New Delhi, India: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

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India has always been on the top of my bucket list, but what I didn't take into consideration while fantasizing about the life-changing experience I'd have traveling to India is that; 1) I'm a huge romantic when it comes to travel and I can be, at times, optimistic to my detriment, 2) I wasn't expecting the amount of culture shock I felt. 3) I thought all India travel is the same.

Now, don't get me wrong, I still loved my visit to Delhi and Jaipur, but it was completely different experience than what I had romanticized in my head. There were amazing places to visit, most of the people were really nice, and the food was really yummy. BUT, I wasn't expecting, and had never before experienced, the "foreigner" plight (honestly though, I've only been to western countries before, so it's not India's fault, it's mine). I always try to "blend in" wherever we go, I don't like to look like a tourist, but it's just really impossible in India. First, we weren't there at the height of tourist season so saw almost no other westerners, also, I am quite light skinned which contrasts greatly to the darker skin tones of most Indians and is a dead give-away, plus I have no clothes that feel like what even the most western-dressing Indian wears (most of the women, who are not in an office setting, still wear saris or kurtis) which goes a long way towards "fitting in". Now, looking like a tourist or not fitting in, although I don't like it, wouldn't be so bad except for the fact that if you're a tourist in Delhi, you are constantly -and I mean constantly- hounded by rickshaw drivers insisting on taking you to all the tourist attractions, passers-by who "just want to help you" by taking you to the markets where they get commissions, and, to some extent (although not as much as one would think) by street beggars. 

About poverty: I actually didn't see the type of poverty I was expecting from stories I'd heard... until we took the train to Jaipur. Outside the city, there's a whole other Delhi, mega slums line the train tracks next to festering pools of water and fields that serve as the toilets for the people (I literally saw people squatting to go as we were passing in the train) So much poverty, so many people. I couldn't believe what I was seeing but I couldn't look away. Did they have any recourse to get out of their situation? So sad.

Anyway, you really do start to get acclimated to a situation. We were in Delhi for 5 days and by the 4th and 5th day, we really were getting the hang of things, not bothered much by the "helpful" people (basically, you just learn to be rude and ignore them), actually started taking the rickshaws (at the risk of life and limb in Delhi traffic) instead of walking everywhere in the sweltering heat, and feeling more comfortable with choosing safe places to eat (which is a big issue, because of the food contamination issue). I don't think I could ever get acclimated to the extreme poverty though!

I still want to go back to India, just to different places like northern India where there's a lot of Tibetan influence and Goa with it's hip/hippy vibe and strong Portuguese influence.

The Crafts Museum, New Delhi
The Crafts Museum was a serene cultural experience that I'd recommend to everyone.

In a park-like setting filled with traditional arts and crafts like these terracotta figures.

Amazing wrought iron work.

The details in the carvings are amazing.

Craftspeople making their wares in the open air.

Wow! Hand carving this brass vase.

A traditional pigeon house. Fancier than some people houses. :)

A monstrous cart pulled by elephants, these wheels were as tall as me.

Examples of traditional illustration sprinkled throughout.

Including a modern take on traditional illustration.
Painted in satire, I'm assuming, considering the cameras and exposed butt-cracks of the subjects, lol.

Just a sample of the "facilities". Thankfully most places had western toilets available.

Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi
Considered the hip, trendy section of Delhi, Hauz Khas Village is a mix of shops, bars, and restaurants set in the midst of the serene Deer Park and the Hauz Khas ruins from the 1350s set on the edge of a gorgeous lake. It's an awesome full day visit.

Surprisingly, the shops in Hauz Khas are super high-end.

An example of the crazy bar scene.

Even in India, Dads and kids wait patiently for Mom to shop, lol.

On the other side of the "village" are the ruins, which are quite breathtaking.

Is this not gorgeous?

It's definitely romantic! :)

Deer Park (I didn't see any deer?!) is on the other side of the village, and is filled with foliage, walkways, volleyball playing teens, and this amazing tree that has a person climbing up (see him on the trunk there? cool)

Yup, exactly!

Around Town
Seriously impressed with the metro! Clean, efficient, and about 100x easier to navigate (even given the language issue) than the New York subway (which, in my opinion, of the 8 or so metros I've ridden around the world, is the absolute worst)

Auto rickshaw, easy way to get around, sometimes frightening experience, lol.

Connaught Place, the not so pleasant to walk around shopping center of New Delhi. (mostly not pleasant because it's shopping and business district and filled with beggars, "helpers", and craziness)

Common sight! Actually, this is mild, we saw families of 5, with (I'm not shitting you) the baby dangling off the Mother's hip off the side of the motorcycle and up to 4 adults stacked on a scooter! Which, along with the throngs of cars and no-rules driving in Delhi (India), accounts for the average 16 traffic deaths per hour in India. Yikes!!!

Example of food you shouldn't eat because of contamination (water and otherwise). But I realllllllly wanted one of these roasted corns, bad germs don't keep them from looking and smelling good, lol.

We actually tried to visit a popular tourist attraction (against my better judgement). This is the Swaminarayan Ashkardahm temple. It is gorgeous from the outside and I heard the inside is even better.
We didn't make it all the way in... there were literally thousands of people pushing and shoving their way onto the grounds (like Disney park gone wild) just to wait in line to check our items into a locker (because you can't take anything... ANYthing into the temple) and then another wait to get into the temple.
NOT happening. Granted, we went on a Sunday, which is the day off for most Indians and it was absolutely sweltering hot with a relentless sun and no shade provided, but no attraction, monument, temple, or otherwise will entice me to endure the throngs of people and the melting heat conditions just to enter. We elbowed our way around for about 15 minutes and then headed right toward the exit. 

And, of course, shopping. I have to say, I opted for the higher priced (relative to the street vendors - these pillow covers were about $4) shopping centers. We only really shopped on the last day and after 5 days of the god-awful heat and dealing with the locals, I just wanted to be cool and not harassed.
I almost got that, lol. As with most buildings, there really wasn't air conditioning, as you entered each room (types of crafts were separated by rooms) the attendant would turn on the lights and a fan and even though we didn't have to haggle, we were followed every step by the sales clerk encouraging us to buy, buy, buy!
We did take a auto rickshaw there and back, and even haggled the price a bit for fun. :)

As a side note, everything is super cheap by US standards and to me haggling over prices seems terrible. An auto-rickshaw ride cost us about $1 to $1.50 (compared to about 50 - 75 cents for a local), an Uber ride across town is about $2 - $3 (for a ride that would be $20 here), food varies but generally the "safer" the place is to eat the more expensive it will be. All in all though, haggling down 25 or 50 cents means nothing to me but is actually a decent amount to the average Delhi citizen. You're not supposed to give money to beggars (which I usually agree with) so this is my way of helping out.

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