Ooh, Delhi. It is so scary. Pickpockets, thieves, street kids and poverty. Everyone has told us to get out of Delhi, so as usual, we went into the city with our back against the wall expecting the worse.
Delhi is not so bad.
Sure, the Pahar Ganj area is filthy and over crowded. Sure the train station is intimidating with its masses of people crowding the platform and sure it is huge!
The population of Delhi is 13,000,000 people!
And yet, we didn't hate it.
The metro is fast, efficient and clean, the rickshaws are cheap and the city has everything that you need.
There is major construction going on in the city as it prepares for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and hopefully it will meet its deadlines. Delhi needs a facelift and these games may give it just what it needs.
In the main circle of Connaught Place, garbage isn't too bad and old buildings are being restored. The new stadium just may be built in time and there actually seems to be an attempt to try to clean up the streets. At least from the outside. Walk a few blocks from the financial and shopping districts however and you will see refugees from God knows where sleeping in camps with loads of laundry drying in the median between streets and garbage is strewn on the sidewalks. But, where the wealthy tourists are at least, progress is being made.
We did all of our shopping for our entire time in India at Connaught Place's state emporiums. Their fixed prices were a dream. we had been so tired of bargaining over the past few months that we were happy to just buy items with price tags on them. We have discussed how the bartering system used to work great when people were trading goats for chickens or milk for eggs. But why do we have to barter over an inflated price just to get it down to something reasonable.
We would rather pay a few rupees more for a fixed price item without the hassle. but that is just us. Dave and I used to love bartering when we first traveled. Maybe we are just weary now.
We loved taking a rickshaw through the city to see the sites and were shocked when we got one that actually used his meter. The rickshaw drivers in Delhi have been some of the most honest in the country!
We stayed in the fleabag guest house of Pahar Ganj and then stopped into a high end hotel to enjoy some comforts for a few nights. We enjoyed both for their own separate reasons. One, we felt connected to the people and felt the cities energy pulsing through our bodies. The other, we loved the solitude and sanitation. We were in our bubble enjoying creature comforts from home.
We had cheap beer and curry at the main Bazaar and then had some fine coffee and salad in New Delhi.
We mastered the trains, Old Delhi, New Delhi and Nizzzamudden stations don't make us cower in fear anymore.
And we are comfortable walking the streets and enjoying the vibe. But don't walk and walk for too long, we walked enough to get a respiratory infection but at least were able to buy cheap antibiotics from the corner chemist.
While Delhi has the usual things that you have to watch out for, scams, touts and mischievous street kids, it is a pretty good city to spend a few days. Maybe other people hate it so much because it is the first stop for most when traveling to India. When it is one of the last stops on the list like it is for Dave and I, it can be fairly easy and not so overwhelming.
Good luck to you Delhi and all the best for the Commonwealth Games. The World, (well at least the colonies) will be watching.