Two Days (Back) in Delhi

It was 4:30am, cold and still very dark when we walked to the taxi stand and said goodbye to Rishikesh for the final time.


The ride to the Haridwar train station took about 40 minutes. We had planned to arrive early to make sure all was good boarding our train to Delhi. We booked in chair class 2, definitely not the worst, but it’s no Via Rail!


Chair Class 2 Hardiwar to Delhi


The facilities on the train.

When the train pulled up we hopped inside the first car we thought might be ours. Turns out we were only off by about five. That’s a lot of isles to push through but we finally made it to our seats after asking a few questions. Four and a half hours later the train stopped at the New Delhi Rail Station.
If you read How to Get Scammed in Delhi, you will know our first attempt at exploring this city was a bust to say the least. We actually set out to make it to the same hostel, the same way we failed at last time…call us stubborn! We were armed with a screen shot of the walking directions and arrived at The Smyle Inn as planned. In the short treck to the hostel we encountered about 20 more scam attempts. Random people trying to make you think you are going the wrong way, or are in the wrong place, you name it. Basically getting you confused so they can overcharge you for a ride, take you to a fake tourist office, or their buddy’s hotel\shop. You are a huge target when you are walking through Delhi with your luggage and\or looking like a tourist. Know where you are going and ignore help from friendly strangers.

It was mid afternoon when we unloaded our bags into the room, and we set out to explore the Main Bazaar. It was right at our doorstep. Shops galore and typical Delhi sounds, sights, and smells overloading your senses.



It was so much more enjoyable walking around without the burden of our packs. Not long into our walk we were both looking at each other and smiling. It is a crazy feeling being in such a foreign place. We checked out a few shops before stopping to eat. We couldn’t ignore our hunger any longer,  and the small bag of chips we had on the train ride wasn’t cutting it. Jeff had read about My Bar & Restaurant on Trip Advisor so we decided to check it out. That’s where we enjoyed our first alcoholic beverage after about 5 weeks of being dry in Rishikesh. It was everything we thought it would be.


Connaught Place was just a few blocks away and a local (the rickshaw driver who had scammed us our first time to the city, actually) had described it as Delhi Central Park. Its a large green space circled by city streets lined with luxury brand shopping and high end dining spots. There is also an amazing underground market below the park, it’s full off knock off clothing and gadgets sure to break the minute you try them. Bartering skills are a must, and expect to pay a quarter or less of the original price. We spent a couple hours walking around the area while our appreciation for Delhi continued to grow. The city really does have both ends of the spectrum, from the amazingly rich to the horribly poor.




These dapper young men wanted their picture taken with our camera.

We sat on our bed at the end of the day on the laptop and reading our Lonely Planet Guide book trying to figure out what we can squeeze into tomorrow. Suddenly we realized there was so much to do and we don’t have enough time. We decided to explore The Red Fort and the spice market, and walk around Old Delhi. We took the metro line to Old Delhi in the morning and walked to the Fort, meeting some friendly folks along the way who were from Germany, South Africa, and the States but were all living in Delhi.





We then continued walking aimlessly through Old Delhi until our feet ached. It is truly a place that cannot be described in words.








Delhi was a real treat, especially after getting off on the wrong foot. We are lucky to have been able to give it a second shot. India deserves the time it takes to really get to understand and appreciate it. It’s a world away from what we are accustomed to. During our visit we had to get use to a few, what you might call “cultural differences”.

1) Local men in general won’t show affection towards their wife in public but will walk down the street, holding hands (interlocked fingers I might add) with their male friends. We even seen some bros out borderline cuddling. It’s all good of course but why no love for the ladies?

2) Another one that foreigners might initially take offence to is the shameless staring. The local people will look you up and down and stare into your soul while time stands still. You can stare back, flash them a uncomfortable smile, but they just don’t stop looking. We learned to laugh it off, they don’t mean any offence for the most part.

3) Lastly is the picture requests. Not only do Indians seem to love having you take pictures of them with your camera, lots will want a picture with you. We felt like celebrities walking through town, often being stopped for pictures. The less shy folk will want different poses and even throw their babies and young children at you to hold for the camera. We just learned to have fun with this as well. One afternoon in Ram Jhula we did have to leave an area pretty quickly, a crowd started to form and we thought we might get swarmed (seriously!).



India, you’ve been interesting to say the least!

Britt & Jeff.


How to Get Scammed in Delhi

At 6:30 in the morning, our plane touched down in New Delhi, India. The air was heavy and you couldn’t see out the plane windows due to the smog. Delhi is the most polluted city on the planet, and the second largest city in the world (behind Tokyo), with a population of over 18 million people.

Delhi is not to be taken lightly. It is crazier, dirtier and smellier then we could have ever imagined. No amount of research could prepare you for how amazing and awful this place is. The intention of writing about our bad experience isn’t to speak badly of Delhi, we haven’t experienced a fraction of what it has to offer. We will go back.

By 8:30am, we were standing out front of the New Delhi railway station. We just got off the express line from the airport, feeling quite accomplished for having navigated this portion with ease. All that was left was following the hand written walking directions we had jotted down from the Smyle Inn website. A quick 10 minute walk would get us to this hostel located in the Main Baazar, a ghetto backpacker neighbourhood full of super cheap accommodations.

Things went downhill real quick from there. We started down the sidewalk flooded with people, vehicles, stray dogs and garbage. We were greeted by a ton of locals offering cheap rickshaw rides. Initially we declined, but ended up accepting an offer because 30 rupees (60 cents) sounded like a good deal and it beat walking. We loaded all of our gear into his sweet ride, and set out for the hostel. He was super friendly, spoke good English, and we felt pretty safe and comfortable. We made a couple turns and then pulled up to the entrance of what looked to be a parking lot. The guy manning the gate walked up and asked, “where are your permission passes?”. He explained the Main Baazar was holding a festival, and because of the recent terrorist attacks in northern India the city was on high alert and we could not enter the neighbourhood unless we had our passes. Sounds legit? He told us in order to obtain these permission passes we had to go to a government tourist office, show our passports, and we would receive them, free of charge. He wrote down the name of the office. He cautioned us to not have any money out, and not flash any belongings because it was unsafe. We were a little leery, but didn’t really have another choice, being that we had all of our stuff and had no idea where we were, so we let our rickshaw driver take us there.

The “tourist office” was a tiny hole in the wall storefront, we walked up some stairs to a little room where a man was sitting behind a desk. We explained our situation but he already knew what we were talking about, and he asked us if we had a reservation at the hostel we wanted to stay at. We said no, and he kindly said he would call and see if there was room for us there.

Now we are aware of the typical scam “oh that hostel burnt down/is full/is closed, I’ll take you to a better one”, which earns the scammer a commission.

He called our hostel (ya, right), and of course they said they were full. He said that there was no way we would be able to get into the Main Baazar area, and the only options for us were to get a hotel in the city center (where prices are 500 dollars and up), or to get a taxi out of the city, because it may not be safe for us anyway. At this point we knew for sure that something was up, and walked out.

Our rickshaw driver was waiting for us outside. Still trusting him, we got back into his rig, and asked him to take us back to the train station. He was hesitant, making up excuses why we shouldn’t go back there, and at this point we were getting nervous, so we were pretty firm with him. He took us to this street he was claiming to be around where the train station was, and it looked nothing like where we had started out. As we spent more and more time with him, his English got worse and worse,  and all of a sudden he could barely understand us. We pulled over to the side of the road, where a well dressed local claiming to be the Delhi Police approached us, telling us the same story that the guy at the parking lot had (festival, terrorism, blah blah blah), and gave us another tourist office to go to, claiming that the one we had been at was fake. He also stressed about keeping all money and belongings hidden, reinforcing the scare tactic. Again, not having much of a choice other than getting out of the rickshaw on a sketchy street with all of our stuff, we set out for the next tourist office.

The next one wasn’t any better then the first. Same look, same style, another guy sitting behind a desk. He didn’t really seem to push the whole Main Baazar being closed thing, but he was pushing the hotels in city center or a driver to take us out of town. Our original plan was to stay at our cheap hostel, and to take the train to Rishikesh in the morning; But with the bullshit these guys were spinning, that plan seemed like a fairytale.  So a hired driver striaght to Rishikesh seemed like the lesser of two evils.

That is unfortunately what we did. Booked a driver at their tourist office and worked out a price that should have included a luxury sedan, a gourmet dinner and a tour of the Taj Mahal.

Thinking about it now, the rickshaw driver, the parking lot guard, the first tourist office, the “police officer”, the second tourist office, and the bank, was a tangled web where everyone gets a cut for bringing the naive, jet lagged tourist to pay huge money for a hotel or a car ride. Even both the men saying for us to keep our belongings hidden was a way for them to make us feel that we needed to stay with the rickshaw driver because we wouldn’t have been safe otherwise, which isn’t necessarily true. Could we have walked out? Could we have booked it cheaper somewhere else? Absolutely. There is no question they wanted our money. But they didn’t seem to want to hurt us, rob us, or any of the other terrible things we thought might happen if we continued to walk around this unknown world loaded with all our belongings.

But luckily 6 hours later we arrived in Rishikesh in a run down van, driven by an old man who didn’t speak a word of English and spent the ride coughing up bits of what we could only assume to be his lungs. After reflecting on this experience, we realize what we could have done differently. We are regretful and bitter about how things went down, but still appreciate the beautiful chaos that is Delhi.

We did not manage to pull out our camera amidst all of this, however we snapped a few pics with our phone of New Dehli and some smaller towns on our commute to Rishikesh.

Britt and Jeff.