The first thing that hits you isn't the heat or the humidity or the aromas coming from the food stands, although they're all clear signals that you've left the UK far behind.
No, it's the noise. Take a couple of steps out the airport and you're confronted with what can only be described as a carhorn symphony – a never-ending aural patchwork of honks and beeps that provides the soundtrack to your journey into the city.
Delhi, you won't be shocked to learn, is a busy place, and nowhere is this more obvious than on its roads. As our taxi driver breezily explains: "There are three things you need to drive in Delhi: a good horn, good brakes, and good luck."
A fourth springs to mind as we pull into Connaught Place, a tree-lined oasis in the more modern half of this sprawling city: a good hotel to return to after tackling the rush. And we're certainly in luck on that count, with THE Park New Delhi – a local institution celebrating its 50th anniversary this year – offering a perfect blend of class and comfort.
We decompress from our flight with a feast of a picnic, served in colourful 'tiffin' boxes – a traditional Indian solution for packed lunches – and overlooking Jantar Mantar, the 18th-century observatory that looms a couple of hundred metres away. There is a fiery laksa to warm the tastebuds up, then chickpea dal, served with fresh bread, and a selection of desserts, eastern and western. It all disappears in a happy haze.
Fuelled up, we head out for some sightseeing. Just around the corner from the hotel is Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, a stunning Sikh house of worship whose serenity is entirely at odds with the bustling markets that line nearby streets. We take a leisurely stroll around its ground before moving on to Hanuman Temple, an ancient Hindu enclave nestled between commercial buildings and trees full of playful monkeys.
After a spot of retail therapy – colourful glass bangles are the speciality outside Hanuman – it's back to the hotel for a memorable meal at the award-winning FIRE restaurant. 'Organic' and 'seasonal' are the watchwords here, with executive chef Abhishek Basu aiming to celebrate the diversity of Indian cuisine with a modern, sustainable twist.
Many of his ingredients are grown on-site, with the hotel's terrace hosting a collection of 70 old bathtubs, repainted and repurposed as raised beds for tomatoes, herbs and other produce that all finds its way onto the menu. The starter, creamy burrata from a local farmer and caramelised walnuts, is sublime, as is everything that follows.
We rise early the next day and zip over to Old Delhi for a morning trawling the markets near the Red Fort. A rabbit warren of winding streets seems to contain just about every product under the sun, but the undoubted highlight is the spice market, with its piles of scarlet chillis and fragrant fug that sticks in your throat.
A tuk-tuk rickshaw helps us dodge the traffic (well, some of it) on the way to lunch at Karim's, a back-alley eatery that first opened in 1913. Its motto boasts that its grilled meats and fresh breads are the "secret of a good mood", and after a few bites, we're fully on board with that assessment. A dinky terracotta bowl of phirni, a pistachio-studded take on rice pudding, sends us merrily on our way.
Back at the hotel, we decide it's high time to relax after a hard day of bartering. An hour-long Swedish massage at the on-site Aura Spa proves to be just the ticket, the subsequent night's sleep a glowing testament to the expertise of the staff.
Our final morning in Delhi is spent at a farmers' market, marvelling at tiny white aubergines – so this is why they're called eggplants in the USA! – and chatting with the friendly Sneh Yadav, who explains that some of the producers travel up to 90km every week to sell their fruit and vegetables here.
The location of this market? THE Park New Delhi. "The idea is to give a face to farmers," explains Yadav, who then notes that their presence here over the last five years has coincided with chef Basu's quest to focus on organic, local produce. It's a rare, welcome sight at a luxury hotel, and further proof, at the end of a memorable weekend, that THE Park's catchphrase has it right.
Our stay in Delhi really was Anything But Ordinary.
Rates at THE Park Hotel New Delhi start from £95 per night, based on two sharing a Deluxe Double Room on a B&B basis, excluding tax. For more information please visit: www.theparkhotels.com and www.incredibleindia.org