BEYOND THE OBVIOUS

Off-beat things to do in Delhi

by Debashree Chatterjee

Dotted with ancient monuments, sprawling gardens, magnificent forts and buzzing bazaars (markets), Delhi is stuffed with history and heritage. One can keep discovering it beyond layers and with every layer there is a new surprise, and this is what makes her different. Though, the must-visit places in this city of Mughal grandeur and colonial classiness are mesmerising, but what if you have “been there, done that”… seen them all. Don’t worry. Delhi has an incredible lot to offer. A tourist’s hot-spot and a traveller’s paradise, things to see, do and experience in Delhi are never-ending and can be truly varied, depending on one’s interests and budget. If you want to dig deeper into the local experiences, the city (I love from the head, heart and stomach) has to offer, here is my basket of “unique 10” for you. I have divided the list under a few categories, depending on activities and interests. Hoping you visit and fall in love too with the elegant, quirky, vibrant, crazy enchantress named Delhi, and remember her aura, sound and smell long after you have returned home.

 

Listen, watch and enjoy…

LISTEN TO SUFI DEVOTIONAL SONGS AT NIZAMUDDIN DARGAH

Experience the magic of music at Nizamuddin Dargah, the resting place of one of the world’s most famous Sufi saints, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. The soulful sound of qawwalis (Sufi devotional songs) and traditional music instruments fills the courtyard with peace and tranquility. The centuries-old songs and poetry transport you to a different world, and for a couple of hours the hectic city outside the four walls of the dargah (shrine) seems to vanish in thin air. A tip: Do dress conservatively and bring a stole/scarf with you to cover your head (though it’s not a must).

Address: Boali Gate Rd, Nizamuddin, Nizammudin West Slum, Nizamuddin West
Qawwali Timings: 5pm to 9.30pm

Website: nizamuddinaulia.org

 

LIGHT & SOUND SHOW AT PURANA QILA

Photo: shutterstock / ID: 514508047

The 16th century Purana Qila (Old Fort) is one of the oldest in Delhi, standing tall in the middle of the buzzing city. The site has been continuously inhabited for 2,500 years, and it won’t be an exaggeration to say that every stone and brick there breathe history. The light and sound show, introduced in 2011 and named Ishq-e-Dilli (For the Love of Delhi or Romancing Delhi), takes you on a journey showing the history of Delhi through the rise and fall of its 10 cities, starting from 11th century to the present. It is detailed, colourful, informative and interesting enough to keep your eyes glued to it for the entire duration of the show. For timings and language please check the website, as they change with seasons. So, pack a stole and mosquito repellent, and let the show begin…

Address: Mathura Road, Pragati Maidan
Timings: 7pm — 8 (Hindi show); 8.30pm—9.30pm (English show); Fridays are off
Entrance: 100 INR
Nearest Metro Station: Pragati Maidan

 

A day at a museum…

SULABH INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM OF TOILETS

If you are traveller, you must have visited many museums across the globe. But have you ever come across a museum dedicated to toilet? The Sulabh International Museum in Delhi is that unique place which is sure to make your “I have world knowledge on sanitation” dream come true. According to Time magazine, the museum is among the “10 museums around the world that are anything but mundane”. Established in 1992, it tells the history of types of toilets across the world, their many designs, and also shows the evolution of the sewage system since 2500 BC. Though, not the only toilet museum of the world, still, I consider it one of the weirdest and most offbeat places to visit in Delhi.

Address: Sulabh Bhawan, Mahavir Enclave, Palam Dabri Marg
Timings: Monday-Saturday: 8am to 8pm, Sunday: 10am to 5pm
Entrance: free
Website: www.sulabhtoiletmuseum.org
Nearest Metro Station: Dashrath Puri

 

SHANKAR’S INTERNATIONAL DOLLS MUSEUM

A dreamland for children, the museum houses more than 6,000 dolls from 85 countries. The India exhibit comprises 500 dolls dressed in costumes worn from all over the country. Though not a huge doll fan myself, still, I went to the museum out of sheer curiosity, eager to know just how many dolls can there be. And I have to admit that I was impressed by the extensive collection, giving insight into the different dressing styles and varied attire designs of the many countries and continents of the world.

Address: 4, Nehru House, Bahadur Shah Zafar Road
Timings: Tuesday-Sunday, 10am – 6pm
Entrance: 17 INR
Nearest Metro Station: ITO

 

Visit and be a part of history at…

AGRASEN KI BAOLI (Hailey Road)

Located right off Connaught Place in the heart of Delhi and standing in the shadow of modern highrises, this site is an architectural gem. Easy to reach and small in area, this subterranean marvel hides in plain sight. Infamous for being haunted after sun-down, this centuries-old stepwell, with soaring arched walls, alcoves and ornate stone works, is a startling oasis in the middle of the hustle bustle of Delhi. Go down the stairs, walk along the arches, sit under the trees and of course take innumerable photos to make the memories last forever. The echo of the rustling trees, low-flying birds, dark shadows and the black water at the bottom is guaranteed to provide you with the right ambience.

Address: Hailey Road, KG Marg, near Diwanchand Imaging Centre
Timings: daily 9am to 5.30pm
Entrance: free
Nearest Metro Station: Janpath

 

MIRZA GHALIB’S HAVELI (Ballimaran)

Located in a lane in Old Delhi, this 300-year-old Mughal-era mansion was the home to India’s one of the most celebrated and quoted Urdu poets, Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan, known the world over as Mirza Ghalib. Now a heritage site and a museum, this not so out-of-the-ordinary building offers an insight into Ghalib’s lifestyle and also the architecture of the Mughals. The museum houses a life-size replica of the poet in a realistic setting, with a hookah, and various handwritten poems by him besides his books. Ghalib lived in this haveli (mansion), presented to him by an ardent admirer, from 1860 to 1869 after he came to Delhi from Agra, and it is while living here that he wrote his famous Urdu and Persian diwans (collection of poems) and ghazals. Located near Chawri Bazar Metro station, the haveli is open to all from 11 am till 6 pm on all days except Monday. Visit and explore this standing testimonial to a bygone era in Indian history. Also, read out his poems from the thought-provoking walls, brimming with love and romance.

Address: 2469, Gali Captain, Baradari, Balli Maran
Timings: Tuesday-Sunday, 10am to 6pm
Entrance: free
Nearest Metro Station: Huda City Center

 

Eat, drink & try out…

KUNZUM TRAVEL CAFE (Hauz Khas Village)

One of the coolest cafes in the city, it is the perfect place to meet fellow wanderlusters and share travel stories, ideas and even make future travel plans. You can use the free WiFi, read from the well-stocked library or simply sit and chill without buying anything at all at this pocket-friendly hangout. And, in case you end up having coffee and biscuits, you can pay as you like. Moreover, regular workshops by travelers, writers and photographers make this café a perfect place to connect with like-minded people.

Address: T-49, GF, Hauz Khas Village
Timings: Tuesday-Sunday, 11.00am to 07.30pm
Nearest Metro Station: Hauz Khas

 

AUTHENTIC TIBETAN MEAL (Majnu Ka Tila)

Delhi’s very own “Little Tibet”, dotted with cafes, eateries, kiosks and stalls, has a charm like nowhere else in the city. A hub of Tibetan culture, monks in red robes, narrow but clean alleys and colourful prayer flags and architecture is a common sight here. But above everything else, it is the food that scores big. The colony is studded with cute little restaurants serving mouthwatering, authentic Tibetan delicacies. While you are at it, don’t forget to try out the spicy lhaphing, super soft tingmo and steamy momos among other treats.

Nearest Metro Station: Vidhan Sabha

 

Checkout & shop at…

ASIA’S LARGEST SPICE MARKET (Khari Baoli)

Doesn’t matter if you are a spice-lover or not, a cooking enthusiast or just a non-cooking foodoholic (like me), this aromatic and colourful world of spices is sure to take your breath away. The 17th century market in Old Delhi, with huge heaps and sacks of spices lying all around, is Asia’s largest wholesale spice bazaar. A tip: Keep a handkerchief handy to cover your nose in case the aroma gets too strong to handle. And, the market is super congested, so it might get a bit overwhelming to navigate the alleyways. However, keeping the concerns aside, it’s an experience to savour, for sure.

 

CHAMPA GALI (Saket)

Situated in Saidulajab, an urban village in south Delhi, Champa Gali is a bohemian lane lined with boutiques and cafes. Until the 1990s it was nothing but long stretches of agricultural fields, but now the picture is completely different. Known for its quirky shops, handmade craft items, delightful food, latest fashion and incredible coffee, this hidden gem has a lot to offer if you want to just stroll around and enjoy a relaxed day. An added charm is the green plants lining the lane, twinkling fairy-lights and colourful flags contrasting the dark wood-work. Plus, the laidback, easygoing feel of the place is nearly therapeutic.

 


 

Do you want to explore Delhi with Debashree?

Book a tour with her!

Delhi is not only exciting and dynamic, rich in history and tradition, but also home to millions of people of many different confessions. In Delhi as well as in the whole of India, characterized by its diversity, it is possible to find almost all the religions of the world. Of course, these are not practiced just in the hearts and minds of men, but also in thousands of temples. More about the religious Delhi-Tour with Debashree …


The long, rich and exciting history of Delhi makes itself manifest – and actually, tangible – in a myriad monuments scattered all over the city. Where to start, then, and which of its many stories are the most interesting ones? Debashree knows them all, and will happily share them with you. More about the historical tour with Debashree …


Delhi is colorful and noisy, and its never-ending hustle and bustle is part of everyday life in the big city. There are countless markets where everything you can think of is sold, traded and bought with heartfelt passion. From high-priced luxury goods to colorful textiles to exotic fruits and vegetables: if you can imagine it you can find it. But shopping can be stressful too: who is trying to take advantage of you, and who to trust? Because there’s one thing that you can’t avoid in Delhi, and that is haggling. As in most Oriental countries, also in India is haggling a common practice when dealing with all kinds of merchants, from street sellers to shop owners. It is simply an intrinsic part of the trade, but can also be a lot of fun once you get the hang of it. Come and bargain with Debashree …


Delhi is colorful and noisy, and its never-ending hustle and bustle is part of everyday life in the big city. There are countless markets where everything you can think of is sold, traded and bought with heartfelt passion. But during the hot season the heat and humidity can make even the stones sweat. Not everyone can endure a shopping day in these conditions. Our shopping trip “Shopping without sweating” is aimed at all those souvenir and gift seekers who want to get a little more comfortable and escape the heat of the city and the frantic action of the open markets. More about the shopping tour with Debashree …




The gastronomical Gem called Delhi

A foodie’s path to ecstasy

Eat with Debashree Chatterjee, who tells us her favorite 10 restaurants in Delhi

 

Delhi’s rich and diverse culinary heritage reflects hues of various cultures coming together as a single vibrant mosaic. With many gastronomic traditions – a result of many kingdoms and rulers making this city their own at different times in history – Delhi is often dubbed as the culinary capital of India. It has a layered cuisine, with food not just served in hotels and restaurants. There are innumerable family recipes which have been passed on from generation to generation; and strolls on the streets would have been boring had it not been for the lip-smacking roadside food luring us. Many migrated communities from lands near and far, narrow and wide have led to inclusion, adaptation and refinement of the recipes, traditions and cuisines, making Delhi a confluence of food cultures. And it will be a biological sin (a phrase in my dictionary) if one deprives his/her tongue and stomach from experiencing this greasy goodness, which Delhi offers in abundance.

The city boasts of a long string of eateries, stalls, shacks, restaurants and hotels serving cuisines from across India, and in every budget possible. From traditional to modern, from posh to roadside, from quickie to well-spread, it has it all. It is nearly impossible to put all in one platter (read page). So, here is my list (a small one) of favourite 10.

 

KARIM’S, Nizamuddin

Address: Shop No.168/2, Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti Near Dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin, Nizammudin West

Nestled in one of Delhi’s oldest settlements, Karim’s is an icon in itself serving arguably the best Mughlai cuisine in the country. Though the first outlet, opened in 1913 in Old Delhi, is where most like to go, my favourite, however, is the one in Nizamuddin. Traditional wood-paneled dining room, a menu having items with names like Shahjahani Kabab, Nargisi Kofta, Biryani Anarkali, Chicken Jahangiri and Kheer Benazeer makes me feel like I am in the middle of royals enjoying mouth-watering history. Yes, this place is historical, authentic and the holy grail of pure deliciousness.

 

OH! CALCUTTA, Nehru Place

Address: Ground International Trade Tower, American Plaza, Lala Lajpat Rai Rd, Block “E, Nehru Place
Website: https://www.speciality.co.in/oh!-calcutta.html

This elegant restaurant, serving the cuisine from Bengal, has kept the spirit and tradition of the East alive and well. The food here is as authentic as it gets, immersed in the aroma of fish being cooked in mustard oil or prawn being simmered in coconut milk. The Bengalis living in Delhi swear by its authenticity and backs their claim by thronging this eatery during lunch hours, indulging in its marvelous buffet spread. But I pick loochi, daab chingri and mishti doi any day.

 

NAIVEDYAM, Hauz Khas Village

Address: 1, Hauz Khas Village, Deer Park, Hauz Khas
Website: https://www.naivedyamrestaurants.in/

This flower-covered, wall-painted, low-lit restaurant in HKV transports you straight to South India. A 100% vegetarian joint, the food here has the essence of simple home-cooked meals. With innumerable dosas, uttapams and chutneys on the menu card, even a local like me wonders “why haven’t I heard these names before”… there are just so many options. However, whether you take a risk or play safe, either way you won’t go wrong here. Whatever you pick will be delicious and authentic.

 

THE POTBELLY, Shahpur Jat

Address: Top Floor, 116 C, behind UCO Bank, Shahpur Jat
Facebook-Page: https://www.facebook.com/ThePotbelly/

Food from Bihar is rarely found in restaurants or placed on menus, which is a shame. One visit to this quirky restaurant will tell you what you have been missing. Their Saboodana basket, Aloo Lalu Chop, Litti-Chokha and Tehri are to die for. If you are looking for a big combo dish to share, then their innumerable Thalis are the best bet. Let me assure you, you will not regret this choice; not just for the food but also the location of the restaurant. I suggest, you be there to find out J

 

KHAN CHACHA
Addresses: 9 outlets; please check website for a convenient location
Website: http://khanchacha.in/

This is a “been there, done that” kind of place. However, you don’t come here for the décor or the ambience… it’s just the food… the traditional, well-made North Indian food. The juicy kababs, delicious rolls, succulent mutton nihari and traditional gravy items are the draw. Whether you drop in for a mid-afternoon snack or a proper lunch or dinner, be ready to wait, or even share a table. But it’s worth the wait, as you might end up experiencing a little bit of Old Delhi in any of the Khan Chacha outlets.

 

DZUKOU TRIBAL KITCHEN, Hauz Khas

Address: E-22, Third Floor,, Hauz Khas Main Market, Kharera, Hauz Khas
Website: http://dzukoutribalkitchen.com/

Chic and authentic with a traditional Naga menu, this gem is located in the heart of south Delhi. The restaurant’s name comes from the Dzukou Valley in Nagaland, in the farthest corner of India. The northeastern cuisine is far removed from other Indian cuisines and its reliable versions are usually hard to come by. This is one reason I like visiting this restaurant… because anything and everything I try every single time, I end up tasting something new and unique. They claim to be the ideal spot in this megacity to stretch your evening into the night. And I have to admit their claim is rightful and deliciously just.

 

SODABOTTLEOPENERWALA, Khan Market

Address: 73B, Khan Market, Rabindra Nagar
Website: https://www.sodabottleopenerwala.in/khan-market-3/

A warm inviting vibe, smiley faces, quirky menu and delicious food – this place has everything a restaurant needs to have. Built with affection and aesthetic, this Bombay Irani café and bar has finely revived and is showcasing the lost glory of Parsi cuisine, which has been a part of the Indian food scene for hundreds of years. Berry Pulao, Aloo Aunty’s Cutlet and Kolmi Fry are my personal favourites and I will go back their time and again even if there are thousands of yummiest restaurants to pick from.

 

CAFÉ LOTA, National Crafts Museum

Address: Gate No. 2, National Crafts Museum, Bhairon Marg, Pragati Maidan
Website: https://meltingpotfood.in/cafe-lota/

This charming joint, tucked away in a museum in central Delhi, is definitely not to be missed. This quaint and artsy café offers a contemporary take on regional, pan-Indian dishes which rarely make it to the menu of regular restaurants. In sync with the rural-themed museum, the café kitchen’s simple home-style cooking is the crowd-puller. Of all the unique items from different pockets of the country, their Bhapa doi cheesecake and palak-patta chaat are my all-time favourites and my mouth waters even while writing about them. So, let’s say the plethora of options, substantial portions and pocket-friendliness are few of the many reasons why Café Lota is the right place to enjoy a healthy and hearty meal.

 

INDIAN ACCENT, The Lodhi, Lodhi Road

Address: The Lodhi, Lodhi Rd, CGO Complex, Pragati Vihar
Website: https://indianaccent.com/newdelhi/index.php

This refined restaurant, which gives contemporary twists to traditional Indian dishes, is an experience in itself. One feels like a royal who has been air-dropped into a modern setup of glassy, watery walls and ceilings. Featured in World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019, Indian Accent showcases inventive Indian cuisine by complementing the flavours and traditions of India with global ingredients and techniques. Most of the items here (if not all) put preparations elsewhere to shame. Honestly, try it to believe it. However, it is a reservation-driven restaurant, which follows a strict seating time, so if you want to be the one in the fancy affair, you better hurry and definitely book early.

 

FARZI CAFÉ, Connaught Place

Address: E-38/39, Rajiv Chowk, Inner Circle, Block E, Connaught Place
Facebook-Page: https://www.facebook.com/FarziCafeCP/

This bustling café, creating fusion Indian flavours using molecular gastronomy methods, shows modern Delhi’s love for quirkiness. In its effort to bring Indian cuisine back in-vogue, it has built itself to be a chic café, where guests enjoy a sensory experience through the finest modern Indian cuisine, in a high energy atmosphere. With large comfortable seating areas, the café has paid close attention to both the food spread and the décor, which deserves special mention. “Farzi” in Urdu means “one that creates an illusion”, and true to its name, the café has done it wonderfully with the dishes it serves. Once you have ordered preparations like Butter Chicken Bao (bun) & Green Chilli Mayo, Kashmiri Morel Risotto & Truffle Oil, after a very long look at the chic and interesting menu, you might end up thinking, “did I really order them, or was it my mind playing a trick.”

 




TRAVELLING LIKE A BOSS

Making Delhi your own

by Debashree Chatterjee


In a city as big, diverse and vibrant as Delhi, it often feels like the entire populace of the place is travelling at the same time and somehow, everybody is going the same way as you and me. This extremeness of everything makes it really difficult for Delhi to make the right first impression on her guests. Which in turn, leads to most of the tourists missing out on discovering her hidden beauty.

The never-ending traffic beeline, the non-stop car horn orchestra and hundreds of busy heads bobbing around everywhere might make it a little challenging to wrap your head around the chaos, but fear not… there is some sense of order in this chaos as well (or it could simply be my blind love for Delhi).

With many transport options available, getting around in the city is not a big problem, though it is not a cake-walk either. It doesn’t matter if one is a tourist, or a traveller, a nomad, or a local… one should be armed with the knowledge of the travelling options available and at the same time, must be open to making on-the-spot conveyance decisions.

Here, I will tell you about the mode of transport I use on a daily basis (depending on which part of the city I am going to). So, now, with the transport info, a loaded wallet and a city map in your bag, be ready to be wooed, seduced and charmed by Delhi.

 

METRO RAIL

Click for bigger printable version

Efficient and fast, the Metro rail is an easy way to travel around and has been a boon to the city of millions. The Metro is a rapid transit system serving Delhi and its satellite cities/towns of Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Gurgaon, Noida, Bahadurgarh and Ballabhgarh. With around 10 lines covering nearly the entire length and breadth of the National Capital Region, the Metro is one of the safest modes of transport as well. A note to women travellers: The first car of every train is reserved for women only, and the rest are for both men and women. Air-conditioned and clean, the Metro network is like a cob-web, so, I suggest you keep a Metro map handy or download the Delhi Metro app. Another pointer… with a daily average ridership of 4.7 million, I can safely suggest that definitely avoid it during the office rush hours.

 

RICKSHAW

Auto rickshaw

These Rickshaws are called “Autos” by locals

Cheaper than taxis and app-based cabs, auto (as they are locally called) is my favoured mode of transport. I take them anywhere and everywhere. Smaller than cars, these three-wheelers can negotiate traffic far smoothly than the rest and 3 passengers can comfortably fit in. These green-yellow, partially enclosed “king of convenience” can be easily spotted and hailed at nearly every street corner, in front of markets and all the heritage sites. Equipped with rate meters (before you take the ride, insist that you will pay according to the meter), at times, with extra charge, you can even keep the auto waiting for the return ride. Note: If you travel as a non-local by meter and you don’t know the route, the driver might take some extra detours to make the ride longer and therefor increase the price, so maybe, but only if you are a good bargainer, you could as well agree on a price before the ride.

Cycle rickshaw

An inexpensive way to travel short distances, cycle rickshaw is more about experience than convenience. Phased out in certain areas of the city, this mode of transport is definitely the cheapest way to travel around. However, the vehicle being nearly fully open, it’s not ideal during the sweltering summers. Having said that, I must add that in certain areas of the city (read Old Delhi), it’s the most convenient of them all and works like a fairy in those super heavily congested narrow roads.

 

APP-BASED CABS

Yes, Uber is available in Delhi, is incredibly affordable, and a huge hit among locals and tourists alike. I usually pay cash (in rupees) to the driver after the ride, but you can pay via Uber app as well. It’s a lifesaver, especially during Delhi’s infamous summer heat, winter chill and during late nights.

There is another app-based one – OLA – which is widely used as well in Delhi and is cheap and efficient too.

 

RENTAL CARS (WITH DRIVER)

This is a very feasible option to travel, especially if you have a time-crunch. Usually it needs prior booking, which can be easily done by the hotel/guesthouse/travel agency you have booked with. Though not budget-friendly like autos, still, the price can be negotiated while booking (it’s not too expensive either) and if you are travelling with someone, I feel, this is one of the most convenient and comfortable way of travelling in Delhi.

 

RADIO CABS

Radio Cabs are a bit more expensive but a good option for rides from the airport into the city.

There are quite a few radio cabs available in the city now, like Meru Cab, Easy Cab, Mega Cab. From the airport, I always take one of these as they all have little kiosks right outside the exit gate. However, for travelling around in the city these get a little expensive, especially when compared to the other transport options available. Moreover, an added drawback of these radio cabs is that one needs to have a local mobile number to book, which makes it inconvenient for tourists. (Except at the airport where you can simply book at one of the kiosks.)

 

CABS/TAXIS

This is another option of travelling around Delhi ofcourse. However, I will not recommend taking them, as I myself never ever use these cabs. Usually they charge much more than what they are supposed to, and they definitely try to rip off tourists.

 

DELHI TRANSPORT CORPORATION BUSES

Public buses are easily available and are many. However, I personally don’t use them and wouldn’t recommend, as they are extremely packed and secondly, most of the places one would want to go to are comfortably reached by autos and app-based cabs. Note for women: Buses are known for being the perfect place for men to touch women indecently as they are so crowded.

 

HoHo BUSES

Click for high-resolution map

Like every major city in the world, Delhi too has its Hop-On/Hop-Off (HoHo) Buses. With the historical sites and tourist attractions scattered all over the city, HoHo buses come to your rescue and lets you travel around in your own pace and in a budget-friendly manner. HoHo Bus gives you the freedom to see the 25+tourist attractions of your choice with one-day and two-day passes. However, because Delhi is so big and varied, this option of going around gets a little hectic and time-consuming.

 

Note: If you have any traffic-related complaints while travelling in any mode of transport, you can call the Delhi Traffic Police’s 24×7 helpline, on 1095.

 

(Title photograph: Shutterstock / Nikhlesh Kumar Singh)



MALL’S THE WORD

Walking the branded trail

by Debashree Chatterjee

When you are in Delhi during the sweltering summers, and want to keep “stepping out” 100% optional (WAIT! what about shopping? that’s 100% compulsory) then the many malls in this vibrant city are sure to play the saviour. Take a break from street-shopping and the state emporiums and take a chance on these glassy-classy giants. Armed with kids’ zone, multiplex, food court, cafes, bars and shops, these malls are sure to quench your “Oh! I surely need to buy that” thirst. However, with the mushrooming of malls in Delhi, there are quite a few to choose from. That is why, in this section, I am telling you about the ones I frequent and can totally vouch for (I am not a shopaholic; in case you are judging me). However, I would recommend that once you have booked your stay in Delhi, you decide on the malls and add them to your schedule accordingly.

Easily accessible and open on all days, here is a list of my favourites in South Delhi.

South Delhi is the right spot for classy shopping malls.

 


1 AMBIENCE MALL, VASANT KUNJ

A popular name and a go-to place for Delhiites, this mall has all kinds of shops to showoff. From high-end ones to small brands, to not-so-expensive brands as well. From apparels to accessories, it covers all your “let’s dress-up” needs. And, in case you are one of those who like food more than shopping, then here you will get to choose from many choicest restaurants. Moreover, other than these popular eateries, the food court here is soundly equipped and offers many lip-smacking delicacies.

Right next to Ambience are two other malls you can definitely visit – DLF Promenade and DLF Emporio. But remember to keep enough time in hand because these three malls put together can demand lengthy walks and dedicated eyes. Just an added note, if you are looking for ultra-luxury and wants to browse through Cartier, Gucci and Dior showrooms, then, Emporio is your pick.

 


2 SELECT CITYWALK, SAKET

One of the most visited malls in Delhi, Citywalk has innumerable national and international brands for you to choose from. H&M, Zara, Kate Spade, to name a few, with their eye-catchy window displays are sure to pull you in. Moreover, the outdoor open-air plaza often hosts flea markets, fests and functions and have exclusive items to offer. It could be anything, from quirky garden décor to hand-painted shoes. So, what you must do is grab a coffee and walk around till your insta-shopping list is ready to roll back.

 


 

THE CHANAKYA, CHANAKYAPURI

A fan of luxury? This is the place to be. Housing several upscale brands and a multiplex, this mall speaks elite. Home to the city’s first Rolex boutique, Chanakya has many more international brands to boast of. Ted Baker, Thomas Pink, Noir salon, Mont Blanc boutique are to name a few. With an amazing food court offering a multi-cuisine palette, Chanakya is more an experience than a mall, which I recommend you see and feel for yourself.

 


You might be interested in these blogposts by Debashree as well


 


In the mood for shopping now? Take Debashree along!

Shopping tour: Trading & Bargaining

An exciting shopping tour with Debashree.
Individual shopping tour from 1 person onwards.
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Shopping tour: Cool shopping

Another great shopping tour with Debashree that doesn’t include sweating. Especially recommended for the hottest months may and june.
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Shop till you drop

A bargainer’s diary

by Debashree Chatterjee

Doesn’t matter if you are a self-confessed shopaholic, or a need-based shopper, or a shopahater (haven’t come across any in my life), . Doesn’t matter what you are looking for, or where you are staying in the megacity, you are sure to come across one market (most likely many) every 20 minutes. And also, doesn’t matter if you want cheap/bargain shopping, luxury/mall shopping or simply window shopping, Delhi is the paradise you have been promised.

Let’s get started with where to stop for a shop. But, before I name names, let me give you an idea about what you can look for, as a gift for a dear one or as a souvenir for yourself.

 

A few of my favorite things 

Food items: Spices, Tea, Indian pickle (with mango/chilli/lemon/mixed)

Home décor: Puppets, brass, wood or sandalwood curios, leather goods

Garments: Pure silk scarves, Pashmina shawls, colourful mixed-thread stoles

Jewellery: Kundan, Meenakari, ornaments with precious stones, casual/cheap imitation ones

Spiritual: Oil lamps, incense sticks, garlands, hand-woven prayer rugs

Personal-care: Herbal beauty products

Now that we know what to buy, let’s get out on the road with a big bag, a bottle of water and loads of sunscreen. Here goes the list of my favorite Delhi markets.

Dilli Haat

While you shop, your driver can take a rest.

My all-time favourite and the go-to place for most of us living in Delhi, this open-air market is a hub for handicrafts. It is a platform for artisans from across the country to showcase and sell their work. From traditional Indian garments, to home décor, to pottery, to brass idols, to leather lampshades… you name it and they have it. Along with the colourful ambience and hassle-free atmosphere, the foodstalls offering lip-smacking delicacies from nearly all the states/regions of India give brownie points to this market.

Janpath Market

Put on your bargaining boots for this one. Located in the heart of the city, this market has something for everyone, for any occasion, at any budget. The colourful scarves, the jingling wind-chimes, the bright sequin handbags, the aromatic sandalwood Ganesha statues are sure to bring out the child in you… and you would want to get them all. However, the Tibetan shops packed with artefacts (statues, masks and jewellery) from ceiling to floor, deserve a special mention.

Get ready to spend a lot of money while on a shopping tour in Delhi

Khan Market

Known to be Delhi’s classiest, this upscale market is “the spot” for the city’s A-listers, but a disappointment for a bargain-shopper like me. However, with its many shops offering international brands, charming boutiques, well-stocked bookshops, cool cafes and trendy restaurants, this market keeps calling me back. It also has few shops with a promising stock of fancy fruits, usually not available anywhere else in the city.

Chandni Chowk

The epitome of chaos, this market is hundreds of years old, and surely looks that way. However, tackling the thousands of people around you, ducking the low-flying pigeons and listening to the orchestra of non-stop honking, you will make your way through a marvelous maze of sights and smell. The entire shopping district is divided into special sections dedicated to specific items. For example, Dariba Kalan is for silver jewellery, Katra Neel for fabrics and ofcourse Khari Baoili Road, Asia’s largest wholesale spice market. An added bonus in this market is the many roadside sweet and snack shops. Don’t forget to refuel yourself with some jalebi and samosa as you get ready for a second round of bargaining.

Bargaining makes oh so hungry

Lajpat Nagar Central Market

A heaven for reasonable shopping, this market is usually buzzing with women looking for their ethnicwear. One of the oldest markets in the city, this place is full of hawkers calling out to shoppers. Don’t be alarmed. While displaying their clothes, bags or traditional footwear, they also shout out competitive price so that one can out-do a fellow shopkeeper. It’s all a trick of the trade, but a lot of fun to watch.

GK-1 M Block Market

If you want to eat and shop, or shop and eat, this is your place. This market is a cornerstone of style, affordability and variety. With international brands and local vendors, it has small (mostly) but stylish shops offering apparel, shoes, jewellery and even kids’ wear. Moreover, if you want a shopping break, you can visit one of the soulful spas or hop in one of the quirky cafés.

In Delhi one doesn’t need a shop to sell.

Paharganj

Though mainly known to tourists for its affordable hotels and lodges, Paharganj has much more to offer in terms of goods. It’s a place for rough-and-tough shopping (read bargaining) and photo ops. Crowded, noisy and dirty, it doesn’t fail to attract tourists and locals alike. The main bazaar is lined with shops selling books, handicrafts, textiles, junk jewellery and ofcourse traditional clothes. Keep your eyes wide open for shops selling ittar (traditional perfume) and mehendiwallahs, surrounded by customers waiting for their turn to get the palm art done.

Hauz Khas Village

With its unique fashion options and quirky shops, HKV has always been a trend-setter. One of my personal favourites in Delhi, this place seems to add a spring in your step. With graffiti at every corner, a lake across the wall and a deer park at the gate, this “village” is less shopping and more a feeling. From dresses straight from the ramp, to Monroe-like swimsuits, to rare movie posters, to colourful glass bongs and antique shops selling “postcard from Stalin”, HKV has it all. And, to add to the charm are quaint cafes overlooking the lake with great coffee and tasty nibbles.

If you need a break from shopping Hauz Khas with it’s green surrounding is the right spot for you

Sarojini Nagar

Another place for die-hard bargain shopping, this market is swarmed with youngsters and elderly alike. Along with permanent shops, you will find hawkers lining up the lanes with their product for sale lying in a heap on the ground. The never-ending stream of buzzing and bargaining shoppers here, kind of, pushes you to strive for more (read cheaper/better bargaining). And you somehow go with the flow, and end up becoming a bull in the race. A very happy bull.

In the mood for shopping now? Take Debashree along!

Shopping tour: Trading & Bargaining

An exciting shopping tour with Debashree.
Individual shopping tour from 1 person onwards.
More info


Shopping tour: Cool shopping

Another great shopping tour with Debashree that doesn’t include sweating. Especially recommended for the hottest months may and june.
More info




SPILLING THE BEANS

A coffee lover’s chronicle

by Debashree Chatterjee

Doesn’t matter if it’s the morning dose or the evening shot, coffee is the life line for most of us (if not all of us). I am sure you will agree that coffee plays saviour for an office-goer, who is late for the meeting; a mom waiting for her child outside the play school; or a tourist who just wants to sit and check out the city map for the next destination. There are very few of us who can resist the coffee’s titillating smell or the warmth of the cup in our hands. Delhi is no different. With the growing number of cafes dotting the city, one thing is certain — Delhi’s dedication towards coffee is strong, thick and steadily increasing.

Thinking of getting your cuppa of coffee now, but not sure where to grab it. Here is a list of Delhi’s “Awesome-10”.

 

BLUE TOKAI COFFEE ROASTERS, Saidulajab

Address: Khasra No. 258, Lane Number 3, Saidulajab, New Delhi, Delhi 110030

When you think of coffee in Delhi, this roastery with a little café is the one sure-shot target. This coffee chain is spreading rapidly in more cities than one, fast converting the “C for chai to C for coffee”. Made from fresh beans, from estates across India, their brews are to die for. And if you are happy with their cup, you can even buy the beans for some fresh brew at home. With the soothing ambience and a very long list of coffees, all you need is a book and their sea salt cappuccino.

 

UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, Connaught Place

Address: E-15, Rajiv Chowk, Block E, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Delhi 110001

Old, regal and charming, this coffee joint in the centre of the Delhi has come a long way (literally) and has influenced the city’s coffee culture. Established in 1942 (before India got her Independence), it was a first of the few places to have offered the people of Delhi the concept of “hanging out over coffee”. Don’t miss out on their signature Cona coffee, and also add a couple of their savouries to go with it. However, with its art-deco interior, it’s more of a vintage restaurant than just a coffee shop, and a “must visit spot” when you are in Delhi.

 

PERCH WINE AND COFFEE BAR, Khan Market

Address: 71, Khan Market, Rabindra Nagar, New Delhi, Delhi 110003

Located in the posh Khan Market, this place can impress you in 10 seconds. Doesn’t matter if you are choosing a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, this eatery has many things to offer. Quaint, quiet and warm it has the right mix of classy and casual. Order their top of the list Vietnamese coffee or a cappuccino, along with some cakes or nibbles, and it will become your favourite joint to perch… morning, day or night.

 

DIGGIN, Opposite Gargi College

Address: No.1 & 2 Anand Lok Shopping Centre Opp Gargi College, Anand Lok, New Delhi, Delhi 110049

With a leafy terrace, brick walls and swings, this casual eatery is a true café. It provides a sudden patch of much-needed green within the concrete castle of Delhi. It’s frequented by students, professionals, travellers, solo on the road… all alike. With a wide menu of Italian fares, you can easily pair your latte with their finger food items, or can go for a sumptuous pizza or risotto. You won’t regret either.

 

THE BREW ROOM, SDA Market

Address: C-16 floor, SDA Opposite IIT Gate, New, Hauz Khas Enclave, Hauz Khas, New Delhi, Delhi 110016

With a long list of coffees on the menu, this cute café with bright wall art is the perfect getaway from the hustle-bustle of the city. And while you are at it, you might like to try out their side bites as well. Moreover, other than the “oh so perfect” frappes and cappuccino, their delectable Italian, Continental and American food options are a sure A-plus.

 

THE COFFEE SHOP, Saket

Address: 8, Community Center, Saket, New Delhi, Delhi 110017

You have a thing for cinnamon? This is your spot. Sit back, relax and order your Cinnamon Coffee (very high on my list of love) or a Mocha Frappe at this café. This place lets you chill on your chair with no cares in the world, as the smell of the freshly brewing coffee tingles your nose. You can choose this joint for a long brunch or a quick break, either way, you will be pleased.

 

AMA CAFÉ, Majnu ka Tila

Address: New Camp, Street Number 6, New Aruna Colony, Majnu-ka-tilla, New Aruna Nagar, New Delhi, Delhi 110054

It’s one of those cafes, you know you are going to love. Settled in Delhi’s very own Little Tibet, this place offers pancakes, pies, cheesecakes, coffees and warm smiles, all in a happy platter. You feel cozy, calm and at ease here. Don’t miss their famous mud-cake and order as many coffees as you want and it won’t be tight on your pocket, at all. You might just feel like coming back to it after another short spell of bargain shopping in the many shops strewn around the area.

 

KAFFA CERRADO, Okhla Phase-1

Address: A 77, Pocket D, Okhla Phase II, Okhla Industrial Area, New Delhi, Delhi 110020

Go international here… as this café can boast of beans from around the world. Exotic blends or customised cups, you name it and they have it. Known to have some of the best coffees in town, their specialty coffee can really be a peck on the cheek. If you are a coffee lover from the heart and the gut, this is your C-spot.

 

CAFÉ TURTLE, Khan Market

Address: 23 No, 1st Floor, Khan Market, Khan Market, New Delhi, Delhi 110003

A heaven for book lovers and coffee appreciators, this vegetarian café-restaurant in the heart of Delhi is a place to be. With its healthy food and beverage options, combined with a nice green ambience, it is all you are looking for. With a bookshop on the first floor and the café on the second, this eatery is a gem. The menu offered is short and homely, and you can try anything you feel like and it won’t be a bad pick, that’s a guarantee.

 

CAFÉ CULTURE, Greater Kailash -1 M Block Market

Address: 33, Greater Kailash-1, M Block, Greater Kailash I, Greater Kailash, New Delhi, Delhi 110048

Looking for a break from shopping at the market or a break from moving around in the city, this cute little place is my personal favourite. I love everything here… cappuccino, tea infusions, fries, napkins, even their chairs. Grab a book, get a friend or just be with yourself and order their veg/non-veg mezze platter, pair it with the coffee of your choice and you are all set for the day, or night.




Top 10 Places and activities in Delhi

Delhi is huge, noisy, and for many people also a bit scary. But Delhi is more than just the ever-growing and always busy capital of India, constantly threatening with bursting from its seams. Indeed, there are countless charming and exciting facets to discover here: monuments and forts that tell sad and adventurous stories, and speak of the tragic fate of many heroes and heroines; vibrant places full of joy and color, where the old and the modern go hand in hand; and people (so many people!) from all the corners of India and the whole world. Delhi is and offers so much, that it can be overwhelming in its complexity.

We chose 10 of our most favorite places and activities to make it easier for you to chose which place is right for you.

1. Humayun’s Tomb

The Humayun’s tomb is one of the most interesting sites of the Mogul’s time. The construction of Delhi’s first Mogul’s grave was begun in 1564 after the death of the second Mughal ruler. Haji Begum, Humayun’s widow and mother of Akbar (1542-1605), kept a watchful eye on the works and even moved to its vicinity to better manage its construction. It served as a refuge for the last emperor, Bahadur Shah II (1775-1862), whom the British captured here in 1857. Due to its elegant Persian style, the grave is considered one of the most magnificent historical buildings in Delhi.


2. Qutab Minar

The first buildings of Muslim India are known today as the Qutb Complex. They were built on the ruins of Lal Kot, a fortress built in the 8th century by the Tomara Rajputs and expanded further in the 12th century by the Chauhans. Today one of Delhi’s most famous landmarks is found here: the pointed red sandstone tower of the Qutb Minar. A dominating presence amidst the ruins, the over-70-meters-high Qutb Minar is decorated with beautiful ornaments and verses of the Quran. The minaret was built in 1199 as a siege tower in conjunction with the ancient mosque of Qutb-ud-Din Aibak (1150-1210), founder of the Sultanate of Delhi. This marked the beginning of the Muslim supremacy over Delhi and a large part of the Indian subcontinent.


3. Hauz Khas Complex

The Hauz Khas complex in the south of Delhi encompassed a water reservoir, a mosque, a mausoleum and several pavilions around an urbanized medieval village with a story dating back to the 13th century of the Sultanate of Delhi. It was part of Siri, the second medieval city of India in the Sultanate of the Allauddin Dhilji Dynasty. The name Hauz Khas is Farsi in origin and means “royal water tank” or “royal lake”. The reservoir was built by Khilji to supply the inhabitants of Siri with water. In the time of Firuz Shah Tughlaq, the tank was decontaminated. Various religious buildings surround and guard the lake. Today’s Hauz Khas complex also includes a modern area with galleries, boutiques and restaurants.


4. Akshardam Temple Complex

The Akshardam Temple, also called Swamirayan Temple, is the world’s largest Hindu temple complex. It is one of the most recent temples of Delhi – the opening took place in 2005 – and in many ways it reminds of a religious theme park. A visit to this contemporary architectural wonder is undoubtedly recommended, but you have to remember to save enough time for it. One can spend easily a whole day in the complex.


5. Lotus Temple

The Lotus Temple is the newest of the world’s seven Bahá’í temples. The name derives from the shape of the building, which is reminiscent of a lotus flower. The building was opened on December 24, 1986, and since then has won numerous architectural awards and has been pictured in countless magazines and newspapers. The sacred building is one of the most famous of the Bahá’í faith and is visited annually by about three million people. The building is an outstanding example of modern architecture in India.


6. Chhatarpur Temple

The Chhatarpur Temple – or Shri Aadya Katyayani Shakti Peetham – is also located in South Delhi. It is considered the second largest temple in India, and third in the world, and is dedicated to the goddess Katyayani. The temple was founded in 1974 by Baba Sant Nagpal Ji, who died in 1998. This temple is totally constructed with marble in what is classified as a Vessara style of architecture.


7. Dilli Haat

Dilli Haat is THE market by definition: an open-air food-and-handicrafts market in southern Delhi. Merchants from all over India sell their products here: wood carvings, textiles, jewelry, pearls, metalwork, silk, clay works, paintings… in short, everything that makes the heart of a souvenir hunter beat faster. The dealers change every 15 days, so it is important to try and seize as much of Dilli Haat’s diversity as possible. If you get hungry while shopping here, there is no need to leave the area: there are many excellent restaurants and food stands next to the selling booths and huts.


8. Janpath Markt

The Janpath Market has a long history. It takes its name from the street that connects Connaught Place to Lodhi Road, and along which the market extends from beginning to end. The Janpath market is particularly popular with those who like to buy cheap – and this doesn’t only apply to tourists, but it’s true especially among the inhabitants of the big city. From the trendy to the modern to the classic and exotic, everything can be found here, making this market a frantic paradise for bargain hunters of all sorts.


9. Fab India

Fab India is an Indian shopping chain focused on textiles, furniture and fair trade products. All goods are made by craftsmen and artists from rural India. The first shop was opened in 1976 in Delhi. Today, there are more than 250 branches throughout India and abroad. The products of Fab India are especially great, because a part of the earnings are destined to improve the village infrastructures and support the development of the countryside. A total of more than 40,000 artists and craftsmen distribute their goods through Fab India.


10. Eat like a Mughal Emporer

Sightseeing can be as interesting as exhausting, so either between visits or at the end of the tour we will need to recover our energies with a meal in a restaurant. In this case, one that serves typical Mughlai-Food. The cuisine of the Moguls has strongly influenced the North Indian cuisine. It includes both very mild and spicy dishes, with a distinctive aroma and the taste of grated and whole spices. Debashree will take you to a Mughlai restaurant and enjoy lunch (or early dinner) with you.


 

If you want to discover Delhi in a special way, you can do this with our great Debashree.

Debashree is actually a journalist, but she’s grateful for every chance to leave the desk and show her city with fervent enthusiasm.

The tours with Debashree may be slightly more expensive than regular sightseeing tours in Delhi, but they are absolutely worth it because you get to see the city through her eyes. Nothing could be more personal and authentic!

 

Our tours in Delhi with Debashree


The historic Delhi
Meet the Moguls
The Moguls have influenced Delhi in many ways. Discover their history with Debashree and visit the Lodhi Gardens, the Tomb of Humayun, the Qutab Minar, the Hauz Khas Village and Purana Qila. Lunch is served in a Mogul restaurant.
Best Time: October-April (but can be taken all year-round)

from 58 EUR


The religious Delhi
The Temple Path
This tour focuses on the spiritual side of Delhi and includes visits to a selection of the following temples: Iskcon, Lotus, Jagannath, Chhatarpur and Askhardham. Lunch is served in a vegetarian restaurant.
Best Time: Oktober-April (but can be taken all year-round)

from 38 EUR


Shopping in Delhi
Trading and Bargaining
Wanna go on a hunt for souvenirs? Debashree takes you to the best markets and helps you deal with the (in)famous and persistent Indian haggling culture: Janpath Market, Lajpat Market, Dilli Haat and / or Paharganj Market. No commission!
Best Time: October-April (but can be taken all year-round)

from 35 EUR


Shopping without Sweating
Shopping with Air Conditioning
During the (pre) monsoon season, especially between May and September, shopping is considerably more pleasant in AC-equipped shops and malls. Debashree takes you to the shops at the Khan Market, the Hauz Khas Village, the Greater Kailash Market and the Janpath Emporium.
Best Time: all year long

from 32 EUR


 




We are often asked by our guests whether they should bring small (or sometimes larger) presents with them on their journeys, and if so what would be the best kind of gift. This isn’t a question with a simple answer, so we have written this post to look at the most important aspects.

 

Should you give presents to people in the host country?

We don’t think that arbitrarily giving stuff away is such a good idea. Of course, the intention is good, but receiving a present from an unknown, non-related person, almost as if it were a blessing from heaven, can seem and feel more than a bit strange. It is a loaded gesture that reminds of the patriarchal “rich white”, who acts as a savior and helps the “poor” while at the same time denies them the chance to help themselves.

Carelessly giving things to children has a negative effect!

No matter how good the intentions, random gifts – especially among children – often have the effect of inducing them to beg. Too frequently, even in remote mountain villages, one can hear little kids of preschool age asking for “one pen”, “one chocolate”, “one rupee” or “one bonbon”. Obviously someone in the past (maybe even the very recent past), passed through the region giving away pens, chocolate and other sweets (or simply money) to the children along the way, inadvertently sending the wrong message. In the short term sure, the children are happy, but in the long term this may not have a positive learning effect on the youngsters. On the contrary, their motto becomes a sad one: “I just have to look cute and beg a bit, then I will get presents.” (Not to mention the fact that many children barely brush their teeth, and too many sweets are not exactly beneficial for their dental health… but this is another issue.)

So… no presents?

Well, not necessarily. Gifts are ok, and a very nice gesture to show gratitude. So why not? When we are invited to someone’s house back in our home country, we usually also bring something for the host, or at least something to share with them. You can also do this abroad. Traveling in India often results in spontaneous invitations to tea, dinner or even a big feast. When this happens, one usually has already established some kind of relationship with the host, and so a small gift feels natural. A visit to a school is another appropriate ocassion for this: you can give for example crayons or football balls as a thank you.

Spontaneous invitations while traveling are memorable experiences. A small gift for the host is a nice gesture, but there are no expectations.

In the course of a trip, our guests often develop feelings of camaraderie and gratitude for the team members who support them, and many want to thank them in the end with something more than the customary tip. This is all totally ok, and will certainly bring joy to all parties involved. No need to worry about making a faux pas!

 

But what present to give?

This is a difficult question, because the answer always depends a lot on who you want to give the present to. In most cases you don’t know in advance who you will meet on the way – many encounters are spontaneous  and unplanned. But it is not necessary to bring something all the way from home: in case of need, you can also quickly get small gifts on the spot. This has the extra benefit of strengthening the local economy, and on the other hand it is usually much cheaper than in the home country. In situ, you will know more about what might happen the next day, and your guide will be happy to help you deciding what you could give to the hosts. If you are invited, for example, to a meal with a nomad family, he will advise you to get some fresh fruits and vegetables, as the nomads don’t have easy access to such foods.

As far as children’s gifts are concerned, we find balls, coloring pens, puzzles or other games and far more sensible than sweets. But if the idea is to give something typical from the home country, things like the Mozartkugeln from Austria or Finnish licorice are two good examples. Not only the children but also the parents will be happy to taste them!

 

A ball is a better and more lasting gift for children than chocolate and other sweets.

If you don’t want to bring certain things back home at the end of a trip, you can leave them in the host country too, especially if you think this will make someone happy. A good pair of sunglasses, which you would rather change for a new one, can be given for example to a horse handler in Ladakh, who often suffers from eye irritation due to the intense sun exposure. An old used (but not broken) fleece jacket or hiking pants may also find a very happy new owner. Such gifts are usually extremely well received, because high-quality trekking equipment is, in general, more expensive and harder to get in the host country.

And now the big BUT

Do not worry now about the big gift questions: What should I bring? How much should I bring? Should I plan in advance? There is absolutely no need to worry about it. Planning a trip is in itself already exhausting enough. Gifts are not a must and are usually not expected. If something spontaneous happens and there’s no material token available to give away, a well-intentioned thank-you with a sincere smile is worth at least as much. Because:

The best things about traveling are the unplanned experiences and unexpected situations, and finding new friendships that are not based on gifts and convenience.

The best things about traveling are unexpected, spontaneous encounters. Gifts and presents for the new friends are not necessary.

The best things about traveling are unexpected, spontaneous encounters. Gifts and presents for the new friends are not necessary.




3 changes for the Online-Visa for India

 

The indian government has further liberalised its visa regime aimed at bringing more tourists and business travellers to the country. The new changes came to effect on 1st April 2017. No it is not an april fool 😉 Here are the 3 most important changes regarding the Online-Visa.

 

With the e-Visa it is even easier getting to see the Taj.

 

1. 2 new Visa-categories for travelers

With effect from April 1, e-visa has been sub-divided into 3 categories: e-tourist visa, e-business visa and e-medical visa. Till now, e-visa was only for tourists

 

2. More nationalities & more (air-)ports

E-visa facility has been extended to nationals of 161 countries for entry through 24 airports (Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bagdogra, Bengaluru, Calicut, Chennai, Chandigarh,Cochin, Coimbatore, Delhi, Gaya, Goa, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mangalore, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Tiruchirapalli, Trivandrum & Varanasi). and three ports: Cochin, Goa and Mangalore.

 

3. More time for application & longer duration

The window for application under e-visa scheme has been increased from 30 days to 120 days and duration of stay on e-visa has been increased from 30 days to 60 days with double entry on e-tourist and e-business visa and triple entry on e-medical visa.

 

So what’s keeping you from going to India? Now it is even easier. Go to application for your e-visa: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html




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To lead a healthier and happier life, one doesn’t necessarily have to visit a therapist or a doctor. According to Ayurveda, there are a few very simple practices that can help you improve your life. You don’t even have to know what your ayurvedic constitution is. If you follow these rules, you will soon notice a massive improvement in your life’s quality.

 

By Daniela Luschin-Wangail

 

10 simple Ayurvedic tips for a better life

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1 Start the day with oil and water

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The first thing you should do after getting up: oil pulling. What is that? Put some oil in your mouth and swill it back and forth for about 10-20 minutes. 20 minutes would be ideal, but modern life sometimes makes this a bit difficult. So simply do it for as long as you can. Then spit it out. The oil removes toxins from the body. You can use different oils: sesame, sunflower or olive oil are all good choices. I personally prefer coconut oil.

While you are oil-rinsing your mouth, you can boil some water and let it cool down. Drink a large cup of boiled, warm water every morning! This helps in two ways: boiled water cleans the body, and it also helps to stimulate the digestive fire. People who have difficulties with a good digestion should especially take this practice to heart.

 

 

2 No snacks between meals

Many people believe that it is better to eat several small meals than a few large ones. The Ayurvedic tradition says otherwise. The Agni (digestive fire) plays a very important role in Ayurveda and it is crucial in a healthy life. The Agni can only burn properly if it doesn’t have to work unceasingly. Give it time enough after every meal to fulfill its task, and don’t put it constantly to test. This means that you should consider a resting/digesting time of about 4 hours after each meal. You’ll be pretty hungry again afterwards. Many people find this very difficult, but practice and routine will make it something natural. If you can’t avoid it, eat something very light, small, such as some nuts, or even better, drink a sweetened tea or milk.

 

3 Fresh, warm & cooked

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Ayurveda is no fan of raw food, because everything that isn’t cooked is usually harder to digest. Many raw food aficionados suffer eventually difficulties with their digestion and are often victims of constipation (those who don’t have a really strong Agni). Especially people who have problems with bowel movements should pay attention to this point and eat as little raw food as possible. In Ayurveda you eat warm, fresh and cooked. Optimally, this should apply to all three meals of the day: a warm porridge for breakfast, for lunch a good satisfying meal made with fresh ingredients, and in the evening something light and warm, for example a soup. The freshness also plays an important role. Ayurveda doesn’t have anything to do with frozen food and microwaves. Use fresh ingredients – preferably seasonal, and from the region, because they’re easier to digest!

 

4 Don’t eat too late

Don’t feed your body too late in the evening. You should take the last meal 3 hours before sleeping. Forget the salad in the evening, which is low on calories but difficult to digest since it’s raw. Also pizza is less than ideal at this time: it is too heavy for the stomach. The best options are soups and light stews! Do not use the following foods in the evening: cheese, yoghurt and sour foods!

 

5 Don’t go too late to bed, and wake up early!

It would be ideal to be in bed by 10 pm at the latest, and depending on how much sleep you need, to get back up 6-8 hours later. According to the Ayurvedic doctrine  the body regenerates itself best between 22 and 2 o’clock in the morning. The sooner we get up, the fresher we start the day! Sleeping too long makes you sluggish, so you shouldn’t exaggerate.

 

6 Savor milk like an expert

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In the western world, milk has recently been put aside or even vilified as the cause of many stomach problems, but in Ayurveda it is still considered a precious nutrient. One needs only to know how to use it and combine it properly, since milk is incompatible with many foods! In many other cultures, not just the Indian one, tradition dictates that milk shouldn’t be mixed with certain other foods. The following foods are not intended to be used together with milk (and milk products):

Fish, meat, salt, leaf vegetables, legumes/beans, fruits, eggs, garlic, mustard.

Think about how many meals we have in which milk (or milk products) are combined with these foods! Pancakes, muesli, fruit yoghurts, banana milkshake, several sauces… the list goes on. And maybe many people who suffer from lactose intolerances owe their intestinal problems to these unfavorable connections only!?

 

7 The right amount

The amount of food you should take depends also on your constitution, but in general it can be said that you should find a good middle ground. Too little can be as bad as too much. Often one speaks of two handfuls as a right quantity. So not really that much.

 

8 Take your time

This applies to many aspects of life, but it plays an important role here: eat in a quiet and pleasant atmosphere. Not standing, and not in a rush! Chew slowly and concentrate on the food. Don’t play on your mobile phone, don’t read the newspaper! Also in everyday life: give yourself time to rest. Moments to do nothing. Just sit down and look around, contemplate. Or go out into the fresh air and just walk and enjoy.

 

9 Treat yourself to a massage

You don’t have to necessarily look for someone else. You can do it yourself. Take a lot of good, slightly warm oil and massage your body and your head (even your hair, do it well). Do not be frugal with the oil, and take plenty of time to do it! Finish it with a shower or take a pleasant bath! You’ll see how good it is for both your body and your soul.

 

10 Meditation

The best time to meditate is usually in the morning, but of course it also works in the evening. Meditate daily – or at least as often as possible. This is time for you, time to disconnect. You don’t have to be a meditation expert. Just sit down, close your eyes, focus on your breathing and nothing else. 20 minutes would be ideal, but every single minute counts.

 

You may not be able to apply all 10 rules to your life right now, but the regular practice of even just a few of them will improve your life quite a lot. Try it!

 

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villageMore Ayurveda?

If you are interested in a more comprehensive Ayurvedic experience, we can fully recommend you a stay in one of our Ayurveda-Resorts in Southern India! There you will learn a lot about yourself and your Ayurvedic constitution, about what is good for you and what isn’t! As an entry into Ayurveda or as a next logical step to improve your life: To the Resorts

 


 




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Hinduism is the most important religion in India and the third-largest religion in the world, with around 1 billion adherents. Since Hinduism, with its many traditions and interpretations, countless deities and grandiose philosophies can be overwhelming for both believers and non-Hindus, we have tried to sum up here the most important aspects of the religion.

 

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What Hindus believe

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Hinduism is not an organized religion nor does it have a rigid systematic approach to its doctrine and core values. Unlike the 10 commandments of the Christian Old Testament, Hindus do not have a simple set of rules that they must all follow. Local, regional and caste-related practices also create a myriad of interpretations within the Hindu faith.

Nevertheless, all Hindus are connected by their shared belief in a Supreme Being and the principles of truth, dharma and karma. In all Hindu schools of thought the Vedas – the sacred writings – are the foundation upon which the religion is built, although the scriptures are interpreted in many different ways.

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6 universal principles of Hinduism

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Truth is eternal

Hindus assume that there is such a thing as an eternally valid truth to be followed. According to the Vedas (the Holy Scriptures), there is a universal, eternal truth; however, this one truth can be expressed in different ways.

spaceromBrahman is real and the truth

Hinduism’s Supreme Being is called Brahman and is formless, endless, all-embracing and eternal. Nevertheless, Brahman is not an abstract concept but a real unity of all that exists in the universe (both visible and invisible). So actually Hinduism is not a polytheist religion as believed in the west: Brahman stands above all other Hindu gods!

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The Vedas are the ultimate authority

The Vedas are the scriptures on which Hinduism is based, and contain the revelations of great saints and wise men. Hindus believe that the Vedas have no beginning nor end: even though everything else in the universe will be destroyed in time, the Vedas will remain.

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omEveryone should strive to achieve Dharma

The concept of Dharma is indispensable to understand Hinduism. However, there is no simple word in English to explain it succinctly. Dharma can be described as correct behavior, justice, moral law, and duty.

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The individual sould is immortal

A Hindu believes that the soul of an individual (atman) is neither created nor destroyed: it was, is and will always be. The actions of a soul, while inhabiting a body, will affect their next lives in new bodies. The process by which one individual soul transitions from one body to the next is called transmigration. The new body that a soul receives depends on karma (i.e. their actions during previous lives).

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The goal of an individual soul is Moksha

Moksha is the liberation and the declared goal of an individual soul: the freeing of the soul from the cycle of death and rebirth (aka samsara) by understanding its true nature, and the reunion with Brahman. There are different paths leading to the discovery of truth and thus to the merging with Brahman: the path of duty, the path of knowledge and the path of unconditional devotion.

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When hearing the word Ayurveda, many people automatically think about relaxing oil massages and traditional sitar and tabla sounds in the background. Something soul-cleansing, the touch of expert hands and soothing music caressing a tired body and a stress-riddled mind. No one thinks of enemas, strict diets or full-time schedules and long lists of rules. That’s certainly not as romantic, but Ayurveda is so much more than just a wellness program. It is a guide for life. A whole philosophy.

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Ayurveda is a composite term formed by combining two Sanskrit words: Ayus and Veda. Ayus means and accounts for life, while Veda represents knowledge. Ayurveda then can be translated as “the science of life”, and it is a method and a way to live happily and healthy. Ayurveda is much more than just a few oily strokes on a tense back: it is a complex and detailed program that leads to a better and healthier lifestyle.

Ayurveda is also not an esoteric humbug made up just to trick a few euros out of gullible purses, but one of the oldest sciences in the world, fully dedicated to pursue human health and both understand and eradicate disease. Ayurveda takes a holistic approach to health, and comprises all the many aspects of human well-being:  physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

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Kapha . Pitta . Vata

3 Principles of Life

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Man is defined by three doshas (life principles). These three doshas are organized in a personalized way for each individual human being. Usually one or two doshas are more dominant or pronounced, but sometimes all three may be influential in approximately the same manner. The human being is healthy when the three doshas are in balance. This equilibrium, however, does not mean that all three are equally strong: each person has his or her own Prakriti – a natural constitution or state, a personal balance – which must be maintained. If one or more doshas become unbalanced, the person becomes ill, and one speaks of the Vikriti – a state of disease – which is to be treated.

The three doshas are called Kapha, Pitta and Vata and each is characterized by different properties and principles. They are also determined by the 5 elements.

• Kapha: principle of stability/structure; Elements: earth + water
• Pitta: principle of fire/mutability; Elements: water + fire
• Vata: principle of motion; Elements: air + ether

To determine the constitution of an individual is a very complicated matter, which requires a very precise and long anamnesis, and one should therefore turn to an experienced person. Nevertheless, it is possible to find several “ayurvedic” questionnaires on the internet that claim accuracy despite comprising just a few generic questions. The results of such online tests are at the very least questionable, but sometimes it can be fun to play …

 

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Diet: Food is medicine

In Ayurveda, the diet plays a very important role. “You are what you eat” is one of its highest principles. Through our diet we are able to keep our doshas balanced, and when the diet is inappropriate the equilibrium between them is lost and we become ill. For example, a Pitta personality, which is basically a person very much determined by the element fire, will get eventually problems if she regularly eats very spicy food.

All food can be described and categorized according to the 6 fundamental tastes (rasas):

•sweet
•salty
•sour
•astringent
•bitter
•pungent/spicy

Kapha should focus on astringent, bitter, and spicy foods and omit sweet, salty and sour ones.

Pitta should swerve away from salty, sour, and spicy foods, and focus on those sweet, bitter and astringent.

Vata in turn can eat sweet, sour and salty without problems, and should minimize consumption of the other three.

But since we are often also mixed types, it is not always so simple, and we need help from an expert. Or you have to learn to properly listen to your own body. Unfortunately, many people have forgotten how to do that.

 

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Quick tips for a better life

Although Ayurveda advises against generalizations, there are a few commonplace rules that can do a lot of good:

•eat with a plan, not randomly
•eat again only after the last meal has been properly digested (approx. 4 hours)
•lunch should be the most important meal of the day, since the digestive tract works at its best at this time
•eat calmly and focus your mind on the food
•do not eat more than two handfuls
•warm, cooked, fresh food is always preferable to cold, raw food
•drink boiled, lukewarm water (do not drink cold water)
•never eat too late (at least 2-3 hours before going to bed)
•the dinner should be light and easily digestible (no raw food in the evening)
•do not go to sleep too late – the body recovers better between 22:00 and 2:00 o’clock in the morning
•no daytime sleep (resting is ok)

We would like to continue giving you some ayurvedic tips in the next few blog posts. So check back often, or follow us on Facebook, where you can be instantly notified whenever we publish a new tip! Follow us on Facebook!

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More Ayurveda & Yoga

ai7a4800Take a look at our Ayurveda and Yoga resorts, where you can get professional support on your way to a healthier and happier life. These are not mere wellness temples, but well-run resorts with authentic Ayurveda treatments and Yoga classes. You can be confident you will be in good hands.

To our Ayurveda- & Yoga-Resorts




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“Are you going alone to India? But you’re a woman! That’s too dangerous!!” Too often have I heard these words – from best friends to work colleagues or even my own family doctor. In the meantime, I have already traveled seven times to India. Sometimes accompanied by friends, but very often alone. And I have had almost exclusively good experiences.

by Ulli Felber

 

Through India as a woman: dream destination or danger zone?

Since I have developed such a close relationship with India, the negative coverage of this unique country makes me quite sad. At the same time, it is good that all these terrible incidents were and are frequently and thoroughly reported in the media, because that has set things in motion – and there’s still a lot to be done. Rape is a horrible crime that must be punished – everywhere in the world.

The vast majority of my own personal experiences in India have been good or very good. Even more so: I have enjoyed many beautiful and surprising moments. Often, people helped me spontaneously – with honorable intentions, without someone being intrusive. The few dangerous situations in which I found myself in could have been avoided, if at the time I had been already following these tips:

My 10 Tips for women travelling alone in India

  1. Dress with moderation
    In India, shoulders, cleavage and knees are considered particularly erotic, as is any sort of tight clothing. There are some differences depending on the region, too. For example, touristy Goa is relatively relaxed in this aspect, while the opposite is true for the conservative and strict Muslim region of Kashmir. In principle, however, and this applies to all regions, a moderate dress is fashionable – something wide and airy that keeps your shoulders and knees covered. Tank tops, wide necklines, leggings (except when combined with dresses or skirts), shorts and hot pants are complete no-gos. Note: This also applies to yoga classes! (Even when the courageous instructor is used to it.)

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Dressing moderately prevents many awkward situations. Here pictured: Ulli Felber.

  1. Just in case: avoid eye contact
    Eye contact is a very big deal in India. Strangers can start behaving in an uncomfortably friendly way (or worse, a threatening or confrontational one) after locking eyes for just a second. Whoever wants to be left alone – by pushy taxi drivers, random strangers or inquisitive (if very dear) Indian extended families – must learn to look away quickly. This is specially recommended in areas where you do not feel comfortable, or in the evening hours. In any case, never lose sight of the situation!

 

  1. Girls only!
    In recent years a lot has been done to specifically improve the quality of life of women in India… or at least in its major cities. There are taxis that are only for women – and have also exclusively female drivers (for example, in Delhi: “Meru EVE”). At metro stations, there are sections that are reserved for women, and the trains themselves have cars and compartments destined only to women. The same applies to buses. Wherever you may have to go through a security control (Airport, Train Station, museums, shopping centers, etc.) there is always a separate line for women and a female security officer performing the check.

 

  1. Be smart
    Travelling alone as a woman, one is naturally more exposed to danger than when in a group – no matter where in the world. Common sense goes a long way in many situations:
    • Ideally, always research previously in which areas you will be travelling.
    • Do not wander alone in poor neighborhoods and rural areas, especially at night.
    • When riding taxis alone, try to do it during daytime.
    • When on the (night) train, best to be seated next to a local, nice family.
    • Do not fall for the lies of illegal traders, transport pirates and other opportunists that claim to offer supposedly better accommodation at train stations and airports.

 

  1. Fake wedding ring
    Those women who’d like to have peace and quiet to travel should purchase a false wedding ring. A smaller, cheap gold ring can be worth a lot! Once in India, you will be asked soon enough, and very frequently, by an endless list of suitors of all ages, eager to become husbands. To throw water on such unwanted propositions, just show your ring and tell briefly of your beloved husband at home… maybe add a few children to your story too, just in case ;-). Optionally, you can also say that your husband is already on the way “here”, etc. Especially when a woman has reached the 30-year-old-limit and is “still” travelling alone, a false wedding ring can do wonders in keeping unwanted attention away – like pityful looks at you or, on the other side, well intentioned Indian families who try to match you with a relative.

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Any woman travelling alone on the train is best suited next to a family. That can also be fun!

  1. Good Story
    For emergencies, a good story can always be a good deterrent. Depending on the situation: the husband is coming soon to…; the father has a high position in the government; etc. Sounds silly, but it can have a big impact.

 

  1. Always with you
    For anybody that doesn’t want to travel without her trustworthy pepper spray on the handbag: this great defense tool is cheap and easy to find in many Indian drugstores.

 

  1. Don’t touch me!
    From time to time one hears of travelling women that they were groped by anonymous men in the thick of a busy street. Just to embarrass this disgusting kind of man, you should scream loudly: “Do not touch me!” As my Indian friends recommend, the first step should be just verbal and without personal insults. For an Indian, this simple call to attention is incredibly embarrassing and they will usually disappear in the blink of an eye.

 

  1. Be calm, firm and explicit
    In extremes cases, when things go really bad, this has helped me: first, calmly but very firmly express your discomfort and anger – without being rude. Even better, follow up (always keeping calm and firm) with an oversized side-dish of lies (the best ones always include mentioning some important or famous character that we know personally!). It’s worth to try… In my case, it has always worked out.

 

  1. Shout it out loud
    When all else fails: leash out and defend yourself vociferously. Take it all out. Just don’t show any fear! Indian men don’t expect such a reaction and can be easily intimidated. But ATTENTION: Here I speak from personal experience. This is not a universal panacea and can also sometimes have the opposite reaction.

 

To summarize: Travel smart. I feel that India is not more dangerous than other places that I have visited. Naturally, something can always happen. But for me India was and remains as worthy destination! And whoever pays attention, respects the local ethos and generally travels with open eyes and an open heart, will without question enjoy an indescribably great country and many beautiful experiences.

 

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Ladakh is much safer for women than most other regions of India.

 

Alone as woman in Ladakh
Alone in Ladakh as a woman: Ladakh is culturally very different from the rest of India – here it is much safer for a woman to travel alone, and one hardly sees herself exposed to dangerous situations.

WITH US YOU ARE ALWAYS SAFE
Whoever doesn’t want to travel alone in India despite the advice from Ulli Felber, is in good hands with us. We know our drivers, guides and all other staff. And if you travel in a group, you are even safer: to our group tours!

 




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They pull at your shirt, look at you with big supplicant eyes, one open hand outstretched, the other pointing to their mouth while they repeat the words “Chapati! Chapati! Madam, please!”. It hurts when children who have not even reached school age stand on the street, filthy and half naked, and ask you for money with their large dark eyes and small empty stomachs. You don’t have to be a parent to feel the desire to help these poor little ones. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t automatically reach for your wallet and give them what they ask for. Here we will tell you why.

 

India is one of those states that in spite of a rapid economic growth still struggles with inequality, and hasn’t been able to find a solution to overspread poverty and the ancient tradition of begging. At the same time that a very small group of the population see their life quality soar along the official GDP number, there is a vast multitude of people who do not benefit from it at all.

 

What you should know about begging in India

We don’t want to dismiss the issue of poverty. It exists, it is bad, and it must be fought. But almsgiving is not the way to end poverty; in fact, it just makes clearer the difference between the rich and the poor.

Behind almost all beggars hide well organized gangs. To be allowed to beg in a given territory, beggars have to give a big part of their earnings to the gang leaders. Of course, you are hardly aware of this. Often the beggars are also crippled, blind or noticeably sick. There are even those who ask with open, festering wounds, and who clearly need the money for medical care. But too often are these wounds self-inflicted or caused by a gang leader to appeal to the tourist’s pity and collect a bigger booty.

 

(c) Josef Reifenauer

It is really hard not to give anything to the begging children. (c) Josef Reifenauer

It is also common to find women with (almost always sleeping) babies, begging for money so they can feed them. You should know that these babies are often “rented” and, even worse, sedated with drugs or alcohol. This keeps them quiet and still but evidently has harmful and irreversible consequences.

 

When you give money, you keep the system running

Beggars are always where the tourists are. They know how to appeal to your conscience and even if you manage not to give, you’ll somehow feel that there is something to be done. But what happens when every tourist gives every beggar something? Begging becomes an even more lucrative source of income, the big bosses behind the curtains get richer and bring more beggars into the scheme, to generate still greater profits.

So what to do?

  1. Never give money to the beggars. And look out for some really ingenious setups. For example, some “mothers” will ask you to buy formula or milk for their hungry babies at a nearby shop. What should one do, but to give them what they need? BUT the woman is actually working with the business owner: the money will be divided between them, and the milk will remain in the shop.
  2. Support local NGOs that try to keep the kids off the streets. This is sustainable and brings so much more than handing them 10 or 20 rupees. (At the end of this post you’ll find a few links to NGOs working with child beggars)
  3. If you still want to give something, then it should be food that you already bought, or even some of your time (this might sound ridiculous, but for a child who begs day after day, a few friendly words or a cool trick can make a world of difference).

 

Don’t make beggars out of children

In many places it’s also possible to find children who aren’t poor nor hungry and are begging just for fun. They have learned that tourists like to give candies or other small gifts (pens, etc.) indiscriminately. We understand that this is intended as a nice simple gesture, but it is also teaching the children that begging works. Many will turn their backs to school and instead run to the streets to follow the wealthy westerners, cheekily yelling “one pen”, “one chocolate”, “one bonbon” or even “one rupee”.

Gifts are ok, but take care of giving them only to people for whom you also show respect: when you are drinking tea with a peasant family, you can give a small present to the children of the house, as a gesture of gratitude. A planned visit to a school is also a good opportunity to do this.

 

 

Ladakh: Imported beggars

(c) Markus Brixle

Attractions draw in not just tourists, but also beggars. (c) Markus Brixle

At the beginning of every tourist season, and for many years now, several organized gangs of beggars are brought to Ladakh (sometimes even on an airplane!!!). These mostly establish their place of “work” in Leh or at the entrance to the most famous tourist sites. At the end of the season they are transported to some other lucrative place to continue their neverending begging. Ladakh itself has almost no local beggars; no one in Ladakh lives on the street. Please don’t give money to any beggars in Ladakh! As hard as it sounds, these poor people are not ladakhi and are usually brought here by greedy immoral gang leaders to profit on the good will and naivety of the tourists.

Sustainable help
The following NGOs have made it their goal to give begging children a better future:




spacerThis post is not a theoretical essay on long-distance traveling with children: it is a collection of my own experiences as a mother of three who, for at least two months every year, packs her bags and takes her young on an adventurous journey. And no, it is not always a cheerful, problem-free scenario, and it sure requires lots of energy. But the workload at home is already heavy enough for a 3-times mother… So off to India!

By Daniela Luschin-Wangail (Mother of Elvis, 8, Luis Thayas, 4, and Emil Kenrab, 0)

The ultimate thrill

Are you one of those people who are always on the lookout for a new kick? Bungee jumping, skydiving and base jumping make you yawn? Then I have a great suggestion on how to get your adrenaline fix: take a baby, a stubborn child with Down Syndrome who loves nothing more than to resist parental authority and a know-all pre-pubescent boy, and sit with them in an airplane. Oh, did I forget to mention that the father is already at the destination point and won’t be flying with you? So forget any hopes of an adult helping hand. Believe me, there have been many exciting moments in my life, but none as nerve-racking as this. I was so worried I started losing my sleep several days before the actual trip. And then, surprisingly, it all works out (almost) like clockwork. The children somehow know that you can’t manage without their help and behave exemplary (the two younger ones were asleep most of the time). The stewardesses come in 5-minute intervals and ask kindly (pityingly, even) whether they can help you in any way, and you can even watch almost an entire movie on the screen in front of you. The babies that cry all around do not belong to you, and none of the passengers look disapprovingly at you, with that self-righteous expression that means something like “What kind of mother are you that can’t control your kid? Make it stop already!”

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Travelling with children? An extra pair of hands would be very useful!

 

Was I just lucky? Maybe. But then I was lucky because I have been traveling to and in India, with my child(ren), for eight years already. And there have been certainly some complications when flying with my boys, but nothing unsolvable. For example, a kid’s nose that wouldn’t stop bleeding even after trying different (and completely contradictory) methods suggested by the very excited flight attendants, until a doctor, answering to an on board call over the speakers, came as an angel and provided both immediate clotting and general relief. For the child I had a change of clothes ready (please never forget to bring one!), but I had nothing with what to replace my own blood-drenched outfit which caused a little chaos at the arrival port as some people thought I needed first aid.

Then there was that time when my dear middle son threw up an abnormal amount of his stomach contents all over the seat. The flight attendants, suddenly victims themselves of severe nausea, weren’t able to clean the mess, so I threw a couple of paper tissues on top, removed the bigger food bits I could find, and covered the seat with a clean towel from my hand luggage (Tip #2: Always pack a towel in your hand luggage!). My son, exhausted and with an empty stomach, slept peacefully the rest of the flight.

But in spite of all the stressful moments and energy-draining situations that take place during a flight with my children, I wouldn’t stay home for anything in the world. Even at home, things happen that will bring us to the brink of a nervous breakdown, and even there we are sometimes helpless and desperate. So why not change at least the scenery, so that the everyday horror scenarios shine with a new light? That’s another reason why I enjoy alternating my residence between Austria and India.

 

Es geht los, Baby!

Here we go, baby!

India is a paradise for kids

Only on the surface is Austria a great country for children. “Do not do that!”, “This isn’t right!”, “Please, be quiet!”, “Behave!”… I don’t know how many times I have to tell my children these things whenever we leave our house to go to public spaces (or other people’s houses). At the supermarket, at the restaurant, at the city offices, on the train, at the doctor, at relatives’ or friends’… Everything is clean, beautiful, calm and orderly. And it should stay that way. Children here become quickly disruptive factors. I am not one of those anti-authoritarian mothers who let their children do whatever they want. We are in Austria, after all, and they have to behave according to the country’s cultural rules. And they do… after I tell them so two or three or four times in a row 😉 But it’s sooo hard!
India on the other hand is just like a paradise! Children can be children. Run around. Be loud. Be naughty. Protest. Get dirty. Break stuff. Here, the burned-out, responsibility-choked mother can finally breathe and stop worrying. No one looks at you, shaking his head in disapproval. No one feels disturbed when your child runs endlessly in circles inside the restaurant. If you’re visiting someone’s home and something breaks or gets stained, and you reflexively scold the children, you are immediately stopped by the hosts, who tell you not to be so strict. They are still children after all! This will warm your heart and make you remember: oh, yeah, I’m in India! J

 

Daniela und zwei ihrer drei Kinder am Pangong-See

Daniela and two of her kids at Pangong lake

Lock up your worries

When someone asks me for advice about traveling with children, the first thing it occurs to me is that you need to stop worrying so much. Positive thinking brings positive experiences. Believe in yourself and your luck, ask the children to cooperate (even babies seem to understand this!). Don’t overthink things, don’t try to prepare for all that could go wrong. And this brings me to a very important aspect of long-distance travel with children: healthcare. For many parents, this is the top priority and seems to require a lot of thinking and preparation… well, I don’t consider it that big of a deal. I usually carry nothing but a Nureflex bottle (thank God for this miraculous panacea ;-)) and some band aids. There are no other drugs to be found in my luggage. Negligent? No, practical. India is one of the largest producers of generic pharmaceutical remedies in the world, so there’s no reason to worry, in case my children, or I, would need medication. Also, the country is home to many fantastic doctors – both trained in conventional medicine, or with an Ayurvedic or homeopathic background. I usually feel better supplied here than in Austria.

I don’t want to give the impression that our trips with the kids are always smooth and relaxed. But the alternative – staying at home – is, for me (us), out of the question.

I prefer to spice up the soup called life! 😉

Moments like this in Kerala compensate for everything

 

 




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Many tourists travel with a bad conscience and think that travel, in general, brings more harm than good. It destroys the environment, the traditions and the culture of the host…  And yet they travel, hoping to be the exception.

Every traveler leaves traces. Every step does, even at home. It is the nature of a step to leave a footprint. But it is up to us to decide what shoes to wear and how to act. If we put the shoes with spikes on, and trample carelessly through the neighborhood, the footprints will be very different to those we would leave while walking softly with leather slippers. The choice is yours!

There are several arguments for staying home. Let’s take a closer look to some of them:

Argument 1: Tourists destroy traditions

Tourism is hastily blamed when mobile phones, televisions and Co. suddenly appear in formerly idyllic places, changing or downright replacing old traditions and outdated ways of communication. Let’s take Ladakh: How easily is the tourist made responsible for the way in which, nowadays, the local girls and boys prefer to don jeans instead their traditional Gonchas, or the monks ride colorful mopeds, take selfies with their smartphones, and would rather look at the world through trendy Ray Bans than from a Buddhist perspective. It is quite obvious that things have changed, and that today’s Ladakh is very different from that of the 70s. But isn’t that true for the whole world? Many cultures have also changed, sometimes radically so, without the intervention of tourists. In Austria, with the exception of special holidays and festivals, people no longer wear Lederhosen and Dirndl or go around yodeling. Therefore, we claim here that Ladakh would have changed even without tourism, because no region of the world is completely secluded from the rest. Even centuries ago, during the apogee of the Silk Road trading routes, it was practically impossible to remain completely isolated and avoid intercultural exchange. And so it is now that every corner of the Global Village is just a mouse click or a touch-screen tap away.

On the contrary, we say: Tourists are strongly interested in ancient cultures and traditions, and so their interest promotes and revives old customs and rituals, bringing new life to what would otherwise, maybe, be lost to the local youth.

Gochak – a buddhist ritual

 

Argument 2: Tourism destroys the environment

Yes, they do exist: the littering-prone tourists who leave garbage everywhere and do more harm than good. That is undeniable. Let’s use Ladakh again as an example. Leh has become a “big” city thanks to tourism, hotels and guest houses sprouting all around like mushrooms, with barely a thought given to sustainability and environmental impact.

And yes, the solar energy hot water system has taken roots, plastic bags are banned, and the sewage network is growing steadily, but there are still many shortcomings and a general disregard (mostly ignorance-fueled) for environmental protection. But let’s see more closely! Who throws carelessly his garbage away? Most waste is naturally caused by the Ladakhi and the Indian guests themselves, and cutting tourism completely would have a negligible effect on the problem. In societies such as India, in which just a few years ago non-biodegradable trash was basically unknown and then, suddenly, faced a sudden invasion of plastic packaged goods, you have to start at school… just as we did back in the 80s. Subject: Environmental awareness. Those who don’t see the problem, will continue to throw plastic bottles carelessly out of the car window, or leave chips bags everywhere for the wind to lift up and carry away. Also on the trekking routes, seldom are the European and American tourists the ones leaving their trash behind – rather, it is the accompanying trekking crew that is to blame, always reluctant to bother to collect the garbage and bring it back to Leh.

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Trekking in Ladakh (c) Roland Amon

And again, just like we said about the local traditions: it is usually the (Western) tourist that demands an ecologically gentler way of life, and thus, many local agencies and administrations are forced to make a change.

 

Argument 3: tourists have no respect for the hosts of their travel destination

Constantly putting their monstrous camera lenses in the face of their photo subjects, sitting on the tables of the praying monks, speaking disparagingly of their hosts, repeatingly disrespecting the values ​​and traditions of the country they are visiting: this is the 3rd category of tourists in our prejudice-list. We have seen (and silently condemned) many. And we have also dealt with people expelled of their staying place, because they have simply gone too far. Often, the transgressor isn’t even aware of what rule or norm he or she has broken. That’s why it is so important to inform yourself beforehand. We always recommend to put yourself in place of the people visited. What wouldn’t I like if it happened in my own home? Would I enjoy someone entering my garden and taking a close-up picture of me? Would I feel happy if a horde of loud, fast-clicking people would disturb my herd, drive my clients away or interrupt the Morning Prayer while scurrying from one corner to another?
For more about respecting localtraditions in Ladakh, read: 10 rules forLadakh

Leh (c) Roland Amon

 

There are many arguments against it, but like so many things in life, tourism has two sides. It is important that all parts of the golden triangle (the guest/traveler, the host/local, and the tour operator/organizer), find a common solution as balanced as possible, giving everyone what they want, while respecting what they need.

 

So put your light shoes on and watch your step – we’re together in this!




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News: India declares 500 and 1000 rupee notes worthless
The Indian government withdrew all 500 and 1,000 rupee notes on 09th november 2016, essentially leaving millions of people with invalid cash in their wallets. The move is designed to combat corruption and the black money economy. The old notes can be exchanged for cash or deposited into accounts at banks and some post offices in India until Friday December 30. Customers can exchange any number of notes but will only receive up to 4,000 rupees in cash. Any value above this won’t be issued in cash – it’ll be paid into a bank account.

Instead of the old notes Indian government issued brand new bank notes of 500 and 2,000 rupee denominations.

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For your planned travel this will be of not much effect. The new notes will be soon available. But please be aware and check the notes you are getting to avoid getting invalid old ones. If you still have old notes at home you better travel quickly to india or check within your country if there is a possibility to change it there. Elsewise you can burn them as they will be worth nothing. As at 11.11.2016

 

Whoever goes on a trip also needs money. Even as the most frugal backpacker you still have to pay for various things, from food and accommodation to souvenirs and tips. But how much is appropriate? How much money should you plan on spending? How much should you take in cash? When and where can you pay with credit or debit card? Many of the questions you should ask yourself before traveling to India.

The first thing to consider is the manner in which you will travel. Are you on your own, focusing on one issue at a time, taking care of things on site as they happen? Or do you have a trip already booked and planned from home? Both ways have its advantages: the backpacker can often (but not always) arrange cheaper accommodation – rooms are generally cheaper if you negotiate locally and point out to the owner that a cheap room is better than an empty one. On the other hand, the tourist who has booked in advance, if at a higher cost, doesn’t have to waste time wandering from hostel to hostel looking for a room to spend the night. At the same time, arranging things locally usually means spending a little more money with small things, because booked tours usually include everything from airport transfers to hotel breakfasts (please always read thoroughly the services provided!).

 

Cash or card?

We would advise you to rely on both. Take some cash with you for emergency cases or spontaneous purchases, but don’t leave your credit card at home, because now most businesses in big cities accept payments with it, and also there are ATMs everywhere. Attention however when retrieving money from an ATM, especially with a debit (instead of a credit) card: normally it will be accepted in any bank, including India and other non-member countries, but there can be extra fees and withdrawal limits. The daily limit for withdrawals amounts generally to 20,000 rupees, but some banks allow a maximum of 10,000 rupees per ATM use … so you’d have to make two withdrawals of 10,000 each. In any case, like in every place on Earth, machines sometimes fail, so a little cash is always good.

Rupees can’t be changed abroad, so you must always enter the country with foreign currency. However, it is no longer necessary to carry US dollars: the Euro is often taken anywhere. Of course the British Pound and even the Swiss franc are popular currencies!

Traveler’s checks have the advantage that you have a certain degree of security in case you lose your wallet, so this is an option to be considered.

A note on credit cards: in the larger cities you can often also pay directly with credit card – but for traveling to Ladakh or other remote regions of India one may very well leave the plastic currency at home.

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Daily expenses: 100, 1000, 10,000? How much money do I need?

We are often asked by our guests how much extra money they should bring, per day. Our travels usually consider, for the big cities, just breakfast or half pension; but anywhere else (small towns, rural areas, etc) a full pension is expected. So how much money should be calculated for food, when some important meals are not included in the reservation? This is a difficult question, because it is highly variable.

Do you eat meat, or are you a vegetarian? Do you usually drink alcohol when you eat? Do you enjoy eating at a local Dhaba, or do you prefer a chic restaurant in Hauz Khas in Delhi? If you eat locally and simple vegetarian, even 100 rupees are enough. But for those who prefer to go to restaurants that “promise a more hygienic” preparation, 100 rupees will be too short. Whoever wants to eat meat in such restaurants should expect to spend at least 250 rupees. You want a beer with that? Then the bill quickly raises to 500 rupees (alcohol is generally very expensive in India!). If the plan is letting oneself go and enjoy the experience at a trendy restaurant in Delhi or any other big city, the budget, including drinks, shouldn’t be less than about 1,000 rupees. As you can see, there is a wide range: 100-1,000 rupees / meal / person. But we just want you to get a taste (pun intended) of what to expect when paying for food in India. Likely, you will also have a coffee with a piece of cake at the end, so add some rupees to the sum. As a tip you should give as much (relatively) as you are used to do at home (for example, if the bill makes 370 rupees, leave 400 rupees).

 

Souvenirs, Souvenirs

Well, that’s the other thing. And even more difficult than the food question! So, what do you want to bring home? A silk carpet? A real Pashmina? Or just a few prayer flags or a small wooden elephant? Sure, you can find enough cheap souvenirs, but also at least as many luxury items that (sometimes) are also worth the money. And one thing to remember: bargaining is almost always a must – because the price can quickly drop to a half (or even less) of the originally stated. But I said “almost always” for a reason – Ladakhi sellers for example often do not listen to reason and stay with their fixed prices, no matter how high they could be.

Tipping etiquette

And the question of all questions concerning the money is: the tip. How much should you give? What is appropriate? What’s too little? What too much? Our experience over the years has led us to recommend, for trekking / tour packages (mostly in Ladakh), a tip of 4-6 Eur per guest per day (4-6€/guest/day). This is an average and can (and should) of course vary, because ultimately the amount to tip depends on the performance of the team. That is also the reason why we did not include tip expenditure in the tour price. Where else is the incentive for a particularly good performance?

The tip should be given to the team members at the end of the travel / trekking journey – don’t give it all to the guide and hope that he distributes the tip fairly (which he would probably do, we are not insinuating the opposite). If everybody in the group had a similarly good performance, the tip is to be divided according to the team hierarchy – the guide is always at the highest, followed by the cook, then the helpers and the porters/horse men.

For examples of how to distribute the tip, you can check the entry “What about the tip? Does anybody expect anything? How much?” in our FAQ section.

In many hotels, many employees expect a tip for every service. To avoid a daily endless whipping out of 10-rupee notes, you can also point out friendly that you will leave the tip at the end of your stay, in the tip box on the front desk (in this way the money will also reach all those who work “behind the curtains”, eg. the kitchen staff).

 

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How, when and where to change?

The best exchange rate is always found in banks, but the opening times are often very unfavorable (from 10:00 to 16:00, minus lunchbreak) – exactly when you’re most probably traveling. Therefore you won’t visit them often. It is worth to compare a few money exchange offices before taking a decision, as prices often vary greatly. Be aware of moneychangers that promise a good rate at first glance, but then pile charge after charge until the end result is ridiculously high. A tip: do not change your money at the airport in Delhi, or do so with only very small amounts – the exchange rates are terrible there and several exchange offices earn a fortune with their fees. It’s much better to get a few rupees with your card directly from the ATM.

And when changing money, remember always to ask for a few notes of small denomination – especially if you intend to spend a long time away from larger cities – because a rural shop owner on the countryside may not have change for your 1,000-rupee note when you just want to buy a small bottle of water!

Last but not least: 1 EUR = about 70 rupees (as of November 2016)