Delhi, the capital of India. Home to over 11 million people and countless more dreams. The vibe here is much more laid back from the hassle and bustle of Mumbai as you will see on the drive into the city centre from Indira Ghandi airport. Come in October or March when temperatures are pleasant or face getting roasted (May and June) or drowned in the Monsoons (July to September).
Host of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which at an estimated cost of $9.4 billion is the most expensive games ever hosted. It did leave a legacy though, with improved roads, new metro lines and a new airport terminal. In addition, the local authorities taught English to thousands of public service workers. Nothing beats a ride in a tuk-tuk though where you can be part of the traffic chaos for just 25 Rupees for a 5 minute ride.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Delhi is a shrine to the dead with most of the major tourist sites being tombs and mosques such as the impressive Akshardham Temple, the Lotus Temple and the Jantar Mantar. For those who love a big flag then head to Connaught Place where you can admire one as well as browsing the big name brands in the British-built part of the city.
Probably the biggest draw for a visit is the Red Fort in Old Delhi home to the Mughal Emperors for two centuries, although the construction of the new metro line outside it does ruin the ambience at the moment. On 26 January India celebrates Independence Day where hundreds of thousands of people line the wide boulevards up to the Presidential Palace (the biggest such palace in the world no less) and salute the military as they march past. Of course, many still come to Delhi as a starting point for the journeys to Jaipur or Agra, spending a day or so in the city before getting the train to either of the iconic cities. Travel agents or hotel concierges can organise day trips fir around £60.
One attraction you will want to visit if you do just have 24 hours is undoubtably the International Toilet Museum, the most visited museum in Delhi, and devoted to the inventions people such as Thomas Crapper. I’d steer clear of the 4D cinema though if they have one!
Like every city in India, Delhi is cricket crazy, with young children everywhere in the city using makeshift bats to hit homemade balls in every conceivable space. The city is home to current cricketing stars Virat Kohli and Virender Sehwag. The city’s main cricket stadium, the 55,000 capacity Feroz Shah Kotla is located close to Tilak Bridge station. When full it’s an awesome sight and sound although on days when there’s one man and his cow in there it does look like a series of multi-story car parks built around the pitch. Tickets for regional games, such as the Ranji Trophy are cheap and plentiful – even free on days where the game isn’t likely to reach mid-afternoon. Enter via gate 6 next to the park.
Don’t believe the hype about elephants wandering the streets. Just eight licensed, working elephants are left in the capital, down from 14 a year ago, although many are classed as “pets” – perhaps not ideal if you live in a 10th floor apartment.
You can’t really go wrong with eating options in Delhi. Remember to stick to bottled water, avoid unpeeled fruit and stalls on the streets otherwise Delhi Belly may lay you low. Obviously Indian cuisine can be found in most places but it’s worth trying some regional variations such as traditional clay oven tandoor from Kashmir at Bukhara in Sarder Patel Marg. Gulati in Pandara Road Market offers an excellent all you can eat buffet (a choice not a challenge!) whilst Vega, as its name hints at, is a 100% vegan restaurant that’s very popular in the Outer a Circle in Connaught Place.
If you fancy a liquid dinner with style then go back to the colonial days at 1911 in the Hotel Imperial near Barakhambha. Classy cocktails and long drinks that would shake James Bond. Underdoggs Sports Bar and grill in the Ambiance Mall does what it says on the tin.
Finally you may want to get your head down for the night. You get what you pay for in these parts, so if you are saving your rupees for more exotic locations elsewhere, head for one of the AGH (Approved Government Hotels) such as the Avantika Inn on East Patel Nagar Market which offers comfort and security, whilst the Hotel Park View on Ajmal Khan Road has served royalty in the dim and distant past.