Installment #2 - October 19, 2000
Ajanta Hotel, Delhi
We arrived in Delhi Tuesday night, tired and jet-lagged. On Wednesday morning, we slept late, wrote the first report, and then headed for the New Delhi train station by taxi to confirm our Indrail pass train reservations for the next three months. I had heard how bad the traffic was in India's big cities, but was still amazed. The three-block ride to the train station was like riding the bumper cars at a carnival, except that the idea seems to be to just missbut not hitthe other guys. We sideswiped a motor scooter near the hotel, and took a light off the side of a motor rickshaw near the train station. In between, we swerved and dodged erratically, honking at everyone and everything.
At the train station, we were approached by a guy who showed us his "railroad" badge and asked if he could help us. We asked for the International Tourist Bureau (ITB) where we would confirm the reservations. He directed us across the street. I had read about touts who misdirect tourists to a ticket booking agency that overcharges and gives them a cut, so I pushed on toward the station, where we were again directed across the street. By this time, Rita was getting upset with me and decided that, if I was going into the station, she would wait for me outside. I convinced her to come along and we quickly found the ITB office where it was supposed to bein the train station. The ITB was quick and efficient and had our reservations ready for the next 60 days (the computer, we were told, cannot handle anything more than 60 days aheadwe must confirm the others later).
The next item on Rita's agenda was a little shopping. A tout asked where she wanted to go, got a cab for us, and jumped in with us. Part way toward the shopping area, the tout told the driver to turn and took us to an isolated store. Rita was happy with the choice, so we went inside. I needed to buy shirts and pants and we checked some out. I found a shirt I liked but the price seemed high. We bought the one shirt and left, returning to the hotel with the same cab driver and tout.
Although it doesn't sound like much, this was about all the activity we were up for. We ordered a room service supper and were in bed by 7:30 or 8:00.
This morning, we set out to make train reservations for Dehradun with the hotel's travel office. At about midday, they reported that the train was full, and we agreed to go by taxi at more than twice the price. I also got hold of the internet service provider I had selected previously and made arrangements for them to deliver and install their service.
We set out again by cab for more clothes shopping and this time made it to Rita's intended destination, where we watched a parade of striking college teachers [never knew Allen found college teachers that attractive] before entering the store. We bought some clothes for me at 1/3 of yesterday's price, and then set out to find a tailor to make clothes for Rita and for me.
As we walked, we were constantly approached by street vendors and beggars, which made us both uncomfortable. We finally found a men's tailor who agreed to make three pairs of pants just like the only pair of pants I had brought with me to India. Unfortunately for me, they needed to keep my pants as a model for the new ones, so I am now wearing light cotton pants with a drawstring waist and no pockets, very much like pajama bottoms. [Ah, that Allenalways worried that he won't make the correct fashion statement.]
We set out to follow directions we were given to a women's tailor, but gave up when we had difficulty finding it due to the lack of street signs and continuous misdirection from touts trying to get us to go where they would get a commission for bringing us. We had again reached our energy limit for the day and returned to the hotel in a motor rickshaw.
The ISP representative showed up an hour and a half late, but helped install their dialer and deal with the hotel phone system problems. He had me online and checking my email before he leftall for a service charge of 100Rs (about $2.20).
So now it is 11PM Thursday night. We leave Delhi tomorrow morning to visit Dehradun, an academic center northeast of Delhi that we expect to be a pleasant change from the noise, pollution, and crowds of the city. We will return to Delhi Monday night, and at 6AM Wednesday morning we will say goodbye to Delhi and board the train for a two-hour ride to Agrahome of the Taj Mahal.
As you can see from our experiences so far, we have a long way to go before we will be seasoned travelers, but we are learning. I certainly don't plan to relate as much detail about our everyday activities in future reports, but at this stage in our visit, everything is an adventure to us and, I hope, not too boring for you. With good luck, the next report will be on Tuesday.
What, no pictures, Mr. Downs? We insist on pictures! Motor rickshaws, taxis, touts in taxis, tailors, striking college teachers...