Saturday, May 11, 2019

Uttarakhand II - Delhi & Journey to Hardiwar

Chole Bathure
"Delhi should be declared the street food capital of  India", these were the exacts thoughts that came to my mind, as I munched another bite of the spicy chole curry with an extra soft Bathure, with fillings of Paneer within it. It was like a pleasant shock to the taste buds, which hadn't experienced anything like this for some time. Yes, Mumbai street food would come a close second. Delhi street food vs Mumbai street food - What is your take on it?

Airport Bus
Eating street food of Delhi has always been a regular feature of any journey to the North. As a matter of coincidence, we got a little extra time to try out the street food thanks to the Jet Airways fiasco. I had to rebook an early morning flight to Delhi. Others were reaching Delhi in the evening. Since I was reaching earlier, it was decided, that I proceed to Haridwar earlier, meet our travel agent, ensure all our arrangements were in place, and yeah, take a good night's rest too. I had to reach the New Delhi Railway Station from where I had a train to Haridwar. To reach NDLS from the airport, one could take a cab, airport bus etc. I decided to try the metro. If one needs to reach NDLS, via the metro, one needs to turn right after getting out of the airport terminal and then take the airport bus. The airport bus has a neat section to keep your large bags. It would drop you at the Aerocity metro station. From there, you can take the airport express metro to reach New Delhi Railway Station. I proceeded accordingly & reached NDLS without much trouble. The metro train was rather empty.

Since there was still some time for my train, I decided to try out some local cuisine. So, just opposite to NDLS, in Paharganj, is the famous eatery called RadheShyam Chole Bathure. I read some good reviews of the place. It is a roadside eatery, with no seating arrangement and no ambience to speak whatsoever. The only thing it was famous for was the authentic Chole Bathure. "Aur kya Chahiye?". (What else is needed?) No doubt, it was bursting with the flow of people - families, college students, office goers. The Chole Bathure was served with some raw onions, lemon and a very special chutney. The Bathure was extremely soft and had stuffing filled with paneer. The chole was spicy and the yummiest preparation known. A piece of the soft Bathure with the spicy chole tasted like heaven. I had a sumptuous meal topped with, of course, the thick Punjabi lassi with extra dollops of malai. Meanwhile, few friends who reached Delhi next had their meals at the airport cafe and went to one of their relative's place, even they had homemade Chole Bathure. Coincidentally, the last friend to arrive in Delhi, even he had Chole Bathure at Haldiram's. Guess, it was a Chole Bathure day for all. Later, they had all regrouped and roamed around Old Delhi. They had an overnight train. They took the pleasure to inform me that they were having World's best Rabri, Kulfi & Icecream at the Giani's. sic. 
Haldiram's
I had booked my ticket on the NDLS to Dehradun Jan Shatabdi Express. The train started on time and was a smooth ride. The train was filled with a lot of people, mostly tourists. My co-passenger informed me, during the season the whole of Uttarakhand is filled with tourists, yatris & foreigners. And so was the case in my train as well, there were different groups of tourists in my compartment, speaking Telugu, Marathi & Gujarati. And I was seated in the middle of all these groups, understanding what they were speaking, but choosing to remain silent. The rest of the journey was quite relaxed, rather, a short one. The train literally got empty in Haridwar.
Hotel Arjun, Haridwar

Before I came to Haridwar, my opinion of the place was that it was more of a temple town with not much of development, would probably be deserted by the night. But, how wrong I was, it was buzzing with people, almost like any suburb of Mumbai. I had booked a room for the night at Hotel Arjun. Thanks to Google Maps, I could easily locate the hotel. It was in the lane called Jassa Ram Road, just opposite the station, which had most of the hotels. The hotel lobby was filled with guests, hoping to get a room. It was that kind of season. I checked in to my hotel. I informed the manager that there will be a couple of guests in the morning, for which, he demanded extra payment. 

After freshening up, I decided to venture out to explore Haridwar. Jassa Ram Road, where the hotel was located, was quite crowded with tourists, Indian as well as foreigners, babas, shops, roadside eateries & even rickshaws passing by. On some occasions, there was hardly any space to walk. There were a lot of ashrams, bungalows converted into hotels. There was a constant sound of aarti & bhajan happening in the place. Surprisingly, there were a lot of Gujarati restaurants & shops there. I had my dinner at Dosa Plaza Punjabi Tadka. It was a quaint little family restaurant. The food was ok. Meanwhile, the rest of the friends had boarded their train Delhi-Mussoorie express and were on their way.
Jassa Ram Road, Haridwar

I located our travel agent’s office, which was just opposite to Haridwar Railway Station. After a brief introduction, we discussed our plans for the next day. I enquired about any washrooms to freshen up for my friends, he informed, as you exit the station, as you walk towards the left, there were public washrooms which were well maintained, with clean restrooms, bathrooms with geyser facility at nominal charges. Regarding the journey itself, He advised us to start early to avoid traffic, as it was a long day of travel & most importantly travelling in the mountains can be unpredictable. We had to reach Rampur, which was close to Sonprayag, the base village for the Kedarnath yatra. It was going to be a gruelling 8-9-hour journey in the mountains. With that news, I decided to wind off for the day & bid farewell to our agent. I went back to my hotel room, hoping for a good night's rest as the next day was going to be a hard and long day of travel.

Public Washroom, Haridwar Station
Note - This blog series on Uttarakhand journey, is not the usual one with details on how to go, places to see, etc. Although the details are very much there, I have covered over the course of the blog along with the experiences. Hope you like it. Enjoy reading !!

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