Visiting the Republic of India for 2 weeks, covering 1 National Capital territory, 3 states and 4 cities does not begin to describe all that incredible India has to offer. Although this visit only gave a small peep I have gained fresh insight on what it means to live in the 7th largest country in the world, being 2nd (only to China) in terms of population which stands at over 1.2 billion people.
It is interesting to note that the Indian economy is the world’s eleventh largest by nominal GDP and fourth large by purchasing power parity. Following market-based economic reforms in 1991, India has become one of the fastest growing major economies, and is considered a newly industrialized country; however, it continues to face the challenges of poverty, illiteracy, corruption and inadequate public health.’ (Source: Wikipedia)
At the time of travel (April 2011): Rand 1 = Indian Rupees 6.5 (INR 1 = 15 cent)
Delhi, the capital of India, dating back to 1 450 BC has historically gone through 3 eras, the Lal Kot and the middle ages, Old Delhi during the Mughal area in the 17th century and New Delhi, developed by the British and leading into independent India.
Today the city of Delhi is home to more than 12.6 million people and still growing, featuring a beautiful new airport since 2010, just before the Commonwealth Games. Delhi is in Northern India and a hub for many international destinations in Asia, Middle East and Europe.
We stayed in South Delhi at the very pleasant Lutyens Bungalow, a guesthouse offering 17 rooms, sparkling clean pool, garden with cute squirrels and parrots as well as the resident dogs, thus a very informal and relaxed atmosphere, centrally located to reach the airport, New Delhi station, Connaught Place, Khan Market, India Gate, Humayun’s & Safdarjang’s tombs.
Lutyens Bungalow has spacious, comfortable rooms, delicious local vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals as well as other light snacks. The staff is very friendly and helpful and I will forever be grateful to the owner, Shukla for sharing her valuable information on moving around in Delhi as a female traveler. www.lutyensbungalow.co.in
The guest house refers to Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, (29 March 1869 – 1 January 1944) who was a major 20th century British architect who is known for imaginatively adapting traditional architectural styles to the requirements of his era. He has been referred to as “the greatest British architect” and is known best for having an instrumental role in designing and building a section of the metropolis of Delhi, known as New Delhi, which would later on serve as the seat of the Government of India. In recognition of his contribution, New Delhi is also known as “Lutyens’ Delhi“. In collaboration with Herbert Baker, he was also the main architect of several monuments in New Delhi such as the India Gate; he also designed the Viceroy’s House now known as the Rashtrapati Bhavan (source: Wikipedia)
Moving around in Delhi, like anywhere else in India, with taxi’s and auto rickshaws is an experience like no other. I am inclined to say that it is impossible to describe; one has to experience it in person. The bottom line is that without nerves of steel and a horn you will achieve nothing. Surprisingly, we have had many close shaves in the taxi and auto rickshaw but seen NO accidents during our visit. Note that a large percentage of the auto rickshaw drivers are illiterate, the only words they can communicate in English is the price and showing them a map or a business card of the address where you are staying is totally ineffective. But then Indians are operators, thus they ask around and you are quickly on your way to your address.
ATM’s (Auto teller machines) posed quite a challenge I experienced some difficulty withdrawing cash, it worked on day 1 and 3 but not on day 2 when I needed it most. It is also quite common for ATM’s to run out of cash by mid day. The best alternative currency to have on hand is US $.
Due to only spending 1½ day in Delhi, I managed to see only a few of the landmarks namely
- India Gate, designed by Herbert Baker and Edwin Lutyens, the war memorial commemorating 90 000 Indian soldiers being killed fighting for the British during the World War I
- Rajpath, a wide street flanked by gardens and fountains linking the Presidential residence with the India gate, also featuring Parliament buildings and the National museum
- Presidential residence, or Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the President of India
- Connaugh Place, commercial hub of New Delhi with offices, restaurants and shopping
- Khan Market, a smaller and cheaper shopping experience
- New Delhi Station, with very clear instructions from the owner of the guest house as to what to do, more importantly on what not to do: do not linger, do not talk to anyone, just go straight to the stairs leading to the first level and buy my ticket for Agra. It all went without a glitch, actually I could even explain the process and accompany a French couple, Stefan & Olivia, to also go and buy their train tickets for Agra for the next day
I regret not having the time to visit the Ref Fort, Jama Masjid (mosque) as well as Humayun’s & Safdarjang’s tombs.
More on Incredible India to follow in the upcoming weeks.