First impressions of India

“There’s a cow. Right there. In the middle of the road.” I knew, of course, that this was something to be expected, but it was quite something else to actually see it for myself, let alone on the drive from Delhi airport to the first hotel of the trip. This turned out to be an excellent beginning – our entire time in India was filled with contrasts and colours, constant noise, ceaseless movement, and I loved it! (And, now we’re home again, Manhattan is feeling remarkably dull and quiet, which is something I never thought I’d say…!)

I have been interested to visit India for as long as I can remember, so an invitation to speak at a conference provided the perfect excuse. Even the prospect of the 14 hour flights to and from Delhi wasn’t sufficiently daunting, and the better part of a fortnight was allocated for pre-conference sightseeing. After much debate about possible destinations, we decided that trying to make our own arrangements would be more stressful than we needed, so we engaged the services of an online tour company, Odynovo, to sort it all out on our behalf. This turned out to be an excellent move – our travel consultant was fantastic, and helped us put together a sensible itinerary taking in as many of the places we wanted to see as was feasible in the time.

We arrived in Delhi late on January 31st, and it was so nice to be met at the airport by our driver and a rep from the travel company. Normally I’m all in favour of independent travel, but not having to immediately figure out our public transport options made for a much more relaxing arrival. This continued the next morning, as we were collected from our hotel after breakfast to embark on a whistle-stop tour around Delhi.

I remember this day mostly as a series of snapshots. We started with a brief look into Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque, with space for up to 25,000 worshippers:

A quick dip into the old market area, Chandni Chowk, by cycle rickshaw:

Raj Ghat and the Gandhi memorial:

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A more modern but beautifully decorated site of worship, the 1933 Laxminarayan temple (sadly no photos are permitted inside):

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A drive by the British-designed Parliament house & government buildings:

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A quick photo stop at India Gate (a more meaningful monument than your average triumphal arch, this serves as a memorial to many thousands of Indian soldiers, and has been the site of a perpetual flame since 1971):

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A glimpse of the Lotus Temple from the roadside:

Other than deciding I wanted to spend more time in Old Delhi (which we did, much later in the trip…), my favourite part of the day was our walk around Qutab Minar. This is the site of India’s oldest mosque, dating from 1193, now mainly in ruins apart from the remarkable minaret. It was a beautiful place to spend some time wandering around.

 

At some point during the afternoon we’d found time for a late lunch, so the day ended back at our hotel, with some much-needed refreshments:

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Old Monk Indian rum – delicious!

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