Con men and the real Delhi!
Trip Start Jan 22, 2011
30Trip End Feb 24, 2011
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Where I stayed
On the train
I got my bags organized for checking out and my day pack ready for the night train I was taking in the evening. I then opened my door and waited until I heard Julie and Dave come out. We arranged to meet in the lobby at 9 am and they were not late.
Once again we were surprised when we were told about the free breakfast. Hmm I thought, but it was free so we braved it. In fact, they had a roof top restaurant which was full of foreigners. The sun was shining and the food of cereal, omelet sandwich, and a banana, was actually quite good. The three of us stayed about an hour chatting and getting to know each other, we were then joined by a Swiss guy. It seemed very easy to meet people here and this place seemed very popular. So I guess this is probably one of the best budget places.
It was nice to relax on the roof, and not feel like I had to rush out and start sightseeing. I was quite happy just to take it easy all day. The 3 of us ventured outside to a completely different world to which we arrived. The bazaar was full of people selling things from stalls, carts and make shift shops. We saw arts and crafts, textiles, paintings, all kinds of clothing strung up high around their selling area, and numerous food stands. The smells of food, spices, dust and trash filled our noses! Wow sensory overload, I didn't know where to look!
Our plan was to walk to Connaught Place, the apparent centre of Delhi and supposedly an up market area full of western shops, restaurants, and a nice park! I needed to buy some headphones (Suk had accidental taken mine) find a nice book to read, change some more money, and use the Internet. However, finding Connaught Place soon became a nightmare. Our first mistake was to go completely in the wrong direction. As we walked locals would approach you asking you to buy things, being quite pushy, but never rude, we dodged through the traffic which came from everywhere and this was only a tiny road, and weaved through the hoards of people until we made it to the end of the street!
Hmm, now which way? As soon as we stopped we were jumped on by a local man asking where we wanted to go. We told him and he pointed us in the right direction, so friendly, he actually started to take us. He seemed too friendly with his small talk and "I don't want your money, just being friendly" attitude that we managed somehow to lose him, only to be captured by another very friendly man. Once again he proceeded to point us in a different direction, while pointing out a very good tourist travel agent. He warned us that this shop was the official one and that we shouldn't trust any others. Again we didn't trust him and somehow got rid of him.
Why was this taking us so long. We consulted our map and didn't recognize any of the street names. We were just about to head back the way we came when yet another man latched on to us, and once again we got the usual friendly chit chat of " where you go? Where you from? When you come to India? Is this first time, how long you stay? And where you go next? It's the same questions all the time! This guy was convincing, however he eventually took us to a craft shop! No Connaught place! By now we had had enough and decided to just head back, we weren't too stressed as the weather was nice and cool and we were learning about India ha-ha. For the fourth time we got sucked in. His time we ended up at a furniture shop! As soon as we turn a corner a man opens the door and points you to go inside to have a look, when the kind friendly guy who has directed you there suddenly disappears.
We laughed and decided not to listen to anyone anymore, everyone is trying to scam you or lead you somewhere you don't want to go like a gift shop or a travel agent where they tell you Delhi is too dangerous to walk around alone and that you should have a guide and take our day tour! Just makes you laugh! Regarding the day tour we were quoted anything from 500 to 900 rupees. All way over the price compared to you doing it independently. We finally made it back to the backpacker area where we were staying. Phew! We had only been walking for just over an hour. We went straight back to the guest house and took a break at the rooftop restaurant. Phew! We realized that we had gone in completely the wrong direction ha-ha.
This time we went the other way and by ignoring most people we made it to Connaught place easily. On the way I managed to change some money and buy some new headphones. We passed several cheap book stalls and I umed and arred over which one to get. I left it for now. Once in Connaught place we were all in dire need of a good coffee. We found a nice looking coffee shop and without hesitation flew inside. Connaught place I guess is the only area in Delhi that actually resembles a modern city. There was a nice park full of young couples enjoying the mild sunny weather, and plenty of decent shops to explore. We had had such a run around morning that a bit of luxury was in need. The coffee was good and we all treated ourselves to a muffin each as well, nice! Saying that it didn't take long before we were cornered by some smart looking guy, who started to go through the motions of asking all the same touristy questions. I'm gonna have to start lying so I don't get bored! Again we laughed and agreed that we are slowly getting to know how things work here.
On the out we made our way to the train station to enquire about tickets for Julie and Dave. Ha-ha that was another run around experience. One guy physically refused us entry to the foreigner’s tourist ticket office saying that we needed a ticket to go this way and sent us to the local ticket counter. Julie was pissed but vowed to push past him tomorrow. They didn't need a ticket today, they just wanted to get a feel for the place. It's just as the guide book says "tough"
We ventured back towards the guest house and stopped at a nice place for lunch. 110 rupees and I was stuffed! Dhal, curry, rice, nan, yoghurt and salad. About 2 pounds! I then went back to buy a book I noticed earlier, and then had some time to email my hostel for tomorrow night. Dave and Julie went back to their room. They are a really nice down-to-earth couple, who have been traveling for a long time. I'm so glad I met them!
My train was set to leave at 5:30pm, so at 3:30 I grabbed my bags and said goodbye to Julie and Dave. It was time to explore on my own. I made my way to the end of the street and hailed a tuk tuk. By the third one I had managed to agree a price 100 rupees to get me to the old Delhi railway station. Wow! It was like a rally drive, ducking, weaving and diving all over the place I had to hold on tight! Everything and everyone is on the road! From bicycles, rickshaws, tuk tuks, motorbikes, cars, busses, trucks and even the bloody cows which always have the right of way.
45 minutes later I had made it to the station and set off to find where I had to catch the train. This place is insane, no organization, and people everywhere, it was like a circus. I saw lots of beggars, kids, parents and kids, old people, and people just lying around covered in flies as if they were dead! Shocking! There were your typical food stalls but I was not that desperate yet. I found my train on the overhead board and quickly identified my platform. That was easy! Now the hard part was to try and find my seat. I noticed a full passenger list on the wall for my train and double checked that I was on it. I found my name easily enough. Ok cool, so at least I have a seat. I went in search for some water and then I grabbed some bananas. Right now I’m prepared for my 20 hr train journey into the desert! I think.
The train arrived and I was amazed at the scramble of people trying to get on first, I just sat back and watched. People were even throwing their bags and food through the window onto the seats. It seemed like everything was going on this train from livestock, products, oil tanks to motorbikes you name it. Once it had cooled down I tried to find my seat. Oh oh I couldn't find it i walked the length of the train twice and was getting stressed where the hell was my seat. I realized that I had miss read my ticket and thanks to some man I eventually found my real seat. 2 minutes later the train pulled away... Phew!
I sat back and enjoyed the scenery. It took a while to get out of the city, passing through slums and shacks getting an insight into how the poor live, not very nice, but everyone seems happy. It's amazing that every bit of land is used up, nothing is just left people, are everywhere. I watched the sun set as we passed through the local countryside. I felt relaxed! At about 8 o'clock I jumped up into my top bunk. I was the only westerner around and it felt a bit strange with everyone staring at me, but things got better when I gave one of the kids a sweet and started playing around with him. It just felt like he was one of my students. His family started talking to me, and it was interesting getting to know them. We talked for about 30 mins then I got stuck into my new book. It's about an Australian girl who moves to Delhi. So far it's really good and has already provided me with some good tips on how to travel in India. However I managed about an hour then pulled the curtain across and crashed.