The delights of Delhi .........

Trip Start Jan 27, 2006
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6
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Trip End Sep 09, 2006


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Monday, February 27, 2006

So, we finally reach our last stop in India, the capital Delhi. Most people (and most guidebooks) suggested that Delhi was exactly like the rest of India but multiplied by 10 i.e. there are some magical parts, beautiful buildings, stunning history; but the people treat you as one big money bag, there are thousands of hawkers and touts and the poverty is awful.

Well we saw alot of the former, but not much of the latter - at least it was no worse than anywhere else. That might be because after a month we were pretty much atuned (!) or else we just missed out on the fun stuff !!

Anyway, the fun began with check in at the Broadway Hotel. Words to describe this place - eclectic, eccentric, tongue in cheek, slightly mad. The hotel consists of some clean but uninspiring rooms, a bar called THUGS ('the pub, not the people' it tells you on its' sign) and a restaurant called Chor Bizarre which has award winning cuisine served up on such lovely items as a full size vintage car(the salad bar) and a four poster bed for a table.

Day one was spent sight seeing. We took in the Red Fort (it is a fort and it is red),we panted our way down the main street in Old Delhi amongst a cast of thousands; and we got herded into a Sikh Temple to be shown round by a guy who appeared to genuinely want to share his faith with us, only to skin us for a donation half way round once he had used the words "you want to take a photograph ? It's possible ....."

Will we ever learn ?

However, things really took off in the afternoon when Geoff Kershaw turned up (with expense account, hooray). Geoff was accompanied by his very nice, very French colleague Thierry (or 'Terry' as he is known to Geoff - " he answers to it, doesn't he ?!").

The afternoon was spent seeing a couple more of the sights - the Lodi gardens (peaceful, beautiful, quiet) and the incredible Huanaymans Tomb - a precursor to the Taj Mahal built by the same Shar Jahan.

Culture over, we suggested a beer in Thugs bar and a meal in Chor Bizarre. Geoff, as ever, was totally chilled about the idea and happily started on a cheeky little session (well, it was happy hour). Terry looked a little nauseous. Sam and I were like puppies with two tails - a pub for the first time in a month, and some mates to have a bit of a session with. As Terry would never be heard to say "Oo la la".

However, after a couple of 'Thugs Mugs', Thierry cheered himself up in the restaurant with a bit of gentle gallic wine-waiter baiting and we had a terrific evening, finally packing the boys off to their five star luxury, quiet aircon and complimentary hot water.

Day two gave us another opportunity to sample the extremes of India. In the morning we spent a couple of magical hours walking through regal New Delhi, taking in the broad vistas of India Gate, the Presidential Palace and the major government buildings. Delhi is definitely a CAPITAL city, is comfortable with its place in the world and has the air of superiority it probably needs to have in this mad country. In equal parts we were hassled by hopeful rickshaw drivers keen to show us the city (!) and then taken in hand by friendly locals who warned us against hopeful rickshaw drivers and their devious ways.

We ended up at the Mughal Gardens - the private gardens of the President which are only opened once a year for a month. What a rare privelege we thought.

Hmmm, once again our beloved India showed her two faces. Arriving at the gate we were told that 'due to security reasons' we would not be able take our cameras or mobile phones in with us. Or water. Or lipgloss !

Once we had dropped these off and gone through the airport style security check, the fun really started. Half of Delhi in their Sunday best (plus a few dishevelled tourists)had decided to come to see the gardens as well. But this was not to be a gentle stroll taking in the views and sunning yourself on a quiet lawn. This was a route march. The authorities had layed out a specific path snaking through the gardens which everyone followed dutifully at a constant humid shuffle. Stopping was not just out of the qustion but dangerous. Not only would armed guards wave a lazy semi-automatic at any subversive who stopped to smell the roses, but it would also cause a minor pile up of the squadrons of saris and slacks coming up from behind.

For the record, the gardens were absolutely delightful, a testament to the hundreds of gardeners employed to water, dead-head, plant and tend the unashamedly English Cottage Garden style borders.

To start with we were outraged at the way we had been herded around, but by the end of it we were in fits of giggles - right up until the moment Sam tried to retrieve her handbag with the confiscated items in it. The 'bag store' operated as follows :-

Depositing Bag Before Tour

1. Handover bag to Chief Bag Collector (Disinterested) (CBC(D)) who scribbles hand written ticket
2. CBC(D) sticks half of ticket to bag with non-stick tape and hands to Assistant Bag Collector (ABC).
3. ABC hands to Under-assistant Bag Collector (UABC) who drops bag in ever-increasing pile on floor behind him.

Recovering Bag After Tour

1. Fight way to front of throng and hand over other half of scrawled ticket to CBC(D).
2. CBC(D) hands ticket to failed member of Keystone Cops who walks round in circles bumping into colleagues and shrugging shoulders.
3. Ticket passed from one to another with no particular purpose or result.

Sam's gasket blew after 30 seconds of watching this. With no invite, elbows out and steam coming out of her ears she charged into the tent like a scrum-half. Handing off two of the hapless staff, she dived into the ruck and had the bag was in her hands in seconds. Matt Dawson would have been proud.

Drama over, tired from the marching, giggling and rugby we relented and jumped in a rickshaw back to the hotel.

A taxi ride, a flight to Mumbai, an overnight stay and a transfer to the airport and we were Singapore bound. Goodbye, to India. We will return.
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