After an interesting night flight with Air India, on which the steward fogged us with air freshener and an Indian women got stuck in the loo, we had a bumpy touch down in Delhi due to the 'fog'! There was a 'plane cam' pointing at the ground, we literally saw the runway half a second before we landed! We were actually lucky they did land as most other flights were diverted.
We had arranged a pick up with our hostel, which was lucky as after only getting a few hours sleep I don't think either of us could have managed that journey on our own! Our driver was very nice and tried to chat to us but we were too tired shocked by the Indian driving! Now we're use to people in Asian countries using their horn a lot, but this was ridiculous!! They don't bother to look in the mirrors or stay in their lanes, they just drive about waiting for someone to beep them if they're about to hit them! There were three marked lanes but at least four rows of cars, people just drive between two lanes,whether there's room to or not!!
Our hostel was down quite a dodgy looking alley off a busy street, horns blaring, constant traffic and no one stops to allow you to cross so, like Vietnam, you just have to go for it. Our room was fine, well by traveler hostel standards. We were so tired we had to sleep before heading out.
We explored the local market and later went for a drink near our hostel. 84 Rupees / £1 for a big beer.
We woke up to what sounded like a carnival pass our hotel at 7ish! So loud! I think they were calling people to prayer. We were on the 1st floor of the hotel and due to there being no double glazing, single glazing or actually sealed windows we heard everything. That included the regular cat/dog fights in the night and the man didn't have a cough but thought he would clear his throat for 30 minutes every morning! Arhh reminds us of China!
Breakfast at our hostel consisted of cornflakes, omelet sandwich and a banana, setting us up for a days exploring. However, we had a few jobs to do first. We set ourselves a challenge of finding the tourist information knowing it would be tricky as touts lie and say it has moved offices, burnt down etc. We got there, got a map and left...we didn't really know why we went...but I think it was the sense of achievement! We caught a glimpse of how bad things are seeing people sleeping rough at the side of roads, just next to a Clarks shoe shop. So that was Connaught Place, then we went to the train station to book all our trains. Agra to Varanasi was already booked up until 20th Jan so we'll only get one night in Varanasi now.
We chose to take the metro to the Red Fort in Old Delhi. We got a bit lost coming out the station and there's no signs anywhere so we so got a cycle rickshaw there. When we paid him, a couple of kids looked at the 100 rupee note we gave him in amazement, so we know we'd over paid, but we had no idea where we were going, and that's only £1.20. Red Fort was pretty disappointing!! Really shabby and run down. Some of that is the fault of the British who stripped some of buildings of their copper and sold it on, but there were also holes in ground and partially built scaffolding everywhere. We decided to walk the route back to the metro the rickshaw driver had taken us and it was the most hectic tiring mile ever walked! Dodging people, the million stray dogs, cars, buses, bikes, food stalls.
Writing this on the train out of Delhi, I can safely say at this stage we both thought what hell are we doing here?!
Nothing was being arranged for new years eve at our hostel or anywhere else it seemed. So we decided to just go to a bar not far from our hostel. It was pretty busy so we sat with two local guys. One was pretty drunk and kept spouting on about western hooligan ways (even though he was the drunk one!) Luckily he left and we were joined by a Portuguese women, Spanish guy, Russian couple and three locals. They all spoke amazing English of course, although sometimes the Indians guys accent were hard to understand. One of them did was telling Kris what he did for a living, Kris thought he said gigolo, I thought he said gas engineer, but apparently he was a casino dealer on a cruise ship! We ended up having a really good night, seeing in the new year in the bar and then heading to the Spanish guys rooftop bar to see in the Russian new year at 1.30am. We all stayed out drinking until 4am...so unfortunately the next day was a bit of a right off and we just went round the market!
The smog, sorry 'fog' was really bad on the 2nd!!! It's giving us black bogies worse than in Beijing!! Sorry if that's too much information for any of you, but these are the things the guide book doesn't tell you!! We took the metro to the Lotus Temple which was closed, Humayun Tomb and India Gate which were both pretty good sights. But by the time we got to the Parliament building the smog was stopping us from being able to really see anything, so we headed back for another curry dinner! 4th in 4 days!
The last day we finished off our site seeing tick list. We started by going to a recommendation on the things to do board at the hostel. We didn't know much about Akshardham temple as lonely planet didn't cover it much. It was very impressive and very peaceful. It was built in 2005 so not a historical place but was probably our favorite touristy stop having some 20,000 impressive carved items, even if the accompanying stories were a bit out there (eg '...and then a 4 armed man flying on a giant eagle gave an elephant a lotus flower to calm him down...')! In the afternoon we went to Jama Masjid which is India's largest mosque. We were hesitant at first as it is in Old Delhi which is mayhem at best. A metro and a rickshaw ride later we had arrived without a problem. We paid extra to climb the tower which provides great views of the city smog! It was the clearest day we've had so were lucky with the photos we got. We got ushered out very quickly after that as the men were streaming in for prayer and they can't see women. Not sure they would have been tempted with Emma in her beautiful robe though (see photos)! Haha. We also climbed the 100 something steps to get a great view of the city!
We made our way to Old Delhi train station that evening with our big rucksacks on our back and had to literally get pushed in/out of the metro! Everyone found it funny though. The station was, well, a dump and where we suffered the worse case of staring yet. A guy about a metre from Emma stared at her for a good minute before turning away! Even though we started laughing he didn't stop! Fearing the worst for our 2nd class 2ac sleeper, we were pleasantly surprised and that's where I end his blog with the train just leaving the station.
So our first taste of India went from OMG to getting use to it.
We prepared ourselves for the worst and in a way its not as bad as we thought. There weren't loads of beggars or people hassling us as much as we thought. We did have people trying to be friendly only to sell us something but when you've had enough chit chat they soon tell you're not interested and they go away.
The food has been nice, we've had curry 4 nights in a row and ate food from street vendors. All of it has been tasty and cheap.
Some things, even though you know you will see, you can never be prepared for... seeing loads of people sleeping rough, children begging for money, seeing shanty towns or seeing people wash themselves/their clothes in a river that looks like oil.
Delhi was a hectic city, the contrast between old and new Delhi is huge. The metro is really good, its pretty new as it was completed for the Commonwealth games. There were some strict rules we had to adhere to though...no human skeletons were allowed or no decomposing animals! Apparently Delhi is a lot nicer due to having the games, so we are thankful for that! To say we enjoyed Delhi is a strong word to use, I'd rather say experienced.
Next stop Jodphur in Eastern Rajasthan.