to pick up from our arrival in Jaipur, and onwards through Rajasthan.

Bye for now,