Running away from the scammers in Delhi


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Asia » India » National Capital Territory » Delhi
August 11th 2015
Published: October 24th 2015
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In Delhi most people choose a day tour via private car to view many of the nearby sights. We wanted to do something similar but take our time as we got to grips with this new country, India. Following a very hearty breakfast, we decided we would carry out a ‘do it yourself’ kind of day tour via the metro. This went against the hostel’s advice of hiring out a car but we wanted to see India for ourselves. Learn our own lessons, you know.

Walking down the main bazaar in the day time was no less hectic and chaotic than the evening before. Stalls with men shouting out for you to have a look in their shop, far too many vehicles on the street with no sense of a coordinated system whatsoever. It was every man for himself. We had to keep our eyes peeled but attempted to relax a little and try to become accustomed the loud and startling honking sounds that surrounded us. This was no easy feat.

Then there were the many men who would shout out 'Hello my friend where are you from'. Being too aware of the many scammers down here with all the possible tricks to make you part with your money we would always reply "hello" whilst continuing to walk not wanting to engage in any conversation. It was impossible to get away from these men however. They would come over to shake our hands asking ‘are you from India? (got to say that was a first) likening their skin complexion to our own. “Ahh you are from England” they would say “my favourite country, Lovely Jubbly". Side note: who says Lovely Jubbly in England anymore? Northerners certainly don't.

Then they would carry on, “What is your good name? First time to India?” Etc and eventually they went on to ask what we were doing that day. After making clear we were catching the metro they would then proceed to guide us. It was sometimes tricky trying to shake them off without being rude. Do not get me wrong, they did not appear pushy, rather polite and friendly but you knew at the back of your mind there was always some other agenda. One after another, men would constantly try to engage you in conversation. Easy targets down backpacker central Paharganj I guess.

There was one guy in particular
we could not quite shake off, saying he was going to the station we were going to himself. Question to self: why did we tell him where we were going? Next time we'll keep that to information ourselves.

Chatting away we were distracted by the small talk and realised a little too late we were going to a different station than the one we intended to begin with. Realising this, we told the guy to carry on without us. He would not let go, telling us it was just around the corner than chatting on about some tourism office. "Oh yeh!!" we thought. What made his game more obvious was his rushed 10 second phone calls and his insistence on getting organised, booking tours etc.

Nearly at this metro station, we carried on with him. Just before the station he pointed out the tourism office and wanted to take us in. We quickly replied that we would go in ourselves and said goodbye, shook his hands and waved him off. Once he was out of sight, instead of walking to the office we carried on towards the station. However stopping us were 3 men outside who worked at
this office waiting for their prey.

These 3 guys tried ever so persuasively to get us into their shop. Slightly more aggressive in approach. After giving up the impossible debate with them, we had enough, we smiled and walked away. As we cornered the bend we found the other guy pacing around wiping the sweat off his face. Surprised to see us so early he asked us if it was not open. We again smiled and walked off. Not us not today.

As we walked in the metro station another guy walking in said to us that it was a fake tourism office that this guy was trying to take us to and we were good to avoid it. We thanked him and told him where we were going when he asked. Yes we had shook them off.

Now we could finally start our day. At the metro station we purchased our day passes and jumped on our first train to get to India gate. The train was super packed and travelling this way during rush hour was an experience. We would actually call ourselves experienced in the art of manoeuvring ourselves onto transport on this side of the world. However the type of pushing that took place here was at the next level. This felt dangerous. Being in the middle of a crowd being pushed from behind all the way into the carriage without any control of your movement felt like you could fall at any moment and be trampled on. Not pleasant but again we made it and laughed to ourselves remiding ourselves that this was India.

India gate is a very tall archway in the middle of a wide empty highway built to commemorate 70,000 inidan soldiers that lost their lives in the WW1 fight for the British Army. Standing beneath such a tall imposing structure with the names of so many soldiers etched all over it was eerie. We questioned whether England has any memorial sites for all these Indian men in particular who lost their lives. Not that we knew of anyway.

As we looked up at this tall structure it started to rain. So after taking in all we could we quickly carried on our way down Raj path (a huge road connecting India gate to the presidential residence (Rashtrapati Bhavan). Pleasantly Raj path was a huge highway with not too many pedestrians or traffic. This was a welcomed relief after Paharganj, plus there were pavements to separate pedestrian traffic and bikes, cars and rickshaws (something we quickly learnt did not exist in most other places).

Raj path however was another target area for people to either take you to a tourism office or some overpriced shop. Walking down it we continually had to shake off the many rickshaw drivers all stopping by us trying to engage us in conversation and telling us we could not miss a clothes sale that was on only for this weekend. Only this weekend, Yeah right!

One thing that got us however was one Indian guy who walked past us and turned around saying hello stopping us. We greeted him back although slightly confused as to who he was. He then reminded us we had bumped into him at the station.

This was the guy who had informed us that the other guy and the office was a fake. Chris laughed at the coincidence. P however started to feel edgy about this guy, thinking this was more than a coincidence. Not many locals walk down raj path and it just so happened he bumped into us. We had stupidly told him where we were going (lesson not learnt). P was adamant he was following us. After politely cutting the conversation short we walked on then stopped to take pictures as a distraction. We said goodbye and he reluctantly started to walk off but then lingered again up ahead.

When we didn’t budge he quickly disappeared inside the park like he was meant to go there. Not seeing this guy and getting rid of another rickshaw driver we walked at a quick pace. Looking behind us this guy had reappeared again smiling at us. What is it with these guys! Maybe he picked up on our annoyance or our fast walking pace and knew we were on to him as we did not see him again. We realised that these men will go out of their way to find you and had heard many people who had unassumingly got caught in their traps and ripped off completely.

The presidential residence: This grand building was nice to see but not overly impressive. One thing we did comment on was the many international tourists in white cabs passing us by taking snaps in their car before the car turned around and they visited the next sight on their tour. Maybe we should have done the same?? Maybe.

The only other site we visited that day was Qatub Minar. A complex of ruins that were once mosques, towers and tombs but now a crumbling ruin site. One thing that immediately caught our attention walking through the gates was the Qatub Minar victory tower, 73 meters high and built to celebrate the Muslim victory over the last Hindu Kingdom here in Delhi. It stood tall and proud and had been restored to its former impressive glory.

One controversial piece of information we came across in the site (via one of the plaques) was that the mosque (or its remains) at the foot on the tower was actually built using the building blocks of 27 Hindu temples that they destroyed here. Very controversial indeed.

We explored most of the ruins and were in no doubt that they were very impressive with the intricate designs incorporating both sandstone and white marble into the intricate patterns and writings etched on the walls. After exploring this site and getting some fill of some delicious samosas and Chai tea, it started to rain and we sought cover.

For our next stop we made our way via the metro again to a sought out a Decathalon store (1.5 hrs ride away from central Delhi), buying some much needed rain coats. It was raining as soon as we bought them so we made good use of them straight away.

One thing we stumbled upon in this area was a small food stand that sold the popular chai tea and some onion bhaji's with a green onion sauce topping. They were delicious, we even licked our fingers clean it was soo good. Happy with our find we went back to our place and settled for the evening. Enjoying the isolation in our room away from the chaos outside.

…….

For our final day in Delhi we had a big list of things to see since we took a detour yesterday to buy our rain jackets. After another filling breakfast we were on our way. We were this time determined to not give the men here any reason to bother us (informing them we had been in India 2 months, with this being our 3rd
time in Delhi Ha.).

First stop Red Fort. After catching the metro and walking over 20 minutes, it was closed and would be for 8 more days. Dammit. We could not make clear why this was but bypassed some sort of parade on our walk from the metro station (again not being clear on what was happening but observed many people in orange) and the sharing out of some sort of sloppy rice pudding into small disposable bowls. It was Independence Day in 4 days maybe that had something to do with it. We said to ourselves we would visit the next time we were in Delhi if we had the time. We were disappointed but carried on nevertheless. Plus our next stop was also built by the same emperor who built and designed the Red Fort and also the Taj Mahal. Shah Mughal.

The Jama Masjid, is an extravagantly designed Mosque in Old Delhi, actually the largest Mosque in the whole of India. Stepping inside one of the outer gates (only 2 gates can be used by tourists) we were struck by how striking this building was. Perched on an elevated base above the ground, with a
staircase leading to one of the upper gates was a boldly coloured red sandstone structure with a walled area that connected all 4 gates. Both in the walls and the gated structures were beautifully carved arches for doorways and windows that brought a touch of elegance and softness to what may otherwise have been quite a hard looking structure.

After taking off our shoes, paying a camera fee and P donning a robe (for all female tourists), we were allowed entrance into the main site. We stepped into an open courtyard and in front of us was the highly decoratative white and red mosque (white being the marbel used), cornered by 2 towers and topped with white doomed roofs.

As we walked closer we came to a pooled area that reflected the beautiful structure and that many people used to wash their feet in before prayer. At this point Chris said he was feeling rather ill and wanted to rest so decided to sit it out under the shade while P walked around the inner courtyard and mosque itself. Walking through the carved arches of the mosque she noticed the intricate details and designs in both the sand and marble work along with many inscriptions written in Arabic.

In the meantime Chris was beginning to sweat intensely and felt really dizzy and lethargic. Visitors to the mosque wanted to take selfies with him. When P returned to find him he was noticeably hot and sweating a lot. We made a dash for the exit and just as we did Chris could not hold it in any longer and puked over and over again. A local guy saw what was happening and in an attempt to help gave Chris what looked like a dirty bottle of water and started to massage Chris’s back deeply. Noo we both thought he could not drink it. Not wanting to be rude but may just have well been, Chris swished the dirty water around his mouth and spat it back out. After the sickness had passed we thanked the guy who retrieved the rest of his water back (bless him) and he went on his way.

We do not have a clue what caused this sickness but we both knew it was bound to happen. Although neither of us had been sick on the trip so far we knew Delhi belly was inevitable in India. The second day though!? Wow that was quick.

Feeling far better after getting it out Chris was happy to carry on a little and so we visited the the Old town and the narrow alleyway bazaars. The first one we walked through Kinari Bazzar which was very vibrant in colour with many of the small hole in the walls stalls selling beautiful bridal accessories, flowers and jewellery. After walking down the main drag of this bazaar we wanted to get away from the bustling claustrophobic atmosphere and took an exit onto the main street of Chandi Chowk.

We had actually walked down Chandi Chowk on our way to the red fort this morning and coming back after midday was completely different. It was packed with people walking the streets, walking in and out of stalls and full of traffic. Cars, rickshaws (both pedal and motorised) and horse and cattle drawn carriages replacing the sleeping dishevelled homeless people that lined the streets this morning.

So much noise and so many people. Beautiful, bright coloured saris hung up and when you looked down to the streets the broken dusty pathways was such a contrast.

Chris needed a toilet break so we headed up to a sikh temple to look around but only ended up taking a rest there as C started feeling slightly ill again. Arriving at this temple, we observed immediately that there was a guy in a brightly coloured turban behind a counter providing water to people in metal cups. Would love to come back and fond out more about this temple, maybe next time.

Our final stop for the day before calling it one, was at the spice market of Khari Baoli. We walked down the stretch of stalls selling lots of colourful herbs, many kinds of tea, almonds and sweet treats, often refusing the offers to come inside to have a look and sample. We were tired from the intensity of the heat and the sun which was hard to handle even though most countries visited have been warm during our travels.

That very evening we were to travel to Agra via a train from Old Delhi station (at the end of Paharganj). One annoying thing we should mention here are these men who stand on the outside of the station, putting their arms out refusing to let you (foreigners) in the station unless you show them the ticket. They tell you that you must purchase tickets prior to travel and usher you towards one of the many ‘OFFICIAL tour agencies’ (trying to book your whole tour and selling often over priced tickets). This is to prevent you visiting the real tourist booking office on the upper floor inside the station. We truthfully told them we had tickets (refusing to show them) and told them we knew what they were up to. Once they knew they could not fool us they smiled a cheeky grin and let us through. Unfortunately many travellers who come here are not so lucky and during our travels we had heard a few stories of travellers who had booked trains through these offices paying (4 times what we had paid for our whole 5 weeks of train travel) for one week for one person. It was shocking so if you are visiting this station do not be fooled by them.

We said to ourselves walking down Paharganj, into the station and finding our train was like completing an assault course in getting where you needed to be. We could understand why so many travellers come here as a first stop (being backpacker central and a conman’s heaven) opting to leave and never return. Lucky for us we had been backpacking for a while and although we had never experienced it like this we were prepared for it. We had also been told that after Agra (with the exception of Varanasi) the hassle is nowhere as bad and you can walk easier without having to worry about it. We sure hoped so as we had loved the intensity of India so far. So different to anywhere else we had visited.

Accommodation; Symle Inn.
Travel. Metro card 150 rupees (50 deposit for the card) buy at any metro stations and not any 'tourist office' despite what they may say.


Additional photos below
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25th October 2015

Is the hassle worth it?
Well done for avoiding every scam they tried on you. It's such a pain having to put up with it, but like you said, there are ways of avoiding them if you are aware of the scams and know where the scammers hang out. For us, Delhi was by far the worst of it. I was a bit disappointed that there aren't any photos of P in that fetching gown at jama masjid :) , but I suppose poor Chris wasn't in a mood to snap pics at that point! :(
25th October 2015

all the hassle
We agree, the hassle was by far the worse in Delhi. Saying that it doesnt stop me from wanting to return to see the sights we missed, it just gives us more determination to overcome it. Lol don't think Chris took one, he wasnt feeling great at all by this point :(
25th October 2015

Hello my friend where are you from
It is a nice greeting until you've heard it a 100 times. Learning to shake them without being rude is an art form but it can be done. Love hearing your impressions. You've seen some lovely architecture and eaten some great foods. Please keep those photos coming.
25th October 2015

hello my friend.
I agree it is certainly an art that comes from experience. Something that must hit those who have never travel before even harder as its just not an issue in a lot of western countries. Thanks for your lovely comments again its great you can relate to our impressions :)
25th October 2015

Ahh the memories
Thanks guys for such a fantastic blog, it transported us back there...we could almost smell and taste it. India is such an incredible experience, but the hassle can sometimes make it hard to be civil, you have both done so well and looking forward to how you handle Agra. Agraphobia is a real and serious issue, good luck. Keep up the great writing and photos, they are sensational.
25th October 2015

Ahh the memories
Thank you for such a lovely comment. Its great to hear we were able to bring back memories for you. India really is such a unique place and brings all sorts of experiences. Love that saying, agra-phobia lol it certainly is real!!
25th October 2015
Reflecting at Jama Masjid

Delhi Belly and Scammers!
While some of these sights seem pretty interesting, the scammers' stories are horrendous! That "Where are you from my friend?" etc is used lots in Morocco, but that scary business of following you takes stalking to a new level. Glad you've caught on to their tricks, you clever travelers, and as usual, I loved that you set out on your own to explore. P's new pants are gorgeous and those onion bhajis look to die for! Glad that the hassling will lighten up north!
26th October 2015
Reflecting at Jama Masjid

Delhi Belly
It really was a hassle but luckily it did ease up from here. Never knew Morocco was similar, I place we have never travelled but I am sure we will. Regretfully we did not go up north and we had heard incredible things about it too. Would love to go back to travel more north but I guess that's another trip. Thanks, those Alibaba type of pants are a must in India, so breezy and fashionable. I could not wear them enough! :)
5th November 2015

Tired just by reading...
All those scammers!!! That's one of the reasons why India is not on our list. I got angry at all those men just by reading how annoying they were with you, so I'm not sure I could keep calm if it would happen to me. We had similar experience in Indonesia and I didn't like it at all!! Also, I'm not sure I could detach myself of the poverty, smells, people, noise...
6th November 2015

Tired by reading
I understand it was similar in Jogja as it is in Delhi just on a much larger scale. Being aware of some of the scams before is useful as you know what to expect and can embrace yourself for it. I guess you have to try to not let it get to you even though it will be a challenge as it was for us. What kept us sane however was knowing the rest of India was not like this. We could relax a little away from Delhi. The only tiring thing for us outside Delhi was having to negotiate all the time so we didn't have to pay extortionate amounts. Overall I still think the positives outweigh the negatives as it was a beautiful vibrant country 😊

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