Delhi is HUGE. Sprawling over 1,484 square kilometres, this is a city of massive proportions. Filled with impressive buildings from the Mughal area, there is so much to see in Delhi.
You could literally spend weeks exploring all corners of Delhi.
Unfortunately, most people only visit the usual suspects such as the Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Qutub Minar, India gate and a couple of other favourites.
If you’re looking for a more unique, slightly insane and quite random experience in Delhi - try out these 6 things you can do in Delhi too!
Have a fire paan
Chewing paan is a long-standing tradition in India. A paan can literally be bought on almost every street corner all over the country. It is made from a betel leaf, wrapped in a triangular shape. It is filled with a mixture of dried fruits, spices, sugar and mukhwas (the Indian version of an after-meal-peppermint).
Ayurvedic science claims that paan is very effective in curing colds, coughs and headaches. I claim that it looks revolting.
After chewing the paan, the reddish remainder is spat out on the street. The paan-spitting problem is in fact that bad - that you’ll find signs in the metro stations about it. Stating that spitting is prohibited and punishable with a 200 rupee fine.
I’ve had many occasions in which I had to dodge a stream of betel juice coming from someone’s mouth towards my feet at full blast. Many rickshaw drivers have bright red grins and horribly stained teeth. The streets are filled with big splotches of the red stuff. Gross.
OK, so far for my disliking of paan.
In 2017, two men going by the name of Mr. Prem and Chunni Lal decided to step up their game of Paan selling. After 45 days of experimenting they came up with the perfect new recipe.
I seriously wonder what the fails were in those 45 days though.
They invented fire paan - which then quickly gained popularity in the larger cities.
Special cloves are added on top of the normal ingredients and set on fire. The paan is shoved into the ‘victims’ mouth - thereby extinguishing the fire instantly. Apparently the cloves give a cooling sensation.
I wouldn’t know because I didn’t try it. I chickened out, I’m sorry!
BUT! I did try the ice paan. Another brilliant variation of this disgusting substance.
The moment the vendor shoved the paan in my mouth - I knew I messed up. The ice was so cold on my teeth that my eyes started tearing immediately. In a desperate attempt not to swallow any of that stuff - I stood on the side of the street, spitting an almost constant stream of that goo on the pavement. Charming.
Ugh. Why the hell did I do it.
Oh right, that’s it: indulging in culture and all that. Ticking the bucket list. Done. Now you go and do the fire paan!
How to get here?
You can buy a paan almost everywhere, but the particular paan shop I had the honour of sampling is on Connaught Place. Odeon Shukla Paan is located next to the Middle Circle in between C-Block and D-Block. Best reachable by getting off the metro at Rajiv Chowk.
2. Float around in a gondola inside a mall
Yes, that’s right. No need to go all the way to Venice. Delhi’s got it all baby!
The Grand Venice Mall in Greater Noida, takes shopping to an entire different level. The gigantic mall is built completely in Venice style.
I didn’t quite get why they added a replica of the leaning Tower of Pisa though. Now do you want Venice or Pisa - make up your mind people!
But apart from the random Tower of Pisa replica, they’d actually tried to reproduce Venice. The mall has two separate ‘canals’ in which you can make a ride in a gondola.
I can promise you - this activity is absolutely absurd.
The gondola was in fact powered by an electrical propeller, so the long oal the ‘gondolier’ was holding was just for mere decoration. Literally everything about this experience was fake. As soon as we took off, the ‘gondolier’ burst out into a full-blown serenade - supposedly some kind of Hindi love song.
Zipping through a canal inside a mall in Delhi, India - with fake Venetian buildings, and an Indian guy dressed up as an Italian gondolier singing a Hindi love song to you, was all a bit too much. I literally could NOT stop laughing, it was hysterical!
All-in-all a pretty expensive 8-minutes experience, but so worth it!
Good to know
Photography is not allowed inside the mall. Banning phones was probably a bridge to far, so everybody is clicking away on their phones. It explains the low quality pictures accompanying this post - my phone has a terrible camera unfortunately.
A gondola ride will set you back 300 rupees (per person), so you better enjoy that mesmerising chanting to the fullest.
The place is apparently pretty crowded during the weekends with families hanging out here. I went around noon on a weekday and there was not a single soul!
How to get here?
The Grand Venice Mall is all the way in Greater Noida. From Central Delhi, take the blue metro line to Botanical Garden Metro Station. This will take approximately 40 minutes and will cost you 36 rupees. This is the metro station closest to the mall, but still more than 20 kilometers away from it! Best option is to take an Uber from there to the mall. There will be an army of Uber cars waiting at the metro station, and they it will cost some 350 rupees for the 30-minute ride.
3. Go and sample Delhi’s best toilets
Wait, what? Yes! This place actually exists. It’s called the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets.
At the moment, India is on the greatest toilet-building spree in human history. The current prime minister, Mr. Modi cleared $US 20 billion to built no less than 111 million toilets within 5 years.
Kudos for that Modi!
So what better to do in times of toilet-popularity than visit this museum! This quirky little museum has a pretty impressive collection of photographs, objects and, of course, toilets on display.
The museum shows the development of the toilet system over the past five thousand years. There are even toilets on display that will show you how emperors and queens did their thing.
Obviously, after the visit, I just HAD to try the ‘regular’ toilets that were just outside of the museum. I was expecting something incredible. A golden seat perhaps. Some nice decorations. It wasn’t though. Best to stick to just looking at the toilets in this place.
How to get there?
Take the Magenta line to Dashrathpuri. Pay no more than 20 rupees for the quick rickshaw ride to the museum. It’s open 7 days per week, on weekdays from 8 am to 8 pm and on weekends from 10 am to 5 pm.
You can find more info on the museum on http://www.sulabhtoiletmuseum.org
4. Be haunted at the Bat Cave - Agrasen ki Baoli
Want to visit one of Delhi’s most haunted places? Check out the bat cave, or going by it’s real name: the Agrasen Ki Baoli. This monument is Central Delhi’s oldest and is surrounded by the modern high build of Connaught Place.
According to the tales, it was King Agrasen, who lived during the time of Mahabharat, that built this stepwell. There is no real evidence to prove this, but it is thought to be from the 14th century. The 3 stories and 108 steps going down to the well are well impressive.
But interesting history aside - we come to get haunted! The well is now dry, but is said to have contained black water. The black water would call out to people and ask them to sacrifice their lives. Which - according to legend - many did.
So.. I didn’t see any black water that I was drawn to. But the screeching of the bats hanging from the ceiling inside were pretty daunting to me.
This place is visited by plenty of people, but not a lot of them descend all their way down to peek inside. Just make sure you won’t get shat at by the bats and cover your nose for the smell.
How to get here?
Tucked away in a quiet street, the Agrasen ki Baoli is only a short walk from the outer ring of Connaught Place. Get out at Rajiv Chowk Metro Station to reach Connaught Place. Take the F-Block exit from the metro station.
5. Walk into a giant monsters mouth
The Jhandewalan Hanuman Mandi temple can be found inside this gigantic Hanuman statue. No less than 108 feet tall it literally towers over Delhi. Hanuman is the monkey god and seen as a symbol of strength and energy in Hinduism.
The entrance of the temple is the open mouth of a Raskhas (monster) - right in the process of getting killed by Lord Hanuman. Walking into the temple through this mouth is weird enough - but it get’s even more interesting.
The temple inside is divided into different levels. On most levels, you’ll see different shrines where devotees come to pay tribute. At the lowest level however, lies the entrance to a (man-made) cave.
Right down at the entrance of the cave is a rather terrifying representation of the Goddess Kali, and crouching through the rest of the narrow, low-ceiling cave, you’ll pass more statues. At the end of the tunnel there is light. Ah, no that’s another story.
At the end of the tunnel, you’ll exit through yet another monster’s mouth.
During the evening Aarti (a Hindu ritual of worship), there is even more action. The arms of Hanuman’s giant statue move back, the chest slides open and the statues of Lord Shri Rama and Devi Sita appear in sight. Pretty cool huh!
How to get here?
The temple is a few minutes walk from Metro Station Jhandelawan, which you can reach by taking the blue line. You can’t miss it really.
6. Get your inner Sheldon out at the National Railway Museum
The National Railway Museum is perhaps not ranking very high on your to-do list in Delhi.
It is located at walking distance from the embassy area in Delhi though. Which means that if you are in the area to sort out a visa for whatever-country, it’s a short worthy hop to the open-air museum.
And let’s be honest - India has got a pretty impressive railway network. Something you may expect after 160 years of railway experience. The museum provides a nice glance back in time and showcases the Fairy Queen (the oldest working steam locomotive in the world) and a variety of other steam, electric and diesel locomotives.
They even have the Morris Fire Engine - which is running on rubber tyres. Oh, Sheldon would have been delighted.
Going on a weekday, you are likely to have the place pretty much to yourself - making it a quiet escape from the hustle of Delhi. Now that alone should be enough reason for you to visit.
How to get here?
Unfortunately this part of Delhi (Chanakyapuri) is not connected by metro line yet (it’s being built at the time of this writing). You’ll have to get here by Uber or auto-rickshaw. Or just stroll here when you are in the area to get a visa at one of the embassies here.