Destination: Paharganj neighborhood, a place whose hotels mistake “luxurious” for clean and “budget” for crappy and old. We have to raise the bar a bit and although no natural light enters the room, we stay at a hotel that is somehow acceptable. The noise is unavoidable, though, and even in the narrowest street car honks, vendor announcements and pigeons can be heard constantly during the day.
Our vaccination boosts are slightly overdue and we’ve heard great things about doctors here, so we head to Delhi metro and take a trip to a super fancy private hospital. We were expecting the metro to be old and inefficient, but what we find is quite the opposite—it is noticeably recent, clean and of great quality, similarly to what we found in Chinese cities as Beijing and Xi’an. There are numerous signs that explain about the construction project, and one of the most significant facts is that it took 30 years from its conception to its realization.
We arrive at the hospital, fill in all the paperwork and have our vaccines. The cost is cheap and we are impressed about the attention received by the experienced doctors here. They say that medicine in India is a booming business, with mostly American and European patients coming travelling to the country for plastic surgery, dental care or other expensive treatments they can’t afford at home.
After the vaccination boosts we spend two days resting a little and finishing all Nepal posts. And when we think the time has finally come to really visit Delhi, our hopes get ruined as we enter in a sickness chain starting with one, then the other and finally both. Turns out the trip here from Nepal has taken its toll and we suspect that a specially dirty garlic naan at a specially dirty restaurant is also helping with stomach issues, fever and shivering over the night.
We have to return so many times to the hospital that now we feel part of the medical tourism boom. Fortunately, we have nothing really serious but Delhi and specially Paharganj do not help much with the recovery. It is hard to go to the street, walking to find food that is not spicy and safe to eat, trying not to be run over by the beeping traffic, avoiding other pedestrians, cows and vendors–offering you henna, money change or leather sandals–while the smell of pee, curry, fresh cow dung or pollution surrounds you. It is exhausting. All together renders as a bad start for India and we don’t feel very motivated to travel. Everything requires more energy and we don’t have it, but we get to visit a little.
India’s Republic Day
The capital’s governmental hub is right next to India Gate, an arch similar to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and for several days the traffic is noticeably denser in this area. India National day is about to be celebrated and much of the perimeter around the Gate and the Central Secretariat is closed in preparation for the parade. By now we have moved to a better hotel in the Karol Bagh area and the staff suggests we’d better watch the parade on TV. Obama is the honorable guest and everyone is talking about it.
When the day arrives, it rains and everything is closed during the morning, so it is good to watch on TV. It is very interesting seeing the difference between the display in India and that of the national days of Spain or France, for instance.
Our favorites were the camel contingent (1:45:25), the parade floats representing the different cultures of the country (from 2:00:00) and the motorbike display (2:46:06) Here is the whole parade:
So even though we spend 2 weeks in Delhi, we visit very few places, and we miss some of the best known monuments like the Red Fort or the Lama Masjid mesquite. However, we accept we won’t always be able to see everything and that’s ok. On the next pages there are some of the things we could actually do in the Indian capital.