Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Delhi Gets A Rave Review

Delhi gets a Rave Review!

 I wish I had more time in Delhi! I should first explain that I've been in India for 3 weeks and have met a total of about 13 people! For a social person I view that as a fail on my part. But anyways, I left Varanasi on the evening of the 21st and traveled overnight to Agra. Obviously I did the touristy thing and went to the Agra Fort, Baby Taj, and of course the Taj Mahal!! I went alone and only had the day, so I wanted to go and do everything at my own pace. I paid the rickshaw driver 500 rupees ($10) to take me around all day. He suggested I get a tour bus to Delhi in the evening so he took me to a travel shop and the man said that "yes yes they speak English" and "yes yes you will get to Delhi at 11:30pm" and "yes, no hotel? I book one for you and the bus will drop you off at the hotel" and "yes yes, you go to Mumbai? I book train for you and it arrives at 12pm on the 24th". Well, all of it sounded good, but it was all bullshit lies! A- I was the only foreigner. Thank God this 14 year old girl loved foreigners and made me sit next to her. Her family spoke a bit of English and they took me in for the evening. B- they did NOT speak English! C- I soon found out that we were getting to Delhi at 2am! D- I felt like a total outsider because we made stops at Hare Krisnas birthplace, who is the major God that the Hindus follow. Everyone was so focused on staring at me, it's really not the best feeling. I honestly dont know what they are thinking to be honest! I feel like an alien in India, sometimes you come in peace and sometimes they are thinking of bad stuff, who knows. E- the bus of course of course did not drop me at my hotel and I found out I paid like 10x more for the bus than anyone else. F- maybe the worst lie they told me was that the train gets in at 11:30am the next day, but it's 11:30pm. A 24 hr train!!!!! Ahhhhhh. So then G- EVERYONE LIED TO ME!!! I didn't think I was that gullible!?
Needless to say, I'm not going to another travel agent in India. Screw em, I was a travel agent and I can do it all myself! Trains, planes, busses. I'm quite capable at this point!
Side note here: The Taj Mahal was truly amazing. I don't want to go too much into it and ruin it for you, but it was dramatic and brilliant and took my breath away! Also I should have only paid 400 rupees for the day, but I didn't bargain around and then he's like "where's my tip?" he did do a lot but he also got tons of commission when I bought an expensive saree. It's annoying being asked for a tip- especially because I was on my own. Needless to say I spent a ton of money that day!

Ok preamble finish. I got to Delhi at 2am and finally found my hotel- at least there was 24 hour security! Stayed at the Maharajan Palace- which is nice but expensive and I recommend staying right in The Main Bazaar of Pahar Ganj area.

So I wake up and I'm in the middle of a ridiculously crowded city, no foreigners in sight. Sorry boys but I actually had to buy tampons here and it was funny. Trying to ask people who don't speak English for a very private feminie product. I eventually had to ask like 10 people and the guy who sold it to me was very embarassed. Anyways, I heard about the Main Bazaar and wanted to buy some new clothes for the south of India. The first thing that impressed me was the my cycle rickshaw told me a normal-not-overinflated price! 30 rps to get me to Main Bazaar. I asked him to stop at the ATM, we ended up going to 3 to find one that worked and I ended up giving him 100 rupees (about $2) as a reward for not trying to screw me over.

Next impressive thing was that no one was shouting at me to buy their crap in the stores. Actually people generally ignored me until I wanted to buy something. Now, this might not seem nice, but when everyone has been glaring at the alien for the last month, it was nice just to do my own thing unnoticed. And the prices in the store were generally fair for India. There wasn't much bartering- the price was fair and so I bought it! I think because everyone flys into Delhi, they are used to tourists and its not so weird being foreign there. I actually met travelers!!! Two Israeli guys started talking to me, and before I knew it I was having lunch at this beautiful rooftop bar called MOONLIGHT (See my blog on Backpacker Hotspots in India). Please go there! It's owned by this nice Nepalese guy and all the food is cold and fresh and perfect! I had a lovely lunch- and dinner there.
From there the Israelis came shopping with me. We walked down all the back streets. No one stared at us, it was amazing just to be aable to walk and observe the way people worked and played without any pressure. To me, it was so much better than the major city of Kolkata and I recommend travelers start in Delhi!

Like I've stated at the beginning of this post, I wish I had more time in Delhi. I was planning on doing a bit of sightseeing, but seeing as how I just did so much of it the day before I was just happy being with people who wanted to talk to me. If I do end up there again, I would absolutely love to see the Lotus Temple (shaped like a lotus and has meditations there in the peaceful garden), Jantas Mantar, Jama Masjid, and the Red Fort. There's actually a shit-ton (excuse the language) to see in New and Old Delhi.

Damn, I wish I had time to explore. I know I will come back to India and I plan on staying in Delhi at least a week :)



Imagine you are walking down the street in India. Every part of a house is painted a shade of vibrant, gaudy color personifying personal taste. Every truck has a 'blow horn' sign on it creating a cacophony of a deafening orchestra. Every chai wallah is preparing clay cup after clay cup of sugar-infused deliciousness, just waiting to create mini flavor explosions on your tongue. Chai time declares that it is break time. These five minutes enable the mustachioed men to enjoy time away from laborious jobs, discuss politics, and allow us tourists to escape the hectic heckling. My tongue is dancing around in my mouth and I am chai-ddicted!
Even though the British brought the tea cultivation to India, the Indians have done what they do to all foreign influences- add spice, in every sense of the word! The preparation of chai is not only a culturally practiced tradition but each single ingredient adds value for the body, mind and spirit. For example Ginger to prevent disease and cardamom to help digestion.
 Chai is the constant companion in all the lands here. With regions varying distinctly in religion, politics, and hygiene, it is wise to assume that all chai is not the same chai. Going from East Bengal to West Bengal by train I had the uncomfortable experience of waking up early in the morning to find my milk and sugar substituted by salt and lime! I later discovered the difference in the chai stemmed from both economic and cultural views; in the smaller, rural areas sugar is unaffordable and milk is revered because it comes from the holiest of animals.
 As I sip the dregs from my clay chai pot, I realize that tea is the basis of culture in many countries but in India it visually represents the sweetness in life- which is needed when life gets hard here for many millions of people. Through India's chai culture, I have learnt that Eastern mentality emphasizes visualization and creation whereas my Western mind requires reasoning and rationality and that is the main reason why many foreigners find Incredible India to be frustrating at times. For this chai moment in time I have adopted their philosophy and savored in every minute detail that awakens each one of my senses like never before. To me, my chai-ddiction allows me to sit back and take in the sensory overload comfortably. These rare moments in life create everlasting impressions in my memory and are essentially what I live for as a traveler.
The perfect masala chai!
- crushed white peppercorns
- sliced dry Ginger
- cinnamon
- clove
- black tea powder
- sugar
1. Mix half milk and half water in a pot. Open flame works the best.
2. Add all above ingredients
3. Heat until the milk boils and bubbles to the top. Froth milk by lifting on and off the fire a few times.
4. Strain into a tea pot and serve for amazing responses.
*come to India for the real authenticy stuff! You won't regret it

Backpacker Hotspots in India

Backpacker Areas for India

For me, india was hard to meet people. It's not like Asia where backpackers are everywhere. I found it really helpful to not have specific places to stay, but more of a general idea where to go in each city. Here are some tips for places to stay or places that a lot of travelers hang out in!
New Delhi- Pahar Ganj, moonlight rooftop restaurant
Kolkata- Sudder St., Spanish cafe
Agra- backside of Taj (so you can see it during breakfast)
Varanasi- near the burning ghat or Assi ghat
Brown bread bakery near burning ghat, Blue Lassi, or pizza place near Assi ghat
Darjeeling- go up the stairs, anywhere up from drop off point
Joeys bar is awesome, and warm
Mumbai- Colaba, leopolds cafe to eat near the Gate of India
Goa- anywhere by the beach
Gokarna- paradise beach- hippy hangout, free to camp out, bring a hammock but nowhere to put valuables
Half moon beach- quiet and cute family owned place, great food and people pass by all day
Om beach- relaxing, more restaurants and people same with Kudley beach
Gokarn- if looking at the sea go right along the beach to find something, wear shoes the sand is hot
Cochin- Fort Cochin. You can get free rickshaw if you go into a store. Don't need to buy, but driver gets 100 rps gas voucher!
Kashi Restaurant :)
Varkala- cheap places on the beach. If looking at the sea the right side cliff is busy with homestays and shops and the left is more quiet with Ayurvedic spas and nice guesthouse overlooking the cliff
Allepy- houseboats
Jaipur- peacock restaurant above pearl palace hotel
Pushkar- anywhere around the lake
Udaipur- central area near the lake with the palace
Hampi- across the river, but make sure to check out the ruins on the front side too!