Returning to India: Delhi, One Year On

To anyone who asked me about Delhi after my trip last year, I always said the same thing. It’s a place you love or you hate, I said, and thankfully I took to it straight away. It was true – from the moment I stepped off the Shatabdi Express train from Dehradun in the middle of June, 2015, I knew there was something different about this city. I have also always said that I am eternally grateful that I had two months to acclimatise to India in Dehradun whilst volunteering with the Saheli Trust, rather than coming straight to Delhi and being thrown into the deep end. I don’t think I’d have coped nearly as well in the capital if that had been the case.

More than one year later, I’m back again. Or I was, for a day or so. Whilst last year I spent more than a week in Delhi, this year, it’s been a flying visit before moving on to Dehradun for a couple of days to visit, and then catching a plane to Mumbai (please, save me the 40-hour train journey!)

So, a few things have been different. I’m no longer wide-eyed and unaccustomed to Delhi traffic, and I have even less patience for touts and over-eager rickshaw drivers. More on that later.

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17.6.15; NEW DELHI, India

The next day, it was time to explore New Delhi! Most attractions in India are closed on Mondays, but thankfully most of the things I wanted to see were either outside or still open. Firstly, yes, I did walk all day again! I went to Connaught Place, which is pretty much the commercial centre of New Delhi – most of the big avenues lead onto a traffic circle which goes around a circular colonnade of shops, banks and restaurants. It’s like being back in Europe! Costa and Starbucks lining the roads, etc. I even saw Marks and Spencer! Home comforts!

Connaught Place
Connaught Place

Of course, I HAD to stop for an iced coffee, but straight after that, I headed to the Jantar Mantar, which is a huge observatory just off Connaught Place. It’s quite incongruous with the surroundings! Imagine, these huge red stone instruments surrounded by modern office buildings; very strange! Entrance fee was 100 Rs, but it was worth paying as the place was not only interesting to look around but quite a nice peaceful place to sit in the shade and people watch.

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Zoom in on… AGRA! One Day in the City of the Taj

Hey all! My day trip to Agra deserves its own post, I think, despite the fact that I only did a couple of things; I had an amazing day and there’s definitely a lot to talk about.

So, there’s pretty much one reason anyone goes to Agra, and that’s the Taj Mahal. The typical symbol of India, and one of the top tourist attractions in the world, the Taj Mahal really is something special. I mean, it’s famous for a reason, right? And it’s just one of those places that can’t be missed if you’re close. The “Golden Triangle” of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur if probably the area of India most frequented by tourists and travellers, and I am no exception.

Because Princess Diana has nothing on me...
Because Princess Diana has nothing on me…

I really wish I had more time in India to go south and see some other places, as the variation between regions in India in terms of language, culture, and of course food, if enormous. Another time, hopefully! I’m going off on a tangent again…

So, I’d booked my train tickets to and from Agra at the tourist booking office at the New Delhi Railway Station; this is a total lifesaver as it’s open 24/7, and the staff there don’t charge commission. The attendant who was booking my tickets seemed fairly exasperated with me from the word go, and remained churlish the entire time I was there. Some people…

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When The Road Gets Tough…

I’m going to hold my hands up to the fact that I’m a little guilty of sugar-coating my travels. Not so much on this blog, because I’d like to think I don’t hide anything from you guys, but on my personal Facebook and Instagram, I do a fairly good job of making it seem like everything I’m doing is exciting and cool and indie and making my friends jealous, and pretty much presenting a rose-filtered version of reality. Nobody wants to hear moaning on Facebook, right?

But I won’t lie, there are times when it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Yesterday, I had to go and sit in Starbucks for a while just because of the familiarity – label whore much – when it all got a bit much.

I’m not really one for getting lonely, but I just felt quite overwhelmed all of a sudden. I like my own company, but sometimes it’s nice to have people to talk to, to have someone else to hold the camera and tell your stories too. I was lucky enough to meet a couple of other English girls on the train back from Agra the other day, but they left the next morning, heading to Bangkok. And my hostel isn’t particularly conducive to meeting other people.

I’m not really uncomfortable in India. And as for Delhi being quite different to where I was before, I feel like it’s one of those places which some people love and others absolutely loathe. For my part, I’ve really taken to it. I love the contrasts of New and Old Delhi. I love that you can turn the corner from a busy shopping street in Old Delhi and come face-to-face with a beautiful old mosque or fort. I love the wide avenues and parks of New Delhi. However, I won’t deny that the place has its drawbacks.

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To Delhi!

So, I’ve finally upped and left Dehradun. I hadn’t really done much travel within India other than relatively short bus journeys from Dehradun to Haridwar, Rishikesh and Mussoorie, in the time I’ve been here. I don’t count my flight from Delhi to Dehradun! Air travel lacks the buzz of overland travel, I’ve found.

Although don’t get me wrong, I do love flying. So many people don’t; I don’t get it! My grandmother is completely phobic of it, and would rather take a 30-hour long bus journey from her city in the Czech Republic to Victoria Station in London than fly straight to us in Bristol from Prague. Each to their own, I suppose. Air travel is fun for me; there’s nothing like the excitement of waiting at the airport for a plane that’s going to take you somewhere completely new! Extra excitement points if you nearly miss your connecting flight. Whoops.

Anyway, what was the point I was making? Ah yes, going to Delhi.

By the 12th of June, I had EVENTUALLY packed up all my rubbish and condensed it into my 45L backpack, my small day pack and my over-shoulder handbag. Am hoping to condense the two pieces of hand luggage into one eventually, but if I don’t, it doesn’t really matter, as I can have both with me on the plane from Delhi to Bangkok, and probably from Bangkok back home in a couple of months too.

Ready to set off!
Ready to set off!

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