Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Layover - New Delhi, India

Two seasons of The Layover and nine seasons of No Reservations and not one episode on New Delhi, India. Why, Mr. Bourdain? Indira Ghandi International Airport has fallen into the top 50 busiest airports in the world by passenger traffic since 2008.

I suppose New Delhi isn't necessarily a layover city though. Most people who travel to New Delhi are there for the long haul, a true visit, a vacation.'re on your way to Nepal...which is where my experience comes in and this Layover begins.

Disembarking our Air India flight was a relief after a 14 hour flight on one of the most uncomfortable flights I've ever taken. It started out at JFK where there was no sense or organization. Passengers were allowed to board at random without heeding any type of group boarding protocol. The flight was subsequently 1 hour late. The seat which I was assigned was broken and felt as if I was sitting directly on metal, and the tv failed to operate. After switching seats 3 times to try to locate an operative tv, I gave up because I did not have any luck. The only saving grace was that the food was ok.

Arrival Time: 5PM
Time Remaining: 12 Hours

Upon our arrival in New Delhi, our bags had to be picked up and were not checked through to our final destination of Kathmandu, Nepal. As long as I've been traveling, I've not experienced this type of procedure for a layover. We learned that if we had decided to stay in the airport, our bags would have been transferred automatically. Nevertheless, with Tourist Visas in hand (yes, we paid to leave the airport), we decided to venture out into the city, through it's rough roads, dangerous drivers, motorcycles, mopeds, and tuk-tuks.

Since our residence for the night would be Hotel Krishna on Arakashan Road, we decided that dinner should be in the neighborhood. A short walk down to Connaught Place in the Indira Chowk section of New Delhi allowed us to find a restaurant called Veda. The dim lighting, mirrors, dark leather-lined seats / chairs, and red brick walls gave the establishment somewhat of a gothic feel. But the friendliness of the staff and especially the manager, Prem, made us feel comfortable and allowed us to easily warm up to the good food.

We ordered garlic and plain roti, chicken curry, mutton curry, garlic scallion chicken, and plain basmati rice. Each dish had a signature flavor. The roti was freshly charred. The chicken curry was velvety in its sauce. The mutton and its spices stood out in this curry dish. The garlic scallion chicken (my favorite of all the dishes) was full of herb and spice. And the basmati was our strong base. For some reason, basmati is probably my favorite type of rice out of all the rice I've eaten in my life. Kingfisher, an Indian brew, was a good lager to help wash down all the heat and spice.

Time Remaining: 8 hours

Dilli Haat is just a short metro ride away from the Connaught Place area. For just 15 rupees you can get on the metro at Rajiv Chowk and exit at INA. Unlike ground level, the subways are very clean and surprisingly simple to navigate. The cost is determined by the distance you need to travel. And the token-operated turnstiles make it very efficient. We learned that on every metro, the front car is dedicated to women, while the rest of the cars are co-ed. Marquee displays on the platform indicate when the next metro is to arrive.

Anyway, Dilli Haat is an open air market or bazaar. The entrance fee is only 20 rupees and within you can find food, arts & crafts, clothing, souvenirs, henna, silk, and a variety of other items for purchase. Each stall has something different to offer, but many stalls have similar goods. So make sure to negotiate your price if you find something you like.

Time Remaining: 6 hours

We probably could have spent more time out in the city, but with our next flight to Kathmandu at 7AM and 14 days of trekking ahead of us, it would be wise for us to get a few hours of sleep and arrive back at the airport at least 2 hours before departure.

If heading out to the city during a short layover isn't ideal, then there are plenty of things to keep you occupied in the airport. Here is a link to IGI's facilities. They even have showers or if that's not enough, you can check into the airport's hotel.

Obviously, a layover is not enough for me to make any kind of judgements on New Delhi. And I can't wait to really have ample time to be a real tourist here and take in all the sites, food and fare, culture, and society. In due time, I will be back.

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