May 9-13, 2016
Getting into Town
It was an early morning—however our train was delayed an hour. Also our train took longer than scheduled so we ended up arriving in Delhi over 2 hours after our ETA. We had to bargain with a half dozen rickshaw drivers, negotiating down from 650 to 200 rupees for our 35-minute drive to South Delhi. Everything is such a hassle here.
Once in South Delhi we spent over 2 hours walking around trying to find our Hostel. The address hadn’t transferred to my phone and we struggled using the limited information we had. The address I did had was of an old location and getting around in the dense traffic and thick heat made for a difficult and tiring afternoon. Finally by 4pm we made it to our air-conditioned hostel room.
We booked cinema tickets and food online and then took an Uber to a mall where we were going to catch a movie. The movie theater was magnificent with electric-reclining leather chairs, a pivoting wooden table for food, USB power outlets, and a personal lamp. Each seat was also provided with a blanket and pillow.
We saw Captain America: Civil War. The movie was just ok, but the experience was amazing. Such luxury. Our dinner was delivered to our seats as the movie started. Again, as with the movie we saw in Kolkata, there was an intermission halfway through the film.
My First Sick Day in Almost 9 Months
I couldn’t go to bed any something about me felt ‘off’. All of a sudden I had felt thirsty. I tried to drink some water but for some reason the water just felt heavy in my stomach. After a few more attempts to drink some water I throw up several times. I spent much of the night huddled over in pain with both hot and cold sweats. Sylvie stayed up all night with me comforting me. I finally got to sleep around 6 in the morning.
At 9 I woke up and Sylvie and I went to breakfast a short walk away. I was so uncomfortable that I had to get back to the room within 30 minutes. For some reason my lower back/hips where in so much pain that I couldn’t get comfortable. I tried lying down, sitting up, jumping, rocking—no matter what I did the pain seemed to intensify. It was the first time in longer than I can remember that the pain actually brought tears to my eyes. Thankfully a strong dose of Aleve seemed to alleviate the pain.
I spent the entire day in bed shaking and nursing the little bit of water I could get down. I didn’t eat much and struggled with all my effort to drink my disgusting oral rehydration salts Sylvie was so sweet as she took care of me and got me everything I needed throughout the day. By the evening I was 70% better and we ordered Dominos to our room while we watched the movie ‘True Grit’.
By the time I woke up the next morning I had fully recovered.
The City of Delhi
We visited many of the main sites in the area. the Jama Masjid, the Agra Fort, Chandi Bazar, and Connaught Place (central park). The heat made much of the travel pretty laborious. We walked quite a bit and both of us started feeling a little sick towards the end of the day. My headache and body aches came back and now Sylvie was feeling much more ill.
Neither of us have been particularly struck by Delhi's charm. It's another large city that is dirty and loud. What was interesting to experience in Delhi however is the larger gap in socioeconomic status. From the Jama Masjid Mosque surrounded by bizares with dirty stalls, begging children, street food, pesky tuk tuk drivers, incessant honking and dangerous traffic to Connaught Place with orderly traffic, nice cars, green space, luxury stores and professionally dressed people you would think you were in a different city! I guess it's important to remember that Delhi is gigantic with a population of ten million. Delhi is just another large Indian city. Despite the vast differences from one area to another, one behavior remains constant: the scamming scamming scamming.
In the upscale area of Connaught Place, we experienced a new type of scam- a more professional and less in your face came. From the moment we stepped off the metro we were confronted with a well-dressed friendly guy. He began chatting us up, telling us about the area, and asking where we were going, how long we were in India for, blah blah, blah. He proceeded to tell us that we must check out the “Government Official Tourist Office.” He said they would help us, answer our questions and even give us a free map. Skeptical, we thanked him and headed off toward the Vodaphone store. On the way to the Vodaphone store we were intercepted by two more guys, each encouraging us to go to the government official tourist office. (Little do they know that we have more than 8 months of traveling experience and are perfectly competent travelers) One of the men took it upon himself to escort us to the Vodaphone store, even waiting in the store with us while we had our phone fixed. He then continued friendly conversation with us as we walked, and he dropped us off at, you guessed it, the “government official tourist office.” We figured ok, what the hell, we can ask them a few questions we have and enjoy the air-conditioning.
We were helped by an employee and discussed our anticipated route and asked a few questions about destinations. He quickly crafted his own route for us, telling us we really needed to get the Indian train pass. He told us he could organize our hotels and we could travel through Rajasthan for 2 weeks for $350 per person (sounds cheap, but we can do it for a lot less on our own) We told him we needed to think about it. At this point he became more insistent and tried to convince us it was the best idea and that if we didn’t book it now we would lose our chance. We more firmly told him that we would not make a decision right at that moment. He backed down and suggested we get coffee around the corner to think it over. Another man from the office escorted us to the coffee shop. (They try to act so friendly and helpful but it’s a just a front to manipulate you into spending money)
In the coffee shop, "coincidentally" enough, a man sat at the table across from us and started making friendly conversation about our trip in India. His conversation soon turned more than friendly inquisitive dialogue as he told us traveling in India is difficulty and we need help to do it, that we really need to go to the tourist agency. I think he was in cahoots with the tourism office and was sent to check on us! Needless to say, we didn’t book with them. We are perfectly competent on our own. Later I researched online, this phenomenon of friendly strangers directing you to the tourism office, and low and behold it is a popular scam. It is not a real government office, surprise, surprise- but not really.
After leaving the coffee shop another man swooped in and started friendly conversation with us. He told us we needed to see the “real heart of India” and that we should get some Indian clothing. He proceeded to lead us several blocks out of the direction we wanted to go in, and conveniently dropped us off at an upscale clothing store where he most likely collects commission. It is so frustrating! You can’t know who to trust, so we’ve taken to trusting no one. For the duration of the day we shut down every “friendly” person. It sucks because you want to see the best in everyone and believe they’re not just out to scam you, but after being conned one too many times, India will harden you.