Farewell India

Trip Start Jul 25, 2011
1
17
25
Trip End Sep 01, 2011


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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Scarred by my latest bus ride (physically as well, since I have just gotten rid of a nasty skin rash got in there) this time I decided to fly between Amritsar and Delhi, in order to be completely safe from the nasty side of the latter.

Enough of this chaos, just wanted to arrive at the airport and never leave it. My very first flight on a turbo-prop plane finally reached Delhi at midnight, where I was planning to spend 10 hours before finally being allowed airside, spend all of my rupees and get out. I had spent up to 16 hours at Amsterdam airport so what's the matter, right? This idea of mine turned out as too easy to be real.


After landing and leaving immigration I remembered the words of an internet forum that said "whatever happens DO NOT LEAVE THE AIRPORT", and those words turned out to be as the best suggestion ever.

Anywhere else in the world, people would enter the airport, wait up to 3 hours before the baggage drop opens, then get rid of all the heavy weight, go past security and enjoy the time left before boarding starts. Some huge airlines allow you to drop the luggage even 6 hours before just to give you an idea of airport life.

At Indian airports, nobody is allowed to enter the terminal without a ticket. Families of the traveller have to bid their goodbyes and farewells from the outside, as personally seen in Amritsar, where old grandparents waved at their relatives departing under a heavy rain. This makes Indian airports...empty. A very strange feeling, especially given the country.


Ready for the big news? At Delhi airport you cannot enter the terminal (even with a ticket) until 3 hours before your flight. If you show up earlier you'll be put in a separate building ridiculously called "lounge", where you'll have to ask for permission to a soldier even for going to the toilets...which are conveniently located on the other side of the airport, at the arrivals floor. Imagine my face after finding out where I was supposed to spend the night...nothing better that a room with a coffee vending machine, a fastfood kiosk, one single tv screen and a recharge station for your electronics. No, no wifi for you honey.

Imagine what happens to the desperate couple of elderly travellers that forgot to print their tickets with Emirates back to Toronto, cannot remember the booking code and would need to ENTER THE AIRPORT to get some support. At the side of the lounges, kiosks for travellers with such needs offer prints and tips, for money of course. And you even get to see the facilities on the other side of the glass, basically the real airport. Luckily I had booked a lowcost Indian airline that had a stand operating right between the lounge and the departures, so after paying 20 euros I switched to the earlier flight of the morning to Kathmandu and got a printout of my booking code. Now my waiting time before being allowed to enter was "just" 4 hours and half.


It comes a time where you as a traveller will be so fed up with your life that you will be ready to cheat, lie and fake whatever it takes in order to get what you want. And hell, no one, not even a soldier could have kept me trapped in that hamster box until morning. Just walked to the officer and said "bathroom break", voila back to the arrivals area and its restaurants and shops. Ate, drank coffee, had the worst attack of Delhi belly to keep me busy and entertained. To this day I have no idea what happens to the people without a printed onward ticket that leave arrivals immediately after landing, rather than taking the internal elevator to the departures hall.
I won't even comment on the airport past the security controls and immigration: it was just as goodlooking as Singapore Changi but I simply walked by to my gate in disbelief, wondering why why why.


Collapsed on my seat then woke up with a flight attendant next to me pointing at the landscape: Mount Everest and the greenest landscapes I have seen in my entire life. So green it looked fake. Welcome to Nepal.


Yes, the airport is a terrible first impression. Scammers and again, the "tourist guides" with IDs printed on anything. People that touch your luggage and ask for mancia in Italian after finding out your nationality. Broken ATMs and absurd immigration requiring you to widthdraw Nepali currency but pay in US Dollars. Several other tourists that have shortened/cancelled their trip to India-the ones that didn't fly back home after the third day, I've been told. 

Luckily, Nepal got way better right after that.
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