India a country for all your senses!
Trip Start Apr 07, 2006
73Trip End Oct 2006
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Where I stayed
Hotel Hindusthan International
If you are looking for a good tourist guy to talk to in New Delhi, Abdul (mobile #9811171786) at Visit India Tour's (21/3 Bhagat Singh Marg, Gole Market, New Delhi) was our guy. He was very personable and seemed pretty fair with his pricing. He also told us the going rate at our hotel and would have got us a better rate if we were paying too much.
India reminded me of our time in Egypt. Not because there are lots of gigantic statues and ruins but because of all the garbage, honking of the car horns, the way people drive and people always trying to sell you something or take you somewhere. Now we have spoken to a lot of different travelers in India and most people have had the same impressions and/or experiences in India. The disclaimer is that we have spent all of our time in India in the very touristy type cities/places. We met Dan and Sam from Australia on our 18 hour train ride back to Delhi and they told us that if you head off to more of the remote area's, it becomes a lot easier to travel hassel free!
I was actually expecting New Delhi to be a lot more modern than it actually is. Being a city with 16 million people, I guess it would be hard to have a large middle class population. So here is why India is a country for all your senses. Our first interesting sight was when we first arrived at the airport. There was this big bull standing where all the cars were parked, staring at his reflection in the car door. Then as we drove to the hotel, cows could be seen sitting on the sidewalk, in the middle of the road or just walking in the middle of road. Cows and monkey's being holy animals are allowed to do as they choose and people have to avoid them at all times.
Driving in India is similar to that of driving in Egypt or China. People do obey lights most of the times and for the most part, they actually drive on the proper side of the road. Like Egypt they honk the horns all the time, in fact all the big trucks have 'Please Honk' written on the back. There are lots and lots of rickshaws, tuk tuk's, bicycles, scooter and motorcycles that share the road. Crossing the road is almost like playing frogger (as it is in Egypt) but not as dangerous as cars do try to avoid you instead of driving right at you! But driving from New Delhi to Jaipur to Agra, we saw a lot of accidents involving big trucks. We have seen more accidents in India than any other country.
With such a large population, you can imagine the amounts of garbage being produced everyday. As you can guess garbage is pretty much thrown anywhere. People also take the garbage from their houses, put them on the street and then burn it. So not only do you get the wonderful aroma of garbage baking in the hot sun, but you also get the nice aroma of burning garbage that has been baking in the hot sun. Now add all those wonderful smells with that of human and animal waste. Am I painting a good picture???
As cows and monkey's get to roam where ever they like, they also get to poo anywhere they like. As well people just stop on the sidewalk and will pee on the wall or just pull their pants down and go poo. They have some open public conveniences in the main city centre but people just find a nice wall and let it all out. In Varanasi we were walking through some very small streets leading to temples and the Ganges River. They were also the same streets people used as their toilet. Now add cow dung, dog dung, goat dung, monkey dung and the odd cat dung. Needless to say we always had to watch where we were stepping, for there were a lot of land mines and funky puddles. The smell of urine and feces in some areas were sooooo bad, ughhhhh!!!!!!
Going to touristy places one would normally expect people selling souvenirs of some sort. In most countries, you can just say NO a couple of times and they would walk away. Well not in India! You basically cannot make any eye contact or look at what they are selling, just look ahead and walk away. If you engage in any conversation, even by saying a simple "No", they will stick to you for what seems like an eternity. he he he. Also be ready for tour guides to take you to see their family, a.k.a. the family business, where they will drop you off and then disappear. We also got taken to go see a guru, who will do palm readings or number readings for crazy amounts of money. We did however get to see a picture of Goldie Hawn and some store owner who looked like a fat Buddha, just Classic!
Tuk tuk drivers will follow you around asking to give you a lift. "Where are you going?", "Market?", "Post office?", "Don't go that way, let me give you a ride!", "Just 10 rupies". They will follow you for a whole block trying to break down your will. If you take a ride that sounds too cheap to be true, that is because it is. You will pay little money but they will first take you to a bunch of stores before you reach your final destination! It all just wares on you after just 1 day. A very simple way of getting around in New Delhi is using the subway system. If you can figure out what stop you need to get off, it is cheap, air conditioned, clean, uber modern and hassle free! In fact this subway system is better than some of the rail systems in Europe. Crazy stuff I tell you!
The last thing I am going to comment on is about the level of service in hotels and restaurants. In the mid range hotels be prepared for the staff to just barge into your room. They might sometimes knock once or twice but then they will just walk right into your room. Even when are standing in the door way, they will stop to ask if you want any room service before pushing by you to get into the room. Basically keep your doors locked at all times! If you are ordering room service, be prepared for it to take between 1 hour to 1.5 hours and your order may be slightly wrong. They will say 15-30 minutes but that is not the case.
In Varanasi we stayed at a the Hindusthan International Hotel, which is considered a 4 star hotel. Now this is when the service was just a little too much. We would order food to share and instead of just putting it on the table, they would serve it to us. This is not bad but when you are almost finished your plate, they would continue to serve you more food whether you want it or not! At our breakfast buffet, which is self-serve, they would go and get a plate of different breads and serve it to us. Or if we each took a banana, they would take another plate of banana's to our table. But when you are finished your plate and go up for a new plate of food, they don't take your old plate away. There is no rhyme or reason to service in India!
Well we would have liked to have gone to see the south of India and the nice beaches of Goa. But our visa is only valid until the 16th and our heroine has had her fill of India. Our heroine has been reluctant to leave the hotel room these last couple of days in New Delhi. But the food and service is sooo bad in our hotel, we just had to get out.
Well tomorrow we are off to Thailand for a couple of days before meeting up with Mark in Cambodia. We finally managed to get one of our friends from Vancouver to come out and meet us!
bryan and vivian
clouds, frowns, sunshine and smiles!