I opted in taking a shuttle bus to the air port to save some extra money. It left at 4:00 in the morning and it was about 15 minutes from my guest house so I was up VERY early. I ended up getting to the stop and noticed people were still out for the night just able to stumble on home after a night of drinking. I was propositioned by 3 prostitutes, one that I KNOW was a lady by her, hmm, his 'package'. I met a French girl who studies in Australia and is traveling for holiday and a local Thai boy who is traveling to Korea for 6 days while on the shuttle. We checked0in to our separate flights and said our goodbyes as we headed to our own gates. While in line at immigrations I met a girl who grew up in Carmel, California but has lived in Asia for the last 4 or 5 years teaching English, French, and Spanish. She's planning on teaching yoga for the next year on a Thai island. She gave me some tips for when traveling in India. She forewarned me that I will get diarrhea at some point, but just make sure to be prepared so I can get better asap. I walked to my gain, but before security I got a nice ice cream cone from DQ, since I didn't know how long it would be before I would be able to get one. Even thought it was vanilla I enjoyed every last lick. I was carefully searched and by bag thoroughly searched when I went through security, but was through in no time. I patiently waited until I was able to take my seat on the flight. I selected a window seat, but could have sat anywhere on the account that the airplane was largely under-booked. (just a side not, I had a mouse crawl across my toes just 5 seconds ago as I was typing the last sentence). I got a very heavy delightedly maroon blanket and was fast asleep before I even heard the pilot say anything about preparing for takeoff. I woke up and we were already in the air. I guess those noise-cancelling headphones can do magic. I had the meal on the plane which included some chicken, steamed rice and vegetables, and of course a roll. I ate then went back to sleep...the flight was only 4.5 hours and when I arrived in India I was slightly refreshed. I hadn't slept too well the previous night since I had to wake up sharply at 3:00 and probably wasn't fully asleep until well after 12:00.
Arriving In Delhi
I went to the bathroom in Delhi only to find squat toilets...yippie! After waiting in line and going through immigrations I got my luggage and exchanged the remaining 470 baht I had left in my pocket. I was largely ripped off, but what could I do, I probably only lost 3 dollars or so in converting my money to rupees. For the record there are ~50 Rs. to $1 US dollar. I walked down an ales where there must have been 50 people holding signs and waving their hands to get peoples' attention. I found my name and walked towards the young man holding the sign. He introduced himself and was the nephew of a Mr. Arora, who is a very close friend with my Uncle Marc. I followed him to a Toyota van and he introduced me to the driver, Mr. Kamal. He didn't speak English, but I guess I was OK with that at the time. Mr. Kamal dropped off the nephew and I was on my own with the driver. We drove around the city for a while and then pulled inside a gated housing community where we must have taking at least 6 or 7 turns before stopping. Another man met me and opened the door for me. He took my luggage upstairs and Mr. Kamal showed me upstairs to my room. I had passed a woman cleaning and said Namastay and continues past her. My room had a queen (or possibly even a king) sized bed, color TV with cable and a wooden entertainment system built around it. There were nicely carved wooden chairs with fine red velvet and an in-wall closet. There was also a nice bathroom with western-style toilet, a shower, as well as a separate tub. The entire time I was being asked what I wanted to eat/drink. I finally said coffee is fine. They came out with a tray of coffee, a light sandwich, and some biscuits. The sandwich had cheese and tomatoes on a light white bread, the biscuits were just crunchy vanilla type (and there must have been an entire plateful), but the coffee was aimed to impress. There was a very nice coffee cup, with gold painted fine china legs, such that the body of the cup rested half an inch above the fine china coffee plate. I must say that it was coffee, but not what I had expected. It was frothy and tasted like a cappuccino. The man who carried my bags in gave me the remote and kept coming to check in on me and asking if I needed anything. Mr. Arora called me and said that I may use Mr. Kamal to drive me anywhere I wanted to go, but I knew I would be seeing Delhi later and wanted to enjoy the nice relaxing bed. At one point the guy even placed the covers of the bed over my legs...wow was I being pampered. They had a tough time understanding why I wasn't going to stay the night. Again they asked what I wanted to eat for lunch...I thought I already just done that? I wasn't able to communicate well with them so I just went along with it, even though I was stuffed. I said I am fine with whatever and said I had no restrictions. Finally Mr. Kamal instructed me to follow him and we drove off. We pulled up to a restaurant and parked. He walked me inside but had to go back to re-park the car as a policeman was yelling at him. I took a seat in the restaurant, but wasn't sure if he was going to be joining me for lunch or not? I figured it was not. I was in a t-shirt and khaki shorts with sandals. I looked around to see everybody else in pants and mostly business formal ware. This was a upscale place and it was obvious. There where three younger people in the place next to me, but I could tell from one of their Mont Blonc shopping bags that they had some money. I ordered chicken in spiced chilli sauce and an order of nan and two diet cokes. I was soo impressed with the food. It may have been the best meal I've had in the last month? Before my meal came I was served some red small onion and a green salad dressing. I wasn't sure what to do with it, but just ate it up and it was very flavourful. I was prepared to pay for my meal, but Mr. Kamal came in from waiting outside the door and quickly paid before I was given the check. After Mr. Kamal had left I asked my waiter if he was tipped and he nodded that he hadn't so I left him 100 Rs. This is equivalent to 2 dollars, I think the meal was maybe 9 dollars or so. This was a very nice tip for him, and I wasn't even sure if he was telling me the truth, but I wanted to pay something, that and he looked just like an Indian version of Mario Lopez. Mr. Kamal drove me back to my room and I watched some Indian tv for a while while I wrote in my journal. I kept telling him that I wanted to be at the hotel at 5:00, but it was 4:30 and he hadn't come for me. I had someone get him and told him I wanted to leave, but he said, "no no 1 hour 30 minutes left". I don't think he understood, but I just told him I wanted to leave now. I was on my way to meet my new group.
Meeting My Group in India
I had to go to several ATMs in order to find one that would pay out the 20,000 Rp that I needed (18,000 Rp. just for a last payment for the trip). I went to drop off my bags and get freshened up when I met my roommate in the room. His name is Sam, is 19 years old, and is from Essex, England. I think we'll get along famously (very good thing). We went down to meet the other at 6:00 and for the group meeting. To my surprise many of the people on the trip were younger than I (very different that from my last trip). There are twins from London who at 19, a girl traveling on her own from London as well and she is 23.. ( ;)wink wink ;) )! Three girls traveling from Norway who are 19 years old, A Scottish girl who is studying in Australia came with her Aussie friend and their both 22 (but with boyfriends). There is a 26 year old German who just finished up her degree. There is one other boy, a 25 year old American who has been living and working outside the of the States for a couple years. Get this...he's from Ohio...YOUNGSTOWN OHIO! Quite coincidental since we've BOTH only come across a hand full of US travellers. So in total there are 9 girls and only 3 guys. We all went out to eat, but I only got some type of bread (other than nan) and a water since I was still quite full from my two lunches earlier. Afterwards we went on the top of our hotel where they served beer. I have been getting along amazingly with all of them and I can feel that we will be very close this next 3 weeks. We joked and and talked and just had a great time. I can definitely detect the younger ages in the group, but it's OK. It's not that they're not mature, it's that they lack a lot of experience. Most of them are on their GAP year. For those of you that don't know what that is, it's a year of traveling after high school and before starting university. Everyone on trip is traveling for at least 5 weeks, and some for several months. My roommate, Sam, traveled with a group to Egypt for the last two weeks, and will be traveling Thailand after this trip. Many of the girls here are a bit tall, but I don't think it will bother me after a while. And I mean tall...maybe 5'10", maybe taller. After having a couple drinks the majority of people went to bed, but Sam and I offered some to come down and play cards in our room. 4 girls came along and the 6 of us played cards for a little over an hour. We finally said our good nights at 12:30.
We got up at 8:00, washed up, and repacked for the day. We had breakfast, but then had to hurry down and check-out of the hotel since we'd be in the city all day. We walked to the metro (train station) and took a train several stops down and had to transfer onto another train line. We first went to India's largest Muslim Mosque, Jama Masjid (see photo on left), which was built by the same buy who built the Taj Mahal. We could see the Red Fort, which was beautiful, but I chose not to go in since it was $5 and I didn't think it was worth it. Next we walked to the Hindi Temple Guru Bhawra, where people from all over and all faiths came come for free food. Afterwards the group split up and I walked around with Sam and Lisa (the girl from Germany). We tried to find an Internet cafe, but finally gave up after over an hour. We hailed a tuk-tuk, or motorized rickshaw, and went to the metro station. The 4 km ride took more than 30 minutes. The traffic here is indescribable. Horns going off in every directions, people crossing at a whim. I have noticed the people here are not friendly. In Indochina they at least will walk around you. Here we have to walk around them, even time, they make no effort to move. I have been working on my 'stiff shoulder' because I will only move half way. If they want to be hit, that's up to them, all it takes is for them to move that other half way. I hope my opinion of the Indians gets better because I have very little respect for them. It may just be that in Delhi it is a different culture. They are not welcoming and not approachable. I was also under the impression that many of them speak English. This is completely wrong, some speak broken English, but that's about the best you can hope for. Maybe it's just that since 17 million people live in the city, the people tend to be colder...like how NYC is? One can only hope. On the way to the Internet cafe we were accosted by children and beggars alike. They were trying to sell us stuff and wouldn't leave us alone even though I asked politely 5 or 6 times (or many a hundred). Finally I put out my hand and said "Thou shall not pass". Surprisingly they stayed exactly where I placed my hand and finally stopped bothering us. Some of the older man showed us books, similar to journals, where people were supposedly commenting how great their 'services' were. They were trying to clean our ears. I couldn't get over the fact that someone would actually let this dirty person stick an even dirtier piece of metal and cotton into their ears and 'clean them'. They just would not leave us alone even though we pleaded. I noticed many swarming around us and I didn't like this so I placed my backpack in front of me and placed my hand in my pockets guarding my valuables. I told them they can do damage if they cleaned out all the wax, but it was useless. The German girl actually fell for it and got it done. It was because of this that Sam and I couldn't leave and had to wait around while being accosted. I was shocked that I never snapped at them and that I was able to keep my cool the entire time. I need to device another way to brush them off that doesn't involve me having to leave the area. I may get a spray bottle that one would use to scold a jumpy kitty and just spray them when they approached me. I mean no disrespect to many of the Indians, but they truthfully have no idea what it's like to be a tourist in their country. I have not seen many westerners AT ALL since I've been here since much of the tourism comes from within their own country. We are meeting at 4:00 back at the hotel and taking a taxi from there to our next stop--A 20 hour overnight sleeper train. We are taking a 3rd class train that sleeps 3 vertically and I am going to pick up food beforehand, since there is no food service on the train.
Also, shorts are not appropriate while walking in temples or any holy areas. It seems that it's even frowned upon to wear shorts on the street as well so I may have to buy a pair of light-weight linens. I am going to die of these heat. After the train ride (maybe a day after) we will be taking an overnight dessert trek on camels and will be camping out along the way. I'll do my best to keep you posted, but Internet access here is VERY spotty.