Installment #1 - October 18, 2000
Ajanta Hotel, Delhi
Right now, the sun is burning through a brown haze covering the entire city. Some three hours ago it, appeared as a burning orange disk above the roofline of the tallest building to the east. We watched it from the balcony of our third-floor hotel room and took our first pictures. Below, the neighborhood came to life (not that it had really been sleeping). There was a moderate amount of traffic on the roads even at 11 o'clock last night when the taxi brought us from the New Delhi airport to the Ajanta Hotel in the Paharganj district of Delhi.
I had heard reports of people who arrived at Delhi airport after dark being taken by the taxi drivers to a deserted place and robbed. I was very nervous when we were led out the left side of the airport terminal building while the sign pointed right for pre-paid taxis. Rita and I tried to follow the progress of our taxi through the mostly unsigned streets on a map in our guide book. We were never able to pinpoint our location. We were relieved when the taxi passed the New Delhi train station, turned left onto a narrow street, and we finally saw the Ajanta Hotel sign.
The front desk was manned by four or so smiling attendants. One of them showed us two rooms. The first was medium sized, located next to the elevator, and there was a cat somewhere nearby crying plaintively and continuously. We picked the second rooma third floor room with a 15-by-15-foot patio. The room is nicely furnished and decorated, and has a fan, air conditioner, small refrigerator, and a TV. Rita tried the TV as I took a shower, and then we had a room service mealan omelet and hot latte (without the coffee) for Rita, a cheese sandwich for me. Afterward, we quickly fell asleep.
We had been on the move for the last 48 hours. Our journey started at noon on Sunday, October 15, and we arrived at the hotel near midnight Tuesday night. (Time zone changes account for the remaining 12 hoursas I write this at 10AM Wednesday, it is 9:30PM Tuesday in California.)
Aside from the inside of three airplanes and five airport terminals, we have seen a Marina Del Rey beach with Aruna during our layover at LAX, and have taken a quick bus tour of Singapore, courtesy of Singapore Airlines. But the taxi ride from the airport and the inside of the hotel comprise (Allen's) entire "Indian experience" to date.
We awoke at seven o'clock this morning and made our way to the hotel restaurant. Our breakfast consisted of an omelet, French toast and mango juice and, to my great relief, did not contain any hot spices. I have been worried about finding food that I can eat, given that most Indian food is full of hot spices and I am happy to report no problems so far. [The Editor has refrained from commenting here, anticipating many better opportunities in future Installments.]
Today's agenda consists of reconfirming our train tickets (we have 90-day Indrail passes and have pre-booked most of our train travel from 25 Oct to 22 Jan), figuring out how to get online to send this report, and planning our next week in and around Delhi. Our Indian adventure has begun!
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