Jan 122013
One of many monkeys we saw galavanting around New Delhi.

One of many monkeys we saw galavanting around the parks of New Delhi, India.

Where to start? We went to India for 12 days and it was… so much! So much of everything all together: people with animals, rich with poor, fragrances with shocking smells, beautiful colors with dismal grays, chaos with order… I could go on all day. India was everything that everyone said it is, and more. All those rumors are really true!

The colors of the women's clothing in India blew me away! So beautiful.

The colors of the women’s clothing in India blew me away. So beautiful!

After 38 hours of travel (including an epic 14-hour layover adventure in London), my brother David, my husband Colin, myself, and four other teachers (two from America and two from Greece) met in Delhi to unite with the guide for our India teacher tour. It was one of many tour perks that we got picked up from the airport and transported to our hotel. Battling fatigue, we munched dinner, then promptly passed out.

New Delhi in December is a lovely temperature, but the fog is intense.

New Delhi in December is a lovely temperature, but the fog is unreal.

Time zone confusion jolted us awake early, and we threw open the blinds to behold… whiteness. The rumor of Delhi’s winter fog was true! We squinted through the haze while piling into our tour van. Where did the fog end and the pollution begin? See the photo above and judge for yourself. But there was no time to dwell on that, because life was TEEMING around us!

Animals of all types and situations abound in India.

Animals of all types and situations abound on the streets of India.

When you’re in New Delhi, you truly feel the fact that India has 1.2 billion inhabitants. You really comprehend that India is the second most populated country in the world, squeezed into a fraction of the geographical size of the United States. Life, with both the good and the gooey parts that come with it, is spewing from the pores of India. It is exciting, exhausting, and mesmerizing. I stared so hard during our trip, my eyes hurt!

Vendors by the Paharganj neighborhood of Central Delhi.

Vendors by the Paharganj neighborhood of Central Delhi.

We spent much of the first half of the day in India stuck in traffic due to riots in the center of the city that protested the terrible assault of a woman on a bus. But even being stuck in traffic in New Delhi is mesmerizing. On one fifty-foot stretch of road alone, there is enough to look at for days.

Cars, auto rickshaws, and pedestrians meet in New Delhi.

Cars, auto rickshaws, and pedestrians meet in New Delhi.

You may have heard the rumor that cows abound in India, and though that proved true everywhere else we visited in the country, New Delhi has banned cows lolling in its streets. It hasn’t, however, banned bovines from pulling vehicles, as you see in the photo, below.

Cow pulling giant load of packages on a busy street in New Delhi.

An ox pulling a giant load of packages on a busy street in New Delhi.

But just as we were in the middle of marveling at the urban ox, someone screamed: “ELEPHANT!!!!” Behind us, as we inched along in the smoggy New Delhi traffic, an ELEPHANT was being ridden through the street! Oh day one of India: you did not hold back.

Elephant on the highway!!! Spotted on day 1 in India.

Elephant on the highway!!! Spotted on day one in India.

And what of the temperature? In December, New Delhi is a comfortable 55-70 degrees since it is in northern India. I was definitely glad to have brought my fleece jacket, and we spent much of the trip hearing how lucky we were not to be there during the 110 degree summers!

A couple carries their suitcases on their head as they hail an auto rickshaw by the Railway Station.

A woman carries her suitcases on her head while hailing an auto rickshaw by the Railway Station.

So believe it or not, this article encompasses only the first two hours of our first full day in New Delhi, India. Yes, the rumors are true: There is more to see in two hours in India than perhaps in any other place on Earth. As our tour van pulled up by the New Delhi Railway Station, we piled out onto the gritty pavement to begin the main activity of the day: a tour of an amazing shelter for street children. Teaser: My 6’7″ brother shared some mind-blowing dance moves with them! Stay tuned for the next article.

The New Delhi Railway Station.

The New Delhi Railway Station.

So what about you? If you have been to India, what were your first impressions? If you haven’t been there yet, how do these initial photos match with your expectations? I look forward to your comments, and to putting my remaining 2,056 India photos into articles for you!


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  80 Responses to “Day 1 in New Delhi: The Rumors About India Are True!”

  1. we went to India my friend and I and his lovely wife, they were my tour guides and everything all the time we were there
    when we arrived in New Dehli it was like stepping out of the plane into another world it was very sure real . the heat hit me like a ton of bricks it was around 2:00 am when we arrived the weather was like a 102 or so very hot. I must say though after being there for a day or so i was pleasantly surprised the place is amazing the people are extremely friendly and courteous, bring a camera and watch everyone want their picture taken.The places i seen were amazing
    we went and seen the golden Temple what an amazing place, its a place of worship a wholly place, simply Beautiful
    then on another occasion we went to the Taj Mahal the third wonder of the world. in the parking lot it was something
    like right out of a movie ( Indiana jones) movie you have to see it to believe it. At night at my friends house i would go out on the patio and look at the stars at night and cool off ,a wonderful experience, would i go back your probably asking your self YES no questions asked. I would love to see India once again. I ve taken a lot of pictures hope i can
    someday show them to you folks . Thanks for reading my story

  2. I am trying to decide to go to India for 3-4 weeks. My husband has business there & would travel with him. I keep hearing that I shouldn’t go because it’s not safe. Everyone I mention it to turns up there nose @ me and
    Says I wouldn’t go if you paid me. Trying to make up my mind I don’t want to miss an opportunity. Any thoughts?
    Very nervous.

    • Hi Mimi, thanks for writing. What an opportunity you have! I would highly recommend going to India with your husband, and to make you feel more secure, I would recommend if possible that you hire a reputable guide to show you around. India is such an important and AMAZING country, and it would be such a shame to miss out on it because of the snap judgements people make. Yes, I found the country to be very intense, confusing, and different, but with a guide it was GREAT. I am so glad that we were able to see India, and I think you will be, too. (Notice that I traveled there in 2012, and am STILL writing articles about it since it was such a wonderful trip.) Good luck, and keep us posted!

    • I agree with Lillie! It is too amazing of a country to miss out on. It is intense, but powerful. Get a guide you trust, explore, keep an open mind and connect with people. I have found that the vast majority of Indians I met were kind, caring and curious to learn more about me (as I was, with them!). I traveled solo for a 2 months and loved just about every minute of it.

      Good luck!

    • We were invited to a friend’s wedding in India. We could not wait to go! It’s the trip of a lifetime. And, why yes, there are many other places to travel to, a wedding is a fantastic excuse to go!

      We have also gotten several sneers and jeers, however, I pity the close mindedness of others. This is a country that is so incredibly different from our country. It’s good to learn how other people live.

      I say, consider your source. Would you travel with those people anyway? They probably are looking for their next trip to Las Vegas or Myrtle Beach (NOT that there is anything wrong with either of those places!!).

    • Well said!

  3. Elephant on Indian highway…!! Why not?? he is also Indian..he can walk atlest ..:)

  4. You’ve captured India perfectly! I was warned that it was an “assault to the senses,” but that’s just a fun phrase until you experience it. I was in Agra and Mumbai back in November and loved the culture, vibrant colors, and friendly people. But the squalor and smog were a bit overwhelming sometimes. It just seems it’s in a constant state of organized chaos.

    If you head to Mumbai, be sure to check out Elephanta Island! The cave carvings are breathtaking.


  5. Fantastic captures! We were in Delhi in January 2010 and it was freezing. It went down to 3˚ We didn’t have the clothing for it, so we decided to take a break from India (we’d been there over 2 months at the time) and fly to Sri Lanka for a month. It was heavenly and a much needed break. We then came back to India for another month to tackle the rest of the country. Enjoy your time there!

  6. I have recently moved to Delhi (for a few months) and couldn’t agree more with you! Everything is “too much”, for good and for bad. As I say, India is always “entertaining”, there is always something going on no matter where you look. But it does get exhausting after a while… it’s so intense! I wonder if one can ever get used to the crazy rhythm, unless you are born in it. In fact, my boyfriend is from Delhi, but after a few years abroad and traveling, he himself finds it too crazy now.
    It is nevertheless fascinating and one thing is true: one you “survive” traveling in India, you’re good to go for pretty much anywhere else in the world!! 😉

  7. An elephant on a busy street. That’s really cool …provided they treat him well

  8. your pics are divine. they fill me with admiration and concern and fear. we’re entering year three of world travel L and well, india was always a huge bucket list for us. kobi’s been and we’re heading that way in the coming 2-3 months (or so we plan) and we plan to spend a year in india and well… i’ve heard of the poverty and i’ve heard of how hard it is the see those children and i’ve heard of the monkeys and cows and people sleeping side by side in the streets and i’m ready but not, not, not at all. thank you for sharing. really amaizng.

    • You’re welcome, and thanks so much for reading and commenting. If you read some of the other comments here, you’ll see that you will likely grow to LOVE India. Have a great time and keep us posted!

  9. On my second day in Calcutta there was a big earthquake in my hometown and I lost a family member. A few days of misery and sulking later and I was on a flight back to Christchurch to be with family. I’m glad I went home and I would never regret being there with my family, but I wish I hadn’t left India. After four days in Calcutta I finally scratched the surface and the sensory violations subsided. I was finally seeing the charms and appeal of this magical country just as I was thrust on a flight back home.

  10. Oh how I love this article! You have summed up India very well. It truly is a place like no other and unless you’ve actually been there, you will never fully comprehend what it’s like from reading an article. It’s a place to be felt and not just seen! It really is an assault on your senses. We’ve spent about 6 months there and love it. We’ll definitely be back. I look forward to your next article 🙂

    Check out this guest post about India that we wrote for OurOyster, I think you may like it: http://ouroyster.com/asia/india/why-india-is-the-best-place-for-backpackers

    Thanks for the post!

  11. The elephant looks so awesome!!

  12. The pics are crazy, seeing that elephant on the highway just made my jaw drop :).

  13. Looking forward to hearing more, especially about the teaching part!

  14. Great pix. TH and I had 6 weeks touring in India as part of our around-the-word expedition by classic Land Rover. These images bring back many, many memories. Reflecting the comments above – yes, both wonderful and chaotic, intense sensory overload, incredibly kind and welcoming people (who are very curious, too). For those who are surprised at both cows and elephants in the streets – well, you ain’t seen nothing yet! ‏@EventfulWoman

  15. Wow, this sounds like a great experience.

  16. I love India so much I’ve already been there on two different trips for a combined 2 months. I even got a 10-year visa for India (a special privilege available to many Americans), but I loathe Delhi. As it was my arrival city for both trips, I was not my best when I was there, which is certainly partly to blame. But Delhi’s also a place that I’ve found is filled with more challenges than rewards, so unlike the rest of my experiences in India. I need to give Delhi another chance (third time’s the charm?!), but I am not rushing to make it happen.

    • I hear you! I also found it a very challenging city, reminding me of some of the huge, hectic cities I visited in China. Some people love it, though!

    • Ha, I found China very easy to get around, even the big cities…especially the big cities, since the public transportation was usually pretty good. I visited at the tail end of winter so the air it was a lot less oppressive, I even got clear blue skies in Bejing and at the Great Wall — a nearly unheard of bit of good timing!

      This all is encapsulated in my favorite travel quote, said by Ernest Hemingway, of course:

      “Some other places were not so good, but maybe we were not so good when we were in them.”

    • Very, very true! I was in a foul mood the entire summer I lived in Guatemala, and it certainly reflected on my opinion of that country, through more my fault than Guatemala’s! Thanks for sharing that quote. I hadn’t heard it, but it’s spot on.

  17. I think that I may have tried to keep my distance from the elephant.

    • We were inside the van, so that was easy then… but just wait for the article about the elephant ride at the Amer Fort…

  18. I’m not sure which amazes me more. The incredible colors or the elephant walking down the street. What an exciting country.

  19. I’ve been to India numerous times but only once to New Delhi. You are correct in it being so colourful and alive wherever you are. I didn’t see any mention of how crazy the driving and traffic is out there, you’ll soon get used to it.

    Dogs wandering around and cows sat by the round are still fairly common outside of Delhi.

    I don’t envy your 38 hours journey.

  20. Lillie! What a wonderful article and I love the pictures! Really give me a sense of what to look forward to for my trip next month! I’ll be heading to Bangladesh first, for a friends wedding, then India (New Delhi and Agra). Please post more articles and pictures. Can’t wait to see all of these images in person!

  21. Those dogs are so cute!!! Did they have an owner or were they just homeless??

  22. Whew! Sensory overload! Somehow just looking at the photos I can hear the sounds and smell the spices 🙂

  23. Wow! That looks so amazing! I cannot believe that there were cows and elephants on the street! My mind is officially BLOWN!

  24. Almost half of the pictures have animals in them, Ms. Marshall

  25. Elephant on the highway! OMG. By the way, the animal situation is similar to Bulgaria also. Ever been? I come from there and find it funny when people get shocked by stray animals. Mostly, as I was growing up, I always felt bad for them. If there were more shelters in the world, every animal would have a home… Great article overall!

    • I didn’t know that about Bulgaria and have never been! Wow! We are so cut off from nature and animals in the urban U.S. that it’s such a jolt!

  26. The New Delhi Seems much crowded but with lots of hidden details.. We can see different types of people doing their chores. The woman carrying her suitcase on her head makes me realize , how much patience and hard working efforts the Indian Women have. The Puppies of the Mother Dog, represent their different scenario. The Elephant seems to be one of the must to be present part of that street! India is definitely Incredible!

  27. The place looks amazing challenging. I am terrified and excited to go to India.

  28. I love love love India — your photos made my heart sing (and cry a little, because I wish I was there). What a country — complex, rich, extremes – but such kindness. Between 2 trips there, the 3-months I spent in India were amazing — one with two friends, one by myself — and both self-guided. You gotta get back and travel without a guide, ride the rails, stop in the small villages – GET OUT of the touristy areas. I have been wowed by how kind people have – especially as a woman traveling solo there.

    And I found that once you get out of Pahangranj (which I promised myself I will never go back to!) and Delhi, really — it is a different place. And each region — from the far north of Ladhakh to the far south in Kerala — are all so different.

    Oh, I love it there…. I can’t wait to get back. Already saving for my next extended trip…. which will include at LEAST 3 months in India!

    • Aurora,
      Thanks so much for your important reply! I agree that one gets more deeper when off the tourist trail and without a guide (as that’s how I happily traveled for 9 straight months from 2009-10), but a quandary comes up when one has only a limited time to travel as we did (14 days): Is it better to, a) Go with a tour and a guide and have everything pre-organized to save time, but get a more superficial view of the country, b) Go on your own but risk frustrating days trying to figure out the system alone, or c) Not go at all as you wait and wait for “the perfect time.” (The only time we have more than 2 weeks of vacation is summer, which is a notoriously bad time to visit India. As you can see, we opted for option “a” with the understanding that this is our first dip into India, and we will be back, deeper, later! 🙂

    • I must agree with Aurora! Off the beaten path is awesome! (Though I totally understand why you chose a tour this time around, Lillie 🙂 I respond not just to agree with Aurora but also to speak up in defense of monsoon season in India! While I know the monsoon season has gotten an extremely bad rap for tourism sake, I must admit it is one of my favorite times of year in India. I have been to India 4 times and 2 of those were during monsoon- on one of those trips I had a 14 year old with me. Monsoon season is HOT and it presents its own set of challenges BUT everything is green, there is rain like you have never seen rain, you see people young and old dance in the rain, rivers flow down streets (not all season, just during seriously crazy rain), you gain a new understanding for the importance of a balanced eco-system (no monsoon= no food), and you get to see a rhythm of life that only monsoon season can show you. If you have several months in the summer and want to get back (and you think you can stomach the hot weather!) monsoon is actually not an awful time to see India. Different areas experience monsoon differently too so you can actually plan around it to some extent. Enjoy the rest of your trip…. I hope you enjoy it enough to return!!! 🙂

    • Beautiful and compelling points, Jenni. I hear you, and it is refreshing to read such a positive spin on monsoon season.

    • Lillie — totally get all the reasons why you made the choices that you made — they make total sense!!! And what a great intro to India!

      Also…. in defense of going to India during the longer teacher-summer… Yes, Delhi is hot (hotter and more humid than I ever thought possible) — but that is when you can head north and go to Ladakh (which is largely inaccessible during winter). And if you are in ‘down-plain’ India during the monsoon, you learn to deal with the heat and humidity like the Indians do — celebrating the rain, slowing down during the heat of the day and eating late at night.

      Oh India…..

    • Love it!

  29. Sounds/looks like you had an amazing trip! I am with you…”eyes hurting”…as I check out details as well when traveling…hahaha. Glad you had fun. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to more 🙂

  30. Great collection of photos! “Teeming with life” is the perfect description.

  31. It’s amazing what a point ‘n’ shoot can do. I love the photos. They bring back memories. I wasn’t there in December though, so the fog adds an alluring quality for me.

  32. It looks like quite a clash of contrasts. I think the photo of the elephant, the rickshaw and the lorry sums it up quite appropriately.

  33. You’ve described it to be exactly what I’d imagine it to be! A very overwhelming but amazing experience. I look forward to reading more about your adventures there in India.

  34. Wow…I’ve seen loads of posts/pictures from India, and these are some of the best. Great stuff L…

  35. Just wondering, what camera do you use?

    • It’s a point-and-shoot Cannon Powershot s95, and I generally like it, but for India travel it had trouble catching all the fast-moving amazing things around without giving a blurry shot! Perhaps some day I shall upgrade to a big and fancy camera.

  36. “There is more to see in two hours in India than perhaps in any other place on Earth.” Ha! How true! Every time anyone asks me “so, what’s India like?” I feel like all I can tell them is that it is a land of intense contradictions and incredible extremes. There is really no way to describe it fully and no photo, no piece of writing can describe all of the sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings that go along with what you see. I just finished my own post on India and struggled to keep myself limited to one topic! I just resigned myself to the fact that I am going to end up with a series of posts on India 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your experiences! It was kind of odd (in a nice way) to look at your photos and realize I knew the EXACT spot you were standing in when you took most of them! I even encountered an elephant in paharganj on my first trip to India! (and let me tell you, paharganj was not nearly as “spacious” back then as it is now… it was slightly terrifying….) Ahhhhhh, India.

    • So interesting to hear how similar our India travel experiences were! Yeah– why limit yourself to one article? I’ve already calculated that the photos from my first day alone are 4.5 articles (the .5 combining with photos from another day for a specific idea).

  37. I was anxiously awaiting your India posts, and you did not disappoint! Your photos say more than words ever could–just WOW! And I can’t believe that all you described was just a portion of ONE DAY! What a trip!

    I’ll be obsessively following your India posts, and making my husband do the same. We’re in the very beginning stages of saving for/planning a RTW trip, and the one thing we can’t seem to agree on is whether to make India (ANYWHERE in India) a stop (I say yes, he says no). Looking forward to learning more!!!

  38. Great pics! I haven’t been to India (yet) but some day for sure I will get there. Your article makes me want to go with a group of people instead of alone with my backpack. It seems a bit overwhelming but fascinating!

    • That is exactly why we chose to travel to India with a tour. As you may remember, I traveled to China twice in 2011-12: once alone and once with a tour group. For a hectic country with over 1 billion people (China and India), it made SUCH a difference in stress and efficiency to go with a tour, and you can also get some excellent bargains for them. What really sealed the deal for me about going to India via tour was someone explaining: “If you are going to buy train tickets, allocate the entire day to get it done because the process is so crazy.” On a tour, all the transport and tickets were taken care of in advance, which was key for teachers with only 2 weeks to travel, and a need for SOME relaxation, given the amount of grading we came home to!

  39. Omigosh, I am both totally fascinated and totally scared to death of India. It just looks so wonderful and chaotic all at the same time… and judging from your post, that’s exactly what it was. Can’t wait to read about the rest of your visit!

    • Yes! Well, given that we’ve both spent time in China, it might help to explain that the two countries had a somewhat similar feel (especially with the massive population being so evident, the pollution, and the fascinating and different sights). That said, I actually found India travel emotionally easier than China travel. China remains the most challenging place I’ve ever traveled (explained in http://www.aroundtheworldl.com/2011/08/28/why-china-is-the-most-intense-country-i-have-traveled-to/ ) mostly because of the emotional effect of the censorship. I mean– even Google Docs was censored?! India had a much friendlier feel in my opinion, and the language barrier was also less intense.

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