Truly dizzying Delhi
Trip Start May 05, 2008
97Trip End May 09, 2009
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Saying that we didn't find Delhi all that different at first may be misleading though, since within the first few hours, we saw an elephant in the middle of traffic, monkeys fighting for food given away by passers-by and in one incident, a dodgy-looking fellow who pulled a cobra out of a wicker basket he was carrying under his arm. The slogan for India's tourist campaign is "Incredible India": and we couldn't agree more: this country is just incredible, though not always in a positive sense. We have never seen a place which is just so overwhelming with sounds, sights and colours, and unfortunately also smells. A few hours in Delhi's streets are able to tire us as a full day of sight-seeing in Europe.
In addition to this assault on the senses, every simple task becomes a collossal and complicated enterprise. Taking money frm an ATM is likely to launch you on a quest lasting a few hours around town, because the machines either don't read your card, don't have enough money in them or give you some mysterious cryptic message about why they don't work. Here as in Egypt, one has to bargain for almost everything: from a bottle of water to hotel rooms, to rickshaw rides. Again, like in Egypt, we found the same heavy bureaucracy ensuring that five people do the job of one and even then do it with an air of being quite bothered to do it. Going to the museum or a monument involves several check-points, several tickets and some rather ridiculous regulations (like checking your I-pod or calculator at the coat-check because no electronics are allowed). At least though, the Indians engaged in private enterprises seem to be a lot more motivated than their Egyptian counterparts and this makes the country feel much more dynamic. Poverty is much more visible than in Egypt and we saw some sights which are quite difficult to handle emotionally: people losing limbs to leprosy, naked babies on the pavement and people sleeping in the middle of the street with no possessions other than the clothes on their backs
On the positive side, the country is very interesting and we certainly don't get bored. The food is pretty good and we have a myriad more varieties than the bland fare we had to survive on in Egypt. The people are so colourfully dressed, and just like in Egypt, we saw a very wide variety of facial features and skin hues, and a wide variety of different faiths. We have become tourist attractions unto ourselves, as regular people (most likely tourists from other parts of India) want to take pictures with us and marvel at Virginia's blond hair. Sometimes when she sits down, she finds a few kids in her lap and the parents taking pictures...
In terms of what we actually saw, we visited the National museum of history, the yuppie area of Connaught Place, the very interesting and peaceful Baha'i temple, the Delhi fort, and we attempted to see the largest mosque in India, only to arrive there at prayer time and be denied entry. We spent a lot of time though just trying to get used to this new and complex country. Perhaps doing this in Delhi is a bit like shock therapy, or like being thrown in the water without knowing how to swim, because apparently Delhi is a lot more chaotic and hectic than most of the rest of India. But we were already armed with our Egyptian and Moroccan experience and the transition is occuring smoother than we had feared.