Day 99: New Delhi, India. After a bumpy day yesterday, we woke determined to have a better one today – and we did.
We had breakfast at the hotel (more Indian food), changed rooms again and then headed out just after midday. We caught an Uber from the hotel to Hauz Khas, a small village about 10km south of the city, keen to escape the hubbub of the city for a bit.
We’re guessing Uber cars don’t have to undergo the same stringent checks as they do in Sydney – the one that picked us up was a beaten up old wreck that looked way past its use-by date. It coughed and spluttered its way out of the city, then half way to Hauz Khas, the driver pulled over to the side of the road, and gestured ‘one minute’ to us. Still feeling a little rattled from the happenings of yesterday, Lil demanded to know what what happening. He gestured ‘one minute’ again, then ran around the back of the car and threw up in the gutter. He bought a bottle of water from a street stall to rinse his mouth and his shirt, then got back in and continued driving – with no apology.
We arrived at Hauz Khas and fought our way through the melee of waiting taxi drivers who, despite us only having arrived, wanted to know if they could take us home again.
Hauz Khas is an arty pedestrianized village with an eclectic mix of art galleries, fashion boutiques, vintage shops, and trendy cafes and bars. It’s a pretty hip destination for young Delhiites, and turns into a bit of a party town from late afternoon on weekends.
The village is named after an ancient water reservoir by the same name, which was originally in the late 13th century. Hauz means ‘water tank’ or ‘lake’ and Khas means ‘royal’, giving it a meaning of the Royal Tank. There are large grounds surrounding the lake, including a deer park and a number of religious tombs and monuments.
We walked around the village for a bit, then climbed a few flights of steps for coffee at the ‘Tea Room by Blossom Kochhar’, a cutesy arty cafe with white walls, shelves full of books and a seriously great vibe. We sat sipping coffees for nearly an hour, loving the peace and quiet.
Then we went for a wander around the park and lake, checked out the historic buildings and spotted a bunch of wildlife including some super-tame striped palm squirrels, monkeys and fruit bats.
Afterwards we headed back to the village, and had beers in a hip upstairs bar called The Garage, before ordering an Uber back to the city.
This evening we had dinner at Karim’s, a famous old Indian restaurant in Old Delhi, dating back to 1913. It serves Mughlai-style food from huge metal pots, including a butter chicken dish made to an old family recipe that is to die for. We also had mutton quorma with rice, and the best naan bread ever. There were guys sitting cross legged in an open fronted room outside the restaurant, whipping up different breads.
As we waited for our food to arrive, the couple sharing our table insisted we try their mutton kebab with basmati rice. After yesterday’s shenanigans, we were a little suspicious, however it turns out they were just being lovely. We also had a great chat with a French couple who’ve been travelling around India and are heading back home tonight. So perhaps it’s ok to talk to strangers after all – we just need to pick the good ones.
Karim’s is tucked down busy back streets, so we had to find our way to a main road to order an Uber. We made our way through Chandni Chowk bizarre, one of the oldest and business markets in Delhi. It’s a chaotic long narrow street lined with shops selling all sorts of goods and food, with tiny lanes running off either side – an awesome and quite bizarre experience to walk through.
The street was jammed with people, bikes and rickshaws and it took about 15 minutes for us to slowly make our way from one end to the other. We’ve been to heaps of markets over time, but this one is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced – a massive feast for the senses.
Tomorrow we’re planning to do some more city exploring, to check out some old historical landmarks and museums, and doubtless pack in lots more Indian food. And we might even talk to a few (good) strangers along the way.