NEW DELHI, INDIA
Just like with Bali, I’ve dreamed about India for years. Always hesitating before making it a reality and coming up with a dozen excuses like time constraints, safety issues, budgets and more. But something clicked at the beginning of this year and I didn’t hesitate twice. I called my brother- another spiritual soul- and we booked our tickets with a month in advance, from Miami to New Delhi with no plans and no itineraries. Only two hearts full of wanderlust, excitement, and hope. I departed on April 5th with a return ticket on April 19th. Two weeks of holistic and nature-oriented adventures with my brother, who is an old soul reincarnated in the body of a 24-year old! He traveled from Barcelona and we met at New Delhi’s airport. He arrived 5 hours after me which gave me enough time to look for a boutique hotel in New Delhi (I wasn’t lying when I said no plans!) and I found the cutest hotel ever! Shanti Home. This hotel was not 100% sustainable, like the ones I’ve been reviewing for my blog since day one, but had these green practices worth mentioning.
-The interior design was focused on using vintage furniture to promote the Indian Culture.
-Their bath products were vegan and did not test on animals.
-The restaurant offered vegan options and soy milk in its menu
We arrived at Shanti Home at 7am and were welcomed with a fresh fruit juice, a necklace of fresh flowers, and blessed bindi powder for our foreheads (that dot hindus wear on top of their third eye). The second the receptionist placed her thumb covered in bindi powder on my third eye, I knew I had reached home. We dropped off our bags in our room, showered, had breakfast at their bohemian rooftop restaurant, and were off to discover New Delhi with the driver Shanti Home had scheduled for us. We began the tour with a visit to The Red Fort and some local markets around town. We tried not to saturate our first day with activities since we had only slept a few hours on they plane and were pretty sure the jetlag would hit us any time. After getting to know New Delhi a little bit, we went back to the hotel for a much needed Ayurvedic massage, steam room, and Indian dinner. The hotel had also called a Mendhika (henna tattoo) artist for me. He covered both of my hands with the most beautiful mandalas. In case you wonder, the ink (henna) is 100% natural. A paste made of the Henna plant and other herbs and roots, such as turmeric. It lasts about 2 weeks.
Our second day was more active. We woke up at 5am to have an early breakfast and be on our way to Agra (3 hour trip) to pay the Taj Mahal a visit. There, we did not only devour vast information about architecture using natural resources such as marble and precious stones, but we also learned about a love story that gave birth to a 81m high mausoleum that took 22 years to come to life. After Taj Mahal, we drove back to Delhi (another 3hr drive) to discover Chandni Chowk. The biggest and busiest local market in Delhi. There were thousands of people yet we only saw three tourists. Exactly what we had been looking for!
If I had to describe our days in New Delhi in a single paragraph, it would be this: New Delhi is the greatest example of the ying and the yang. A place of constant surprises. Good and bad. Starting with its people. I've never felt so unsafe around men. They undressed me with their stares even though I was wearing at least 3 layers of clothing. Some pushed me in the overpopulated markets, others yelled, and almost all of them stared. But then, there were the sacred few that crossed our way and protected my brother and I 24/7. From our taxi driver who made sure we never left his sight to Ramis, the guy driving a bicycle taxi who asked if he could join us during our walk through Delhi's biggest local market-Chandni Chowk- to make sure nobody approached me or tried to steal our things, to the old women and kids who gave me warm hugs and asked for pictures making those few minutes feel like a glass of refreshing water on a hot summer day! The same pandora box applies to New Delhi's scents. Every corner carries a different one, and walking through the markets, intensified the entire experience. There were places that had trash piled up and unexplainable odors floating around, but as we kept on walking the powerful fragrance of fresh flowers and incenses found its way into our nostrils and did laps around our bodies. It wasn't until we reached the spices area that the meaning of "scents" reached another level. Cinnamon, peppercorn, cloves, cardamon, turmeric, basil. They were so deliciously uplifting we kept taking deep inhales until our throats began to itch and we couldn't stop coughing, sneezing or laughing. And lastly, the noise. I came to the conclusion that honking in New Delhi is used as a stress-relief therapy, or even as a communication tool. Seriously! And, just like those loud horns encompass Delhi, there are also peaceful and magical spots such as the boho rooftop of the eco boutique hotel we stayed at, and the hidden alleys full of colors and little temples. As I said, a balanced and majestic example of the ying and the yang.
The next morning, I decided to change our India trip completely to focus on cities most travel bloggers don’t write about. Tiny hidden gems tourists don’t seem too interested in. Places like Kerala, Pondicherry, and Auroville. And places that offered nature and silence. So I booked my brother and I flights from New Delhi to Kochi (Kerala Airport), where a majestic eco-friendly hotel was waiting for us.