(originally published 28 March 2015)
Delhi was more than I expected to be honest. I knew that I would find poverty, immense poverty, and I suspected that I would harassed by men seeing the foreigner and by young children desperate to sell me pretty much anything that they could get their hands on. But what I didn’t expect was the intense kindness that nearly every Indian that I came in to contact with, even those on the streets of Delhi still trying to “help the foreigner.” I’m not sure I would choose to return to India of my own volition, but if given the opportunity to return for work, I would certainly take that opportunity to learn more, explore more, and experience more as I think this conflicted country – between the rich and the poor, the educated and the not, the happy and the sad – has so much more to offer.
Being that this was my first time in Delhi, I don’t have a lot to offer but what I can, I am confident of. Hotels near Connaught place are definitely the safer place to stay. I was fortunate to stay at the Shangri-La Hotel (http://www.shangri-la.com/newdelhi/erosshangrila/) which I really quite liked: the rooms were large, the bed was conformtable, the staff were great, and the breakfast was fantastic!
My dream hotel (for my next visit) has got to be The Imperial (http://www.theimperialindia.com/). Oh my goodness this hotel is stunning! The night I was there, there was a reception outside with the hotel awash in lavender and the scent of jasmine everywhere. I truly didn’t want to leave!
The other hotel that I am dying to try – so I guess I need to go back at least twice – is the Claridges hotel (http://www.claridges.com/index.asp), the grounds look amazing and truly removed from everything that you see outside of the hotel gates.
I took this opportunity on this trip to try somewhere new and I can honestly say that the Le Meridien (https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/delmd-le-meridien-new-delhi/) on Windsor Place is a keeper. Just like the Shangri-La above, it is located within about a 45 minute stroll to the Gate of India and 15 minutes or so to Connaught Place. But the hotel itself if stunning, with ample space and an amazing sense of calmness for such a large hotel. If you can have access to the lounge on the top floor, do it: dining, or having an evening cocktail in tranquility is such a lovely approach before your day or to end your day before venturing out to dinner.
But reader beware: as lovely as Windsor Place is, or anywhere in Delhi for that matter, the streets are broken up with round-abouts. Why beware? Because these round-abouts mean that you can’t walk in a straight line without having to cross traffic and if you are not of a strong disposition, and perhaps a bit of daredevil, this is a crazy thing to navigate. So, if this freaks you out, call an Uber (SIM cards are only about 600INR for great service and coverage), a taxi, or take a tuc-tuc.
Hands down, this is my favourite experience, ever, in New Delhi and would be the only place I’d go if I had just one night: Indian Accent (http://indianaccent.com/newdelhi/) at the Le Parker Meridien. There is an a la cart menu, and there are only 2 seatings each night (19.00 and 21.45) but go for the chef’s tasting menu! It is a visual parade that tingles your senses with each subsequent course. And for what amounts to less than $100, it is so worth the adventure. (And FYI: there is a New York restaurant that I have got to try!)
If I had 2 nights in Delhi, I would choose to dine at The Spice Route (http://www.theimperialindia.com/the_spice_route/). This was truly an experience worth every penny! The interior design was like nothing I have every seen, the food exquisite, and the overall mood of the hotel (The Imperial) breathtaking.
If I had a third night, I would go to Dhaba (http://www.claridges.com/the-claridges-newdelhi/dining-daba.asp) in the Claridges hotel. I had read about this restaurant and was so not disappointed! The idea was to give you the feel of being in a rickshaw with oustanding food to act as a counterpoint.
If you have the time, and the money, you must go to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. It may sound touristy, and it’s a long drive, but trust me when I tell you it is worth every second.
In Delhi itself, and if you have the stamina for some jostling and some haggling and a lot of horn-honking, you must experience Old Delhi. Everyone told me to try the street food – I couldn’t and I’m not sure you should unless you have a handy dose of antibiotic treatments and a lot of hand-sanitizer – but everything else about Old Delhi is amazing. It makes the soukes of Morocco seem quaint and calming!
Delhi is an amazing place full of joy and sadness, and riches and destitution, and not something that is easily explained or enthusiastically promoted, but I don’t regret going and I sincerely hope that I will be able to return sometime soon and share more of my findings with you.