12th Nov 2009

Exploring Delhi, both old and new

Yeah, I know, I’ve skipped a country. Maybe someday I’ll write about waking up at 5am to spend 8 hours of everyday walking, then going to sleep at 7pm, not eating meat nor drinking coffee or alcohol for 21 days and liking it, but not today.

We’ve been in India for almost a week. We arrived in Delhi last Friday and have been staying with a friend from South America and MSU in the lovely and quiet embassy district of New Delhi. You can get almost anything here: clothes, food, English-language books, dengue. We’ve spent a bit of our time exploring the city and much of it enjoying the quiet existence that is life in Chanakapuri (the embassy area). Stacy took us into the American Community Center, which is run by the US embassy, last Friday for happy hour. At the embassy you can get $2 beers, good coffee, an American style breakfast, and drinkable tap water. Though I don’t know that I’d go for those all at once. Of course, not just anyone can go into the center, you have to be a member, of which we are not. This is probably good news or we’d never see any of Delhi other than what lies between Stacy’s house and the embassy. It’s only two blocks, but to be fair you can see monkeys, huge birds and wild dogs along the way, so there is something.

We’ve also seen a few of the actual tourist attractions around the city. We hired a car for half a day and drove around to some of the older sights in the city. Yesterday, we ventured into Old Delhi to see the Red Fort and a few other places in the area. Being in New Delhi, Tony and I both felt like things were so much more relaxed. The traffic is nothing in comparison to the madness that exists on Chinese roads, and while you do see a fair amount of begging and poverty I hadn’t yet been overwhelmed. If you’re looking to be overwhelmed, just head to Old Delhi.

Old Delhi is loud, chaotic and crowded. As it is the old center of Delhi there are still some amazing buildings from the Mughal empire and more. Of course, in order to see these you have to get past the trash, the groping men, the cars, bikes and motorcycles and the smells. My game for the day was “Name that smell.” Tony didn’t want to play and came up with his own game “Find the woman in Old Delhi”. There were a surprisingly small number of women in the city. I wasn’t so excited with Old Delhi after yesterday and still feel a bit too stressed when we are there. Though today we did go back to go on a walking tour with a guide from Salaam Baalak Trust. More on them next.

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