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Published: August 7th 2011
The Main Bazaar right outside our hotel
We got into Delhi around 2am local time glad to have arranged a taxi via our hotel for the trip from Indira Ghandi International. We grabbed our bags (so happy to see them!) and found the fellow holding a sign with Alex's name on it. Strangely enough we were surprised to find no seatbelts in the rickety van... Seatbelts have been invented right? Since it was now about three in the morning for our drive to the Hotel in the Pahargang district, the ride wasn't as eventful as we thought it would be.
The next day we slept in a bit. Partly from jet lag and partly because we had just been traveling for 30 hours. When we did get out of our hotel the Main Bazaar was in full swing. It was overwhelming. The traffic, the garbage, the hawkers, the dogs, the poor pickers. We walked up and down the Main Bazaar in a bit of a daze. One goal was to find somewhere to eat. The other was to not get hit by a motorcycle or rickshaw. The first place we picked was picked purely because it looked cleanish. The waiter handed us the menu and a post-it
The crazy streets of Delhi from the rickshaw
note with liquor prices. We didn't think much about it, but found out later that liquor licences are extremely expensive and most places sell beer on the sly. Our first meal didn't disappoint. We weren't sure what we were ordering so we had to use the Lonely Planet a bit to figure out what was what. I stuck with vegetarian, while Alex manned up and got a curry with chicken in it.
We tried to get out of Pahargang for dinner by walking to Connaught Place, an upscale tourist shopping circus near the city center. We were a bit worried about getting lost as there are no street signs but our spidy senses got us all the way around and back to the Main Bazaar without a hitch. Connaught Place was disappointing. It had lots of modern air conditioned shops. But they were all brands that you could find in Victoria! The restaraunts all looked too upscale for a couple of backpackers so we headed back to Pahargang.
At dinner we went to a cafe called the Nirvana and got plopped at a table with an ex-pat from America and her Indian husband. They seemed very genuine and
It looks like we're lining up for some kind of race. Oh wait, that's just how the traffic works around here
had lots of great advice. But we became a little leary of the couple when they invited us to come stay with their family on a houseboat in Srinigar. That was a little too much too fast! For our first day we really didn't branch out any further than the one kilometer stretch of the Main Bazaar and the nearby Connaught Place. That is a little embarassing for us traveled folk to admit, but it really was a lot to take in.
Day two in Delhi we were determined to see more of Delhi than the street our hotel is on. First we went to the train station to book our day trip to Agra the next day. We made it past all the touts telling us that the ticket counter was to the right of the train station and marched right up to the tourist office above the station. They sure do take care of the tourists in India. There are special seats saved for last minute bookings by tourists, so their travel plans don't get disrupted, called the Tourist Quota. We wouldn't have been able to get back from Agra without it. We sat in line for
The Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi
about an hour at the tourist office and when we got to the front we apparently needed our visas and passports. So we had to go back to the hotel to grab our passports. We learned something along the way about how to avoid touts. If you are walking fast with a determined or possibly grumpy look on your face they seem to leave you alone (most of the time). We managed to jump the line the next time in the tourist office by talking to the guy we saw the first time. He was going off duty, but told his replacement to take care of us.
Our next destination was the Spice Market in Old Delhi. We grabbed a pre-paid rickshaw ticket at the train station and caught our first motor rickshaw ride. From the train station (New Delhi) to the Red Fort cost 60 rs. Thats about $1.20 for a four kilometer ride! Boy what a ride. Dodging motorcycles, horses, cycle rickshaws and proper taxis it was all we could do to hold on and snap a couple of photos. It's crazy and disorienting for us Canadians who only use a horn when we are really mad,
The cow saves on fuel costs
but it seems to work. The traffic moves together like a giant flock of sparrows with only a series of honks indicating where the living mass is going next.
We got to the Red Fort intact and started the walk down the Chandni Chowk, the main road in Old Delhi, towards the Spice Market. We couldn't go inside the Red Fort this time as it is closed on Mondays. The Chandni Chowk is where the middle class Indians do their shopping. There really weren't many touts as it isn't such a tourist area. The smells of a place have never affected my memory as much as they have in India. You take a deep breath because you smell some tasty chat at a stall and the last quarter of that wonderful breath is sewage or piss. Combined with the heat, this makes it hard for me to stay hungry in India.
On our way to the Spice Market a cute little old man started talking us up about the Market. For some reason we didn't think he was a tout. I guess it was just because he was telling us good information and showing us where the Spice
The view from our window. There is a lot of dodgy electrical work here. I read in the paper that tourists have been electrocuted in the past during monsoon downpours.
Market was exactly. Turns out we were wrong about him. He took us into a shop (a very nice shop) and sat down while the shopkeeper sold us on all different masalas, tikkas, and chai spices. They all came in sealed packages so we bought them to take home. When we walked out of the shop we quickly realized you can get any spice from a giant sack sealed into whatever quantity you want (for far cheaper) from any spice stall. So we bought more! We plan to go back and fill what ever room is left in our bags with spice on our way home.
We knew the Spice Market was only about two kilometers from Pahargang so we thought we would try a new mode of transport. The cruel looking cycle rickshaw. The man we chose spoke very little English, but that was a lot more than the rest of the drivers. He said 'five' and we thought that was a crazy deal. So we got in and he promptly got us stuck in bumper to bumper (literally everyone was bumping each other) gridlock. It was impossible to get out (we didn't really want to anyway since everyone was staring at us). As soon as we got moving he stopped and said his tire was broken. It didn't look broken and he wanted 50 rs for the 500m ride! We gave him 40 rs and walked back to Pahargang.
Back at the hotel we got a couple of days planned. Agra tomorrow, via train, to see the Taj Mahal and then we will fly to Leh in northern Kashmir the next day.
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