Who would of thought that I would be
packing winter clothes for a trip to India? India has a winter?? Does it
really get that cold???
The answer is yes, it does. In fact it
can get down to 5°C in some places (according to January weather
reports). So I continued to pack my jerseys and long-sleeved tops
(though did slip in a few summer clothes for those 'just-in-case'
Only when I arrived at New Delhi airport
at 3:30am was I convinced that it was indeed cold. An icy fog greeted
us along with a chilling 7°C. Just the thing to wake you up! I had been
reading earlier in the month that the fog in December/January can get
quite thick, and had caused many flights and trains to be delayed or
diverted during December last year. I was worried that our flight would
be delayed from Doha to Delhi, but fortunately it was not too thick on
that particular morning.
On the other hand, after witnessing
first hand how people drive around India, I would of preferred to have a
thick fog descending around me so that I could not see the mad driving
skills of Indians.
I have to mention first off the bat that
India is one exciting place. With a population of around 1.2 billion
people, it can start to feel a bit over-crowded in most places, though
fear not! I did find some beautiful and serene hideaways that were so
peaceful I could of stayed there for a month.
That said, Delhi is definitely the best
starting point to get you acclimatised to the madness that is India.
This was my first stop in my 2 week adventure around Northern India
(with the same tour company that I went to Bali with). Starting in
Delhi, through to Jaipur, Agra, Orcha and finishing in Varanasi, home of
the holy Ganges River.
On day 1 of the trip, we were thrown
into the deep end by doing a walking tour of the oldest part of Delhi.
It is incredibly over-whelming at first, because there are people
everywhere! Animals such as goats, dogs and cows walk right in front of
you, and there is a substantial amount of traffic to dodge as well. It
is quite the obstacle course and a sense of accomplishment comes over
you for having survived, then you can catch your breath once you reach
the 'quieter' parts of the neighbourhood.
Note: make sure you wear very
comfortable and closed (preferably not new) walking shoes - you don't
want to know what you are stepping in, around and over...
On the subject of 'quiet'. I tell you, I
do not think that there can be such a thing as 'quite' in Old Delhi. I
am sure the noise pollution actually exceeds the normal limit one human
ear can take - it is probably on par with a jet engine. It is
ridiculously noisy! Hooting is the major source of the noise - people in
cars, motorbikes, auto-rickshaws and on bicycles hoot constantly. I am
certain that when Indians come to do their drivers test the first thing
the officer asks them is: 'Where is the hooter?'. Even when the traffic
comes to a standstill, people sit with their hands on the hooter. It is
quite the culture shock at first, but by the end of 2 weeks it becomes a
background noise and you hardly notice it.
So Day 1 of my tour and already all of
my senses were being pushed to their limits. Next came the smells. Now I
was told before I left on this trip that India has a certain 'smell' to
it, so I was prepared for anything. Though to my surprise Old Delhi was
not actually that bad (now Varanasi, that's another story).
At first all I could smell was the
incense, almost every shop had a few burning - deep, woody smells on one
corner, and then sweet, flowery smells on the next. Sandlewood, nutmeg,
cinnamon, masala and saffron to name but a few. Spices and herbs wafted
through the air as merchants sat on the pavement brewing hot chai tea
(with lots of delicious ginger!). Another man was deep frying balls of
dough made up of various spices and vegetables. The next thing I could
smell was popcorn! Suddenly we walked past a man with a cart that had an
enormous pyramid-shaped pile of popcorn, along with roasted nuts on the
With all of these smells, sights and sounds, Delhi was turning out to
be quite the experience. Needless to say I was exhausted by the end of
the day, but was very keen to try my first real curry in India - a
wonderful butter chicken with hot garlic and butter naan bread.
Definitely the best way to end the first day of what would turn out to
be an amazing trip!