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India Travel Guide

Delhi Travel Guide

Delhi Information
Qutub Minar, DelhiDelhi is the capital of India, its third-largest city and North India's industrial hub. Old Delhi was the capital of Muslim India between the 17th and 19th centuries, and a legacy of mosques, monuments and forts testifies to this. New Delhi was built as the imperial capital of India by the British. It is a spacious, open city and contains embassies and government buildings. The newer, wealthy suburbs are mostly to the south of New Delhi, and an ever-growing belt of poorer suburbs and jhuggis (slums) stretches in all directions.

In addition to its historic interest and role as the government centre, Delhi is a major travel gateway. It is one of India's busiest entrance points for overseas airlines, the hub of the North Indian travel network, and a stop on the overland route across Asia. The city of Delhi covers most of Delhi state.

Few travellers have much that is good to say about India's fastest growing city; the intense air pollution and persistent touts often make it an unsettling experience for newcomers. It does, however, have a long and fascinating history and there's a tangible energy and confidence that only comes with a history as rich and varied as Delhi's.

There is no smoking in public, especially around monuments and religious sites, but it's acceptable in restaurants and bars. Most sights are open sunrise to sunset, although following the dramatic price hikes of 2000, many have become poor value.

Getting Around Delhi
Metro Rail, DelhiDelhi is large and congested, and the buses get hopelessly crowded. The alternative is a taxi, an autorickshaw or, for the truly brave, a bicycle. At the time of research, the first phase of construction of a metro system had commenced; the system is due for completion in 2005.

New Delhi
India Gate, DelhiNew Delhi, the latest and perhaps last imperial city ever, combines 20th-century architecture with a monumental 17th-century vision, and features one of the biggest palaces in the world, Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The main architects of New Delhi were Sir Edward Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker, though assistants such as Robert Tor Russell were responsible for much of the detail, including the government bungalows, hospitals, police stations, lesser official buildings and Connaught Place. The complex geometrical city plan owes something to other imperial British regional capitals such as Pretoria, Canberra and Ottawa. Baker and Lutyens initially rejected Indian styles of architecture - Lutyens in particular could be brutally dismissive of Indians and Indian culture in general - but the final result shows many Indian elements melded with Classical design.

Old Delhi
Red Fort, DelhiWhen Shah Jahan built his new capital of Shahjahanabad here in the 17th century, one of the key elements was a high red-brick wall, pierced by 14 gates. The British then strengthened and repaired it with stone, and added a number of bastions for increased protection. Only three of the original gates remain today - Ajmeri, Turkman and Delhi - all on the southern side. The Kashmiri Gate was built by the British in 1835 and was the scene of desperate fighting when the British retook Delhi during the 1857 Uprising. Lahore Gate has been demolished (this is not the Lahore Gate of Red Fort, but the Lahore Gate of Old Delhi).

It's possible to walk along the only remaining stretch of wall running west of Delhi Gate towards Turkman Gate. West of Kashmiri Gate, near Sabzi Mandi, is the British-erected Mutiny Memorial, to the soldiers who lost their lives during the Uprising.

Near the monument is an Ashoka pillar which, like the one in Firoz Shah Kotla, was brought here by Firoz Shah.

A novel and relatively stress-free way of exploring crowded Old Delhi, where walking 10m can take close to 10 minutes, is to hire a cycle-rickshaw for a few hours.

Other Attractions
Lotus Temple, DelhiThis is a sobering sight for people interested in the Raj. In a desolate field stands a lone obelisk, where, in 1877 and 1903, the great theatrical durbars featuring the Indian army and the full set of Indian rulers paid homage to the British monarch. This was also where, in 1911, King George V was declared emperor of India.

Places to Eat
Places  to EatDelhi has an excellent array of places in which to eat - from dhabas (snack bars), with dishes from Rs 15, to top-of-the-range restaurants where a meal for two can easily top Rs 3500.
Connaught Place There are many fast food places - Western and Indian - around Connaught Place. Here you will find McDonald's along with Wimpy, Kwality, Pizza Hut (t 3738626) and Dominoes Pizza (t 1600-111123). Nirula's (t 331 6694), a Delhi-based chain, is very good and has Indian, burgers, pizzas and ice cream....

Places to Stay
Places to StayIf Delhi is your first stop in India, it's probably a good idea to book a room in advance from home - reasonable places fill quickly, leaving new arrivals easy prey for the commission sharks. This is especially true if you're arriving in the middle of the night (see the boxed text 'Dodgy Delhi' near the beginning of this chapter). Fortunately many places, including budget hotels, have 24-hour receptions allowing for late arrivals.

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