We flew out of Bangkok without much problem, with a couple of hours flight away from our final destination of Delhi. We had a small delay of an hour when our flight arrived into Hong Kong before hopping on the Cathay Pacific flight to Delhi. We landed at around 9pm, picked our bags up and found a pay phone and called our hostel to come and pick us up. We were told to wait outside so we walked out and whilst we waited we had a security guard (complete with massive machine gun) come over for a chat. His particular interest was in Alicia who had the first of many questions about where she was from. He had problem understanding how she could be Indian AND British at the same time. Mind-blowing stuff. We eventually got picked up and taken to our hostel, Nirvana hostel in South Delhi, with no issues. Very glad we had a pick up though as we never would have found it. It was just a tall house with no sign outside, and down a gated alleyway. It was only when we got inside we could see the reception. Our room was on the top floor and had a four poster bed with colourful curtains and sheets( Alicia: Just like Princess Jasmine's!) but the nights felt freezing so Alicia headed to bed every night with duvet, blanket and sleeping bag.
Just before turning in for the night we wanted to book train tickets for our onward journeys. We explained our route and the specific trains we wanted to catch. They said it'd be no problem and we headed to bed other than it being Republic Day on Saturday, so we'd need to head to Agra on Sunday. Delayed one day but seemed like a plan.
Still cold from the night, we got up to find there was no hot water. They had a geyser but it was broken, so still cold we had a freezing cold and extremely quick shower. After a bread, jam and masala tea breakfast, we walked to the nearby Saket metro then 19rupees to Chandani Chowk station in old Delhi. We emerged from the metro station to little alley ways with bazaars and heaps of colourful saris and fabrics. We found Chandani Chowk street / main street of Old Delhi, then followed it down to end to the Red Fort, passing a Sikh temple on the way that was guarded by guys in massive purple robes, huge purple turbans and spears. We also bought a samosa from a street vendor, it was very spicy indeed - not exactly unexpected from Indian food in India.
We got to the fort only to find out it was closed due to the Republic Day holiday that was happening tomorrow. At the fort a bicycle rickshaw guy offers us a 200rupee tour. We went first of all to the spice markets after slowly weaving in and out of Delhi traffic and avoiding his requests to go into various markets to look at saris etc. When we got to the spice market he got out and headed inside with us. He immediately led us into a shop selling tea and spices to tourists. He couldn't seem to believe we didn't want to buy anything. The street was a large street that was half cordoned off to traffic with people selling spices out of their shops in pre sealed bags. Our guide then led us through a doorway with no door into a dark alleyway, after a few turns a couple of wholesale traders started to appear. Instead of going through the courtyard though, he led us up a small concrete staircase full of rubbish and actual crap (we couldn't decided if it was human or not). We climbed a few stories and I was thinking about how long we give this and where this random guy was leading us. It turns out, he was leading us to the roof. There was no one else up there, no tourists, no locals (for a while until some kids turn up to not-so-subtly take pictures of me). The view was great though. You had a clear view across Old Delhi and beyond with a big mosque performing Friday service (which we could look down on and see what was happening) on one side and the other look down onto the different tiers of wholesale courtyard.
We left the rooftop and walked around the wholesale courtyard with the huge 25kg bags of spices. The smells were incredible and indescribable. Far from being overpowering it just was a concophony of sweet and spicy smells. Occasionally you would walk passed a big bag of chillies, or someone would be moving a bag and it'd get up our nose and we'd sneeze, but so did the locals so that was good.
After making our way back through the fruit and spice markets the rickshaw man then says will cost more to go to our second destination, the worlds biggest mosque Jama Majid and an hour on rickshaw. We didn't think it was that far away so we told him to let us off which he was happy about but then we didn't have change to pay him so Alicia went into a nearby shop and bought mittai (Indian sweets / cakes) to get change and pay him. We then walked 20mins to Jama Masjid. Amazing, 300rupees to take a camera in but worth it. The huge buildings surrounded by walls, towering minarets, massive domes and a courtyard full of people praying or relaxing. After we saw the mosque (couldn't go in though) and sat in the blazing sun we walked back through more small, colourful and packed alleys and markets to the metro. When we got back to the hostel we had a short nap.
We had dinner at nearby a restaurant called Lemon Sole - I had chicken khadi (although the chicken was on the bone), muttha pulao, stuffed (paneer aloo) nan. Leece had chicken "p"-something and butter nan with Limca! (Indian fizzy drink),
Before heading to bed we booked our hotel for Jaipur and confirmed train tickets which we were told were all booked and they were just waiting for the manager to print the tickets off.
Republic Day today and a big holiday all over India. We got up in time for the big parade going through the centre of New Delhi but what the hostel hadn't told us was we needed tickets and that we couldn't buy them on the day. But after breakfast we decided we'd try to see if we can get a glimpse of the parade anyway as we'd heard many attractions would be closed.
We walked to the Metro and we found we could only get a ticket to 3 stops before the parade as the rest were closed for the day. I again had to queue to go through the Metro security checks which were the same as going through airport security.
Once off the station we asked the motorickshaws to take us to the parade but they just said to walk up the street, which we did. On the way we passed the entrance to the Lodi gardens, saw an elephant all painted up from the parade outside of an embassy and passed some serious poverty, people living on what looked like a landfill next to the road.
Whilst walking along a moto-rickshaw stopped and said he'd take us to a tomb which we had heard was good, but had no idea where it was, and a museum which were weren't interested in but he said we couldn't get into the tomb until 12:30, so we might as well visit the museum for a bit. The journey to museum was a fair way and took us all the way back where we'd just come from. To our disbelief the museum was an art crap emporium / shop. We did not stay long. Then back all the way passed where we were picked up to get to the Humayan tomb, which wasn't actually closed.
The tomb was a precursor to the Taj Mahal in Agra (designed by same guy) and looked very similar made completely of red brick with big, grassy grounds and a couple of extra buildings dotted around.
We wandered around the area that was surprisingly devoid of tourists, with only 1 or 2 milling around. Inside was a large octagonal room with a single stone coffin inside, the central room had smaller satellite rooms that held more coffins. After wandering around the tomb and the grounds we just sat on the grass in the sun, looking at the tomb and the birds nearby. It was very peaceful and the tomb was actually my favourite spot in India. A nice and unexpected surprise.
We looked at the map we'd been able to get for free on the kindle and started walking towards a nearby fort. On the way we stopped at a bakery and picked up some pasty-type baked goods and another samosa. We carried the food to the fort were we sat in the park outside where we had lunch. The samosa was again very spicy. We walked round the park and lake to where we thought another entrance would be, but it was blocked off, so we had to go a little off piste, following the wall along back to the gate.
Inside the ??? Fort ……… At one point I had a group of kids lining up to take group pictures with me, I just stood there and smiled until I saw they were throwing up gang signs, so I just joined in. It was bizarre but amusing. Tourist aren't even that few and far between in Delhi!
After we left the fort we walked over to India Gate where they held the parade earlier in the morning. It looked like it would have been packed. We saw the remnants of the parade, soldiers in dress and normal uniform, a military vehicle show as well as the long concourse with the large monument in the middle which is the actual India Gate. Whilst we were walking around, taking our pictures etc one group of men kept sneakily (but with zero stealth) trying to shuffle closer to me and have there picture taken. It was a little strange, but pretty amusing.
After India Gate we decided to head back towards the metro but to walk through the gardens we passed on the way in, the Lodi Gardens. The gardens were large grass areas with people playing cricket, trees, flower beds and a small river. There were a couple of mosques and ancient buildings dotted around, we walked to a couple. One spot had 2 building facing each other so we wandered over at dusk just as the sun was going down. We walked through another grassy area filled with families picnicking with colourful balloons from the parade. As we got up to the first building we were joined by a travelling choir group who staged and impromptu gig in the echoey main hall. We walked up onto the surrounding wall to watch the sun go down and see the mass of eagles that soared round the park, swooping to collect the scraps left by the picnics or in the overflowing bins.
Before the light faded completely we headed back to the metro and took the train back to our station at Saket.
When we got back we ask for a 4th time if we can have our train tickets. After trying to fob us off again we have a bit of a go at them and they tell us to sit and wait. When we are finally given our tickets the last one from Jaipur to Delhi was a bus ticket (not the train they'd been saying was fine for the last few days). Not only was it not a train, it was a night bus at a horrible time, that meant it messed up our plans for seeing more of Delhi and our flight out. Some girl who was staying there even came to help us complain, but by this point we'd learned you've got to be flexible so although we were frustrated they'd lied blatantly for the 3 days (our tickets were never booked) we just changed our plans and excepted it.
We went back to Lemon Sole for a spot of food then turned in for the night, early start the next day!
We woke up at 4am to grab a taxi. We left most of our stuff with the hostel so we would only take our small bags (filled with most of our valuables and clothes). We took note of some advice from our hostel regarding getting the night bus back and getting transport back to the hostel.
We then jumped into a taxi and got onto our train without issue, leaving at 6am. Although we were in a sleeper carriage, the beds weren't set up, nor would the windows close properly so although we were wrapped up as much as possible, it meant we were freezing the entire journey. The plus side was that it wasn't busy at all so we had a lot of room.
I really enjoyed Delhi, before arriving I had only heard bad things about it. The fact it was overcrowded, smelly, rude and with food that was guaranteed to give you a bad stomach. But actually the traffic and crowds were much worse in other places, especially China. The food was great and other than the samosas, neither of us found it that spicy. It was made better by perfect sightseeing weather in the day and fantastic sights to see.