Delhi Belly

By Jared,

Walking into The Wood Castle, we were greeted with a cool gust of air that assured us that we would be enjoying air conditioning. To get to reception we had to walk down stairs that brought us below street level. The hostel owners gave us a warm welcome and told us to take our packs off and take advantage of the couches surrounding a coffee table which held books and magazines previous backpackers had presumably left behind. They offered us drinks including chai, coffee, and Cliff’s favorite, Coca Cola. Hersh then began the process of arranging the rooms we reserved. However, there was a disagreement with the number of types of rooms we had reserved. Since hostelworld.com showed they were fully booked for today we had to reserve two “deluxe” rooms and one “super deluxe.” Yet, they claimed their records showed a reservation of three deluxe rooms and one super deluxe, which is clearly not what we wanted because the six of us always pair up in each room that we book. After a couple of minutes of friendly back and forth discussion they finally showed us to our three rooms. Each room had a queen bed (?), it’s own bathroom, mini fridge, and most importantly, an air conditioner and fan. The only difference between the two grades of rooms was the addition of a flat screen tv instead of an old one. Ryan and I were put into a super deluxe room by mistake, but the owners let everyone stay in their rooms while still paying the arranged price. Coming from the hostel in Agra, these rooms were a welcomed change and everyone retired to their rooms early.

I woke up at 11:00 feeling fully rested after falling asleep at around 1:00AM. I decided to take a shower right away because I was not able to have a satisfying shower in the last hostel with only a small amount of light and avoiding the cockroach trapped underneath a cup by my feet. Similar to the last shower we encountered, there was no difference between the floor of the bathroom and the area in which the water from the shower head falls. Water fills the entire bathroom floor and drains behind the sink. After getting dressed, I checked to see if anyone else was awake and in the reception area of the hostel. They weren’t, but I was able to use the computer with free Internet to check on my networks. After going between the room and the reception area for a couple of hours, I decided 2PM was ample time to start waking the other travelers after we decided that today would be used to recharge. Eventually, everyone made it downstairs at around 3PM. We were given the option of three different breakfast choices that came with the room tariff: an American, Continental, and Indian breakfast. Both the American and Continental came with toast, fruit, and drink with the former including eggs any style. The Indian breakfast was a choice between puri bhaji and aloo paratha. As we waited for the breakfast, Hersh planned our activities for the day consulting with his family friend (an Auntie) who knew where the best shops in town were. The breakfasts hit the spot and gave us the courage to leave the comfort of air conditioning and brave the Delhi heat.

After stepping out of the alleyway that our hostel resides, we negotiated a rickshaw to the shop recommended to us. When we reached our “destination,” we realized the driver had brought us to the wrong shop. The driver on the other hand claimed that it is what we were looking for, but they had changed the name in the 30 minute period between Hersh’s conversation with his Auntie and arriving. We hypothesized that he had brought us to a shop owned by someone in his family to increase their business hoping we would not notice. Frustrated by trying to be taken advantage of again, we decided to trek on our own to the main market in Delhi, Karol Bagah (supposedly the largest market in Asia per square kilometer of shops). After trekking past numerous stores we failed to find our suggested sari bazarr so instead we went into the most legitimate one we could find. The girls sampled the fabrics and tried to find interesting designs that fit their budget. After spending an hour finding the right fabric and price, they realized that a custom made sari would take longer to make than the time we had in Delhi.

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We ventured into a few more stores before spotting a McDonalds and deciding we wanted to sample the unique fare that an Indian franchise offers. The Indian McDonalds offers the McAloo tiki instead of a Big Mac that consists of a spiced potato patty instead of beef and a McSpicy paneer, which takes the traditional cottage cheese and fries it into a bun. In addition, there was a McSpicy chicken sandwich offered. All of us tried the different options and concluded that we liked the McSpicy paneer and the McSpicy chicken sandwich was actually spicy, unlike it’s American counterpart. After we finished, we went back into the market and went into a few other stores, one of which offered interesting scarves/shawls that me and the two girls bought.

We returned to the hostel with our purchases. While there, we used the free wifi to update our blog and plan for the rest of the night. In the reception area, we met a nice englishmen named Simon. He has been traveling for over ten years and spent a stint in Thailand. He was able to give us an inside scoop on the country and tell us everything we needed to know that was not mentioned in guides. We tried to find a good bar or club to visit that night. Unsuccessful, we settled on finding a restaurant that stayed open late. Walking through the streets by our hostel it seemed that nothing was open. We finally found a restaurant that actually was the third top rated restaurant in Delhi on trip advisor, Suruchi. They specialize in Thalis (sample of different dishes on one platter) that are all you can eat for only 220 Rp (about $4.50). They featured Thalis from different regions of India. Since we already had tried the Rajasthani one, we all got the Gujrati (Region where Hersh grew up) except Ryan had the South Indian one. We returned to the hostel with our bellies full and looking forward to a restful sleep.

The next day we decided that we had experienced enough of the hustle and bustle of the city, not to mention the heat, and headed over to the new mall called Citywalk. Here we were exposed to the upper middle class and upper class of India. After window shopping for a few hours, we were all ready for lunch. Walking into the mall’s food court, Hersh quickly spotted a Haldiram’s, which is India’s premier fast food restaurant. Hersh ordered for us every single type of chaat they offered (raj kachori, special dahi bhalla, papri, pani puri, bhel puri) and choley bhature. It was all delicious and a good way to knock other foods off our must try list. Since the mall had a movie theatre, we decided it would be fun to catch a Bollywood flick while we were there. “Ready” starring Salman Khan was a comedy, but like every good Bollywood movie had a couple dance numbers with an accompanying song. It was fun to watch and we were all laughing at the ridiculousness of it.

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After the movie we were excited to meet up with our friend Radhika who is currently doing research in Delhi. After a couple of hours of figuring out where each other was, we finally were able to sit down at a coffee shop and catch up. She is enjoying her time in India and loves the intense smell, and inequality of genders.

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Based on a recommendation from Radhika’s cousin, we went to Liquid Lounge for dinner located in the Defense Colony. The area has been gentrified and features many modern restaurants and bars. Finally we had a chance to try “non-veg” Indian cuisine. Though I ordered the pasta (also spicy) others ordered dishes like rogan josh, murgh jahangiri. and murgh kadhai. The food was incredibly delicious and Ali even admitted her chicken was the best item she tasted in India. Unfortunately, we were so caught up in enjoying the food and drinks that our naans and rotis added up to our most expensive dinner yet. Worth it, but we doubt we’ll be doing that again!

Stuffed and sleepy, we piled into an old taxi shaped like a bloated VW Beetle. Hersh informed us that the car is called an “Ambassador” and that it was a very popular model produced by an Indian company after India gained independence. Many politicians and VIPs still prefer to use Ambassadors today – much like American politicians still use Cadillacs. After a 30 minute drive from south Delhi to Karol Bagh, we paid our driver the equivalent of $6 and walked back to our hostel.

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Comments
4 Responses to “Delhi Belly”
  1. Jude Mahler says:

    Hey Jared! So good to hear from you. Sounds like you did some shopping. Glad to hear you are catching up on sleep too. Anxiously awaiting news from Thailand.

  2. Ami Costello says:

    Hi Jared! Thanks for breaking the long silence . Wonderful to hear another fun adventure – two of my favorites – shopping and trying different cuisine. Looks like you made a purchase (shawl/scarf). They looked elegant on Ali and Steph. Advance hint…there are pearls, plenty of pearls, reasonably priced – locally raised in the water of Puerto Prinsesa Philippines, your next destination after Bangkok. Cliff, I miss you. Pls. join the group pics too! Stay safe and well. Love, Mom.

    • Jude Mahler says:

      Hi Ami,
      I LOVE pearls! How did you know? Good to hear shopping hints that can be passed along. How did you get to see the shawl/scarf on Ali and Steph? Isn’t it fun to hear about this trip? -Jude

  3. Ami Costello says:

    Check out the last picture Jude – they are both wearing their Indian made scarves. I grew up in the Philippines and I somehow knew that women love pearls You can get a strand of cultured pearls from the island they are visiting for as low as $10.00:) Hint…hint….children esp. Jared! I instructed their tour guide to take them to the pearl market. It will be interesting for them to see, like shopping for scarves in India.
    Yes, I have been checking my e.mail more often than I used to. Love reading those blogs! Can’t wait to read their blogs on Bangkok.
    Ami

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