India wasn’t originally among our travel destinations but we couldn’t pass up the chance to visit our good friend, Dylan Hoemsen, who’s currently living and working in Delhi. India is an interesting place to get travel advice on because it seems like you either love it or hate it. After experiencing it for ourselves, we understand both sides. The moment you step off the plane you are consumed by people, poverty and vehicles. The roads are dusty and dirty, and what is that? A cow? Probably. But, there’s also something that draws you in, a sort of messy romance. Admittedly, had we started our trip in India, we may not have seen this side. Luckily, we had built up our confidence throughout our travels and had an experienced friend to play tour guide for the week.
Day 1-3 – Mumbai: Let The Debacle Begin!
First stop: Mumbai, Dylan’s favorite city. Knowing his tastes, we knew we weren’t going to be “roughing it” in terms of accommodations and restaurants. If your budget is tight, you’ll have no problems finding MUCH cheaper prices but that’s just not Dylan’s way:) He had reserved a couple of rooms at the Adobe Hotel, in the heart of Colaba for $80 CAD/night (private room with AC but shared bathroom). We were all pretty tired from the days travels so we celebrated our reunion by opening a bottle of wine we’d brought from Thailand and hanging out in our rooms. Note – Don’t buy wine in Asia! It’s so terrible!
The next morning, we hit the streets of Mumbai. Hailing down a cab or rickshaw is easy, just be sure to negotiate a price before getting in. Uber is also a great option and really cheap. We visited a number of higher end shops selling crafts and a street market filled with antiques (Chor Bazaar). Dylan and Kik could’ve spent the entire day visiting the antique shops (Clair – It was like an enormous dirty garage sale and I hated it). Hungry and thirsty we hit up the legendary Cafe Mondegar. Wow…this place quickly won us over with delicious Indian dishes (Get the non-veg platter). Clair found a new friend in Naan bread.
But the night wasn’t ending here. It seems as though Dylan has friends in every corner of the world and Mumbai was no exception. He introduced us Karim and Mrugen (a.k.a. Maki). After bar hopping at a couple of different places (including the Bar Exchange, where drink prices fluctuated based on demand, similar to Wall Street) we were off for supper at JIA Oriental Kitchen, a fine dining restaurant owned by one of their friends. After supper, it was club time (clarification for our Notre-Dame friends, we don’t mean a Club beer. Kik – Although, I wish!). That’s about where the night started to get blurry. Kik wouldn’t let go of the hookah pipe and Clair was getting free shots in honor of International Women’s Day. The night ended with a police check stop and Clair hurling on the side of the road like the scene from the Exorcist. Good thing we had a sober driver all night, thanks Karim! Oh…did we mention these guys refused to let us pay all night? Such great hosts!
We woke up with the worst hangovers ever. Thankfully, our flight to Delhi wasn’t until later that evening so we had a slow day of sight-seeing. Would you believe that Karim and Maki picked us up, with smoothies, to drive us to the airport? We had a last meal with them before checking through security. We were finally able to sneak one past them and pay for the last meal. We left our friends saying once again “If ever you come to Winnipeg…”
Day 4-9 – Delhi: The Party Is Just Getting Started
Still feeling slightly dusty from our night out on the town in Mumbai, we decided the boys needed some pampering. Dylan has a membership at a male spa? Barbershop? Anyways, he had an extra free pass so him and Kik both got clean shaves while Clair enjoyed a coffee. It was the first time in years Kik had gotten a clean shave and he looked like a baby seal.
That night we decided to take ‘er easy and catch a movie. Going to the movies in India is an experience in and of itself. First of all you need to stand for the national anthem. Then they proceed to play about 8-10 PSA’s about searching for bombs under your seat in the theatre, in your bag, on the metro, etc. On this note, the security in India, especially the airport, was higher than we’ve seen anywhere else. We aren’t sure if this is due to an actual heightened risk or is an attempt to create more jobs. Dylan also mentioned to us that when they play the national anthem you have to stand or else you could be heavily fined or thrown in jail. After successfully standing for the anthem and getting through all the PSA’s, the movie started. We were seeing the newest of the X-Men series, Logan. Wow! Don’t take your kids to this one! The amount of violence and gore was unexpected. People cheered as Wolverine would go on a rampage, he even stabbed a guy in the eye balls. It made for a great action packed movie.
No More Food!!
The next day, Dylan had another friend join our party, Anthony. He had just finished motorcycling for six months around India. Once you see the traffic here your jaw will drop like ours did. He had also just finished getting his yoga certification and was super ripped, so we felt like fat blobs hanging out with him.
Obviously we needed to celebrate Anthony’s amazing travels, so we headed to an expat organized cocktail party. This lead us to a secret bar called the PCO, where you needed a password to get in (we’re serious). We dragged Dylan out of there at around 2AM because Anthony was sleeping in his chair from his long journey. Lucky for us Dylan’s parents had brought KD on their trip to Delhi a couple of weeks before. Unlucky for us, Dylan dumped a pound of sugar in the boiling water instead of salt!
The next morning, we decided we needed some luxury. Dylan’s roommate Patrick and friend Michelle, who we’d met the night before, joined us for a spectacular brunch buffet at the Shangri La Hote. For $40 CAD per person this buffet was so worth it! Clair’s was more expensive because she did the unlimited Moet upgrade (Clair – Of course I did). There was every kind of food you could imagine and the best way we can explain is by clicking here. We spent a good four hours stuffing ourselves with samples of everything. Belly’s full and with a slight buzz we headed to the Hauz Khas Village to get the night started. It’s stacked with bars and restaurants piled one on top of the other. Just hope there’s no fire! We capped off the night singing karaoke at the Garage Inc.
The Festival Of Colours & From Detox To Retox
Before heading out for yet another day of fun, Anthony offered to put on a yoga class for us in the apartment. It’s amazing how much our physical conditioning has declined after 8 months of traveling. It was a refreshing start to the morning considering how much drinking we had been doing.
We were very lucky to be in India during a Hindi festival known as Holi. Put this on your bucket list because it was incredible to be a part of this day. It started off with a huge water balloon fight with the neighbourhood kids, a flurry of balloons being launched between apartment building balconies. The fight then carried to the streets, getting pummeled by drive-by’s, surprise rooftop attacks, and super-soakers. Nothing seemed to matter on this day for anybody, except for being cheerful and multi-coloured. Be sure not to wear new clothes, you’re bound to get nailed with a handful of colored powder. We had purchased tickets to attend the Holi Moo Festival ($40 CAD/person), which included unlimited drinks, tons of colored powder to launch at random people, and live music. The best way to describe this party would be, “disorganized mayhem”. There were no drink limits, only two workers behind the bar, glass bottles of beer, no mix, only white rum, three tiny garbage cans, and let’s not even mention the washrooms. Nonetheless, we had a great time!
Excuse Me, Sorry, Out Of My Way, *Push*
The next morning, we said farewell to Anthony who was continuing on with his travels in Sri Lanka. While Dylan had to work, we headed out on our own for some sight-seeing. We checked out the Dilli Haat Market (entry fee of $4 CAD/person), which was a clean and organized market set up for tourists. It was nothing special but a good place to stop if you need to get some gifts to bring home, especially scarves. There are a million scarves. We then made our way to Humayun’s Tomb (entrance fee of $10 CAD/person), which was quite impressive. We met up with Dylan for a last supper together. He brought us to Old Delhi, which was pretty intense with dense crowds. After turning down a side street, the craziness and noise miraculously faded and a beautiful hotel appeared from out of nowhere, the Haveli Dharampura. Apparently, many old villas where Indian families used to live dot the city and have been renovated into incredible hotels. Although expensive for India’s standards, the meal consisted of 13 courses and was delicious. There is also an amazing rooftop view.
We are so grateful for our experience in India. Dylan was so gracious and took the best care of us. Also, a shout of to Patrick for letting us share his space all week.
India is an interesting and challenging place to visit. We felt comfortable walking around but it was definitely the country where we attracted the most attention, especially Clair. It can be pretty heartbreaking to see the unspeakable poverty and the many children who are selling small gifts and flowers on the side of the road late at night. You see a very distinct gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ here. What’s even more disheartening is that no matter how hard many of these people work, they will always be poor. Would we recommend traveling to India? Yes. In our hearts we believe that just because something makes you uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it. We hope to make choices in our daily lives that might not change the world, but can maybe make it a little bit better.
In the end, we couldn’t help but be excited for our next destination though, Athens! Oh…with a 24 hour layover in Rome first! PINCH US!