Back in Delhi at the end of our Golden Triangle tour, my thoughts were focussed on the conference – it was, after all, the alleged purpose of the trip! However, we knew we had at least a day free at the end, and top of my list was a walking tour of Old Delhi. (I would have been perfectly happy to do this on our own, but the brief glimpse of Chandni Chowk from the cycle rickshaw had convinced me we’d get lost within moments, so it seemed like it would simpler, as well as more informative, to join a guided group!)
Online research produced a fun-sounding itinerary which took in the spice market as well as walking through Chandni Chowk, but because the market closes on Sundays we decided to duck out of the organised conference tours on the afternoon of Saturday 16th and book an afternoon walking tour instead. (This turned out to be an excellent decision, in the end I spent that morning in the hotel room recovering from an inadvertent glutening the day before, and Tom found that half a day of visiting libraries around Delhi was quite enough!)
We met our guide outside a cafe in Connaught Place before hopping on the metro for the ride into Old Delhi. We were surprised by how clean and nice it was – much more pleasant than NYC – and of course it was much more efficient than travelling by road.
First stop was the Jama Masjid mosque again, but we were happy to revisit it before plunging into the madness of the old streets. By now we were old hands at this sort of thing, but it really was an intense experience, made more so by the traffic jam in the centre of the narrow streets.
Having pushed, shoved and squirmed our way through the masses, it was pleasant to dive into a quiet side street and admire some old Jain buildings. We also paused at a small cafe to eat parathas (well, I couldn’t, but Tom enjoyed them), before squeezing into a tuktuk for the ride to the spice market.
The spice market was just brilliant – it’s mostly a wholesale place, so most vendors had huge bags of all kinds of herbs and spices for sale.
We climbed up through one of the buildings to a rooftop view point, and looked down into one of the most captivating courtyards I’ve ever seen.
Back at street level we stopped at one of the few stores which will sell small quantities of spices – admittedly somewhat touristy, but the salesman talked interestingly about a number of their spices and teas, and it was fun browsing through all the packs on display to bring home gifts and souvenirs. Purchases duly made, it was back into the tuktuk for a final ride through the darkening streets, and somehow the mayhem was even more enthralling by electric light.
And finally, our last day. February 17th found us back at Connaught Place again for some leisurely browsing at the Oxford bookstore, a drink in their cute cafe, and then a walk over to the Cottage Industries emporium to wander through multiple floors of handcrafts of all descriptions. We finished up with a tasty and colourful lunch at Garam Dharam restaurant, before heading airport-wards for the 15 hour flight home.