A Delhi Essay: "The Best Tuk-Tuk Ride of Your Life"
Benji Kriner reached out to me a while back during his travels and we talked about putting a piece exactly like this together, and on a personal level, I'm always thrilled to host a friend's writing on my blog. Of course, it's worth mentioning here that Benji's older brother, Jon, was actually my roommate back when I lived in Norway in 2010, and he was the one who convinced me to start a blog in the first place. I owe a lot to that man to say the least, and we sure had some adventures in Europe together. Alright, enough about past memories in Europe, let's go to present day in South Asia!
After blogging for so long, I've seen so many posts that are the exact same. If it's Delhi we're talking about, then there are a million posts that would be entitled, "Best Places to Visit in Delhi," "Top 10 Places to Visit in Delhi!," "Historical Places in Delhi," and so on and so forth. What I'm getting at is that travel blogging has become a traffic building ballgame, which even I have to abide by in some sense, but it's refreshing when someone who isn't in the heart of the travel blogging world comes and puts something together that is honest, heartfelt and isn't irreparably laden with keywords to catch google's attention. Honesty has always been important to me, and I'd like to think that has come through in some of my posts in the past. Thankfully, this post will be lighter than what I just linked to, and I hope you enjoy it.
I'll kindly get out of the way now, and let Benji take over the wheel. Here's his guest post on Delhi, India!
The sights, smells and pollution will, quite literally, leave you breathless. Honestly, right before I went to India, I thought, “I’m going to go to see the Taj Mahal and never come back”. I’d heard so much negativity that I figured I wouldn’t want to come back.
After one day in Delhi, I wanted to stay for a lifetime.
The Traffic in Delhi
The first thing you notice about Delhi is the traffic, the dirt, and the incredible amount of people.
Whether you’re in a cab, tuk-tuk or rickshaw, driving in India is quite an experience. I was in a car for no more than five minutes and we broke numerous traffic violations: running red lights, driving on the wrong side of the road, taking an illegal U-turn and seemingly uncontrollable weaving in between cars and lanes. This wasn’t a one-off occasion. This happens every second of every day. Also, I’m convinced that the car horn is synonymous with the gas pedal. You might never sleep if you live near a busy street.
The Dirt in Delhi
Delhi is quite a dirty city. With the amount of people, pollution and the fact that Delhi is always hot and arid, the city is inherently not clean. The air quality made it quite difficult for me to breathe. I walked through a spice market and the dirt, pollution and spices all in the air caused me to cough my way through the market. However, my walk through the spice market led me to a rooftop where families sat and flew kites as the sun set. And because there is so much smog, the sunsets are quite astonishing.
The People in Delhi
When I first got off the plane, I got on the metro to my hostel. Travel tip: If you are a little more experienced, take the local transit from the airport. It is always cheaper and you don’t have to haggle with a cab driver who has you over a barrel. Buying a ticket to the metro is quite stressful. People in Delhi do not wait in line to get a ticket. They push and shove to cut the line, whether you are a man, woman or child. In the New Delhi Metro Station, one of the biggest in the city, I waited in a 200-person mob to get a ticket. Eventually I realized, to get a ticket you cannot be patient or weak because the people are strong and passionate. So, shove your money through the ticket window and bring out your broken Hindi to tell them the station you want to go to.
I should say though that the people in Delhi are very friendly and inviting, and somehow they never need a GPS to get around. It's incredible, things that bothered me, like pushing my way through lines, didn't seem to phase them. I'm in awe of their high spirits and positive attitudes.
The Architecture in Delhi
Delhi, on second glance, is a wonderful city. You see the beautiful marble and red sandstone buildings, the indescribably intricate carvings, and the cheap, delicious street food.
Most of the ancient architecture was created by the Mughal Empire. The Mughal’s were a Muslim people who ruled the Indian Subcontinent from the early 16th century until the mid-19th century. The Mughal Empire constructed a considerable amount of the famous buildings in India including the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort (in Agra), the Red Fort, Jama Masjid and Humayun’s Tomb. The defining characteristics of Mughal architecture are massive domes, four pillars on each corner, and rounded arches that come to a point. The buildings are often made of red sandstone and marble with inlaid semiprecious stones. They are stunning from afar and even more so up close.
The Carvings in Delhi
Every centimeter of seemingly every building has very elaborate carvings and tile work. Just running my hands over 16th century marble work gave me goosebumps. Knowing that five hundred years ago, someone was standing in the same spot as you, crafting a beautiful piece of art that would stand for centuries, is hair-raising.
I went to a marble inlay workshop while in Agra and watched as they etched into the marble and then shaped the semiprecious stone to the exact same specifications before gluing it in. Obviously, it would be easier to just paint the marble or stone, however the paints fade over time, while the semiprecious stones do not. So, the marble inlay work looks the same today as it did when it was first created. It’s incredible to see the complex engravings and designs.
The Food in Delhi
I’m not even sure where to start on the food in Delhi. It’s delhi-cious, spicy yet flavorful and cheap as hell. I ate a full meal for under 1 USD! There are outdoor markets (food and spice), street vendors, and people walking around like stadium vendors. I saw food vendors on the side of the highway and I was thoroughly confused until I got lost and ended up walking on a highway and was starving. Obviously, you should be careful with the food you choose to eat based on how long it’s been sitting out and if it’s cooked, raw, dairy, etc. From paneer masala to dal makhni to chole bhature, nearly everything you eat in Delhi will be the best Indian food you’ll ever eat. Also, be prepared for the spice level!
Delhi is a huge city with more than 26 million people and I was just one small part of that. You should be too. It’s an amazing city with so much to offer.
I want to once again thank Benji for stopping by the blog and sharing his insight on the city on Delhi. On a side-note, I may actually be headed to India in February, but I'll keep everyone posted on that. It won't be news to anyone, but you can always get those updates from me on my facebook page, or on twitter! Feel free to comment below on what you thought of the article. As you know, I always respond to each and every comment, and if you've got any further questions for Benji, then I can for sure relay that to him.
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