Delhi is a great place — vibrant, bustling, and dotted with incredible historical architecture. That said, after being there for only a couple of days, you might find yourself ready for a wee breather. So if you’re done with the touts, the incessant beeping of motorbikes and autos competing for road space, the constant ‘Where you from?‘s, the litter, and the piles of cow poop that characterize Paharganj and Old Delhi, follow me.
First, we’ll stroll to Connaught Place. We’ll circle the park for awhile, maybe stop in at a shiny, air-conditioned convenience store, cafe, or boring-but-strangely-comforting western brand store. If you like, let’s wander around Central Park (a circular patch of grass, shady trees, and – most importantly – fantastic public toilets in the centre of Connaught Place) for a bit.
From Connaught Place, we’re going to turn onto Janpath and walk past the Tibetan Market, ignoring salesmen pushing antiques and silver jewellery, and young girls selling strings of beads or 10RS. Within about 5 minutes, we’ll be on a wide, tree-lined, and relatively empty stretch of road. No (well, not many) honking horns, no (well, not much) trash, and no (really, none!) touts.
Eventually, we’ll reach Rajpath, a colonial era boulevard, lined on both sides with lawns and trees. Here, we could turn left, and visit India Gate, or take a right towards the impressive Parliament Complex. If we’re short of time (or sore of feet), we’ll keep walking, straight through the next couple of roundabouts.
When Janpath runs out, we’ll go straight-ish onto South End Rd. Pretty soon, we’ll reach my favourite destination of the day: Lodi Gardens.The gardens are fantastic — sprawling, green, empty (bar a few couples canoodling on benches), and, get this, entry is free. Once inside the park, we can:
- Visit the tombs of Sikander Lodi and Mohammed Shah, and Bada Gumbad Mosque.
- Spot rad birds like grey hornbills, eagles, vultures, kingfishers, and owls.
- Sit on a wooden bench (a worthwhile activity in itself in Delhi, where sitting spots are rare.)
- Learn about local flora.
- Stroll around, luxuriating in the fresh air and open spaces.
- Grab some masala soybeans from one of the wandering vendors.
Once we’ve exhausted all the gardens have to offer, we’ll head to our next stop, taking the Max Mueller Marg exit and walking for about 5 minutes, stopping when Khan Market pops up on our left.
Now, I would probably never really shop or eat at Khan Market. It’s fairly pricey (for Delhi, I mean) and the clothes aren’t really tie-dyed or patchwork enough to catch my backpacker’s eye. That said, our outing today is all about escaping the travel ghetto and finding something different. And different Khan Market sure is. The people are largely from India’s growing upper-middle class; mostly dressed in designer, western-style clothes (some of the women even have short hair). The carpark is filled with shiny SUVs and open-top convertibles. The restaurants serve ‘fusion, east-meets-west cuisine‘ (or so their painfully trendy, graffiti-style menus tell me). The clothing stores are stylishly sparse in decor, half-empty, and staffed by hovering men and women in tailored suits and fitted summer dresses, who just sort of stand around and don’t even try to make you to buy anything. Get my drift? It’s pretty flash, guys.
After Khan Market, we’re pretty much done for the day. If you’re tired, we’ll take the metro from the Khan Market stop. If you’re up for a little more walking, we’ll go by foot, taking Humayun Road and Motilal Nehru Road back to Janpath, and back the way we came. Donesky!
If you’re anything like me, you’ll finish the day with tired legs, a slightly clearer head, and a new appreciation for the chaos and cheap street food of Paharganj.