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A Busy Saturday in the Busiest of Bazaars

August 30, 2010

Following our Friday evening at the Lotus Temple, Amrit and I decided to keep our Delhi exploration going, and spent our Saturday morning and afternoon in Old Delhi!  I had been wanting to go to Old Delhi for some time.  I’m a little ashamed to admit that during the six months that I stayed in Delhi before, I never ventured further north than Connaught Place.  So, it seemed like it was finally time for a trip to the heart of the city.

Metro platform, waiting for the train

Amrit and I dropped our car off near Central Secretariat so that we could ride the Metro to Chandni Chowk, the main bazaar of Old Delhi, and a place to see on my India To-Do List.  Again, I’m embarrassed to admit that riding the Metro was another first for me (and another item on my To-Do List).  I was so impressed by the Metro, though.  It was air-conditioned, fast, clean, and efficient; comparable to public Metro/subway systems in any other major city.  And because it was a Saturday, the trains and stations weren’t very crowded at all.  Driving into Old Delhi would have taken us at least an hour.  With the Metro, we reached in a little over fifteen minutes.

Riding on the Metro

As we emerged from the subterranean station, we were thrown right into Old Delhi’s hustle and bustle.  It was still early, so not all of the shops were open yet, but already the streets were buzzing with activity.  We found Chandni Chowk, and began to walk towards the Red Fort.  Sadly, we didn’t actually go inside the Fort; that we’ll have to save for our next Old Delhi trip.

On Chandni Chowk, facing the Red Fort

As we continued walking I saw, to my right, a flashing sign announcing that this was the corner of the “Famous Jalebi Wallah”.  I had been under the impression that most of the well-known food vendors in Old Delhi would be difficult to find, and that we would have to ask people familiar with the area for directions.  Apparently, though, this jalebi wallah was smart enough to capitalize on his Delhi guidebook fame, and invest in a sign so that newcomers would know where to find him!

Normally, I love jalebis (an Indian sweet made of fried batter soaked in a sugar syrup; it reminds me of funnel cake, if funnel cake were to have a sweet, gooey filling).  It looked like we were going to have a long, hot day of exploring ahead of us, though, and jalebis didn’t seem like the best choice for a morning snack, so we decided to skip them.  We’ll just have to treat ourselves to them next time we’re in the area.  On our Red Fort visit, perhaps?

The Famous Jalebi Wallah is on the corner of Chandni Chowk and Dariba Kalan, the silver/jewelry bazaar.  Amrit and I departed from Chandni Chowk to wander through Dariba Kalan and admire the shopkeepers’ wares.  From there, we found the connecting Kinari Bazaar, known for its wedding jewelry, decorations, and costumes.  We strolled through the narrow lanes of bright colors and glittering tinsel, and eventually found ourselves in the sari section.  I was busy admiring some beautiful saris when Amrit pointed out a small alley that would take us back to Chandni Chowk, lest we continue to get lost deeper and deeper in the galis (narrow lanes).

Jama Masjid

After making our way back to Chandni Chowk, we decided to hire a cycle-rickshaw to take us to other sites around the old city, including the Jama Masjid, the Jain Bird Hospital, and St. James Church near Kashmiri Gate, which reminded me of the churches in Old Goa.  (Click here to view my photos from Old Goa, as well as photos from my other Indian travels.)

We stopped to have aloo paratha (a spiced, fried flatbread made of potatoes) for lunch before continuing into Nai Sarak  where we watched crowds of students waiting in line to buy their school and college textbooks, and Chawri Bazaar,  a wholesale paper market.

St. James' Church

By the time we reached Chawri Bazaar, the markets were in full-swing, and our cycle-rickshaw got stuck in a traffic jam.  We were literally bullock-cart-to-bicycle-wheel (the Old Delhi equivalent of bumper-to-bumper).  I enjoyed being able to look at the shopkeepers’ displays of notebooks and cards, though, and daydreaming about our invitation cards for the wedding – yet another reason to return to Old Delhi.

From Chawri Bazaar, we picked up the Metro to head back home.  I was feeling rather sweaty and grimy after our day of exploring, so I was very appreciative of how quickly the Metro got us home in air-conditioned comfort for a much-needed shower and late-afternoon nap.

Old Delhi Traffic Jam

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 31, 2010 3:18 am

    Hi Katherine

    I have been following your blog for sometime now it’s very enjoyable !
    The metro to Chandni Chowk one of my favourites things in Delhi and oh the jalebis come next .I visited the paper warehouse area on my last trip and picked out wedding invitations for my nephew’s wedding . Aren’t they just amazing ?
    How did you survive the summer heat ? My husband and his family say I won’t be able to take it …..but I am willing to try .

    When is your wedding ?

    All the best

    Cathy

    • September 1, 2010 10:38 am

      Hi Cathy,
      Nice to hear from you! We had a great time in Old Delhi; the wedding invitations were stunning, and I’m already dreaming about when I’ll get to try some fresh jalebis!

      My trick for surviving the summer heat was lots of nimboo pani and an effective air conditioner! I also tried to stay indoors during the peak of the mid-day heat, and only go out in mornings or evenings when the temperature was a bit cooler.

      We will be having a three-day wedding in December, between Christmas and New Year’s.

      Cheers,
      Katherine

      • April Morris permalink
        September 12, 2010 8:44 am

        Hi K,
        Off the subject….
        Forbes Magazine just names Kenyon College the most beautiful college campus *in the world*. Did you hear that?

      • September 13, 2010 10:20 am

        I did hear that! My fellow Kenyon alums have been posting the article on facebook. It makes me proud to call the school my alma mater.

  2. September 4, 2010 10:30 am

    Hey Katherine,
    Old Delhi looks amazing. I’m actually headed to Delhi next week for a work conference, but I won’t have much time to explore. I’ll be back for sure, though.

  3. September 10, 2010 6:56 pm

    Hi-

    I’m the editor of Expat Arrivals.com (http://www.expatarrivals.com), a site devoted to developing comprehensive destination guides aimed at easing expat transitions abroad. I came across your blog while doing research for the India portion of our guides and was hoping you would be willing to share your insight. If interested email me direct at stephanie@expatarrivals.com.

    Best-
    Stephanie

  4. September 27, 2010 9:27 pm

    Katherine- I visited the Red Fort last time I was in Delhi and loved it. If you can find a guide I would definitely take advantage of it. We found a guide that spoke in English. It made my trip that much more enjoyable!

    @Cathy- The summers can be brutal. However, my Mother-in-Law introduced me to some kind of talcum powder with menthol in it. It works wonders to keep you cool. I would give the name but it slip my mind 😦 sorry! Definitely helpful if you do decide to visit in the summer though!

    • September 27, 2010 9:49 pm

      The Red Fort is still on my to-do list. Next time I’m in Old Delhi I’ll make a point of seeing it.

      Is the powder called Nycil? We have that brand of “prickly heat powder” in our bathroom cupboard, though I’ve never tried it myself.

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