India Here We Come!

Trip Start Aug 03, 2008
Trip End Aug 18, 2009

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Flag of India  ,
Thursday, October 2, 2008

Let's just say that nothing can really prepare you for the streets of Dehli...but I'll back up a bit before i get there.

Our flight from Bangkok to Mumbai was uneventfully and basically a chance to sit back and relax. However, we had also learned that the domestic terminal was about 4 km away from the international terminal, but we could get a bus. Luckily, we had made sure that we had plenty off time when we booked the connection and this was before we knew about the distance between terminals. But we went to the spot to get the bus and was told about 30 minutes that we basically had to sit there and wait. No one else was there until an Indian man also needed the same bus. Around 30 mins later Bill asked, and we were told 15 more. At the 45 min mark, Bill is started to get very irritated and the Indian man tries to calm him down telling him we have plenty of time. We start to wonder if we should take a taxi, but the man tells us that there's too much traffic outside and it's better to wait. Finally, after an hour of waiting, the bus arrives, we start to relax a bit as we still have plenty of time.

What made our walk worse, was some guy grabbed Michelle while holding his girlfriends hand.

However, as we go to security guard to show him our ticket to get into the terminal, he tells us, "This flight is canceled." Bill and I look at each other and to the side of this ramp are all the local airline ticket booths, so we walk over to the booth and they tell us, they tried to call and emailed us. We had checked our email before leaving Bangkok which was about 8 hours before this flight, and we had booked this flight only three days prior, but apparently not enough people so they just cancel. They couldn't get through to Bill's parents which is the number we left because they didn't know how to dial an international number. And later we checked our email and they only emailed a couple of hours before the flight. So now we had two options, get on another airline that was still flying or switch our flight to the morning. The other airline was more expensive, so we opted to stay one night and fly out in the morning. Of course, we had a "helpful" guy in the airport that would arrange a hotel for us. The price he told us was 6000 rupees which Bill at first thought was only $20, but I was confused by the rates from the book that were around 2700 and he had early said was closer to $35. So he checked his math again and realized how tired he was, but we got a room for the price of the book and it ended up being around $45, but I was glad we didn't pay the original price. They also took us to and from the airport where we left for our 7:30 am flight to Dehli.

So to help you visualize what Delhi is like, think of a crowded place like maybe Disneyland on a packed day or Times Square at New Year's Eve, and well that's what central areas of Delhi are like 24 hours a day. Tuk Tuk and cars honking there horns as they race past you, Rigsaw drivers literally pushing you out of their way if your back is turned as they ride by you, which may not sound bad, but keep in mind that the roads are really only big enough for one way of traffic to go by safely. And the wall to wall people, and being tourists, they people grabbing onto your arm or hand trying to get them to come to their shop, restaurant, hotel, or of course to take a ride. Not to mention the trash everywhere and the smells that arise as there a designated walls kind of like stalls that men can pee all over. The roods are mostly dirt that at times spray up into your eyes if the pollution hasn't already made your eyes and lungs cringe with pain. Of course, I really don't think this description is enough because I've heard some of these descriptions but after all the traveling we've done, I thought, no big deal. Boy was I wrong. It's a hard adjustment, and so I kept wanting to retreat back to the room like waving my white surrender flag.

So we were dropped off by the government taxi, which is a fixed price for both Indians and tourists. As we will soon learn for most things, there are two different prices. We arrive in the heat of the afternoon with all of our luggage trying to figure out where we can eat so that I can stay with the luggage while Bill finds a place to stay. We first found a guest house, so we go all the way up the stairs to find out that it's a room with a fan not AC. The guy showing us the room said they didn't have any AC, but the guy at the desk said, "oh yes, we do, come take look." I'm starting to think that say "yes" to everything trying to get you to come inside. Bill asks the guy where we can find a restaurant, and he points the way to many. many restaurants as he put it.

Bill starts walking and I follow, but we seem to come to the end of anything with no restaurants in sight. I had thought we were suppose to go to the left and not right, so we try that and find some "restaurants." Being a shops with about 3 or 4 tables and a menu painted on a sign in the back of the place. Being so hot and sweaty with our bags feeling like they weigh us down to the ground, we just stopped at the first one that looked okay. We hadn't had breakfast yet, so we just ordered some cheese omelet and nan. However, I'm also coming to learn is that onion is an ingredient that isn't listed but is put in EVERYTHING, so basically to our disgust we had onion omelet, we get funny looks now when we double check to make sure there isn't any onion in things but who cares, just no more onion. Bill then lets the guy know that I'll stay for a bit and he'll be back.

A bit turns into a while. And we'd picked the corner table by all the supplies, so I have to help rearrange our luggage so that they can get to their pots. And then a while later, they guy starts shrugging at me, and I shrug back and quickly turn back to my book but wondering, "Where the hell is he?"  Finally, an hour later he returns for me to learn that he found a place pretty quickly but got turned around when he walked out and ended up a long way in the wrong direction and spent most of his time being lost.  This makes much more sense to me that night when we go to dinner because when we walked out of the restaurant, the street look exactly the same in the two directions you looked, and if you had not been paying attention to any land marks or signs, you could easily walk in the wrong direction.

Bill had picked out a hotel that had said they had AC, hot water, you know the typical stuff you expect from a hotel.  We were so tired after getting up early to fly that we took a nap and woke up an hour later to a still hot room.  When Bill went to complain and they came upstairs to check, they said, "Only 15 mins, it'll be cool."  Bill had to explain, "But it's already been 2 hours."  So time for a room change, they check the room next door and that AC didn't work either so off to the one after that finally AC that works.  However, later we look to try to turn the hot water on, and there is a hot water heater, so Bill goes to plug it in and sparks fly and he cuts all the power on the one wall.  And we go to having one light again.  When Bill tells them, they simply reply, "No hot water." By that point, we made sure to get a new hotel the next day.  Though the new hotel was much better, the only complaint was that they don't clean the inside of the shower head, so water sprays everywhere without much coming towards you, but I guess that's India for you.


While Michelle rested in our hotel room trying to cope with the adjustment to India, I went out walking to go see some temples.  I chose to go see a temple built to the goddess of money and prosperity by a rich business man.  The temple called Lakshmi Narayan Temple was in beautiful condition and was well kept.  The insides of the temple were decorated with small amounts of marble inlay, but mostly painted murals on the wall with stained glass providing a unique light.  The temple was large consisting of 3 different halls each with a sperate purpose, meeting, reception, and silent prayer.  Just outside this temple was a large park that at one time had a pool and play area for children.  However, like much if India the pool was dry and the parts of the playground were is a poor state of repair.  But either way this still proved to be the most peaceful spot I visited in Dehli.

Michelle encouraged by my story of the temple and convinced that only the area around our hotel (the main bazaar) where as crowded and hectic decided to head out to see the Red Fort with me.  Rather than be stuck in Dehli traffic for the rest of our lives we headed to the subway, because we thought that should be quick and easy.  The tickets were quickly purchased, but the line to get frisked to enter the subway (of course there was a metal detector too, but they are everywhere and do not seem to detect much).  When we get to the stop for the red fort we have 3 blocks to walk down Chandi Chowak, which once was a regal walkway, but now is as congested and hectic as any place in Dehli.  After getting to the fort and seeing the line we decided to try and find food before going in.  After an hour of searching through the narrow alleyways off this street getting directions from just about everyone, and even trying to just have a rickshaw take us to dinner, We gave up and headed to the hotel to order room service.  What made our walk worse, was some guy grabbed Michelle while holding his girlfriends hand.  When I confronted him, and he lost his ability to speak his girlfriend came to his rescue saying "Mistake, Mistake."  I was so flabbergasted that she would defend him.  I just turned and walked away.  That was our excitement for the night.

The next day we got an autorickshaw to take us around to some of the other sights in Dehli.  First we stopped at Humayun's Tomb, which was built about 100 years before the Taj Mahal, but shows many of the Moghal architecture styles that were "perfected" on the Taj.  The tomb is smaller and much shorter than the Taj.  The walls are decorated a little, but the domes are well decorated.  The Masques built into the outer walls were interesting, though we were not allowed inside.

Next we went to Purana Qila (Old Fort) while we got here late in the afternoon we wandered around the massive walls of the fort.  About the only part of the walls that were in really good condition was the main gate.  The rest of the walls showed the damage from years of abuse and neglect.  There were few buildings inside, but the most decorative was the masque, though again it was not open.  The entry way that you could see was very elaborately decorated showing the incredible geometric patterns associated with Islamic tradition.

The next morning we got on our train to Agra to go see the real Taj Mahal.


The New Dehli Subway....

I just wanted to add a bit more description about the great new subway system of Dehli.  As Bill wrote above, once we got inside the system, the trains were good and pretty fast.  The problem is the new system they put in. The Indian government spent money purchasing, quarter size with the thickness of two quarters, a coin operating system.  These are no ordinary coin, as they are little readers that you had to swipe on the exact spot to open the gate, but you can't take these coins out of the system punishable by law since they cost so much.  Therefore, people, which is most Indians traveling on the subway, who can't afford a more expensive paper pass must wait in line every time they want to use the subway.  These lines become massive cues that lead to the inevitable Indian lack of personal space as they push you towards the front window if they don't just cut you off.  Then you have to wait in the next massive cue to get patted down in sperate male/female cues.  The males seem to walk through the one metal detectors pretty quickly, but every female has her bags searched and then is patted down.   Bill said that he even saw someone get on the train with a knife.  I guess they're only looking for explosive.  But after using the subway for two trips, we never used it again.  I just keep dreaming about having some personal space again, and then I realize I'm in India.

Michelle's elaboration
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