Delhi the right way
Horsewoman, gypsetter, and travel writer Miss Bailing shares five secrets to help you navigate India’s capital city.
It’s not so easy to fall in love with this chaotic megalopolis as the city doesn’t immediately reveal its charm to the hurried traveler. My advice is to take your time and be patient! I also recommend reading 401 Reasons to fall in Love with Delhi, written by Fiona Caulfield. Her book is a lovely tribute to the city, from its celebrated iconic monuments to its forgotten rituals and lesser-known hidden jewels.
1. Enjoy the traffic
New Delhi runs very fast, and you will no doubt get stuck in its crazy traffic for most of the day. I say: enjoy it! Rent an Ambassador (with a driver, of course) and drive in quintessential Indian style! A standard joke is that “everything in this automobile makes a noise except the horn.” Granted the ride is as smooth as an earthquake, but I’m madly in love with this vintage-looking car!
Alternatively, if you are brave and don’t mind the heat and air pollution, you could take a ride in a traditional (and funny looking) rickshaw. Or if you are an early bird, explore picturesque Old Delhi by joining an early morning bicycle tour, visiting the colorful markets and admiring the city as it is just wakes up.
2. Find the quiet far from the crowd
There are a lot of hidden gems in Delhi where you can enjoy the vibe of the city without losing yourself in the crowd.
Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, one of Delhi’s oldest Sikh temples, is especially beautiful at sunset, with its gold domes reflecting on the water. You can also roam through the peaceful gardens of Safdarjang’s Tomb or be amazed at the gorgeous architecture of Humayun’s Tomb, which was built 60 years before the Taj Mahal in Agra. And don’t miss a visit to the charming Agrasen ki Baoli, an extraordinarily beautiful water well and one of only 20 remaining baolis in the city.
3. Take the time to taste the local flavours
Start with street food and enjoy the experience of buying a savoury snack from a chaat wallah. Or maybe grab lunch at Karim’s, a historic restaurant near the Jama Masjit Mosque, where (since 1913) you will find the best meaty delights in Delhi. If you prefer a more upscale atmosphere with vegetarian dishes, go to Café Lota at the National Craft Museum. And for all you foodies, it’s worth booking a table at Indian Accent.
When it comes to dessert, an unofficial gourmet tour is not complete without a visit to AnnaMaya Restaurant, where pastry chef Gordon Galea was awarded Best Pastry Chef of the Year 2017 at the India Restaurant Awards. Galea’s famous customers include Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip as well as his Highness Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
If you are looking for a caffeine fix then the best place in town is Café Dori. Switch things up and try a traditional beverage like Chai (a sweet, milky, and spicy tea), Lassi (a much-loved yoghurt drink), or Banta (the local lemon soda). If you’re in the mood to raise your spirits and indulge in cocktails and the art of mixology, go to Juniper Bar, India’s first gin bar where you can choose from 40 varieties of home-infused gin.
4. Meet genuine locals
To experience a kaleidoscope of local culture, I highly recommend booking one of the experiential tours led by a Delhi Hero – host Andaz Delhi has designed 401 experiences to help guests truly immerse themselves in the details of the city. You can discover the forgotten art of calligraphy with a visit to a calligrapher, explore Delhi’s rooftops through the eyes of a Parkour athlete, experience a tea tasting at one of the oldest tea houses, or stroll through one of Delhi’s most beautiful gardens with its chief gardener. I decided to experience Kushti (traditional Indian wrestling)! Coach Maha Singh Rao and his guys at Hanuman Kushti Akhara took me along to one of their training sessions.
5. Find the perfect souvenirs
Lastly, you can’t leave Delhi without a keepsake. The best address for fashionistas is Ogaan, where you can find clothing and accessories made by the most interesting Indian designers. Good Earth is one of my favourite Indian brands and their boutiques are the perfect place to find beautiful home decor items; or you can try Vayu Design for Living, located in Bikaner House. If you like vintage-looking luggage and handcrafted bags, the right place is Nappa Dori!