Late December/early January is the time for my husband and I to pack our bags for the annual “big” trip. Every year, we make a “top 5 destination list”. I start studying and researching each place including associated costs and deals. Consequently, the list narrows down to “top 3” and then our “top choice” emerges. I make mostly make all the arrangements online and usually all in advance. This way I don’t need to organize or worry about things while away and can concentrate on having a fabulous time. Also, most hotel reservations can be canceled within just a few days or hours of arrival. Even penalty to modify/cancel most flights is less than buying tickets last-minute.
Finally made it to the “incredible India”, this year’s winner as top destination.
So let’s begin our journey. First Stop: Delhi
New Delhi, 12/29-31, 2009
We landed in the foggy New Delhi on December 29th around 3:00 am. The drive from the airport to the city center took about 30 minutes without traffic. We had a speedy check-in and rested for a couple of hours. At 7:00 am we had a great breakfast and headed out to see the town.
The not so good> Truth be told, Delhi is not pretty. It is over crowded, noisy, dusty and dirty. Chaotic during day, there are beggars and homeless everywhere. Congested traffic and vehicles constantly blowing their horns (although not exclusive to Delhi) do not add to its charm.
Streets of Delhi
Here comes the good> Delhi has a number of beautiful historical sites as well as interesting newer ones. Some of the top attractions are: Lal Qila, Akshardham Temple, India Gate, Jama Masjid and Rajghat
One of Delhi’s top attractions, Lotus Temple (1986), is among the most visited buildings in the world.
The construction of Lotus Temple is an architectural marvel. The structure as well as its Iranian born architect, Fariborz Sahba, have been presented with numerous awards. I loved it for its beauty and simplicity. The little I now know about Bahá’í religion; I learned during 1.5 hours touring the complex.
Bahá’í Holy Writings
As far as moving about the city, taking a taxi is the best way and is super cheap.
There are different types of cabs from bicycle rickshaws and tuktuks (see photo above) to more comfortable ones. The smartest and most time-saving option is to hire a car with driver for a full or half day. Most likely than not, the driver becomes a guide/photographer as well. This service can be arranged in advance through tourist agencies and car rentals such as Avis. Hotels can provide the same. Even then, it is inexpensive and should run you around USD 30 for a half day or USD 50 for a full day. The advantages of booking through your hotel: 1) you get a new, comfortable and clean car, 2) the driver speaks good English and 3) you don’t need to make an advanced reservation. We took the latter option and it really worked well for us.
While in India, you must tip away!!!
It is a way of life and everyone expects it. The labor is cheap and wages are low. Therefore, most rely on tips to balance their budgets. The good news is that you don’t need to leave a large tip. Some restaurants include service on the bill, so look closely. Otherwise, leave about 10% (+/-) depending on the service. Tip a good driver around 150-200 Rupees ($4) per day.
There are many hotel choices. Some large chains such as Taj and Starwood have multiple properties. The newest luxury property in New Delhi would be Aman New Delhi. As part of famous Aman Resorts, it promises to be the most luxurious choice in town. I personally did not like the location. We opted for Taj Mahal Hotel. We opted for Taj Mahal hotel. It offers a great and quiet location. It is close to most attractions and the room rates are very good. It is a bit outdated but rooms are large, clean and airy and the bathrooms are updated. What really makes this property shine is its staff and the attentive service they provide.
What else did we do in Delhi? We ate. We had a memorable dinner at Bukhara Restaurant (a favorite with President Clinton). Its open kitchen is a pure entertainment. You see fresh Nans (Indian bread) as well as various mouth-watering kabobs being made in separate tandoors.
Two full days were perfect to spend in Delhi.
Go: November to March (Dec./Jan. are foggy but nice and cool)
Stay: 2-3 Full Days
Don’t Miss: Qutub Minar, Lotus Temple, Humayun’s Tomb, People-Watching
Next Stop> Rishikesh and Ananda at the Himalayas
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