Delhi is to India what Beijing is to China, and is perhaps home to some of the most important historical sights in India. Being the capital of India, the city is also home to the most modern and busiest airport in the country. I had a day to spare in the city and hired a taxi for the day costing about 3,000 Rupees with a break in between.
The first stop of the morning was the Qutub Minar complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was built during the 13th century by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the sultan of Delhi at that time. The main focus of the complex was the Qutub Minar itself, which is a minaret constructed of red sandstone and marble. The complex can be toured in about an hour and includes several other interesting sights such as the tomb of Iltutmish, who was the successor to Qutb-ud-din Aibak. The area around the tomb is significant for the intricate Islamic carvings.
Besides the minaret and the tomb, the other sights in the complex includes the ruins of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque which is also built by the same ruler that built the Qutub Minar. The main feature in the mosque was this ‘iron pillar’, a cylindrical metal structure that is famous for its rust-resistant properties.
From the Qutub Minar located in the south of Delhi, I head east towards the Lotus Temple which is a more modern architectural marvel that has details reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House. The Lotus Temple is a place of worship for the Bahá’í faith and is open to people of all religions. Visitors are free to roam around the gardens though they must take off their shoes once they get closer to the temple itself. There was a short queue to enter the temple with an introduction to the construction of the temple and an explanation of the Bahá’í faith. Once inside, visitors are free to spend as long as they like to meditate and seek inner peace in the serenity of the temple. It was a nice was to seek solace amidst the noise of Delhi!
The next stop in the tour was Humayun’s Tomb which is located not too far from the Lotus Temple in the eastern part of the city. As expected this is the mausoleum of the second Mughal emperor, Humayun and the main tomb itself is the architectural model for the Taj Mahal located in Agra which is built by another Mughal emperor in memory of his wife. This is by far one of the most scenic places in Delhi and because of continuous refurbishment works, this place of interest is particularly well maintained.
The complex itself includes numerous other sights such as the Tomb of Isa Khan, which has an octagonal design and was built 20 years earlier than the Humayun’s tomb.
From the tomb of Isa Khan it was probably another 5 minutes walk past the Mughal courtyard gardens from where one can enjoy the magnificence of the mausoleum.
Visitors are free to explore the tomb itself through the stairs leading up to the mausoleum and unlike the Taj Mahal which uses white marble, Humayun’s Tomb was built from red sandstone and thus exudes a stark contrast against the blue sky.
The interior of the tomb is not exactly similar to its symmetrical exterior. In fact it feels like a maze in the inside but it was quite well lit due to the sunlight streaming into the interior from the lattice screens which create a beautiful backdrop. The central dome covers the main chamber that houses the cenotaph of Humayun. The Humayun Tomb complex perhaps marks the highlight of my stay in Delhi.
From Humayun’s tomb, we then drove past India Gate and across the Rajpath towards the Presidential Palace. If Humayun’s Tomb and Qutub Minar shows the history of India, the Rajpath shows the ascent of this nation with the Rajpath bearing striking similarity to ‘The Mall’ in Washington DC. It was a magnificent drive with the India Gate acting as a central pivotal gate while the Rajpath acts as a boulevard with lawns and government buildings by the side.
Just before the grand Secretariat Building, one can spot the circular shape of India’s Parliamentary building. I would have liked to spend more time or even an afternoon exploring this part of Delhi if time permits. Sadly I did not have enough time as I would have liked to discover the rest of sights Delhi has to offer. Other sights that I would probably have liked to visit includes the Red Fort and Chandni Chowk in the older part of town. The Red Fort is important being the residence of Mughal emperors and can be compared to the Forbidden City in Beijing while at the same time also being the location where the Prime Minister of India delivers his speech and hoists the flag during Independence Day. Another sight I would put on a to-visit list is Connaught Place, a circular roundabout that functions as the place to dine and shop while in Delhi.
In the afternoon, I returned to hotel for a snack as well as to rest in the lounge. For dinner, I have arranged to have it at the ITC Maurya, a Luxury Collection property in Delhi and it also gave me the chance to explore another luxury hotel in the city. The main sight in the hotel would be the mural in the lobby atrium painted by Indian artist Krishen Khanna with the title being “Procession of Life”. The vibrant colours of the mural sure makes it a joy to just sit around the lobby atrium as I waited for the restaurants to open at 7pm. It seems that most hotel restaurants starts their dinner service at 7pm and not earlier.
Initially I had intended to try Dum Pukht, but the opulent restaurant was fully booked for the night. This left me to proceed to the other choice being Bukhara. My dinner at Bukhara turns out to be fantastic since they have individual set meals for one person and they allowed you to choose from 3 of their main courses which are comprised of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Think of it as a tasting menu if you may, and I picked 3 (Murgh Malai Kebab, Murgh Tandoori and Peshawari Kebab) of the non-vegetarian kebabs. This meant I would have 2 chicken and one lamb tandoori along with a butter naan. The table setting at the restaurant has no cutleries as diners eat with their hands though foreigners are provided with the option to ask for cutleries should they need them. There was a large apron for diners to wear where they could wipe their hands upon. Diners are also provided a cold towel to freshen up which was a nice welcome.
Prior to the main meal, a crispy flatbread was served along with fresh onions, a spicy green chutney and yogurt for the dressing. I loved this so much that I asked for more of the crispy bread which was a mistake since I should not have eaten too much before the main course.
When the main course arrived it came with a huge naan and with smaller portions of the 3 kebabs and tandoori. They came together in a plate and the main course itself was spectacular and probably the best tandoori I have ever had. Usual tandoor-cooked meats can be dry and tough but this one was juicy and tender. All 3 have a rich flavour and texture that makes the dish really appealing. I did manage to finish all the meat but not the naan.
To end, the tasting menu includes a dessert and I picked one of the custard puddings that was topped with pistachios. Maybe I was already too full after the fantastic meal but I found the dessert to be a tad ordinary or maybe it just wasn’t to my liking.
However that was not the end, since the restaurant does provide mints in its own special way. A server came over with a tray that has cardamom seeds, grated coconut and sugar crystals. Diners are supposed to use the small spoon provided to scoop out a little bit of all 3 and put them in your hands and munch on them. It made for a very nice after dinner mints that everyone could definitely try on their own!
I would totally recommend visitors to India to head down to Bukhara for dinner. As some of my friends would later note, Bukhara actually played host to visiting dignitaries like Bill Clinton when he visited so that must count for something does it not? As I would later know, there is a similar concept restaurant with similar decor in the ITC Mughal in Agra, a sister property to ITC Maurya, though it has a different name as the ‘Bukhara’ name was supposedly a trademark.