Growing up in Durban, South Africa, a city with more Indians population (outside of India) I was always drawn to their culture, food and hospitality. My curiosity was further pushed by the time I spent with my two Indian best friends Shivona and Pravashni. We spent a lot of time working together and even sharing a house. They introduced me to a lot of Indian culture, music and food. I got exposed to Bhangra music which I love to this day and even took some dance lesson consisting of numerous styles that were developed from traditions and experimental fusions of western forms. (Check that image below from 1999) So it was an obvious choice to add India on my bucket list and visit the place where it all begin. Over the past years the good reputation overweighed by the bad reputation of India being unsafe never stopped me from wanting to visit India, but the timing was never right. The dream to visit India kept being pushed further down the list until now when the opportunity presented itself.
This image was taken in 1999 in South Africa after our dance competition , we didn’t win but it was so much fun ! How gorgeous do I look in my blue saree?
THE DELHI EXPERIENCE……. The whole experience left me with mixed feelings but overall I will be returning to India in the near future as I feel I only scratched the surface. We flew with http://www.qatarairways.com from London via Doha (prices from £310 depending on the time of the year and how far in advanced you book your flight). Our flight was over night and we landed in the morning. We have pre-arranged an airport pickup with our first hotel http://www.themetropolitanhotelandspa.com situated near Connaught Place in New Delhi. (The worst 5* hotel I have experienced, my advise book somewhere else) We stayed at this hotel for three days. The longest 3 days ever and do not start me with their wifi drama! On the first day we slept all day adjusting our body clocks and had room services for dinner. The second day, our day was started with a 7 am gym session followed by a Buffet breakfast before we went hunting for a local currency exchange. Indian currency, the Rupee is a closed currency and tourists are not permitted to bring it in. So you can only get it at the airport when you land (I will not recommend that as airport prices tend to be low and you always get better offers off the airport) After getting our money sorted we met a local tuk tuk driver who ended up being our guide too. We visited The Gate of India , House of Parliament, The Presidential House and the two Ministry houses. Before we knew it was time to return to the hotel for an afternoon pool chilling session and cool down from from the midday heat. On day three we headed to Old Dehli. The journey was an interesting one in the tuk-tuk. We shared the road with cows and horses with drawn carts. Every road user was honking loud and non stop. Road users turned two street lanes to four lanes which created more chaos with no concept of safety or what the rules of the road are. As scary as it was it was also interesting to see and experience it. Our first stop was the Red Fort, followed by the visit to the spice markets and tea markets, the Jama Masjid Mosque. We parked the tuk tuk and got on a bicycle to explore all the narrow lanes of Delhi and finished off with a walk to Chandni Chowk market and Gurduwara Sikh Temple. On day four we changed hotels and moved to the luxurious http://www.oberoidelhi.com for another three days. (I will do a separate review blog for my stay at Oberoi). We returned to the Old Delhi for more exploring and a photoshoot session with a local photographer. On day five we decided to relax and enjoy what the hotel had to offer and rested since the following day we had arranged a tour to Agra with an amazing gentleman called Farooq Shala from http://www.movindia.com ( I highly recommend them and do mention I referred you he’s the best ) We had a car with A/C and wifi , a designated driver, a tour guide and entrance tickets for our tour in Agra. And came way cheaper than the other tour companies we look into. He was honest and not pushy for us to book. The almost three hours journey was relaxed and the driver really looked after us. On arriving at The Taj Mahal we were met by our tour guide and we spent a good three hours . All I can say is no pictures can do The Taj Mahal justice. My advise will be to go there and experience it for yourself. We headed back to our hotel feeling so blessed to have experienced and seen the beauty that The Taj Mahal is. On last night we stayed in, had room service and slept early because we had an early flight back to the UK. MY DELHI TIPS ……. Delhi is a lovely city but do not visit there in their summer time the heat will make your vacation uncomfortable. The people are friendly but can be pushy, especially if they are trying to sell you things. Be firm when saying NO! You won’t get the best food experience by eating in hotels. If your stomach can take it or you are brave enough try the night food markets. That’s where you will get the best local Indian authentic dishes bursting with flavours. But make sure the food is sizzling hot before being served and you see them prepare it. Stick to bottle water always . If you like your personal space Delhi may not be a good place for you to visit. If you are a female traveller(s) rather spend a little bit more in your hotels, opt for 5* and high end hotels which you will have everything you need than risk your safety especial at night time. When booking tours do not book them through your hotels the cost is 3/4 times the actual cost. And make sure you do your own research if the company is legit and government approved as they are so many scammers out there. Pack your usual clothes that are respectable which means making sure your shoulders and knees are appropriately covered. If you there in hot months make sure your chosen fabrics do not get see through when drenched in sweat. Don’t be offended if they keep asking to take photos with you, especially women and kids. And lastly treat Delhi like you will treat any trip by trusting your gut and be always cautious around strangers. Travel to Delhi with an open mind and no expectations because it will be a culture shock but if you are able to see beyond all the negative things it will definitely be a life changing experience that you will always be thankful for.
OUTFIT : Dress – NontoLi Studio Trousers – Reiss Shoes – River Island Pashmina – Bought in Thailand