Tuesday, June 9, 2015



My friend, Jane requested to go with me this season. As I knew she would be a great traveling companion off we went.  Our first flight was May 17th on Qatar Airlines with a stop in Doha – lovely airport – then on to Delhi.  The first leg of the trip was a grueling 15 hours, but the flight was made more than palatable by economy class’s generous leg room, the good food (that’s a change on an airline) but most of all by the excellent service by the flight staff, particularly by Ivona.  Her help and kindness toward us was invaluable on such a long flight.  Qatar Airlines has the top rating in airlines of five and it is employees like Ivona that make it so.  I have never thanked an airline before but thank you, Qatar Air.

Main street in Pahar Ganj
Delhi is a vastly interesting dichotomy of different venues. There is Pahar Ganj where I stay which a back packers heaven, with a mix of cheap and modestly priced restaurants and hotels, and the quintessential bazaar. Located near a the main train station and the Rama Krishna Metro station, the area is infested with street hawkers and hustlers, you might even find a wandering cow or a bit of garbage, so one must always watch where they walk.  It is the movie image most westerns have of this lovely city, which is really mainly full of large boulevards, grassy and gardened roundabouts, temples, gardens, museums, lovely homes and expensive hotels.  
In Lodi Gardens

 We landed in Delhi at 3 AM, got a taxi to our hotel and arrived about four.  The staff was waiting and we went directly to bed, but because of the topsy-turvy time change, I could not sleep.

The next day it was off to get Jane a metro travelers card –don’t buy a tourist card but rather a travelers card.  Put 150 rupees on the card, fifty of which is the cost and use up the hundred.  One can make many metro trips for 100 rupees, add to money to the card when you need to, and there is no standing in lines to buy tickets.  If your hotel does not supply a government metro map, ask for an English language one at the any information kiosk or where you got the card (information – watch the locals).   After getting our card off we went to Connaught circle a large pillared English built circular shopping area considered the center of Delhi based on the Bath, England’s lovely circular style.

At Connaught we went to THE SHOPPE, a wonderful store, which has lovely Indian cotton nightgowns, clothes and marvelous dining and bedroom items for a fraction of the cost in the USA. 

 Delhi’s temperatures were ranging from 100 to 106F during our whole visit.  The incredible heat and being victims of Jet leg, we headed back to our hotel to our air-conditioned rooms for a much-needed rest.   After a satisfying dinner across the street from our hotel at the Malhodta Restaurant (rated on Trip advisor somewhere around 200 something out of over 9000 restaurants in Delhi) back to bed we went.

The next day it was off to Kahn Market for looking – at FABINDIA and ANOKIA – then lunch.  We ate at one of other favorite restaurants, MAMA TO GO; fabulous spicy fish and Spinach with a spicy sesame cream sauce – a culinary experience I never miss when I am in Delhi.  Then off to the beautiful Lotus shaped BAHA’I TEMPLE, known as the LOTUS TEMPLE.   It sits on 26 manicured acres, and was built on donations alone.  We were fortunate enough to be there for a brief BAHA’I service.  Visiting the BAHA’I TEMPLE in Delhi is comparable to visiting the Opera House in Sidney, a must do. 

It was after three PM, and wiped out by the extreme heat, it was back to the respite of our air-conditioned rooms.  We may sound like wimps but this heat wave that covered most of India from the Lahore, Pakistan/Amritsar, Indian border north of Delhi and down through the rest of the country for days, caused over 2000 Indian deaths during this period of penetrating heat. 

 Early on the third day, we exited Chandi Chowk Metro station around ten o’clock. Many shops were not opened on Silver Street, as their business is mainly later in the day and early evening.  But on my part, this was a labor of love.  I was taking Jane to the most beautiful JAIN TEMPLE, in Delhi, which most tourists don’t even know exists. Just getting there is an experience.  First one must go down the silver street until you find the fifth perpendicular street with a wooden curved arch over the entry.  
Shop in Old Delhi
Shop in Old Delhi

Jain Temple Priest

Outside Jain Temple

It is down this little street lined with shops full of wedding decorations, decorative artifacts and all sundry items to delight the eye until you reach a dead end street to your left which is lined with charming little pastel painted town houses that leads one down to the end, and the white marble JAIN TEMPLE. No pictures are allowed. Most often a Jain priest gives a guided tour, and requests a tip at the end.  Besides describing the history and all the artifacts within the temple, this priest also explained that there are two sects of Jainism; the pure vegetarians who maintain a strict diet and wear white for services and prior to breakfast, and the nudist Jains who wander the country with a begging bowl.   It was obvious he was trying to shock us with his revelation but we had both read William Dairymble’s NINE LIVES, which describes one such nudist Jain who was on the path to death.  We were not impressed.  His gleeful smile turned downward and disappointment was written about his face.  We ugly American missies were not to be so easily shocked.

In the same alley is a wonderful jeweler who sold us some charming little trinkets, and off we went to happily hire a bicycle rickshaw for a ride to the spice market and then back to the Metro. 

Finally we got smart and on our second to last day in Delhi, we hired an air-conditioned car and driver.  My plan was to show Jane Humayun’s Tomb but it is situated on an large open area with no trees and the heat was just too intense, so it was off to Lakshmi’s Temple, where we met some delightful Indian ladies and their children,
Jane with the Indian ladies and their children at Lakshmi's Temple
Me at Lakshmi's Temple

It's Jane again at the Gandhi Museum

the Gandhi museum, which was fascinating,
Lodi Garden to see an ancient tomb, India Gate, drive around Connaught Circle and the National Museum.  I have been to the National Museum at least three other times over the last eight years and each time most of the rooms were closed.  In fact, I had decided that the national gem and jewelry collection must be stolen.  Needless to say, I was entirely wrong and not only did I see the gems collection,
Mughal tomb in Lodi garden
Birds sitting on the Mughal Tomb

but also beautiful Mughal miniatures, an interesting painting collection a well as many other paintings.  
ancient wedding necklace

Wedding nose ring

All during my time in Delhi, I lamented the fact that I had not seen my favorite auto rickshaw driver A-gee.  Upon coming out of the Mahrodta after breakfast, there he was.  After a big hug, we planned our day.  First it was to mail a package to my grandson at the post office – A-gee is always helpful with that task.  Then it was off to a shop where Jane and I would behave like serious shoppers for fifteen minutes, so A-gee could get a free gas chit for bringing us to their shop.  The chit would pay for his gas for the whole day. As he is not the owner of the auto-rickshaw he drove and had to pay the owner 400 rupees (between $6 and 7 dollars) for the use of the vehicle for the day, it always seemed reasonable to help him out.  Both Jane and I each actually bought something, therefore A-gee would get a small commission for that too. 

If you are an India traveler, (this is the case in many other countries as well), be aware that if a driver wants you to shop, there is often a cut in it for him if you purchase something.  This is not necessarily a bad thing because in developing countries the populations are so poor; success in touting a shop is an important part of their lively hood.  Now it was a visit to the Crafts Museum, my favorite of all Delhi.  But what?  Like the National Museum previously, most of the rooms were closed.  Renovations!  Does this mean that like it’s sister museum it would be closed not for months but for the next few years?  A question to ponder.
A beautiful ancient handmade wooden cart at the crafts museum

After the disappointment of the mostly closed museum, it was lunch at the Imperial Hotel, then browsing in the Tibet markets a block away then off on the Metro to our hotel.  A–gee had left us at the Imperial and after being overpaid, he probably rounded out his day with more customers, then home to share his good fortunate at spending his morning squiring Jane and me around. 

Jane at the BHALLA CAFE which serves the world's best CHAI!
Re: hotels in Delhi:  There are masses to choose from.  Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet are usually good guides.  The Hotel Cottage Yes Please is clean, has an elevator, -be sure to ask for a top sheet or you won’t get one.  Has a good staff - Located around the corner from the metro. It also has an ok, at least honest travel desk – I can’t say that for most travel desks or companies in Delhi (current cost about $18 a night single – but get a room with windows – best rooms 202 & 302) Directly across the street from the hotel is the Malhotra Restaurant - cheap, authentic and very good -, and join the taxi rickshaw drivers (A-gee included) at Bhalla Cafe tea stall and drink the best Chai I have ever tasted anywhere. 
Metropolis Hotel:  Around the counter from the above CYP and almost across from the Metro is the Metropolis Home Stay (proper name).  This truly lovely renovated hotel is a highly rated hotel by Trip Advisor.  The rooms are really nice, and the restaurant is also wonderful – Rooms were around $45 to 50 dollars a night the last time I checked.   It is far superior to CYP, but the draw back for me is no elevator. Lovely owners too.
The beautiful Imperial Hotel is the other hotel I like in Delhi.  It is a super upscale hotel, with great food (although I fine the food expensive – but if you can afford the hotel, I guess you can afford the food).  Other than enjoying this hotel for its amenities, the real plus is its location.  Not stuck out on one of the large boulevards, it is situated about three short blocks from Connaught Circle. On Janpath road it is next to the Tibetan market, always interesting if you are a careful shopper and passed the cheap but entertaining shops of Janpath road.  Then at Connaught you are near E block which has the United Coffee house, a restaurant in Delhi no visitor should miss, and around the corner from the big Cinema, the store THE SHOPPE which I mentioned earlier. (The latest on line special rate I saw is $168 US for the Imperial Hotel). Keep in mind that these are 2015 prices I am quoting.    

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Bobbie. I would love to follow your tips but sadly Delhi is out of the picture for me. Lovely to share this journey with a friend.