One Hell of A Baptism of Fire - DAY ONE
Trip Start Feb 21, 2013
181Trip End Jan 02, 2014
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Where I stayed
THE BLUE SAPPHIRE & AJANTA HOTEL
Well, after a late night bag packing potential fiasco, which did end up resulting in a bloodshot droopy-eyed look this morning, that in my defense I have to say I carried off rather well! I eventually arrived at the airport with family in toe, to part ways with them in a way that was very smooth and highly dignified; paying tribute I guess to that sense of British stiff upper lip our clan is so often known for. So now wandering the airport in desperate need of some sustenance and finding very little in choice to fill that void. I had no choice but to resort to that capitalistic corporate beast machine known as Starbucks. (To all who know me, there really wasn't anything I could do) Anyway, onward to the plane and sitting down in my seat, I’d love to tell you that I look ahead in front of me, seeing future adventures and the wondrous experiences that were about to unfold over the next few months! But all I got to see sat there in economy class, was the very summit of a rather huge balding head, belonging to someone I figure to be in between 50-60 years old at a push
So I arrive in Delhi 1:30am, ignoring my first piece of advice given, which was to get a taxi to my hotel from the stand in the airport. Instead I opted for cheap and went from a taxi stand outside. Inside the taxi it was the usual jovial chit chat one would expect from a taxi driver to their customer! And based on his manner, Delhi seemed to be on the up. On the way there my driver claimed he had problems finding the place. So by `chance' (fake throat clearance) we `stumbled' upon, a late night tourist information bureau that was still open. Stepping inside, we entered a room that was reminiscent of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun's underground war bunker! I expected to see, morse code machines, layout maps and hear radio transmissions with the sounds of a nations last stand to try and secure victory. Alas it was not to be! Instead I got India's answer to Derek Trotter and some extremely laid back gentlemen in the background, who looked as though they belonged as TV extras in some sort of hip and retro Cobra beer commercial, taking it all in their stride. "Welcome to India" were the exact words uttered about my situation by one of them. Keen to assist; a phone call was made (which on hindsight I now know was bogus, as the guy I spoke to was clearly a mate of his in on the scam) Claiming that due to the recent Hyderabad blast, my hotel like many that night apparently, was on strike due to Delhi being on red alert, so I could not be taken in for the night. "S_ _ T" They also asked me lots of irrelevant questions about my stay in India, which being repeated three times each, headed towards creepy and seemed as though if they wanted to make sure no one would come looking for me if they disposed of the body.
HERE'S WHERE IT GET'S INTERESTING
So Derek T decides he's going to `help' me by giving me a new package, that included a better way to travel around India. In short! This new help me package was going to cost me just over two grand. I f_ _ k it not sir! So Jedi that I am, I used my powers of the force and intuition prevailed. I decided that it was back to the airport for me to rethink an emergency strategy. As I left the war bunker, another taxi driver approached me, in pitch black Delhi, now 3:30am in the morning, with positive news of shelter for the night. He wasn't outright about it! But I think he took pity on me and saw that I was almost potentially taken for a ride. Ended up in another late night tourist information bureau with him, "God, these places are open late aren't they?!" These guys were really cool though! They explained to me it was a con attempt and agencies like themselves and the government are trying their best to clamp down on them. With a wealth of what has now proven to be honest advice and with what appeared to be no strings attached, I was given quite luxury accommodation for 12pounds a night, which I paid the hotel. The driver took me to the hotel and I was so chuffed with all his help, I decided to give him 300 Rupees. He in fact gave me 200 back, claiming it was too much. What a gent! Must have turned in finally 6am Indian time. Pissed off, tired, hungry and nervy also, I hit the hay determined to remain positive over quite a cruel and unlucky first hurdle. All that aside. I was here. In the end it's like the man said I suppose "Welcome to India" lol
Heaven only knows what day 2 is going to bring.
1. GO TO CAB STAND/CAR RENTAL INSIDE THE ACTUAL AIRPORT RATHER THAN THE CHEAPER ONES OUTSIDE
2. CHECK YOUR HOTEL BILLING SLIP AND MAKE SURE THERE IS A NUMBER NEXT TO THE HOTEL ADDRESS. I just assumed, not realising until to late that only the address was there, which would have saved me a lot of stress and heart burn.
Gave myself about five hours kip as I was quick to rectify the result of last nights shenanigans. Got myself a driver from the hotel I was in and I was on a mission! Find more suitable accommodation and book my railway seats. I was obviously left out of the loop about pre-booking train tickets here. Back home the government was you on trains for more growth and investment, whereas in India, you're more likely to find that you're deterred. On ration, the amount of commute that goes on a month here figure wise, is what we do back home in a year. I know, jeeeeez! So first to the Indian red cross building, to see a contact that was the friend of a friend whose working there and who was going to try and help me out of my current predicament. On meeting here I was told to do the Golden triangle, then instead of travelling around from east of it, instead travel west! Which also concurred with the advice given to me by the good guy tourist board last night. So the train bookings I'd have to sort meant a trip to New Delhi Railway station.
NEW DELHI RAILWAY STATION
WOW! Interms of hyperactivity and sheer busy confusion, Kings Cross Station in comparison, seems like a place that has tumbleweed rolling across it. Crash, bang, wallop! It's an amazing experience if only to watch. The main tourist bureau I was looking for was very well hidden away! And if you don't have the trait of persistence, you'd probably be incline to think that this place doesn't exist and that you'll have to book some other way. Especially with a 20 kilo backpack on in 27 degree heat Adding to the fact that you have many other touters trying to convince you otherwise and send you to their office, of course for commission. Well after eons of hunting and misleading sign direction, I found it. A bit like that waiting room between heaven and hell, sitting there, next to two beetroot red German backpackers, I started to feel a bit like the actor Michael Keaton in the movie Beetlejuice. I luckily had an Indian rail card, purchased from back home, which is a similar principle to a UK Oyster card. so, mundane form filled in, with a stern finger point and I was seen quicker than anticipated. `thanks railcard' ;-) and my train tickets to Agra, Jaipur and Mumbai were done in about 5minutes. At last the tide was turning and Delhi was starting to go my.
Job done I have to rush back to my contact at the Indian Red Cross building, who had to leave work in an hour and who also had the rest of my stuff. The clock was ticking! I get there and it was all about accommodation for tonight and booking my Jaipur to Mumbai flight. Sounds simple enough right? Well luckily it was. She booked me into the Ajanta Hotel, right around the corner from New Delhi Station and with my flight, their is a site many innIndia use which is called; makemyflight.com. Like Ryanair I guess. Flight was £35 pounds and with a rickshaw ordered to take me to my hotel. It was smiles all round. Enjoying my trip don't get me wrong but haven't quite been able to fully relax in India yet. With every person or situation you encounter, you feel as though you have to be constantly on your guard. Still if you ask yourself the question of whether or not feeling slightly uneasy and having fun at the same time exists? Then I'm living proof. Shower then bed.
MAKEMYTRIP.COM for getting around the country over long distances if you want a break from the trains.
Get one weeks in advance if possible in the country you reside and pre book your journeys or suffer at your own peril. You cannot book an Indian train last last minute.
First proper nights kip and everything now sorted, I was keen to make the most of the city. Got myself a driver. Ravi was his name. We conversed lots over the day although not really understanding a word the other was saying. Still I'd like to think that the replies to each others comments, were actually the correct responses to what was being said. Just spoken in each others languages. I hold my hands up on this one though! As I'm in his country and should have made more effort "Sorry Ravi" Did all the sites listed with this blog and saw some others too. Although some of the stuff seen was of similar standing to many of the other countries I've been, what you see in India has far more of a majestic feel and look to it. Helps you to really immerse in the culture. Although at the lotus building I opted for just the photos and the non committal of taking my boots off. Based on my last couple of days, I couldn't help my paranoia of maybe not seeing them again. Not due to theft but just some odd random cock up. As one of the other guys said to me that first night.
This is India my friend"
What struck me was the face to face poverty seen on the streets. Sure we've all seen it many times in the media! But face to face real was grim and extremely sad to watch. They say the economy here is booming! Well in my book when you walk around the streets of Delhi, all I saw in the eyes of the people was BUST!
"This is India my friend"
All in all though the best day so far! And now I feel like I'm here. Tomorrow it's off to Agra then Jaipur. Fingers crossed that my Agra debut is more of a peaceful affair.