Walking tours through interesting neighbourhoods and ancient ruins; mixed dorms with bunk beds and lockers; a shelf full of travel guides in the common room; and running into friendly backpackers in hallways from a dozen different countries – these are experiences I would typically associate with Europe. But here I was, in Delhi – a city arguably better known for its bungalows and boisterousness.
Is It Foolhardy To Be Fearless In Delhi?
I had been in Delhi several times before. Yet, this was the first trip that showed me this old city in a new light. Interestingly, this was the first time that I was exploring India’s capital as a solo traveller. I was no longer driven around in my aunt’s sedan, nor did I have my cousins’ expert advice on navigating NCR or avoiding the city’s stalkers. I had also decided not to heed my (overprotective) friend who made me swear I’d carry an electric taser or at least a pepper spray everywhere I went. Was I pushing my luck? Or had I let news reports paint a grave picture in my head? Whatever be the case, I rediscovered Delhi in a way I had never expected to know it.
Stops Hostel – A New Concept In Old Delhi
Embracing my new life as a full-time traveller, I decided to stay with Stops Hostel. The moment I entered, it felt like I’d left the red and brown Old Delhi behind to drown in bright colours. My video above will show you how vibrant the common room is. The hostel aims to attract both the right-brained creative explorers and the left-brained startup-workers. There is free wifi in all the areas, complimentary unlimited breakfast (although basic) in the dining-room-cum-kitchen and plenty of things to keep oneself occupied with – a small collection of books for those who like to cuddle up with a paperback and lie on the floor-cushions; a billiards table for those who can’t get away from perfecting their game; 3 guitars and a djembe for the musically gifted; and some board games for the laidback lounger. I can’t help but wonder whether the founders of this hostel are big fans of European hostels.
Not Too Far From Anywhere
Located right in front of a Metro station, Stops Hostel is easily accessible from most places. Feroz Shah Kotla is a short walk from the hostel, and a few minutes in a tuk-tuk will take you to some of Old Delhi’s famous food streets. Walking around is also a good idea, but Delhi’s afternoons can be a little too hot for comfort, especially in the summers.
A Terrace Garden For Some Fresh Air
Unlike any of the hostels I’ve stayed at abroad, Stops Delhi has a neat little terrace with potted plants and colourful chairs for the hostellers to chill in the evening. This is a nice way to help your lungs recuperate after they’ve felt the assault of Delhi’s pollution.
Food Tour In Chawri Bazaar
Stops Hostel offers some walking tours (which even non-residents can join) – this immediately makes me think of those old-town-walking-tours in Europe. I decide to have a light lunch one day to stuff my face during the Food-gasm tour in the late afternoon. I have 2 other travellers who join me for this walking tour through Chawri Bazaar. Perhaps not as well known as Chandni Chowk or Parathe-waali Gali, Chawri Bazaar hides some of Old Delhi’s best preparations – kulfis stuffed in deseeded apples, pineapples, oranges or pomegranates and fruit sandwiches, for instance.
Coming Home To Dogs & Cats
Travelling of late has made me quite fond of pets. The hostel has 3 cuddly dogs and some cats who are mostly in their own world but entertaining to watch. Despite these furry friends around, the hostel premises are squeaky clean. (No cat hair on the cushions! 🙂 ) These pets are not allowed inside the dorms though. After we play with them, we are to leave them in the common room or terrace.
Myths And Mysticism
I spent my first evening learning why Delhi is called “The City of Djinns” as our walking tour leader, Mayank, took us to some spooky places during the City of Mysticism walking tour. We strolled through the abandoned precincts of Feroz Shah Kotla and encountered an old woman who uttered unintelligible words aloud, as if possessed by a spirit. We walked past underground rooms full of bats as we heard stories of how a royal family was killed there many years ago. We later visited a temple where (shockingly) alcohol is served to the idol. It took me a while to fall asleep that night.
Colours In The Common Room
Stops Hostel does its bit to go green by turning off the air conditioning in the dorms during the day. They encourage guests to spend time in the common room or the terrace. This is a great way to meet new people! The commmon room is inviting and warm with its coloured wooden tables, benches and couches. And there’s always some music in the background – a great accompaniment to good conversations! 😉 While I stayed with Stops, I made friends with:-
- a blue-haired girl whose fetish is to change her hair colour to match the mood of every place she visits
- a Gujarati diamond merchant from Russia who is spending this year travelling around the world
- an Egyptian solo traveller who never forgets to kneel and pray before she hits the sack
- two medical students from the UK who are stoked about mehendi and spicy food in Delhi
- a Nepali roommate who lunches on smoothies so she can drink all night
I’ve always met interesting people whenever I’ve stayed at hostels in Europe. I honestly underestimated the scope of meeting quirky backpackers in Delhi. I’m glad I was wrong!
Take A Taxi To Tibet
Not many are aware of Majnu Ka Tila – an area exclusively reserved for Tibetan refugees. This (almost) secret little hangout has the best places to get your Tibetan food fix! A couple of the night tour experts at Stops took me to this food haven in an Uber. Barely a 30-minute drive from the hostel, Majnu Ka Tila offered me a bowl of laping (a Tibetan street food made of mung bean flat noodles with a spicy paste), a tingmo (Tibetan steamed bead), sha phaley (vegetable stuffed fried savoury shaped as gujias) and some fried wantons. I was elated to find that the restaurants here serve Korean, Japanese and even Bhutanese cuisine!
Crash In Your Comfy Bed
After my day-long adventures in haunted forts and eclectic eat-streets, I would be glad to come back to a cosy room, a soft bed and a comforter to keep me warm. The reading lights for each bed are quite convenient to stay up without disturbing your fellow roommates. Our room had an ensuite bathroom which was also very clean and furnished with premium bath fittings. This bit felt luxurious in a hostel which is so pocket-friendly.
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Ever backpacked in Delhi?
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Disclosure: I was hosted by Stops Hostels. Nevertheless, all views are entirely my own.