I was greeted at Delhi airport by my friend Jen, who I had met travelling a couple of years ago. We took a taxi to our hostel, Madpackers.
We were both pretty tired from travelling so we went out for some food and had a chilled night.
The hostel is pretty modern and trendy. The rooms are big and spacious, and the common areas and kitchen are really well equipped.
We signed up to do a tour of Delhi through the hostel. The tour is run by a local guy called Baddu, he’s so enthusiastic about Delhi, travel and food, so we got on great!
We met up with everyone and walked the 5 minutes to the metro station. We took the metro to Chawri Bazar and were amazed to find it had air con! Even at 7am the temperature is rapidly rising. We took a tuk tuk and went straight to a little stall which is totally hidden in a rather uninviting back alley for breakfast. The only option you have is a mild chickpea dish, served with traditional bread. It is full of flavour, ginger, coriander, garam masala. You can choose your level of spice- low, medium and ‘at your own risk’. People travel from far and wide to have their breakfast here as this family run stall has held the unofficial title for best chole for many years. I don’t think many tourists would come across this place without the help of a local who knows their way around.
We then headed out of the alley and across the street for breakfast number two. We ate at another little street food place, and had a plate full of different curries to try. Baddu then ordered us some sweet things, which to be honest I’m not too sure what they were. The one I tried kind of looked like a little yellow jelly tube but it had a really strange texture and I wasn’t a huge fan.
After fuelling up on local delicacies, we took a rickshaw to the Red Fort. We didn’t go in but Baddu gave us a brief history on the place. It wasn’t the most breathtaking temple but it was pretty cool to see it and learn some of the history.
The next part of the tour was actually my favourite part of the day. We went to the old spice market at Chandni Chowk and had a little walk around. It was absolutely hilarious as the spices caught the back of our throats and we were all coughing, each time we took a breath in the spices only got stronger and made it worse! We climbed some steps out of the spice market, up about 5 floors and then all of a sudden we are on an empty rooftop, just behind Fatehpuri Mosque, with a 360 degree view of Delhi. Baddu had arranged for some tea and biscuits to be brought up for us and we enjoyed this whilst relaxing in the sunshine.
Baddu decided it was time for more food and he took us to another little street food stall come restaurant called Parawthe Wali Gali. You can watch the guys cooking the bread and chapatti on the little stove just on the street. The food was pretty similar, a lot of chickpeas and lentils, but it’s just so tasty. Absolutely nothing like the Indian food we get in Scotland.
Bangla Sahib is a Sikh temple. Covering your hair, removing your shoes and leaving any tobacco behind is considered a common curtesy and so we set off in to the temple barefoot and clad with an orange bandana type thing. Inside the temple you are not allowed to take photos as there are many people praying. Three men were sitting in a group, singing into microphones which were then projected around the room. It was really quite moving and you could feel the energy in the room. This temple also provides it’s worshippers and anyone else with free food. Men and women volunteer to prepare the food, serve it and clean up afterwards. We walked through the kitchen where there were industrial sized pans and bowls filled with fresh food. The eating hall was packed with people.
Begging is a big problem in India. People beg for money or food, but nobody in India could actually starve as there are places like this where free food is readily available. It is difficult to ignore the beggars and it does feel like you are being rude, but at the same time by giving them money you are only encouraging them to continue.
A few of the guys on the tour were into photography and so we headed to Agrasen ki Biola which Baddu thought we would find interesting. This is a step well, one side a sheer drop and the other with over 100 steps going gradually to the bottom. There isn’t much definite history about who built the well.
Our last stop was to India Gate, a war memorial to remember all of the Indian soldiers who lost their lives in the many wars they have been involved in. It is a magnificent monument which has been engraved with each of the soldiers names. Going away from the monument is a straight road which leads directly to President House, about 2km away.
After a long day of pounding the streets in the blazing heat we decided to call it a day. Baddu is a really inspirational guy with big dreams to change the backpacking scene in India. He loves everything local and tries to show you the real India, places many tourists would never be able to find without guys like him. You can get in touch with him at Madpackers, Delhi.