Where to stay:
Tree of Life. A cushy little BnB run by two friends who’ve spent years in the tourism industry and yoga and reflexology community respectively. Well furnished rooms, simple rules, good food. It’s a good option for those worried about the over-congestion or safety issues of Delhi because it gives you a chance to step into the local life without stepping too far out of your comfort zone.
What to eat:
Mutton Seekh at Karim’s. Tourists and locals squeeze in together to savour the delights of the cooks rumoured to have once served royalty. Delhi serves up it’s culture in the streets and doesn’t hold back. It’s boisterous and passionate and it’s easy to get carried away by the tidal wave of people, students and truck drivers, house wives and society madams, college professors and IT professionals. Here’s a full guide to eating in Old Delhi!.
Where to go:
Lodhi Gardens. Some might say it’s only where the upper class hang out in their trendy jogging gear and kitty party circles, but it makes for a great spot to tune out the crowds and enjoy some of the lesser known architecture without the hordes of tourists breathing down your neck. Buy a kulfi or some deliciously deep fried momos and make a picnic of it.
What to do:
Take a cycle rickshaw through Chandni Chowk. It’s probably going to be the most terrifying ride of your life, but hey, you wanted authentic! Just like every other activity in this blessed city, you’ll be accosted by food vendors from all sides and don’t feel shy to take full advantage of it! Stop to buy some colourful glass bangles to take home, or maybe some trashy flashy kurtas for that aunt back home who keeps demanding presents. The choices are endless!
What to say:
‘Jugaad‘. More than just a phrase, it’s an attitude that envelopes the country, but was invented in the North. It implies an ability to put together a solution from the most unlikely of resources, to find a way out of the tightest spot through a combination of mind-blowing creativity and earnest prayer. You’ll see it in the many uses of a bicycle from goat-ferry to bucket-and-mug retailer, and you’ll see it in the astonishing feats of engineering that keep some of the more recent structures aloft. Push yourself out of the box and see where it gets you.
More practically, learn the phrases thanda paani (cold water) and garam paani (hot water). They’ll serve you well in the fluctuating seasons.
- Be prepared for the weather. Being as far inland as it is, Delhi’s weather is always at extremes so you’re either going to need an umbrella to keep the sun out or seven layers of woolly warmth just to stay alive.
- Don’t be shy. Punjabis, the largest among the native cultural communities of Delhi, are warm, loud, friendly folk They want to know about you and they most certainly want to feed you. While it’s always good to be a little wary of strangers, remember that it’s not considered nosy to strike up a conversation in the street.