Incredible India – Where it all Begins!


For years, India has been on our must-do travel destination list.  Its one of those places that evokes sensory tantalisers of bright colours, pungent aromas and complex flavours. We had other reasons for wanting to visit – Dan’s grandfather spent some of his childhood there, as the son of gold mine boss so naturally, Dan has been keen to check out this part of his familial heritage.  H-J’s (rather useless but utterly fascinating!) degree was in religious studies, with its primary focus being on Eastern religions…(and a secondary one on cults, but that’s another story!)  Her natural geekiness when it comes to all things temple, religion and art made India pretty irresistible.

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And then, one day way back in 2007 we met a friend, Ushma.  Ush and H-J immediately hit it off and, as it does, the conversation drifted quickly to their mutual desire to travel to India.  Ushma’s family are ethnically Indian but having been born in Kenya, raised in England and then resident in New Zealand, had never managed to quite get to India.  A flippant plan was made in these early days…”Let’s go to India together.  2012 work for you?”.  Of course, at the time 2012 seemed so far in the future that it was one of those plans you can make without any real intention of doing much to make it happen, more a ‘if it happens, it happens’ kinda scenario…

Well wouldn’t you know it, early 2012 both halves of the deal suddenly found themselves in a position where it didn’t seem that far fetched.  Discussions were had, dollars were saved, a trip was booked and before we knew it, October rolled around and we were flying into New Delhi – Ush from New Zealand and us from Singapore.

The anticipation was high.  Dan was pensive, H-J a little apprehensive.  We were under no dis-illusion that India, while alluring as hell, was also going to be challenging and unlike anywhere we’d ever travelled to before.  We had a pretty ambitious itinerary, wanting to cover a lot of ground in our adventure so booked the majority of the trip to take place through Intrepid Travel.  The meeting point was the Hotel Perfect in Karol Bargh, central Delhi so off we sped through the crazy traffic of Delhi to meet up with Ush and begin our India Adventure.

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The traffic, the beggars wandering up to the car window, the masses of people…we expected all that stuff, of course.  But the reality is full on, to say the least.  Upon arriving at our hotel, down a back alley in the middle of gods knows where (well, at least we didn’t have any idea) we were ushered into our room in a whirlwind.  And we were here.  Delhi.  In all its glory.  We quickly located Ushma’s room and after hugs and squeals of joy in being reunited after a year we all suddenly had the same thought – what the hell had we gotten ourselves into?  This place seemed nuts.

The next morning we awoke and peeked out our window to see what was what.

YumMmm dogs eating piles of trash.  Nice touch.  Oh well, we thought, off into the streets to find what lay beyond our four walls.  It was fairly early in the morning and actually very quiet in the streets of Delhi at this time.

The quiet streets of Dehli???? But, as we would quickly learn, it would not stay that way long!IMG_2550IMG_3094Styles!!!! Mad beard love! Tough buggersSure enough, awesome food began to appear piled in glorious abundance all around us.  The smells of cooking were incredible, though as anyone who has been to India knows, have rather a lot of other smells to compete with.

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IMG_2456IMG_2599 IMG_2508IMG_3157First stop for the day was the gorgeous mosque, Jama Masjid.  The name refers to the weekly Friday noon congregation prayers of Muslims and the courtyard of this whopping beauty can hold up to twenty-five thousand worshippers!  Wikipedia also kindly informs us that the mosque also houses several relics contained n a closet in the north gate, including an antique copy of the Koran written on deer skin.  However, while awed by the loveliness of this site, we were still a bit shellshocked by Delhi at this point so neglected the finer details of our visit.

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Now being that we were tourists dressed for hitting the dusty pavements of Delhi, our attire was not quite mosque ready.  Luckily, we were provided with large, super colourful mumus to slip on over our outfits.

Nice one oooossh!!!

Of course, being dressed in these stylish ensembles, as well as the fact that we were seemingly pasty giants compared to these delicate, golden creatures, we were lined up for what were to be the first of many thousands pictures (both permissed and renegade) of the trip.

The start of H-J's long Indian modelling careerBack to the mosque.  It really is a stunning piece of architecture.
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After the sanctuary of the mosque, it was time to brave the slightly more bustling alleyways that make up the area known as Old Delhi.
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All this activity was making us thirsty so our attention turned to what was to be one of the first, and actually what ended up being one of the best, chai of our journey.

Chai Chai

IMG_2512By this stage of our day, you’re probably starting to wonder whether we were hungry, right?  Well, yes, so off to lunch at a restaurant in the aptly named Paranthe wali Gali – literally, “the bylane of fried bread”.  That’s our kinda street name!

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Next stop for the day was at a Sikh temple in the area.  It was an amazing place, part temple, part what we can best describe as a community centre – hundreds of people working together, worshipping, cooking.  Dan felt right at home in amongst all the gangsta beardy dudes!

IMG_2541 Of course, we were utterly fascinated by the gigantic food production stuff! IMG_2539 IMG_2537DSC04152 IMG_2540 IMG_2534

Dan was starting to get down with the spiritual side of India.  With all these beards and big feeds, Sikhism was looking pretty darn attractive.  Did we mention they get to carry big daggers? Woot!

Now having been in India for nearly a full 18 hours, it felt a bit slack that we hadn’t been on a rickshaw yet!  So when given the option to go and do some shopping in a different area of town, we leapt into a couple of rickshaws, H-J cutting her leg on a jagged, rusty chunk sticking out pretty much immediately and thanking her lucky stars for the tetanus booster she’d just had.  Nothing could dampen our spirits though!  And she still has a cool scar.

IMG_2547 IMG_2559 IMG_2544 - Copy IMG_2546 - CopyDan followed along behind with our new friend Avi, eagerly anticipating…who knows?!  poor bugger carrying that fat bastard!!Arriving at our destination, a super friendly guy held the door open and ushered us down into the pit of glorious sari materials.  Now, isn’t that a face you want to buy from?!
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We bought a couple of small items but took the opportunity to do the totally cheesy thing and dress up in saris, just for the photo op.  We took off out of the shop fairly quickly afterwards in order not to incur their wrath for pissing around and not actually buying the saris.IMG_2553

By this stage, the night was closing in. All in all it was a pretty successful day – we sightsaw (sight see-d?! ugggh), we ate, we caught some religion in different forms, we drank chai, we rode rickshaws, we donned saris, we managed to navigate a dusty, crowded and overwhelming city – we awarded ourselves pretty much expert status by the time the sun started to fall on our first full day in India.  While feeling a lot more confident (read, we weren’t completely shitting ourselves anymore) we knew that India was going to encroach on us from all angles at every given opportunity.

IMG_2567 And we couldn’t wait to see what each day was going to bring.IMG_2574One last thing: it is utterly impossible to convey the sheer noise that Delhi produces.  Every minute between waking and crashing out into an exhausted coma is filled with relentless honking, the noise of cars, trucks and rickshaws jostling for space, cows mooing, people hawking their wares and the various temples making their various unique sounds.  Try and keep this in mind for an authentic experience while reading our blogs!

Incredible India – Bring it On!!!

Categories: Food, India, Photos, TravelTags: , , , , , , ,

62 comments

  1. Spectacular photos guys, you’re really getting the hang of the new camera 😀 Your time in Delhi was much more satisfying than mine by the looks of it!

  2. Happy New Year to you two!! Wow, India. You’re so lucky to have this chance to see such an amazing country. I’m so looking forward to reading your blogs.
    My second day back at work this year, and the going is hard. Andrew’s birthday today – he’s 33!! He, Rachael and Harry popped in before – and, as always, so nice to get hold of that little boy. He’s 1 year old now, and such a dear little boy.
    Much love to you both, and roll on your adventures for 2013!
    Elaine xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    • Happy New Year as well as birthday greetings to all! We feel pretty chuffed to have been able to get to India and see such a diverse range of stuff and places. We can’t recommend it highly enough though its nice to now be back in a much easier country for a while! We have a spare room in our new apartment should you need to escape the hard slog of work for a while….xxx

  3. Thanks from here, for another travel through your lens.

  4. Finally India, stoked! Reading and taking in the lush images listening to this sweet Bansuri Raag, really sets the tone 😀
    Great to see your composition and colour in your photog maturing.
    Namaste!

  5. Incredible!! …and crazy!! I have always wanted to visit India – looks fun and exciting, and maybe a touch scary 🙂

    • Highly recommended! Its been top of our travel lists for a while too so we’re stoked to have finally made it. Its a place you could visit time and time again too – always somewhere new and different to explore. And yes, its all of those adjectives you use and so many more!

  6. Wow!!! Can’t wait to read more! Was it hot? Looks pretty toasty in your pictures…. or that could be envy… It recently snowed in Ulsan again….

  7. Wow, this isn’t a blog post, this is a small and wonderful book!

  8. so glad you finally made it to India…how crazy that I have also been in Delhi, you described it well, the only thing that can’t be portrayed online is the mixture of aromas (smells!)…where are the photos of the bathroom facilities?

    • The smells and the noise are the Only In India elements that we think you can’t truly even imagine until you’re there yourself. So unique…Re the bathrooms, we have to admit that we were pretty lucky on this front. In two years in Asia Dan has still never had to use a squat toilet, even in India! The truly horrible toilet experiences we skipped (dehydration CAN be a good thing sometimes) but there will be mention of that little chestnut a few blogs down the track for sure.

  9. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to visit India and now I feel like I have. Well, a little bit anyways! =) Fantastic pictures and great narrative — I was totally engrossed.

  10. We need “smell-o-vision”! Or on second thought, maybe we don’t… From the look of your pictures, somethings never change. A slightly refreshing thought after be whiplashed by constant fast change in East Asia.

    Cheers guys, looking forward to seeing how the rest of India treated you.

    • Hmm smell-o-vision would only be a good thing in VERY select circumstances when it comes to India. Cows, railway stations and pollution would lose us followers were we to include their ‘aromas’, haha.

      Its a different world from East Asia, to be sure. Great to be experiencing all the contrasts this bit of the world has to offer!

  11. This is the best way of seeing and experiencing the REAL India.Most visitors will not have
    Seen the inner sights,the culture and true emotions of the local people.

  12. Nice article and amazing pics. Great job 🙂

  13. Epic post! Love the photos…perfectly conveyed the intensity of India. I don’t regret my 2 years here, but I can’t say I’m not champing at the bit to get out!!! But I plan to make the most of my last 4 months…and blog all about it, haha:)

    • Wow, we can’t imagine what it would be like to spend two years in India…two months was full on enough though I imagine it gets easier as time goes by. I suspect getting back to the rest of the world will feel a little strange to begin with…

  14. Damn looks so awesome there! Your photos capture the chaotic nature of it! I know I have to make it there one of these days. Anybody get the dreaded Delhi belly?

  15. Really beautiful photos, definitely would love to try and get to India myself someday.

  16. Wow, what a great post! Totally made me almost feel like I was there. Great pics too!

  17. I´m so excited and hapy for you both – what a wonderful experience you are having. If you have space in your hand luggage, pop one of those super size pots in for me 😉

  18. DAYUM!!!! You guys did A TON of stuff in one day! Great job with the photos!!! I was in India during college + no one can imagine the bustling crowds, cacophony of noises + smells unless you’ve been there! It’s crazy sensory jiu-jitsu in your brain!!!! Good luck guys!

    • We feel like there is SO much more to Delhi than the teeny bit we did though…its so overwhelming but the fact our hotel room kinda sucked forced us outside to explore more than we actually felt like doing, admittedly! Perfect intro to India though so thanks Delhi!!!

  19. Hey guys, I love those images! My favourites are definitely the one of H-J in the mosque (contemplating) the architecture and ceilings. Somehow, it looks all the more authentic be side of that (somewhat bright & bold) print your wearing.

    I also loved that large communal Sikh with (those incredible) breads and curries being made. The large pots are incredible, no doubt it takes a team of men (or multiple bowls) to deliver those meals to the table.

    Looks like another great adventure. How’s Hong Kong going? 🙂

    • You don’t think my bright orange mumu looked authentic?! Haha.

      The Sikh place was pretty awesome – we actually ended up going there twice in two days because the vibe of it was so cool and Dan gots to chatting with the head (?) Sikh dude. The pots were huge and amazing though we didn’t actually see the transition between gigantic cooking vessel and table – oh well, perhaps a trip back to eat there is in order!

      Hong Kong is great – such an easy city. Our work hours are loooong though. We’re counting down the days until Chinese New Year so we can have a few days off work and see some HK!!!

  20. Reblogged this on One Bag Nomad and commented:
    Since traveling around India was an incredibly busy task, I didn’t have a chance to blog about oh so many of the details. Actually, I’m not sure any blog could possibly capture all the details that make up this country. While I continue to catch up, I thought I would share a few fun details from some travel friends I made in India who have written an excellent account on Delhi. They swear to write more about their experiences there and I swear to read them cause they are pretty awesome! Thanks Dan and H-J for sharing.

  21. HJ &DAN you guys do not know me but I am Chirag’s & Ushma’s dad.What I have heard from the two of them you had ”A REALEXPERIENCE” of India- real ,unpredictable & life goes on no matter what. I have really enjoyed your commecnts & pictures and cannot wait to hear more from you. You are both welcome to ours if you are ever in our nick of woods.

    • Hi Dinker! Thanks so much for your lovely comments and your kind offer 🙂 Should we find ourselves over your way, we’ll be sure to visit – especially after all the wonderful things we’ve heard about your family’s cooking! It was a pleasure to travel with Ushma and Chirag and be able to experience the ‘real’ India with them, even when the going was a bit rough!

  22. What a trip! I kinda feel like I’m there with you~
    I love the dress in India – it seems to light and perfect for hot weather. Pretty styling, too if you ask me!

  23. Great story and photos to journal your trip, with a nice touch of humour…put a smile on my face. 🙂

  24. So you’ve finally made it here! Will you come to Kerala? We’d love to meet you guys–Do let us know!

    • Arrggghhh – we weren’t made of strong enough stuff to blog while we were in actually in India…nor, for that matter, was the internet in most of the places we stayed 😦 We were too busy travelling and exploring so unfortunately we are now catching up on everything from Hong Kong. BUT we fell in love with South India so I suspect we’ll be back 🙂 And this time we’ll have time to see the things and meet the people – like you guys! – that we didn’t have the opportunity for last time. Oh and Kerala was amazing!!!

  25. Wow Wow and Wow. How did I miss this post? I almost feel like I don’t have to visit India, now that I’ve looked at these beautiful pictures. Incredible.

  26. nice article and amazing picture gallery of the incredible India to see for visitor.

  27. A great post! nice picture of incredible India.

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