"India is intense. Incredibly intense. Millions of people. Constant honking. Crazy driving. Terrible smells. Annoying and persistent touts. A smorgasbord of colour. Spicy but deliciously flavourful food. India is a shock, and I both love it and hate it." - Excerpt from my travel journal, Thursday May 1st, 2014

I don't think anybody can be truly ready and prepared for India, especially if one is arriving in the capital city of Delhi. Reading dozens of blogs, advice columns, and comments on forums did not prepare me. It's not like any of them lied (everybody wrote the truth), but still, Delhi was something that needs to be experienced in order to be understood.

Upon stepping out the doors of the international airport, I was overcome with an instant feeling of stickiness and griminess. Instant. It was hot, crowded, and loud. We searched desperately for our driver, and freaked out when the security wouldn't let us back into the airport to use a phone. Thankfully, a kind lady let us use her cellphone, and we contacted our hotel who said the driver was on his way. After a few minutes of craning necks and standing on our tippy-toes, we located him and were on our way to Smyle Inn, where we would be staying for the next four nights. I highly recommend this hotel to stay in. Sure, the area is grungy (super-grungy), but the management is incredibly nice and the rooms are clean and comfortable.

Our first day in Delhi was HOT... unbearably hot. After a terribly cold and long Canadian winter, I completely forgot what heat even was, and India was about to give me a bold reminder.

Since our fourth travelling companion would join us the next day, the three of us (Me, my boyfriend, and our friend Mitch) walked around some low-key sites like Connaught Place, Jantar Mantar, and Dilli Haat. We learned that Jantar Mantar actually means "Abracadabra", an interesting word to use to describe the hundreds-of-years-old astrological complex built for studying stars. For less than $2, you can walk around the complex and climb over and into most (not all) of the structures.

The worst idea we had that day was visiting the India Gate in the middle of the day, during the hottest and most direct sunlight. We walked from shady spot to shady spot towards the gate, and spent a mere few minutes admiring the Gate from below.

Lonely Planet had recommended checking out a market called Dilli Haat. There was an entrance fee of 20 Rupees (less than 50 cents) meant to prevent touts from harassing tourists. This "fee" also meant that everything was incredibly overpriced within the market. Milos wanted a simple strand of string as a necklace for his charm, and instead of procuring this simple string, a vendor proceeded to spend the next five minutes making him an intricately designed necklace. It would have been a nice gesture had the vendor not asked $10 for a simple piece of string! In India, one must always watch out for locals trying to get you to spend way more.

The craziest experience I had in all of India occurred when we followed another Lonely Planet recommendation - in fact, this was the "top choice" for all of Delhi! The guidebook recommended visiting Hazrat-Al-Nizamuddin on Thursday night to listen to Qawalli prayers/recitations. We knew we were in trouble when we looked around and saw no other tourists. Visiting the mosque was a terrifying experience akin to being an animal in a zoo stared at by hundreds of people.

The next day our fourth travel companion, my best friend Jenny, arrived. We didn't want to overwhelm ourselves with too much travelling, so we decided to visit one site -- the Akshardham Temple. It is such a shame that photos are completely banned within the massive complex. The architecture, design, and surroundings are incredibly beautiful. The temple is a little propaganda-ist in its teachings about their religion, but I didn't find it too distracting from the wonderful experience.

Our last day in Delhi was an action-packed one. We hired a driver for the entire day because many of the sights we wanted to see were far from one another. We started off at the Red Fort, where we learned that Indians are obsessed with taking photos of white people and with white people. Posing for photos was fun (and hilarious when an Indian family threw their child at Milos!), but after a while, we just didn't feel like being in a constant photo shoot.

The highlight of exploring Delhi was seeing all the wonderful architecture and colours. Everything looked vibrant - the red stones, the green grass, the blue sky. It's like the brightness dial on our eyes had been set to max. I would have said the delicious food was a highlight, but on the last day in Delhi, Milos and I both got food poisoning. Fever, diarrhea, the chills... it was a horrible experience. Lesson: always expect to get Delhi Belly while in Delhi. 

Highs: Incredible sights, delicious cuisine, the Bahai Temple of Worship (photo above!), dirt cheap shopping ($1 pants!), the Metro, the women-only cart in the Metro

Lows: Getting scammed, getting rip-offed, change being impossible to find or get, the extreme heat, Delhi Belly, the 2 men's urinals at the end of our hotel's street, constant dust