My family and I arrived at New Delhi airport after midnight local time and got a taxi straight to the Maiden’s Hotel where we were to be spending the week. During the taxi ride I got an immediate feel of the city’s character. Chaotic. There were entire families (I’m talking like 5 people and a baby) clinging together on one motorbike going 70mph+, people were travelling on the tops of busses, there were hundreds of homeless people sleeping on the sides of the motorway, thousands of yellow and green rickshaws constantly beeping their horns and too many stray dogs to even count (I just wanted to pet them all). That’s another thing, it’s not hard to understand why New Delhi is one of the most polluted cities in the world with all those rickshaws. Just look at my pictures below, the sky is grey in all of them. In fact, I don’t remember seeing blue sky or even a cloud once during my trip. There was just a thick layer of smog that was so bad it actually made my eyes sting sometimes.
We visited New Delhi in June this year (not realising that June is the hottest month there) and boy nothing could have prepared me for the extreme humidity. Walking through the streets was like walking through a never-ending sauna, we tried to use the tube as frequently as possible merely because it was slightly cooler down there. Also, having respected the cultural dress code, I kept pretty covered up which made the 40+ degree heat even more unbearable. Anyway, my first night in Delhi might have been hot, chaotic and not given me the best first impression, it was nonetheless eye opening as I had never been anywhere like this before, I was excited to explore the culture beneath its surface.
One of the first things we did was visit the Red Fort, the main residence of the Mughal Dynasty emperors for hundreds of years. There are lots of small shops inside where you can buy amazing cheap little trinkets, from colourful jewellery boxes, to scarves, to handmade wooden chess sets, to art, if you want a souvenir to take home this is definitely the place to get one.
Now, I want to tell you about my experience of being a young, white girl walking around Delhi. Surprisingly I saw very few tourists when I was there, I was expecting the capital city to be booming with people from all around the world but it wasn’t at all. So when we entered the Red Fort, two young Indian girls approached me and asked me for a picture with them, of course I said yes, then two young boys ran up to me and wanted a picture and before I knew it, I’d barely made it through the entrance before entire families were approaching me, asking me to hold their babies and shake their hands. I must have had my picture taken with at least 20 people before I’d even made it past the entrance. It was nice being treated with the upmost respect, but at the same time it was a guilty privilege. I was encouraged by other people waiting in line to skip the queues, to always have a seat on the train (whether it be in the women’s only carriages or not), we would always be given priority just because we are white. I remember a young Indian girl coming up to me and staring at my skin, she then looked up at me, completely astounded and said ‘wow, can I touch?’. It then struck me that lots of these children and families who have travelled from rural India have probably never even seen a white person before.
We also went to the Akshardham Hindu Temple. You aren’t allowed to take your phones with you, so unfortunately I don’t have any pictures, however, it was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I have never been so taken aback by sheer detail and beauty. Everything about the place was so spectacular, and even though I have no photos of it to look back on, I will always remember it.
I’m so glad we managed to go to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. During the two hour train journey you get to see lots of rural India, we passed lots of mud huts, families including young children working on farms, there was even lots of cattle walking on the train tracks. The Taj Mahal was immensely beautiful, it really is one of those places that takes your breath away as soon as you see it.
Despite the unbearable heat, New Delhi was a fascinating city, it was a place unlike anywhere I have ever been before. And although the sky was pretty grey during my stay, the vibrance and liveliness of the city made up for it.
After seeing so many Indian women walking around in such beautiful and intricately designed saris I decided to go shopping and buy one for myself. I might never even get to wear it but I got a bright pink one with gold embellishments, hopefully one day I’ll get invited to an Indian wedding where I can wear it but until then it’s just going to be a beautiful souvenir.