Thursday, 5 January 2012

Days 123 & 124: Delhi Restart

It's back to travelling. And where better to restart than Delhi?

Delhi is a location that I'd heard a lot about before heading off on these travels. Most of it was fairly disparaging - hassle, noise, chaos, touts, rip-offs, astonishing diarrhoea - and none of it I doubt. But appended to most of the tales was that despite the fact Delhi was awful, it was also quite fun, albeit perhaps with a little after-the-event distance. It was an experience, above all, and despite the problems, Delhi was a worthwhile experience.

My own Delhi experience began, perhaps not atypically, with being shown a room entirely different to the one I'd booked, in my case a double-room without bathroom instead of a three-bed ensuite room. The hotel had picked me up at the airport, no problem, but not managed much else. After loads of waiting without any clear idea of what was going on, I just opted to go for the crappy double room, as I'd better things to do than sit for hours while they sorted it out. Plus, I was only staying one night anyway. There was also a small problem with my travel partner, the unerringly alcoholic Burness. Due to bad weather in Britain, he had missed his flight to India. He'd managed to get the next one, but it wouldn't be due to arrive until around 3am. This meant I wasn't able to arrange train tickets (his passport was needed), and was also the reason I was kind of tied to the hotel.

So I had an afternoon at leisure, in the terrifying chaos of Delhi. And it wasn't really that bad. I was staying near the main New Delhi train station, meaning there were loads of touts around, but I'm so used to touts that they barely register now. They're a pain when you actually want something, such as a taxi or directions, as the help they give is very much to their own agenda, but if you're just taking a stroll they're no more than a pest. The only difficulty I had was my first visit to the train station, trying to locate the tourist booking office, which I knew to be on the first floor. Easier said than done in a large series of buildings with loads of people trying to point you in the wrong direction. In the end I found it by going the exact opposite direction they told me to.

That evening I simply had a surprisingly boneless curry with massive chunks of chicken on a pleasant restaurant balcony, managing to entirely avoid crippling diarrhoea afterwards. I took a stroll round the busy streets of the main bazaar, packed with motorbikes and cows and travellers and touts and tiny, single-minded shops bursting into the street with their wares. I found a shop selling beautiful chess pieces - a big weakness of mine - and resisted buying, but may return. I tried to find some beer but it was oddly not present anywhere; one shop said they could arrange a rickshaw to fetch some for a small price, and I've later learned that alcohol is limited to sales in special shops.

After an early start, and a fairly demanding day, I was tired, so crashed out by about 9ish, waiting for Burness to appear hours later and share my (fortunately very large) double bed. He was in fairly bright form upon arriving, but slipped into a deep slumber and by the time it was 9am all his New Year excess and prolonged travelling had caught up with him. Barely coherent with exhaustion, we agreed it would be better to leave him resting while I went about my day.

Which was to arrange tickets to Amritsar - successfully - and then pop to one of my two Wonders in Delhi - the modern Hindu temple of Akshardham. I've to visit this again, as this time was really just a recon mission, to get a first impression of the place, but the first impression... wow. Akshardham is seriously impressive. It's big, it's ornate, and it looks you imagine all these ancient ruins to have looked like when first built. I can pay it no higher compliment than to say that Angkor Wat was in my mind as I wandered round the site.

I took a photo but you may struggle to see it.

Yes, Delhi was very, very foggy. This picture was taken from the neighbouring metro station, as cameras, phones and pretty much anything isn't allowed in to the temple grounds.

I was back at the hotel by 2pm, and Burness still looked like grim death, but he struggled up, and we headed to the train station, waving goodbye to Delhi and on our way to Amritsar and the Golden Temple.

1 comment:

  1. You didn't get to see much of new delhi brother!
    Good read!


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