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school kids india

First time in Delhi, India: sensory overload!

by Emiel Van Den Boomen

streets of delhi

“Do you like India Sir?”
Our Tuk-Tuk driver shouted to the four of us on the back seat of his ragged transportation vehicle. Shouting because he had to beat the unbeatable: New Delhi traffic noise.

“This is not normal Dad!” My son’s reaction on his first experience with India. There were cows and monkeys on the streets, all the vehicles were passing each other left and right, there was dirt everywhere, people sleeping on top of their cars, cars honking all over the place, and so much more. Grand chaos.

Delhi street traffic

And we loved every minute of it. On our first day in Delhi we drove and walked around for a couple of hours but already got the full monty!

“Where are you from Sir?” I answered: ”Holland”. “Ah”, he returned, “very small country!”

Our second Tuk-Tuk driver was a Sikh and he took us to one of the the Sikh temples. Our daughter loved this part the most: an old man in a small carpeted room, reading from the holy, 500 year old Sikh book. 1435 pages, totally handwritten. Next to us, two Sikh were in the room listening. The old man was kind of silently singing when he read the stories he was basing his life upon. After finishing each page and before turning it, he gently cleaned it with a cloth.

Reading holy book

Holy book

India travel kids

Indian sikhs

Meeting India people

Jama Mashid mosque

We made a lot of friends in just two days. No, but honestly, many people just warmly welcomed us and have been very friendly. I also think our family have been photographed more in one day than we have in the last year or two! It seems we are the attraction of the day. We have spent at least half an hour in the top of the minaret at the Jama Masjid mosque (the biggest one in India) talking to a bunch of young men and taking pictures of each other. One of them was an architect who truly believed his work brings at least some joy to the poor people of India.


Delhi mosque

Meeting india people

Another young man was explaining about an old saying expressing how people of India are happy with visitors of their country: “Guests are God”. Now how cool is that? Have you ever felt more welcome? He wrote it down for me:

guests are gods

First time Delhi India: sensory overload

Being God or not, visiting India is indeed sensory overload. That’s the only way to describe it. Because it’s almost impossible to write down what you feel, hear and smell when you are out in the streets. There is however one good way of experiencing this to the fullest: cycling.

biking delhi

We booked a tour with Delhi ByCycle and cycled through the narrow and dusty streets of Old Delhi. Starting at 6.30 am to beat the morning traffic and the heat, we started at Chandni Chowk street and, bang, right into the meat market where people where chopping meat while scaring away the crows picking it.

Crossing streets was a challenge, avoiding tuk-tuks and so-called killer busses. The smell of spices and dirt. Cows, monkeys, horses, goats, all is on the streets. It’s chaos! And this is daily life.
People were washing themselves on the streets, school kids waving from amazing miniature school busses (or actually bicycles). We wanted to capture it all, but it’s just impossible. Really impossible. You cannot describe it, you have to experience this at least once in your lifetime.

school kids india

Bike tour Delhi

The kids did great on their bikes! They had to conquer the traffic, avoid dead rats on the road, holy cows (and of course holy shit) and people cooking on the street. On Chandni Chowk we watched a very long line of poor people on the sidewalk waiting for food and free help from a doctor (all provided by the Sikhs). The line passed one of the few MacDonalds restaurants in town, what a contradiction.

India travel

I can write on and on, everywhere you look it’s a surreal world for us. I am in the middle of it right now and it will take some time for me to understand the meaning of it all. This is real life kicking us in the butt!

Our next Tuk-Tuk driver drove us back to our hotel. Halfway he stopped for a minute or two. Got out a plastic glass and poured himself a whiskey with water. “Hmm, nice strong whiskey”, he said to himself. One gulp. He turned on the engine again and further we went.

Next stop: Jaipur, the Pink city.

Some more impressions of places and people we have seen. And this has just been the first two days…. If you can, go to India.

Indian boy selling cake

Shop Jaipur

Banks Ganges

Riksjaw driver

India hairdresser

Pump water India

Best Travel Pictures


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Tess January 6, 2013 - 21:02

I found your blog when googling for Delhi. Going there in March! 🙂 Thanks for the link to the bike tours, 🙂

Emiel van den Boomen January 6, 2013 - 21:09

That’s great Tess, thanks for leaving a comment. Do go on that bike tour, it’s an amazing way to discover the city! Have a wonderful time in India!

Audrey Bergner August 25, 2012 - 14:31

It’s so great seeing a family travelling through India. 🙂 It sounds like you guys have had some truly precious moments.

Emiel van den Boomen August 28, 2012 - 14:59

We had Audrey…and after 6 weeks we long for more…

Michi August 25, 2012 - 13:56

What beautiful visuals and descriptions and New Delhi!! I especially loved the bicycle-bus that the school children use!

Emiel van den Boomen August 28, 2012 - 14:58

Those were fascinating, but also a bit sad. In India you can sit on the side of the road and the most incredible things happen and pass by. India should be on your Asia travel list!

Emiel van den Boomen August 1, 2012 - 14:01

Glad it made you grin Geri! The last one is awesome indeed. I saw that cow moving into the frame when I was about to shoot the picture. I prayed for the cow to stay put…and she (or he) did..

Emiel van den Boomen August 1, 2012 - 13:59

Thanks Rein, enjoy your holidays!

with2kidsintow August 1, 2012 - 12:24

Cycling through Delhi–what an interesting perspective! India definitely is sensory overload, but oh-so fascinating!

Emiel van den Boomen August 1, 2012 - 13:51

It is! You see, hear and smell the city and people always look up when you pass by. A friendly way to experience a city for sure.

capturinglavita July 29, 2012 - 16:20

Emiel, your photographs are stunning. The last one is just incredible. What an amazing experience for your children. It would be a life-changing experience for an adult, I can’t imagine how a child would process it all. Looking forward to more stories!

Emiel van den Boomen August 1, 2012 - 13:53

Thanks Laurel, that last one I love as well. I was almost ready to take the shot when I saw the cow’s head moving into the mirror view, it was the perfect shot! Kids love it, we were a bit afraid at first but they adapt so quickly. They love the vibrant city life!

Tracey - Life Changing Year July 28, 2012 - 15:40

Oh these photos are gorgeous!! I’m so looking forward to following along. You’ve packed so much in so soon – and the kids look really happy to be there. What a great adventure for you all!!

Emiel van den Boomen August 1, 2012 - 13:54

It is Tracey. We have just ended our 10 days in India and are now ready to move on to Thailand. ‘Only’ 10 days, but what an adventure…

monique at bringingtravelhome July 27, 2012 - 23:48

your photos make me feel as if Im almost there! Normal or not, I have never been to India, but what an experience it must be. I look forward to your next post.

Emiel van den Boomen August 1, 2012 - 13:55

Monique, India is fascinating, please check my latest post about Jaipur!

Taryn July 26, 2012 - 10:56

Stunning photos!

Emiel van den Boomen August 1, 2012 - 13:55

Thanks Taryn!

Esther van der Wal July 26, 2012 - 07:53

Great story and great pics as always, so glad to see your family is enjoying the sensory overload! I don’t think I could do it… How amazing is it for your kids to say later “I cycled the streets of Delhi as a kid”, this will give them so much life luggage. Hope your stomachs don’t get ill, keep on soaking in all these experiences!

Emiel van den Boomen August 1, 2012 - 13:57

Thanks Esther! It is amazing for the kids, but they have adapted quite quickly I must say. And yes, we suffered some DelhiBelli but not really severe (we didn’t have to stay in our hotel room). Our daughter is the only one who had no stomach troubles at all!

JIll July 26, 2012 - 04:01

Wonderful, you have captured exactly how I felt in India. And we are going again. Its great to see pics of your kids Emiel. I’ll be following all your posts!

Emiel van den Boomen August 1, 2012 - 13:58

Great to hear that Jill. And you are going again! Any plans already for the near future or is it long-term?

Emily July 25, 2012 - 22:57

Wonderful post Emiel! Just stunning pictures!

Emiel van den Boomen August 1, 2012 - 14:01

Thank you Emily, glad you liked it

Martijn July 25, 2012 - 20:55

Yeah, I’m from Holland so I have to ride a bike! Lol. Thanks for sharing. Great story! Keep on “nosing and tasting”

Emiel van den Boomen August 1, 2012 - 14:02

Nosing and tasting…Martijn, any idea how expensive whiskey is around here ha ha! Thanks for your comment.

Penny July 25, 2012 - 17:28

Amazing post Emiel! Thank you.


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