Apr 4, 2011

India: Delhi Days

Posted by Mary |

Yes, this is an India post. Yes, we got back from India more than two months ago. No more needs to be said on this matter.

We packed for the trip Mary-style. I stuffed Beau's pack inside of my pack. And then I stuffed everything we were bringing for the month into this Matryoshka-pack. When all was said and done, it weighed 34 pounds. On a related note, we did not pay for any luggage on any of our flights.

By the time we got to Delhi, we were pretty tired. But one does not simply fly to Delhi and catch a cab to their hotel. No, no! First, you find a prepaid cabbie who says he knows where your hotel is. Then, once you have paid at the booth and left the airport, he says he does not know this location and must call for directions. Then he hands you the cell phone and someone on the other end tells you the hotel is all full. Big snow in Europe. No planes go out, so people not leave. No room in hotel. My Hindi is limited, but I heard him call us crazy as I sat in the back seat of the taxi and kept repeating, "No, we're going to our hotel. No, take us to our hotel." Instead, they took us to a rather specious looking establishment where a "travel agent" was quick to claim that he did not know of our hotel. When I kindly pointed out his computer and told him to look it up, he managed to connect me on the phone to someone who said the hotel was full. I badgered another address out of this person, then returned to the cab. I sat down in the back, crossed my arms and just kept repeating, "B Block. B Block." Our cab driver got mad and decided to drop us off in the middle of Pharganj to teach us a lesson. Too bad we could see our hotel's neon sign from the street corner he dumped us on.

Needless to say, the hotel was not full. The room was questionable but cheap. We later drew a line along the border of the watermark on the wall to watch its progress. The television didn't work, the showerhead fell off, the computers in the Internet cafe were reportedly all broken, and the restaurant was closed. But it was cheap!

You know what does make me happy? Indian set breakfast. Stuffed paratha, dahi and achar. (That's bread, yogurt curd and pickled vegetables.) The hotel next door to us had a nice restaurant we visited most days for breakfast.

Sunny breakfast on the rooftop. It's the little things that make Alaskans so happy in the wintertime.

We spent some of our time wandering the streets of Pharganj, looking for Indian clothing. These turned out to be some of the best clothing bargains we found on the trip. Despite the questionable quality of Hotel Saina, I thought that Pharganj was a good base for exploring Delhi. We could reach the metro by walking 5 minutes in one direction, and the New Delhi train station was 10 minutes in the other.

We braved the metro several times. It must be said that the Indian metro is insane. I'm no slouch when it comes to public transport. But this was utter chaos. People were pushing to get out of the cars while the waiting crowds were pushing to get in. At the other end of the metro, we found our first McDonald's. Behold the infamous (and tasty) Chicken Maharajah Mac.

On our final day in Delhi, we loaded up our packs and checked out of the hotel for a day of sightseeing before an evening train.

First stop: the Red Fort.

Inside one of the museums, we found this picture of the Komagata Maru. Not the Kobayashi Maru. Yes, even in India, I find ways to make Star Trek jokes. You're welcome.

After the fort - lunch! I have a fondness for American fast food chains in foreign countries, so when we saw a Subway, it was a no-brainer.

Actually, there could have been brains involved. Just no beef or pork. This is why I play vegetarian in most foreign countries.

We visited the Jantar Mantar. This great architectural and astronomical monument was also home to an incident involving ripped pants, which necessitated a change in a public bathroom. It was fouler that you can possibly imagine.

Beau snapped this photo when I emerged from the bathroom. I then told him we would never speak of this incident again.

Being a nerd, Beau enjoyed the geeky side of the Jantar Mantar.

No, I'm not trying to climb up the sundial. Certainly not while wearing a knee brace, and definitely not with a heavy pack on!

We had been curious about some of the items for sale in shops. For instance, to my American eyes, this guy appeared to be selling condoms. Since India is not the cleanest of countries and people just tend to drop their trash wherever they are standing, we solved this mystery when I picked up an empty packet one day. Verdict: individual pouches of chewing tobacco.

And that was it for Delhi. Next up: A few wrong turns on the way to Rishikesh.