New Delhi: The capital of the Republic of India, home to roughly 18.7 Million People. The seat of India’s democratic process, home to Old Delhi with the Red Fort and Humayun’s Tomb, and New Delhi with wide avenues, congressional plazas, Connought Place, Gandhi memorials,modern homes, and mega malls.
Enjoy this lovely tune and my favorite during my entire stay in India, as you hopefully enjoy my last post on Mother India:
New Delhi is our last stop, our last city in India and just a few days left in this wonderful country. As previously mentioned in Rishikesh: The Land of Ashrams, YogaCapital of the World, and wandering tigers I made an overnight stop in New Delhi on my way to Rishikesh. Although I didn’t get to go out and venture, I did start to feel and experience a more modern part of India by the interactions of the guests, and visitors to my hotel.
We landed later in the afternoon from Dehra Dun around 5:30 pm local time. The Airport: Indira Gandhi International Airport to pandemonium. Everyone was pushing their carts everywhere and it was so hilarious. Our driver was waiting for us with a nice big sign, and we were just too excited to get out of the airport and relax in our hotel. The traffic by the airport and along the way to our hotel was absolutely crazy. I could not believe how terrible the traffic was. It made LA’s highways look like a trickle of cars in comparison. Every type of vehicle was on the road, the proverbial entire family on a single small motor scooter , work trucks carrying the days heavy loads, beautiful black Mercedes Benz with their driver and well to do passenger in the back, nearly broken down car inching along the road on its last leg of life. It made for a spectacular very LONG show.
A Little Bit of History:
Calcutta (now Kolkata) was the capital of India during the British Raj until December 1911. However, Delhi had served as the political and financial centre of several empires of ancient India and the Delhi Sultanate, most notably of the Mughal Empire from 1649 to 1857. During the early 1900s, a proposal was made to the British administration to shift the capital of the British Indian Empire (as it was officially called) from Calcutta to Delhi. Unlike Calcutta, which was located on the eastern coast of India, Delhi was at the centre of northern India and the Government of British India felt that it would be logistically easier to administer India from the latter rather than the former.
On 12 December 1911, during the Delhi Durbar, George V, then Emperor of India, along with Queen Mary, his Consort, made the announcement that the capital of the Raj was to be shifted from Calcutta to Delhi, while laying the foundation stone for the Viceroy’s residence in the Coronation Park, Kingsway Camp. The foundation stone of New Delhi was laid by King George V and Queen Mary at the site of Delhi Durbar of 1911 at Kingsway Camp on 15 December 1911, during their imperial visit. Large parts of New Delhi were planned by Edwin Lutyens (Sir Edwin from 1918), who first visited Delhi in 1912, and Herbert Baker (Sir Herbert from 1926), both leading 20th-century British architects. The contract was given to Sobha Singh (later Sir Sobha Singh). Construction really began after World War I and was completed by 1931. The city that was later dubbed “Lutyens’ Delhi” was inaugurated in ceremonies beginning on 10 February 1931 by Lord Irwin, the Viceroy. Lutyens designed the central administrative area of the city as a testament to Britain’s imperial aspirations.
After India gained independence in 1947, a limited autonomy was conferred to New Delhi and was administered by a Chief Commissioner appointed by the Government of India. In 1956, Delhi was converted into a union territory and eventually the Chief Commissioner was replaced by a Lieutenant Governor. The Constitution (Sixty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1991 declared the Union Territory of Delhi to be formally known as National Capital Territory of Delhi. A system was introduced under which the elected Government was given wide powers, excluding law and order which remained with the Central Government. The actual enforcement of the legislation came in 1993. Courtesy of Wikipedia
We finally arrived at our hotel The Oberoi New Delhi. A less than Grand Madame that most people would come to expect from this luxury hotel chain. Located next to a golf course and a wee bit far from the city center, the Oberoi New Delhi. It was so busy, that it took me by surprise. The hotel was filled with guests. I suppose the recent announcement of Modi as president probably had a lot to do with it, as it was filled with a lot of dignitaries. Our check in was swift and we headed up to our room just as quickly as we were checked in. The Floor we were on really smelt musky and you can tell that thousands of feet have crossed these halls over the years. Our room, wasn’t as fabulous as we thought it would be , being that it was indeed the OBEROI , synonymous with luxury. There were two simple beds, clean room, minimal decor, and old wood / old world sorta charm. There as a button for your butter. Oh how nice, let’s test it out and ask for more of something. The butler was quick and sweet but costly as they do expect a hefty tip. Lesson learned. The hotel as previously mentioned, was teeming with people , some shopping at the exclusive luxury shops like Hermes, Chanel, Burberry etc. , others were taking solitude in the very luxurious side lounge where the heavy fluffed couches offered an oasis from the heavy foot traffic in the lobby But at a very high cost. We ordered 2 lemon juice drinks, and a bottle water = $28 USD. Whoa! . There were 3 restaurants, a gorgeous outdoor pool, spa, and many convention rooms. This was a very large hotel..
After we unpacked ( only a little) we got ready and decided to go and visit the city with what we could see in the darkness , and then go and grab a bite to eat.
Our first stop was the Arc Du Triumph looking structure known as the India Gate. As per usual, there were just a multitude of people everywhere. We were dropped off a bit down the road, and walked on the pedestrian only path to the Gate. It is massive… But that is it . Well come on now, I’ve seen the most beautiful and intricate temples and palaces like the one in Rankapur in Jodhpur & the Journey to the Blue City. Agra and the most beautiful symbol of Love: The Taj Mahal and so many more that by this point I was either Palaced and Templed out, or my standards were very very high.
After realizing that we were tired more than anything, we decided to go and fill our tummies with some food. We didn’t want to go back and eat at the hotel, so our driver gave us some really good advice. Go where the locals go … Um what kind of local joint is it? No madam good local food, good quality. Ah why not we thought. So off we went. We drove through what looked like high society homes, with guards at their gates and their workers coming and going. Ok I can dig this neighborhood, it feels safe.
We ended up eating at Mathus Sweet Pastry Shop. Really delicious food and deserts to die for. We ended our dinner of course with some LASSI!!!!! Tired, we decided to retire to our hotel. Time for some good old-fashioned REST.
Another song to enjoy while you continue:
The next morning we rose to a rumbling tummy. Wow why can’t we stop eating all the food here? Um Maybe because it’s so darn delicious. We took breakfast at the buffet which was part of our hotel deal. Nice , light, yet filling breakfast. We headed out to visit a temple Jama Masjid- The Friday Mosque. It was uneventful, and so we headed quickly out to the Red Fort.
Red Fort ( Lal Quila): Was the home of the Mughal Emperor for over 200 years, until 1857 when the Brittish invaded and conquered India under its empire. Very sad story actually. It was built by Emperor Shah Jahan ( of Taj Mahal) in the 17th century when he decided to shift his capital from Agra to Delhi.
The sun was out in high force and it was only 10 am. We went through security checked in some prohibited items, and entered the Fort. The complex is grand and large. Many different elaborate pavilions and airy spaces. After about 2 hours of enduring the intense heat, we decided it was time to retreat to the comfort of our Ac car. On our way out we stopped by the ancient market still selling local merchandise albeit touristy, and communed with the spirits of this old market place like they did 400 years ago.
We made our way to the Ghandi Memorial only to find out that it was packed, super hot, and with no water to drink. We kindly skipped it. Next we drove around for a bit and visited this huge city.
I must admit that our time in New Delhi wasn’t the most we’ve hoped for. I think traveling through India got the best of us, as by this time we were really tired.
That evening we decided to dine indoors at our hotel and enjoy their culinary delight. Tomorrow would be our last Full day and Night in India.
The next morning as usual we rose and dined and got ready to go and see more of the city. We drove by Connaught Place, a few temples along the way and finally reaching Humayun Tomb.
Humayun Tomb: Is the last resting place and tomb for Emperor Humayun, father of the famous Emperor Akbar. Founded in 1533, it is now currently a World Unesco heritage site. The architecture of the tomb is astounding and beautiful. With lush beautiful gardens in intricate Persian styles. I truly enjoyed my visit to the tomb.
That evening we met up with a friend of a friend of Kelly’s for dinner. A prince of Kapurhthala, Tikka Singh was waiting for us in the lobby of our hotel. I didn’t know what to expect really. But being that he is a friend of Kelly’s friend I’m sure it would be wonderful. He drove us to one of his favorite hotels and restaurants for ITALIAN food. Italian? Wow I totally forgot all about the rest of the world and their food by this time. He was a very friendly man and talked to us about his family and an upcoming script with Penelope Cruise showcasing the stories of his family, grandfather, and the maharaja. It was an interesting dinner. I did feel a little out-of-place, but not too much 🙂 We were of course, dining with a Prince. I guess at the end of the day we truly are all the same. That was a nice sentiment I felt leaving the dinner. On our way home, I got the news of a military shut down in Bangkok. A military coup. I was worried about my journey back to Bangkok, the safety of the area, and the safety of my mother meeting me there for her first trip to Thailand. He assured me that it should be the safest time ever in Bangkok. Never-the-less it rested on my mind constantly.
The next morning would be our last morning in Mother India. We decided to take things easy and to do some shopping towards the end of the day. My flight would leave this evening at 11:30 pm. So I would need to be at the airport by 9:00 pm at the latest. We left the hotel around 2pm to go to a grand bazar sort of place to do all our gift shopping. Throughout our journey we were so fulfilled that we totally forgot about shopping. We didn’t need anything really. We did do a few small shopping here and there when opportunity presented itself, but we didn’t go out of our way to shop. Knowing that I have a long list of people to get gifts for, we headed out with a bag full of money ready to buy everything in sight. We were going to go to the famous Chantu Chak market place, but I was tired of wheeling and dealing and all the madness and wanted to settle for a more calm and civilized place to shop. Our driver decided to take us to the government-owned establishment of The Cottage Emporium New Delhi. This place had EVERyTHING from EVERyWhere we’ve been across India. It’s civilized, reasonably priced, and full of so much BEAUTIFUL handicrafts, pashmina shawls, silks, teas, iconography, art, clothing, textiles, furniture , you name it they had it. I bought A LOT of gifts and personal gifts to myself. So much so, that after exiting and dropping my shopping bags off to our car to the amazement of our driver whose jaw dropped after seeing how much damage we did in the store, I bought another large suitcase to store it all in. Along the many shops where I was looking and eventually bought my suitcase with much haggling, were some really cool local stores selling their wears. Ok why not more. Burdened down with so many goods and feeling great for supporting the economy, we headed back to the hotel, to pack my other bag for my return trip to Bangkok.
We had ourselves a wonderful last dinner, laughed and cried and ended our trip together on the best note ever, PURE JOY and FRIENDSHIP. I was so lucky to travel with Kelly. This past few weeks had been one I could never forget.
I sad my goodbyes once the driver called to let me know he was here to take me away. I was so sad to leave, yet so excited to see my mother in Thailand and tell her of all the amazing experiences I just had.
Traffic was even worse than when we arrived. But I managed to make it to the airport well on time. The airport was mental. I checked in for my business class flight only to find out that I had to pay more …. AGAIN!!!! Why in the f’n world do I have to pay for weight restriction when I’m flying international? It should be 70 lbs per bag at 2 bags per international business class on Thai Air. No madam it isn’t this is the Asia route, so weight is still the same. I was so upset and pissed off I could have strangled him and really give him a head bobble. I sucked it up paid the damn fee ( to which you have to get out of line and go to a separate desk to pay and then return to complete your check in) but refused to return to the line and demanded that he get his lazy ass back and check me in . I eventually wrote a long letter to Thai Airways, to which I still haven’t gotten any response. I did find out some time later, and as previously mentioned in Mumbai: My first Introduction to Mother India that Thai air puts next to zero effort towards any flight departing or returning from India ( their least favorite people and place) Unfair I know but I guess that is how it is. If they only could’ve experienced the beauty of India and her people like I did , maybe they would change their minds.
After my nightmare check in, I proceeded to go through security, passport control, and customs. The lines were horrendous and there were really no separate decent line for first and business class passengers. Oh India testing me to the very end! Finally after an hour of going through it all, I finally reached the lounge , sat down, breathed, and sighed …. I’m leaving…OMG I’m leaving… I don’t want to leave. …. My flight was finally boarding , it was 11pm at night, my flight is a good 5 hours of air time, I need to sleep I need to not forget… And just like that, I’m gone….
Thank you for reading my blogs. I must say, writing about my journeys through India has really brought back a flood of amazing memories. It was like I was just there. I feel everyone should visit India at least once in their lives. It is so worth it and so beautiful…
Thank you India…… I’ll forever remember you.