< Previous | Next >
By Mikey
Monday, 22nd November 2004 05:39

We woke almost naturally at about 10.30. I say almost because the family that ran the hotel were shouting and banging a lot. I got to meet the man who had warned me not to "misguide" myself and had to try not to smile too much. He told us that the best way into the city was by taking an auto (short for auto rickshaw - basically a tuk-tuk) and he suggested how much we should pay. He sent his boy (he called him "the boy") to carry one of our bags and we were followed up to the main road. I had hoped that the boy would flag down an auto for us and do the negotiation but that was a bit too much to expect from the poor lad. He seemed happy to hide behind me. Since I did the negotiating, we paid far too much but we got there in the end. The driver did try once to find out if he could take us somewhere of his choosing but we spun him a lie about meeting some friends and he let it drop. The ride was interesting and on some of the bigger roads you feel quite vulnerable in a tuk-tuk. It didn't help that it was in bad shape mechanically speaking. The engine cut out a couple of times and I did wonder if it had enough life left in it to get us where we were going.

The tuk-tuk dropped us outside the Imperial Cinema and we walked the short distance to the Major's Den. The Major saw us coming and beckoned us upstairs. He then spent quite some time telling us about himself, his hotel and showing us how many foreigners had stayed there in the past few weeks. He was actually a really nice man and very helpful too. He gave us useful advice on getting to the train ticket booking office without which we would surely have fallen prey to a tout. He told us where to find an internet connection and where to find a good restaurant.

The room wasn't amazing but it had a comfy-ish bed and its own bathroom. We couldn't get the hot water to work so we both ended up having cold showers.

We didn't have a large number of rupees so we had only paid for one night so far. Once we had put some fresh, clean clothes on, we headed out with the intention of finding Connaught Place. We started walking along the Main Bazaar towards New Delhi station. It was much narrower than I had imagined it would be and crowded with people. Every now and again a tuk-tuk or a scooter or a rickshaw would try and cut through the crowds meaning that there was nearly constant beeping or pinging coming from both directions. Every twenty metres or so someone would try and engage us in conversation. Mostly they were trying to get us to look at what they were selling from their stall / shop and were easily dealt with. One man was bit more persistent and seemed to know that we were newcomers to Delhi. Partly out of curiosity and partly just for some peace we let him make his pitch. He was offering a two week (we lied about how long we were in India) trip around Rajistan for us and our three imaginary companions (who we made up - I think that they were German personally but we didn't tell him that) in a jeep or mini bus of some sort for the sum of 5 pounds each per day. It actually didn't sound too bad but we had longer in India, wanted to see more places and suspected that trains would be better value so then our imaginary friends came to our rescue. Of course we couldn't speak for them and we'd have to talk to them later. Hence we escaped.

We hadn't gone far when a young boy started talking to me. He quite quickly stated that he didn't want any money from me, he just wanted to talk English. I didn't mind that too much and he strode alongside us for a while. He kept telling me that we should leave Delhi soon as it wasn't a nice place. He also tried to teach me some Hindi words. We reached Connaught Place and from then he sort of took over. We tried once to lose him by going in to a tourist information office but he was still there afterwards. He seemed to think that the best thing for us to do was dress in Indian clothes and then we wouldn't get hassled much. Personally I didn't think it would matter what we wore, we were quite obviously not Indian. But we went along with him anyway as he tried to take us to some Emporium where we could see all of these clothes. Part way there we had to get past a large group of lively young men who wanted me to buy something from them but I'm not sure what. Thanks to my secret pockets I showed them that I had only brought a map and some tissues with me. They probably didn't believe me but our adopted guide (actually, he adopted us) pulled me through and left Claire in the middle of the rabble to fend for herself. She pushed through but they didn't make it easy.

Our young man's ruse was obvious in hindsight although we thwarted him in the end. If he had managed to get us to the emporium and if we had bought something (for some peace and quiet I imagine we would have had to have done that) then he would have been paid a handsome commission. True, he didn't want money from me directly but for introducing me to a clothes seller he would have got it anyway as the commission would have been added to the price we'd paid.

He tried once more to get us to go to another shop after we played our imaginary friend card again. When this didn't work he bid us farewell but asked if I could give him a present, something from my country. My watch for instance. I told him how my sister had given it to me and it had sentimental value. I was prepared to say that she was dead now and that's all I had to remember her by (sorry Karen, it would have been for a good cause!) but he gave up and finally left us. I spent the next ten minutes learning the three most important words you need in Delhi; no thank you.

We were hungry now and wandered around Connaught Place (it's circular) for a while looking for something nice to eat. We found some more money in a bank and skirted around the metro construction site still on the lookout for some nice food. We found a coffee house after a while and went in. We over ordered some food and spent a while eating. I picked a nice sounding Gosht Rogan Josh from the menu and wasn't disappointed. We had a few other dishes too and ate until we were full. By that time the entire clientele of the place had changed completely. We were there quite a long time.

When we left it was dark and walked back to our hotel. The traffic was quite tricky to negotiate and before we reached the Main Bazaar the streets were very dark. We decided not to walk it in the dark again, it was a bit threatening really. Some other cities seemed ok, Beijing, for instance, wasn't bad. As we walked along the bazaar, our adopted travel agent spotted us and came running. We told him that we hadn't spoken to our friends yet and he let us go.

I had a pretty good sleep that night and we got up reasonably early to go and sort out some trains. On the way to the station we sought out our travel agent and told him that our friends (the imaginary Germans) wanted to do trains and that we were out voted. He took it well.

The international train booking bureau was busy and complicated but a couple of Australians gave us some good advice. We tried to but Indrail passes but were told that we could only buy them using foreign currency. Doh! We had plenty of rupees but not dollars. We got an address for a travel agent who could charge us in rupees and we decided to try in the morning as it was Sunday and just after Diwali so everything would be closed.

We walked to Connaught Place for lunch and were told numerous times that everything was closed. We ignored them all and found a nice restaurant for a big lunch. We had some gin chicken as a starter and it was really nice. One more recipe for me to look up.

That evening we spent a long time looking through a train times guide that we bought on the street and planning our routes for the next few weeks. It took a long, long time.

We couldn't find the travel agent that we were looking for and so we changed our rupees into dollars and went back to the station. After a long wait a very nice and very knowledgeable man booked all of our trains for us. He even suggested some better ones for us to take to get to the places we wanted to go. We had another big lunch at a restaurant recommended by both our guide book and the Major. It was a good recommendation.

That evening we took it easy and decided that we should do the same for the rest of our time in India. That unfortunately meant that we would have to forego our trip to Guwahati and any elephant treks that might have included. We had to wait for the following day to do that though and made it our first job of the day.

After changing the tickets we went back to the restaurant recommended by the Major and had a big lunch and ordered some sandwiches for our train journey. When we returned to the hotel for our bags we bumped into the Major again and spent a while talking to him and signing his guestbook.

We hired a rickshaw to take Claire and our bags to the station and I trotted along behind as there wasn?t quite enough room for me too. At the station we spent a while in the international ticket bureau to kill time and then headed for our platform. It was quite crowded but we didn't have to wait long until our train turned up.

< Previous | Next >