I knew this would be the most tiring day of the trip. Our North India trip was getting close to its end and nothing better than doing a full day sightseeing tour of Old and New Delhi. On top of that, we forgot Sabrina’s stroller in the airport in Udaipur. Not sure if we forgot or it never arrived with us but she was pretty upset and exhausted from all the travelling! We knew we had to make the best of our last day in Delhi.
We mainly visited the Old Delhi which is the traditional, old city. It is where all the old Mughal monuments are like Red Fort, Jama Masjid etc. New Delhi is the new part of Delhi where the Parliament and surroundings are. We didn’t really have much time to visit that area. We just drove around the Municipal corporations. There is no such thing as Delhi. It’s either Old Delhi or New Delhi.
Our first visit was the Jama Masjid, which is the largest mosque in India. It is situated in Old Delhi and is also known as the Friday Mosque. It has a huge courtyard capable of holding 25,000 devotees. Construction begun in 1644 and ended up being the last architectural extravagance of Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor who built the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. The entry is free but if you want to take pictures you need to pay 200 Indian Rupees. Female travelers have to hire a robe at the entrance; however I remember I didn’t need to cover my hair.
After we spent 30 minutes visiting the Mosque, we took a Tuk Tuk through the famous “Chandni Chowk”. Of course, this was the fun part for Sabrina. Besides horses, elephants and camels, her favorite means of transportation is the hair-raising Tuk Tuk!
The Chandni Chowk is one of the oldest markets dating back to the Mughal Empire and is kind of synonymous with Delhi. It is crowded, chaotic, noisy and full of wires heavily tangled up above. The market is located in a narrow street with lots of alleyways and full of tradesmen and shops that sell everything from silver jewelry to medicine. This is typical of New Delhi. If you had the chance to be in this messy place, you can truly say that you have been to New Delhi! I would hire a reliable guide to visit this market as it is so easily to get lost. After our bumpy drive through the silver street we got off in front of the Red Fort. Game over for Sabrina, because she realized she had to walk to the Red Fort but fortunately it wasn’t open at that time and we couldn’t take any pictures. So we skipped it! I have been reading reviews about the Red Fort and most of them conclude that it is not worthy to spend a lot of time here. Besides sunset views, the building is not as impressive as it appears in the pictures. We only had one full day in New Delhi so we had move on as quick as we could. I remember it was 11:30 am and our next destination had to be a restaurant to have lunch! Sabrina was getting hungry and cranky!
Below is a video of the Chandni Chowk and the front side of the Red Fort.
After our succulent lunch in a local restaurant we headed to India Gate; originally called “All India War Memorial”, a 42 meter high, free standing arch, located in the middle of a crossroad similar to the Arch of Triumph in Paris. It commemorates the 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during World War I. This is a popular spot to get disturbed by persistent local sellers trying to sell you souvenirs. After that we made a short visit to a large Hindu temple called Laxmi Narayan Temple; also called Birla Mandir. This is one of Delhi’s major temples and a major tourist attraction. The temple is dedicated to Laxmi (the goddess of prosperity) and Narayana (the preserver). The temple was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi on the condition that people of all Indian classes would be allowed to enter the temple. No photography is allowed inside this temple.
Humayun’s Tumb – Bahai Lotus Temple & Qutub Minar – These were our last three stops before saying goodbye to India. It was approximately 3:00 pm on a very hot afternoon and we decided to skip a couple of mosques and the Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation site! However, our batteries were still half charged after visiting the Humayun’s tomb, the Bahai Lotus and Qutub Minar.
The Humayun’s tomb is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This is a must visit place in Old Delhi. It is set in wonderful Persian gardens built by the emperor in the memory of his wife. The next quick stop was the Bahai Lotus temple. This is a very impressive piece of modern architecture! It is open to all regardless of religion, or any other distinction. In 2002, this temple attracted more than 50 million visitors, making it one of the most visited buildings in the world. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to visit this temple! It is mainly a place to meditate rather than to do a tourist tour. Meditation time with a boisterous toddler is stretching it. It was stirring enough to view the astonishing architecture for only a few minutes. Our tour guide said there was nothing to see inside anyway and it was just a crowded place of worship. Finally, our last stop was the Qutub Minar; a 72 meter high victory tower built in 1193 A.D. The tower has five distinct levels, each marked by a projecting balcony and tapers from a 15 m diameter at the base to just 2.5 m at the top. The first three storeys are made of red sandstone; the fourth and fifth storeys are of marble and sandstone. At the foot of the tower is the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, the first mosque to be built in India. The origins of Qutab Minar are controversial. Some believe it was erected as a tower of victory to signify the beginning of Muslim rule in India. Others, as our tour guide told us say it served as a minaret to the muezzins to call the faithful to prayer. Either way it is worth visiting this fine monument!
Below is a video about our visit to the three places I mentioned above.
This is how we finished our visit to North India, which included Varanassi, Kajuraho, Udaipur and the well-known Golden Triangle: Jaipur, Agra and New Delhi. Something that we learnt about travelling to North India is not to rely on meals served by expensive hotels and restaurants. The Golden Triangle has been heavily commercialized by the vast number of tourists that come. So the authenticity of the typical dishes has been compromised by the demands of the unadventurous tourists. The meals are not too spicy, they are rather bland and tasteless. If you want to experience at the full flavor of Rajhastan food, just go to the local restaurants around the markets and on the road. Their food is delicious, tasty and half the price. Just make sure you don’t eat salads or anything not fully cooked. We found most of the best curries and biryanis at stop-offs during our long trip from one town to another. So we relied more on our friendly driver than the menu written in the hotels we stayed! Believe me! If you are open-minded in trying different cuisines, then don’t eat at the restaurants in your 4 or 5 star hotels!