Having made a full circle around the globe and visited over 50 countries now, one of he most common questions people always ask is “where is your favorite place?” and to be honest, this is a VERY difficult question to answer. I love many places for different reasons. I might like one destination for its culture or another for its rich history or a third for its sights. Every place has something to unique to offer which makes picking a favorite very hard. That is why I chose to go the opposite angle for this article and write about my least favorite place.
I am a very easy going person and it really takes a lot for me to dislike a place but for me, Delhi (or New Delhi), India definitely tops my list of places I did not like. It is a VERY large, unclean and chaotic city not unlike many others I have been to. I mean, I don’t go to India expecting it to be clean or anything and I do quite enjoy the chaos in the big cities, especially in the more third-world countries so I won’t really hold that against India. However, Delhi takes this to a whole new level and the way I usually describe New Delhi to others (at least in terms of uncleanliness) is to picture the most disgusting guy you know and it is a whole city (millions upon millions) of that.
Imagine if you will, you are walking down a sidewalk in the heart of a city that contains half of the population of Canada within its boundaries. Suddenly you see a small structure running along your right, directly beside the sidewalk. This structure is made of concrete and runs for about the next 20m along the edge of the sidewalk. It is an open structure about 8 feet tall with partitions every 1.5m or so creating a tiny, individual room less than 1m deep without a door on it. Upon closer inspection of one of these “rooms” you notice a trough inside running along the ground. Suddenly, you walk past another of the rooms and see the purpose, it is a urinal! Right there, open, on the sidewalk. That explains the disgusting smell and the liquid running down the sidewalk since the urinals just seem to be draining right there on to the sidewalk. Couple that with garbage littering the streets EVERYWHERE and you’ve got a very disgusting city indeed.
I also found Delhi to be undesirable because of the people and their relentless nature when it comes to selling you things on the streets. I am no stranger to the hawker trying to sell you things as you pass by and in many places all you need to do is tell them “no thank you” or “maybe later” and they will leave you alone moving on to the next person. However in Delhi the people seem to be of the mindset that if they try hard enough and pursue long enough they can eventually get the sale. When the merchants see you, especially a white guy, who perceivably has money to spend they will approach and follow trying to sell you things or even trying to befriend you hoping that the friendship will lead to the sale. Let me tell you, this routine gets old very quick after just a 10 minute walk down the Main Bazaar road near the New Delhi Railway Station.
While I like the chaos and the hustle and bustle of many equally large cities, Delhi just seemed to be overcrowded with people. From the endless amounts of Tuk-Tuks on the roads the hordes of people everywhere you turn this was some next level chaos, all of which can lead to an undesirable experience when you have to fight your way through crowds and traffic at all times.
My discontent was not helped either by my first few hours experiencing this large metropolis and i’ll admit, that could be the reason I didn’t like it so maybe if I do go back eventually I may enjoy it given a better experience and I will say I enjoyed Agra and Jaipur a lot more in comparison to Delhi.
It was 3AM when my plane from Dubai arrived in New Delhi. I made my way through the airport, past immigration out to the arrival hall where I found the train schedule. I saw the first train on the airport express line to the city center runs at 5AM. This was fine since my train departing for Agra (I was going to visit the Taj Mahal today) didn’t leave until 7AM from the Hazrat Nizamudin railway station. I used the remaining hour and a half I had to wait to check in to buying a SIM card for my phone since they are very cheap in India and to get some cash from the ATM. This is when the trouble started.
Before my flight left Dubai I had tried to buy some food at the McDonalds in the airport with my MasterCard but it was declined. I assumed this was because I had just used it that day in Abu Dhabi and the credit card company probably flagged it and put a hold on it out of suspicion since I had just been in Finland the day before. That was fine, I paid cash and went on my way. However now that I was in India I wanted to get some more cash out from my debit card because I assumed my credit card was blocked already and if it wasn’t, it would probably be soon. Putting my debit card in an ATM that supports the same networks as my debit card, I went through the usual procedure of getting money out however my heart dropped when I saw the words “transaction declined” printed on the screen as the machine spit back my card in a seeming act of defiance.
I was panicked now. I didn’t have any Indian Rupees with me yet and only had a few hundred euros on me that I could convert if needed but that money was already earmarked to pay for visas I would be obtaining on arrival in upcoming countries over the next few weeks. At this point, I was already under the thinking that my credit card was blocked so in a last-ditch attempt I put the card in the machine and tried to get a cash advance from it. To my surprise and incredible relief, the machine accepted and gave me the requested money. What a relief it is to be able to access your money in a foreign country, I tell you!
I made my way to the airport express train stop just outside the airport and waited for the first train to arrive at 5AM. Let me tell you, that walk from the airport entrance to the train stop was rife with taxi drivers hawking at you trying to get you to come in their cab. I politely told them “no thank you” and fought through their crowd making it to the train stop. The airport express train line from the airport is very new and quite nice. Getting on board, the brand new train car with clean white walls and fancy seating made me feel like I wasn’t even in India anymore. The train took me to the New Delhi railway station where I transferred to the regular subway heading towards the railway stop where my train was destined to leave at 7AM.
The main city subway did not begin operation until 6AM though so again I waited for it to start. The subway also didn’t go directly to the railway station I needed to get to. It took me to the Jangpura stop which was about 3.5km from the Hazrat Nizamudin railway station. I had enough time I figured i’d just leave the subway and grab a taxi and be to the railway station in no time. However, upon leaving the Jangpura station at about 6:15AM I saw almost no cars whatsoever on the road and even less taxis. I was starting to worry. To make matters worse, I couldn’t even walk the distance because my Google Maps app had updated the day before which messed up the offline map of Delhi I had downloaded so I no longer even had a usable map to find my way around with.
As luck would have it, a random tuk-tuk appeared, coming towards me. I flagged him down from the side of the road and got on board. I explained my urgency to the driver and we were off to the train station. However, it wasn’t long before we were stopped on the road stuck in rush hour traffic. The driver made some hairy maneuvers through the traffic was eventually we made it to the railway station by 6:45AM, 15 minutes before my train was to leave. What a relief!
That relief didn’t last long though. I made my way in to the overcrowded station only to find my train to Agra had been completely cancelled! Not even re-scheduled. Just canceled. In a sleep-deprived state, I had no idea what to do now. I needed to be in Agra today because of my very tight schedule. I waited in a seemingly endless line for the ticket counter. Meanwhile there is very little English here so trying to figure out what happened to the train or trying to book a new ticket was next to impossible. I found someone who was supposed to be on the same train as me and luckily he spoke English and told me where to go/what to do. I went to another service desk that was serving just those of us affected by this canceled train. He told me of another train departing to Agra at 9AM which still had tickets available. I hastily purchased one and was back on track again!
Finally, 9AM came around. I got on my train (which was actually a sleeper train), climbed in to my bunk bed which was stacked three beds high in the train car with less than 2 feet of clearance between beds and got some much needed sleep after an incredibly stressful morning.
so, it is without a doubt that Delhi is my least favorite place I have been. However I do think that part of it is due to this stressful morning, the relentless hawkers and the insane dirtiness of the city. Given a better overall experience and first impression might have resulted in liking the city a lot more. Who knows, I may be back one day and have a better experience in the city but for now, Delhi remains my least favorite place in the world.