Second of June 2005 I arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. When I got into the taxi to Paharganj I could just guess what was waiting for me. Entering the worst vehicle I have ever been into I was a little scared not to reach my destination. Followed by extreme heat, 2 o'clock at night, dust and chaos on the roads I immediately understood why nobody I formerly asked could explain how India actually is. All I can say so far is that it is beyond my imagination. The driver was friendly and we had a small talk. When he entered into Mainbazaar, the road were the Hare Krishna Guesthouse was going to be I got a bit shocked. Around sixty people slept next to the road under lanterns and all where almost naked (apart from their undies). Another guy slept on top of a car.
I did not really get to sleep after arrival and chilled a bit onto the rooftop restaurant of my guesthouse. So much excitement all within one hour. I thought about what else I would experience during the following weeks and finally stopped thinking as I did not consider it of any use at this time... Sleep finally overcame me.
The area I stayed in is not everybody's cup of tea. Shady characters and a reputation for drugs but a really good place to tap into the backpackers network and to buy all sorts of stuff, no matter what you're looking for - here you get it. Mainbazaar has some of the cheapest accommodation in town and soon I got used to the chaos, liking it in the end. The guesthouse was a recommendation of my friend Cedric and it was a good one. Simple and clean with a nice rooftop where you can sit, have a drink and watch the several eagles in the air watching for prey.
I had good luck and Kirsten, a swedish girl took me around for the first day and showed me a bit of the city. It was her last day before flying back and so I saw the Connaught place, the Jama Masjid (largest Mosque in India) along with the Red Fort. We were diving into the crazyness of Chadni Chowk, the lively shopping bazaar in Old Delhi and due to the incredibly congestion everywhere, I was very happy not to be alone.
Delhi with its 13 million people is the most polluted city on earth which I don't doubt at all. Rickshaws and cars are everywhere. 'Might is right' is the actual road rule over here. It means that vehicles always have the right of way over pedestrians and bigger ones (trucks e.g.) always have the right of way over smaller ones. To get an idea of what traffic is like just assume the worst you can think of and multiply it by 10. To buy a new car here seems the most stupid thing anyone could do, I consider :-) It will look like a 2 year old one with lots of scratches after a week.
The food in India is incredible. Especially for vegetarians or fish-eaters like me. I loved it right from the beginning. If you stay in Paharganj try the following. Start the day with a fruit curd muesli and a chai (milk tea) on the rooftop restaurant of the Hare Krishna Guesthouse. After strolling through the streets and checking your emails go to the German bakery (150m down the road) and go for a vegetarian lasagne. There are heaps of Israelis at this place and there is a pool table as well. Opposite the bakery is a good travel agent (Aa Bee Travels) and I booked my tour to Dharamsala here. (Jeep with six people for 500 rps). For Dinner I recommend the Malhotra Restaurant near the Metropolis Tourist Home. It's a bit more expensive than other places but worth the extra. They have very good Indian food and about 70 different choices.
After three days in Main Bazaar this place is enough and I move on to Himayal Pradesh to see the Dalai Lama.