Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Delhi in two and a half days... (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday morning)

Before we arrived I had heard Delhi was a horrible, dirty place with chaos on every street corner. But as the plane landed, I put all of these thoughts out of my mind and made my way through the airport with an open mind.

The bus journey that took us close by to our hostel was fairly quiet, but then again we did arrive at 7am on a Sunday morning.

Off the bus we wondered down the Main Bazaar in the Paharganj area of the city. We had picked up a map from the airport and had drawn the hostel's map before we left the UK so vaguely worked out where we needed to be: straight down the Main Bazaar then the second left. The map seemed simple and we assumed the hostel would be easy to find.

The street was fairly quiet and there were a few stalls opening up and a reasonable amount of people making their ways.

We walked with clear intent so that we wouldn't get hassled into another hostel by keen touts.

When we reached a fork in the road we realised that we must have passed the second left... Surely the narrow ginnels that went off the Main Bazaar weren't the streets so clearly marked on the map. As we headed back the way we came we realised that these narrow passageways were the side streets that the map led us to believe were much more prominent side streers.

With the help of an over-friendly local, who seemed genuine to help us, we found the alleyway to our hostel.

We were able to go straight in to our rooms and so decided to have a power nap... Three hours later we woke up!

We decided to head to the Tourist Information Office first to get a map of India and chat to people about our plans.

Back out on the Main Bazaar was a different world. The quietly bubbling street was an absolute hive of activity. People, rickshaws, cars, cows were everywhere... and this street was no wider than 10 meters with so many pot holes, wires sticking out of road and holes. It was chaos. It was Delhi. And after just five minutes, I loved it.

The busy streets were mesmorising and life was everywhere.

We headed to the official tourist information as per the good ole Lonely Planet. Determined to walk there we quickly acquired a kind man who offered to get us there. He told us we must only ever go to the official tourist office. He warned us against the dodgy tour operators who were overpriced.

He pointed out the initials on the door which represented the government approved tourist office.

Two hours later we came out. They had tried to sell us a trip to Kashmir, which they had insisted was better than Nepal. Despite their ardent insistence, we didn't buy into it, but agreed to a city tour for 500 rupees.

The city tour set off straight away and would continue till lunchtime the next day. This would be a great way to see the city and get to grips with the chaos.

It cerainly was a fantastic way to get around. Driving in the city was an experience in itself. The secret was very simple but not discreet: use the horn at every opportunity!

That evening and the next day we saw all the great sights of Delhi: The Red Fort (from the outside only), The Lotus Temple (think Sydney Opera House/Lotus plant), Birla Mandir, Chandni Chowk, Jama Masjid MOsque, Raj Ghat, Rajpath, The Mughal Gardens, Qutib Manir. (I promise to add pictures as soon as I possibly can). The city was amazing and the architecture on display at all these sites was incredible.

The higlight for me was in Old Delhi. We had climbed the minaret at Jama Masjid and looked over the Old city. From high up it was buzzing. Once we left the mosque we headed through the streets and wholesale markets. The place was so vibrant, with coloured flowers everywhere, bright saris, incredible smells of all the spices. For me, this was perfect. Every corner I turned I was in awe. I was just waiting for the streets to burst into song like in Bollywood movies. Walking fown Chadni Chowk was great too. Everywhere was busy and I've never been anywhere that feels so alive.

We found a small sanctuary of quiet in the Raj Ghat garden which was bliss after the constant horn-blaring and bustle of the Old Town.

By the end of Monday we felt as though we had 'done' the Delhi tourist scene. We had ticked off all of the sites we wanted to see and had experienced something incredible in Old Delhi.

Monday night we went to return to our hostel but were dragged into another tourist office. Not the official one. One of the many in Paharganj. We walked away without buying anything saying we would think about it, and we then made our way to the railway station with the intention of buying a train ticket to get us on our way to Kathmandu... that was when we got hustled, Yes, hustled.

The ticket desk at the train station was closed. And a very helpful man told us that as tourists to buy train tickets we had to go to the tourist office, but that we must go soon as it would close at 8pm, and, as tomorrow (Tuesday) was Holi Day it would be closed. HE showed us on a map where the official tourist office was and was keen that we went immefiately. As we walked away we decided that we would spend an extra day or two in Delhi before heading in the direction of Nepal. So off we went for food.

Walking along we saw a man who looked into a temple and bowed to the deity. He turned to us and said "This is my religion. Tomorrow is Holi, big festival for my religion." A conversation ensued and he showed us his government card, we trusted him immediately as he confirmed the man at the train station's comment that we had to buy tickets at the tourist office. He said that because of Holi we would have to go the tourist office now if we wanted to leave Delhi soon. He flagged us a rickshaw telling them the address of the tourist information office and insisted that the driver charged us the local price of ten rupees.

Great we thought. AS we made our way over, we realised ourselves that the information office we went to on Sunday could not have been the official office. It had no maps, leaflets and there insistence to put us on a tour was clearly not advice but a sale!

We were relieved that at last we would be at the official toruist office and we would be able to get on our way to our next stop.

We told the man at the information centre what we wanted to do. He said that was a great plan, and said that Nepal was lovely. He recommended that we visited Rajastan before Nepal saying that in a few weeks it would be too hot for Rajastan. This made sense, go to Rajastan before it heated up and then up to the cool in Nepal.

He told us that we could not get trian tickets to Rajastan as the desert made travel difficult. He said the best way to get around was by private car. He gave us a price of 600 pounds to for two weeks with all included except lunch and dinner. That meant hotels, sightseeing, petrol everything.

We did not want to spend that much money on just two weeks travel! So declined and said that we wanted cheaper hostels not hotels. He reckoned another price and it came down lower.

After two and a half hours in the office we said we would come back tomorrow (Wednesday). HIs response: "It is holi day tomorrow and we are closed". We decided that we wanted to get out of Delhi soon and ended up forking out 230 pounds each.

What! 230 pounds!

Yes, I know it's a lot of money... but it did include a six day tour around Rajastan (not including sleeping) and ALL of our main train journeys right up to the end of our trip (about ten trains). It was a lot of money, but we figured that booking the trains ahead was a good thing as the trains always were booked up.

We headed back to hostel feeling pain after parting with so much money. But it was a relief to know that we had paid for all of our transport.

Tuesday morning we met a couple at breakfast who told us that you can buy tickets at the train station, but you have to insist your way through the guards. Although the trains are always full, every train has a tourist quota that means you can guarantee a ticket the day before. If only we had met this couple the day before!

To be honest, this didn't bother me too much. The six day car tour of Rajastan was costing use 123 pounds and included sightseeing fees (including the Taj Mahal) and we had bought all of our main train tickets for around a hundred pounds. At the end of the day, it could have been a lot worse!

SHortly after breakfast our driver came to pick us up and we set off on out trip to Rajastan. In the car we asked him about Holi Day, and his response was: "It is not Holi Day today". \

Well and truly hustled! We realised the guy at the train station was conning us to go to the 'official' tourist board, the guy who we saw bow to the hindu temple was also in on it and must have followed us, and the 'official' tourist board was just waiting for us to come in hving been tipped off by the two men.

Oh the luxury of hindsight! It sounds really stupid outlining all this, how did we not realise?

Emma beat herself up about it a lot. I didn't so much, I was greatful for the small things, after all we could have spent a lot, lot more had we not beaten the tourist office's prices down. And at the end of the day it wasn't going to be money that we had lost outright, we had a car for the next six days, we were going to places that we actually wanted to go to and all of our train tickets were booked.

So yeah, that is the story of how we got hussled and how we found Delhi.\

Sadly this experience on our last night certainly put a downer on Delhi. THe place was amazing! The people we had met were not quite so amazing. As we drove to Jaipur (capital of Rajastan) I reflected on all of the people we had met, most of whom had tried to con us into a trip.

So Delhi in one word... Dizzying.

1 comment:

  1. So glad you arrived safe and sound! wow it does sound Dizzying!!!!!!!!! At least it was a minor hustle and one to tell the grandchildren!! Loving the map all drawnup in advance!

    Love you lots xxxxx