Our flight to Delhi took off around 4pm. We got to the so-called award-winning Hyderabad airport (which caters for both domestic and international flights) at around 12:30pm and had, you won’t believe this, Pizza Hut for lunch. There wasn’t much choice once you’ve checked in, and we opted for the most familiar, but most expensive choice. To be fair, the pizzas were pretty good.
Hyderabad to Delhi was roughly two-hours. When we exited customs and gathered our luggage, we looked for a sign with my name on it. This was harder than it sounds because there were literally dozens of people with signs out there. Anyway, we found our man, a smiling Indian fellow with the surname Kumar (as in “Harold and Kumar”). He spoke excellent English and was very friendly.
The drive from the airport to The Park Hotel (where we stayed) was about half an hour with some traffic. Delhi is split into “Old Delhi” and “New Delhi”, the latter of which is the capital of India. It’s more of a metropolis than Hyderabad, but it’s nowhere near as crazy as Mumbai, Kumar tells us. Mumbai (Kumar likes to call it “Bombay”, it’s former name) is all Bollywood, whereas Delhi is more serious.
We had arrived at possibly the worst time of the year. It was the hottest time of the year — hotter than a freaking furnace (seriously, you could have told me I was on fire and I would have believed you), and dustier than a monster truck rally thanks to the construction taking place for the Commonwealth Games in October. Everywhere we looked, construction was taking place, especially the Delhi metro, which was already operating but a lot more needed to be done.
Near our hotel we saw an electronic sign saying that there were only 107 days left till the Commonwealth Games. Kumar says they’ll get everything done in time because they have people literally working around the clock, 24 hours a day. We saw workers either sleeping on the ground or in makeshift tents on the actual construction sites. It was kind of scary and depressing.
The Park Hotel where we stayed is rated 5-stars, but it’s not quite as extravagant as some of the other luxury hotels in Delhi like the Oberoi, ITC Maurya, The Taj Palace, Claridges, the Lalit, the Shangri-La and the Sheraton. However, it was still very good — clean and the well-equipped — and besides, we were only there to sleep.
We were pretty tired by the time we checked in and threw our bags down in the small but excellent hotel room. Too tired to go out, and having agreed with Kumar that we’d leave for Agra (to see the Taj Mahal) at 7am the next morning, we decided to have dinner at the hotel restaurant, called “Fire” (probably named after how it felt outside).
Let me tell you, Fire ended up being our best meal in India. Sure, it was expensive, but the dishes were catered towards foreigners and we absolutely fell for the heavy cream and strong flavours. The initial free appetizer was sublime, their naan was quality, and yes, we ordered butter chicken and chicken tikka. It’s so sad but it really was delicious! We also had this eggplant thing which was very nice too.
With heavy heads and heavier stomachs, we retreated to our rooms, watched a bit of soccer and promptly fell asleep.