Thursday, April 1, 2010

03. Delhi… hell

Delhi, India

The next day (Sunday) we were intending to leave Delhi and head north up to the state of Himachal Pradesh where uncle Bruce lives. He’d booked our First class train tickets for the 9pm train that night and we were on the waiting list. We spent the day hanging out at the hotel smoking and having the occasional pool dip, while old friends of Bruce’s stopped by to say hi.

As 9pm approached we realised we were still stuck on the waitlist for the train so we wouldn’t be leaving that night. So we would have an extra day in Delhi which I would try to make the most of and do some sightseeing.

Warning: whinge alert ahead…

Delhi - 12 - Spices

First on my list was Delhi’s Red Fort. By the time I got there at around midday I found out the bloody thing was closed on Mondays. It would have been nice if the rickshaw driver had’ve told me that beforehand.

So then a cycle rickshaw driver offered me a tour of Old Delhi, which sounded worthwhile.

First stop was the Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque, where I was turned away because it was midday prayer time.

Delhi - 25 - Jama Masjid mosque

I really can’t be bothered writing in detail the rest of the afternoon because now that I look back on it it was a shit time. Here’s the quick version.

Delhi - 10 - Flower warehouse

I was starving and just wanted to get to a restaurant but the fucking rickshaw driver insisted on doing a tour of Old Delhi before lunch. He took me to a spice wholesaler which was interesting cos you’d walk in and the smell of chillies was overwhelming, dudes were carrying massive sacks of chillies over their shoulders and coughing the whole time. Lots of eyes watering, sneezing and coughing from the guys working there too.

Delhi - 15 - Chillies

Nearby was a flower warehouse, and the view from up on the roof of that was pretty good. In fact that was probably the highlight of the day, seeing the flowers drying on the roof alongside the busy street full of spice sellers and the rundown buildings of Old Delhi.

Delhi - 18 -

Delhi - 22 - Flowers

He kept trying to take me shopping, and of course you know the story – he would either get commission on whatever I buy or he’d just get a fee from the store owner for dropping me off. I agreed to one stop if it was on the way to the restaurant but I knew I wouldn’t buy anything, and I figured I’d play along so that the driver would get his cut. So off we go, out of the way down a maze of back streets and side alleys to a pashmina scarf shop. I pretended to be interested but really, fuckface, do you think I’m going to wear a pashmina shawl? One for my mother? Oh yeah, I can see her rocking that on the golf course. That’ll help her swing. My sister? Fuck, if she wants one she can buy one in NZ for cheaper than whatever inflated price you’ll try and sell it to me for. Can we go now?

After that we headed towards the restaurant but the traffic was insane. The main wide street was filled with bikes, motorbikes, trucks, cars, moto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws and pedestrians, all side by side, and none of them were moving anywhere, except maybe the pedestrians.

Cue detour down some real narrow streets:

By the time we got to the restaurant it was past 3pm and I was fucking over it. The romance of the cycle rickshaw had long worn off – slow, little sun protection, and a bumpy ass-bruising ride.

The restaurant we went to, Khalid’s, had high recommendations. Its walls were plastered with positive reviews. The meal wasn’t all that cheap though, the bill for a meal with a drink was 450 rupees, NZ$14. The lunchtime special at Raviz’ in Auckland is the same fucking price, and at Raviz I won’t sit on a plastic outdoor furniture, the service will be good, and the food just as good. Fuck.

Finally we went back to the Jama Masjid mosque, and I paid 200 rupees to get in. That seemed a little expensive and I was grumpy enough to not enjoy it, so I walked in, took a photo, and left (the photo is at the top of this post). Apparently for 50 rupees (NZ$1.50) you can climb one of the towers for an awesome view but I was really over it by then and spent all of 3 minutes in there. I just wanted to be out of the heat and noise. And now for the real kick in the guts – I just read in my guidebook that admission to the mosque is free, and you should be on the lookout for fake guides insisting there’s an admission fee. Mother fuckers. I was pissed off enough about it then, now I’m entertaining fantasies of returning to the mosque as a tourist again and stabbing the fucker who ripped me off.

Back to the rickshaw, and the driver suggested I check out the Mahatma Gandhi museum. Dude, I’m tired, fuck, how far is it? Only 5 mins sir. Well, I’d heard this was good so off we went. 15 mins later we arrived and guess what – it’s closed on Mondays. Awesome.

Across the road was Mahatma Gandhi’s tomb so I went and checked it out. This was nice because it was set in the middle of a large grass park so I could at least chill out on the grass for a bit. Until another friendly Indian approached me for a chat. I’ve developed a strategy, I ask them what they do for a job. If it’s tour guide or whatever then they can fuck off, but this guy was an air conditioner mechanic so I invited him to sit and we had an agreeable conversation.

Delhi - 26 - Mahatma Gandhi tomb

Back to the rickshaw and I asked him just to drop me off at the nearest Delhi metro station so I could find my own way back to our hotel. He dropped me off “just around the corner” from a metro station, and I gave him a decent tip cos I was still feeling rich. I soon regretted the tip when it took me half an hour to find the metro station, and I doubly regret it now that I realize he had an active part in the fake-entry-fee scam at the mosque.

Delhi has a nice new subway system but it’s ridiculously inefficient – lots of queuing to buy a ticket (Delhi: take a lesson from Tokyo – ticket vending machines only), then even more queuing to stand in line to go through metal detectors (which beeped even if you had no metal, so everyone gets the pat down), get patted down, oh, and get your bag X-rayed, just like at the airport. Just to catch a 10 min subway ride. For fuck’s sake!

I finally got back to our hotel and we weren’t taking the first class train north – Bruce had passport issues and you need to show your passport to buy train tickets, so we took the night bus. We arrived 5 mins late but fortunately we still caught it. I’m sure we only made it on time cos I was telling the rickshaw driver to jump lanes and I was hanging out of the rickshaw stopping cars so that he could change lanes.

Despite the let-down of taking the bus, on the bright side I was able to buy enough Valium at the pharmacy to knock me out for the trip, so it went by quick enough. That’s the great thing about pharmacies in developing countries – a prescription isn’t often requested and the medicines are real cheap – 10 x 5mg Valium for 15 rupees (NZ$0.50).

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