Unforgettable India- Delhi to Varanasi- part 1
When I was a little girl and I saw Princess Dianna sitting on that bench in front of the Taj Mahal, I knew I had to go there one day. In the days and nights leading up to my trip I had a dream that the Indian people had sold the Taj Mahal and it was being turned into a tacky horrible hotel, I woke up in a panic, I have to go now!
Arriving into Delhi airport, felt like all the other millions of airport I had seen so nothing special and not India. I was greeted by a lovely man from Intrepid, who showed me to my taxi and accompanied me on the journey to the hotel, talking ALL the time – “this is the airport car park, split into 3 levels, ground floor, 2nd floor and 3rd floor” No kidding. He described everything and told me about his home area of Rajasthan. The driving was crazy even late at night, but I loved the thrill and trusted these people 100%, I had to, what else could I do.
Arriving at the hotel, in a rabbit warren of New Delhi streets, I walked in and was greeted by only men. I made it to my hotel room and sank into the massive bed, all on my own. This hasn’t happened since being with Martin and Fiona in New Zealand. After the novelty of being able to pea with the door open, I needed some noise so I watched TV and didn’t really sleep well with out people breathing or rustling in polly bags around me.
My first morning, breakfast was awful, salted cucumber to the point beyond taste recognition in my ‘Continental Breakfast’ sandwich. I started to panic, I can’t even enjoy the food in my hotel, what on earth will it be like on my own in Delhi…. I tried to remain calm and order a taxi to take me to an area that had been recommended by an Indian lady I’d met in an airport.
Connaught Place- well this was a disappointment, but I understood why she suggested it- Marks and Spencer, Clarks and Levis were there and Cartier- “your kind of shops she’d said” I wish Cartier was my kind of shop. I said to the taxi driver who was waiting for me, I’d like to go somewhere more exciting, see more of Delhi and basically more driving in the crazy wonderful city.
We went to:
India Gate “built to commemorate the India and British soldiers who died in WW1 and those who fell in battle in the North West Frontier Province and Third Afghan War” DK Eyewitness Travel.
Then we carried on through the streets of Delhi. I loved the driving, so exciting, thrilling and SO different from the UK.
This is a Monkey Temple for the God Hanuman (many more monkey’s to come). Returning back to the hotel for lunch and a much needed rest. This place needs some getting used to- people always asking you to buy something, congested streets and roads.
I decided to sample the hotel food again but this time when for something authentic- Vegetable Curry. It was yummy and thank goodness, I don’t know what I would have done if it was nasty too.
After lunch I met another girl from my tour and we decided to go for a walk in the streets of Karol Bagh, where our hotel was. It was mayhem but luckily a temple stood opposite our road so it was easy to navigate our way.
That evening we met the rest of our group and our excellent tour guide for a ‘Welcome meeting’ and dinner. Great chance to get to know everyone and sample more Indian cuisine. The group was a great mix of ages ranging from 26 – 65, I was the youngest, but just by a few days.
Day 2 in Delhi with the group we went to Jami Masjid- a very grand mosque then to Old Delhi and this warren of bazaars. After a pit stop to eat some yummy sticky sweet street food we went to a Sikh Temple were we learned how to spot an Orthodox Sikh- silver bracelet, dagger, turban, carrying a comb and cotton underwear (this is harder to spot). We went into the massive kitchen of this temple, which was open to everyone so that anyone could have a free meal- EVERYONE was welcome.
The second picture is of ladies rolling chapatis (India flat bread) staple with Indian dishes. Our guide expressed to us that we should not give money to beggars because it is encouraging them and this should ease our conscious to know that everyone, every day can be fed here for free.
From Delhi we were heading to Varanasi by over night train… something I was worried about, in hindsight I don’t know why. We had a carriage that was air conditioned and the beds folded up into seats so it was a step forward that the Ghan which was just a seat.
New friends, Lea on the left, making the most of the Indian night train experience.
Through the train experience we learnt that Indian trains run to their own time- 4 hours late, no reason why, just cause. At stations we heard 24 hours late, 6 hours delayed… Indian time.
Arriving into Varanasi was mental, it took us 20 minutes to cross the road to our hotel… it was a diagonal cross but still, it wouldn’t take 20 minutes in the UK
The white building is the train station, this is the view from the hotel.
Varanasi was my favourite place in India, I feel it needs a blog of it’s own.