A May 2003 trip
to Delhi by JenLara
Quote: I had to go to India for business, and my co-worker and I extended our trip to 10 days to try to see just a tiny bit more of this extraordinary country.
Hotel | "Imperial Hotel"
The rooms were amazing -- I was upgraded to a suite, and my four-room complex had a Bang & Olufsen flat-screen TV, Jacuzzi tub, huge sitting area with a fresh fruit basket every day, and views of the plush gardens.
A sumptuous buffet breakfast was served each morning in a beautiful dining room with a sunny terrace overlooking the grounds. And a swimming pool was available if we wanted it, but I never took advantage -- believe it or not, it was actually too hot to be outside, even IN a swimming pool!
All in all, very much worth the US$160 per night, but only stay at the Imperial Hotel if you want or need truly 5-star service and accommodations. You won't get any of the real Delhi here.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 23, 2003
Restaurant | "Karims"
The decor is non-descript, and it was pretty hot and stuffy inside, although this was during the very hottest part of the year. The food was fine, but I didn't personally enjoy it as much as some of the others at my table did. Basically, it was a lot of meat-based stews and curries which all seemed extremely heavy and greasy to me, compared with the kind of Indian food I'm accustomed to in New York. It bore some resemblance to Indian food in NY (of which I am extremely fond!), but was just too heavy for my personal taste.
I learned later that I prefer South Indian cuisine and this was typical North Indian cuisine. I never knew the difference before! In any event, it was a nice place to sit for a few hours with friends, share some food and a few beers, and refresh our mouths afterward with those crunchy, sugary, candy-coated anise seeds at the end!
After dinner we walked the streets of Old Delhi for as long as we could stand it -- about 10 minutes! If we thought it was crazy and crowded and disconcerting during the daytime, we hadn't seen nothing yet. There were SO many people and street kids and animals and shopkeepers and rickshaws all colliding in these alleyways and teeny side streets, it was insane. Definitely worth checking out, but just be prepared; it is chaotic and a little overwhelming!
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on October 23, 2003
Old Delhi, adjacent to jama Masjid
A dosa is a paper-thin pancake made from lentil rice flour that's been fermented. Trust me, it's delicious. Depending on which kind you get, it comes with various fillings either inside or on the side, and an array of chutneys and dipping sauces to choose from.
My favorite was the "Paper Dosa" (see first photo below), which was massive and crispy and extremely light. You crack off a bite-sized piece and scoop up some masala with it, then pour on a bit of hot sauce and pop it in your mouth. YUM!
The decor at Sagar is quite nice and almost formal, but it's really a casual place. We had a huge group of about 15 of us, and they quickly set up a large table for our party.
At the end of the meal, Suzanne and I were persuaded by our Delhi friends to try the local delicacy, called "pan masala" - a sort of digestive. Sorry to say, but it was horrible! Tasted like flowery bath soap wrapped in plastic. It is in fact made of betel nuts, a bunch of spices and natural perfumes, and chewing tobacco, all wrapped up in a betel leaf! Yum (not). Well, at least we tried, and our friends did tell us it's an acquired taste! Suzanne at least managed to swallow it down, whereas I discreetly (I hope) spat it in my napkin. :)
All in all, I highly recommend Sagar for an excellent South Indian meal.
Near Panscheel Park
Bob took us to a Moghul house, a massive living complex filled with what seemed like hundreds (or more) of residents all going about their daily life right in front of us. He walked us up about four flights of pitch-black stairs, all the while passing old men shaving their beards in cracked mirrors, women dressing their kids for school, and old ladies heating up water for tea. We emerged atop the complex with stunning views of the smoggy, over-crowded, colorful streets below -- a great visual overview of the city.
I definitely recommend taking a rickshaw on Chandni Chowk -- we kept thinking that if we'd been walking, we'd have been mowed down by a bus, taxi, bicycle, or goat many times over!! Very, very much worth the near-heart attack, though -- definitely spend a morning or two exploring the streets of Old Delhi.
Red Fort to Chadni Chowk area
I do advise utilizing the services of an official tour guide, who will tell you everything (perhaps more than) you need to know about the fort. Our guide was useful in not only teaching us a lot about the history of the fort and Old Delhi, but also for shooing away the creepy, weird packs of young men who silently followed us wherever we went (in many places throughout our time in India, in fact!) They were strange and slightly menacing, so it was nice to have a guide who would yell at them every now and then to disperse.
The Red Fort is definitely worth a visit, combined with a few hours wandering around the markets and the mosque, Jami Masjid.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 23, 2003
West central Old Delhi
Attraction | "Jami Masjid Mosque"
The structure of the mosque is just visually beautiful, made of patterned, tiled red sandstone and topped with pointed turrets. Inside the walls of the mosque are hallways and smaller shrines, where every now and then you can spot a Delhi resident kneeling in silent prayer.
A groundskeeper was sweeping the floors of the open-air prayer floor with a broom on a rope that he swung around his head and beat against the tile as he walked. The regular sound of the swoosh against the tile floor was soothing and meditative. The Jami Masjid mosque is just a peaceful and very impressive place -- both an architectural feat (built by the ubiquitous Shah Jahan) and a calm, quiet respite from the manic energy roiling just beyond the walls of the mosque in Old Delhi.
Jama Masjid/Friday Mosque
Old City, Chandni Chowk
Attraction | "Qutab Minar"
This ancient complex was built in the 12th century and includes ruins of India's very first mosque, and a series of tombs and mausoleums. It reminded me of places I'd been to in Greece and Rome -- almost like a smaller Forum, but obviously not as old.
The incredibly detailed lattice-work and delicate screens carved of red sandstone are just beautiful, decorated with the writing of the Koran in calligraphy, and designs of the lotus flower. I would plan to spend at least a few hours exploring the grounds here, and even on a hot day there's plenty of shade provided by the buildings and the trees sprinkled throughout the grounds.
The Qutab Minar Complex (Qutb Minar)
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