I always laugh at myself when I am in a place like Delhi or Beijing because I wonder how I made it to these places after growing up in a town of 3500 people. I find them incredibly massive, noisy and busy but there is a comfort to them too. When you grow up in a town you seem to know everyone, you can walk from one end to the other in 20 mins and the traffic rush is maybe 10 cars on a good day; but here in Delhi nobody knows you, the traffic can be hours long filled with cattle, cars, bikes and more. Despite being unknown in this city I still stick out like a sore thumb, a white male with a beard and taller than most. The comfort comes when walking through the city and when the locals who make eye contact tend to smile and wave when they see you, workers, military men, shopkeepers, etc.
From my experience thus far, there are some things I would recommend:
There are some foods that I have tried and would highly recommend to anyone visiting this city. The street food is cheap and not all that bad. I eat a vegetarian diet and I believe that is one of the things keeping me safe from getting sick. I remember years ago in China the street meat made me deathly sick, now I can say I have not had that problem while travelling, but you still have to keep in mind that you need to thoroughly wash your vegetables here in India. If you eat veg, India is the place to be. Masala dosa, Aloo gobi masala, and Golgappas are amongst my favorite! Golgappas in fact are a thin hard shell that is broken open to put potatoes, a spicy red sauce and some flavoured water inside and then taken as a shot, which usually only cost about 20 rupees on the street. There is much more food in India, don’t be afraid to try it.
I have not experienced much of the culture yet, in fact, many people that I have talked to on the street tell me that culturally there is not much to see here in comparison to other parts of India, in regards to the temples, monuments, etc. Regardless, you are looking at some of the tombs around the city and the parks they are usually free and a good place to go and relax and find peace and quiet in a very busy city. Deer park is one close by that I went to visit and it has people playing cricket all the time as well as a cage with peacocks and deer wandering around. Also, if you go to Hauz Khas Village there is a little park on the far side where people sit on the ruins or in the grass and just read. The village itself also has a number of bars and cafés with sometimes unlimited beer for a pretty cheap price but limited wifi unless you have an Indian phone number.
Humayun’s Tomb, although I did not go in, friends have said that it is best at dusk and just before it closes (5 p.m.) where you can see the sun go down on a clear day. The site is surrounded by poverty which was not so bad to walk through but for those sensitive to such things, it might not be back to take a rickshaw or taxi. The thing that prevented us from going in was the price, we thought it would be free because most tombs are but the price was 500 Rupees ($10 CAN, 7 EURO), which is not bad in all honesty but in comparison to the 30 Rupees ($.60 CAN) for locals, we felt as if putting that money towards food would be far more useful.
Visiting the Khan market was good but the prices there are much more than the other cheaper markets. The prices are generally fixed so you cannot haggle and the quality is much superior to other markets. There is also a very nice bookstore and cafe, Full Circle Bookstore, in the center with cheap books. In fact, I found the books to be surprisingly cheap (between 5-10 EUROS). A thing to remember also, in the store based shops there is also VAT (Value Added Tax) on most items that can count up to almost 30% in addition, so it is best to go to the markets that are not inside the buildings. Plus, it is better to practice your bargaining skills at these ones.
To sum up my experience with Delhi, the traffic, constant haggling of prices on almost everything, and no one being on time drove me nuts. It was almost far from everything I had seen, only Beijing came close in my books. However, on the positive side, if you can smell through the pollution every block has a different smell of food and spices that were constantly changing. The diversity of the city was truly splendid, and the food was a pleasure. If you can see India outside of Delhi I truly recommend it!