After a week of backpacking through Europe, my four friends and I embarked on a 10 day journey across India. Our flight is worth mentioning, as we flew, on New Years Day, from Budapest to Kiev (Ukraine), with a short layover, and then to New Delhi. What a terrible experiencing flying with Ukraine Air in a plane from the 1970s. Made for quite the landing. Anyways, we landed in New Delhi at around 7 am local time. Was very fortunate to be traveling with friends who had family in India, and who had arranged a driver to be with us throughout our time in New Delhi. Save the driver, we were entirely on our own! (an empowering feeling once again).
We went from the airport to our hotel (the MET Delhi). My first observation of the city maintained throughout the entire trip and was perhaps the most unsettling part about traveling in Delhi — the air pollution. Perhaps I am spoiled, in fact I know I am, but what I have always taken for granted and never really appreciated, clean air changes your quality of life. Put another way, poor air ruins your quality of life. I have been to Beijing, I have been to Tokyo, I have been to London, NYC, and SF. Nothing compares to what I saw (or rather did not see in New Delhi). I make this rather dramatic claim only to draw importance to how much our environment affects and alters our perception of things. Completely changed how I saw the city!
Anyways, we made it to the hotel, dropped off our bags, and went exploring as our driver took us to many tourist destinations. The big ones were: the India Gate, the Red Fort, and the Jama Masjid. I would say, when in Delhi, these are definitely worth doing. Are they anything like the Taj Mahal (in my opinion no), but they are quite impressive. What is even more interesting to me, more so than the buildings, is understanding and observing the environments around them. Really amazing (and at times sad) seeing the juxtaposition of wealth and poverty — like nowhere I have seen before (gets even worse for me in Hyderabad).
We ate lots of good food, both at the hotel and also at a few restaurants. The food was good…better than American Indian food…but not nearly as good as the rest of our trip (staying with families).
All in all, Delhi felt a bit claustrophobic — not from all the people around — but rather from the air quality and layout of the city. Really hard to get my bearings and never felt at all comfortable navigating. Was probably the hardest place for me to imagine living (moreso than any other city I visited in India, even the more rural ones). Perhaps I also saw the wrong parts of the city and got the wrong experiences, but Delhi was my least favorite city that I visited in India. It was also the only one where I was not staying with friends families. I am happy I came to Delhi but do not feel the need to go back any time soon.