It's easier to get to Nepal from India than direct from the UK and so India is my first port of call. The flight to Delhi was excellent. I managed to stay awake long enough to enjoy a curry, a couple of glasses of wine and, at last, Casino Royale. The next thing I knew I was being woken up for my breakfast with 90 minutes until landing.
I was braced for lots of heat, chaos, hassle and noise on my arrival in India's capital and so was almost disappointed to arrive in an almost deserted, very modern, air-conditioned Delhi International airport. I was through immigration in just a few minutes and in a car to my hotel moments later. On the way to the taxi I was approached by three young Indian lads, but unfortunately they weren't really into hassling me that much and I got away with just giving them a biro.
It had been raining in Delhi, and despite it being sunny on the way to the hotel, the temperature was hovering around 28 C, and not the expected 42.
My home for the first couple of nights in India was the very comfortable Yatri
Guest House, about a kilometer away from Connaught Place. After a shower and a snooze I jumped into an auto-rickshaw and headed to Connaught Place for a quick beer. The traffic is pretty crazy as you'd expect, but it's nowhere near as mental as Bangkok for example.
I suddenly realised that I hadn't called Yogesh, a friend of a friend who lives just outside Delhi, so I headed back to the guest house and gave him a call. Yogesh arrived about an hour later and we went out for dinner and arranged to meet the next evening for some sight-seeing.
Battling the jet lag, I managed to leave the guest house at about 11AM after a superb breakfast of scrambled eggs. I took the new metro to the chaos of Chandni Chowk for a look round the Red Fort and a big mosque, both in Old Delhi. Unfortunately the Red Fort is closed on Mondays and you can't get into a mosque wearing shorts.
As I was pondering my options over a Coke I got chatting to an Aussie bloke, Kevin, who'd been in Delhi already for a couple of weeks. So, we had a wander round
the Main Bazaar and the environs, fending off salesmen wherever we turned. We happened upon the Bird Hospital and so went in to have a look. Now, I'm sure the hearts of the people behind the bird hospital are in the right place, but apart from a couple of peacocks who, to be honest, looked like they were faking an illness, the hospital was full of pigeons!
After a very enjoyable afternoon round the bazaars of Delhi and a refreshing ice-cold beer, I headed back to the guest house to discover that Yogesh was ill with a case of Delhi belly. All those years of eating baltis must have paid off as I was suffering no ill effects at all. I was too late to order dinner at the guest house, so after freshening up I tried to find a restaurant in a hotel the name of which I forgot the instant I set off. The only directions I'd been able to gleen from the guy on reception were "left, then short left". Not surprisingly I couldn't find the hotel and found myself in a road of sleeping rickshaw drivers. I woke one of them up and we
and tooted our way to the Spirit bar in Connaught place where I met Kev and a couple of other Aussies. I had some marvellous food at the bar and a couple of well-earned beers. I took an auto-rickshaw back to the guest house, driven by a crazy Sikh who thought nothing of going in the wrong direction round traffic islands. My second attempt to see the Red Fort and the mosque got off to a much better start the following day as I hired a driver, Subhash. There were a couple of times during the journey when I thought it would have been quicker to take the metro, but it was great to have an oasis of aircon at my beck and call.
The Red Fort is much more impressive on the outside that the inside as most of the fort is inaccessible once through its gates. I had the novel experience of being approached by a few locals who wanted to have their photograph taken next to me. I've no idea who they thought I was. Perhaps they just had never seen anyone so pasty looking before.
I managed to burn the soles of my
He turns up Monday...
...we don't work Monday!
feet in the open-air mosque as you're not allowed in wearing Jesus sandals (obviously) or any sort of footwear for that matter. Softened by my photographic experiences in the Red Fort I was quickly conned by two gutter-snipes to take their photo. I managed to get away with only paying one of them a dollar and telling him to buy the other one an ice-cream. They weren't all that happy about this arrangement and a crowd soon started to gather. I wasn't convinced that the crowd were on my side and anyway, I was worried my feet were starting to blister and so scarpered into a shadier area of the very impressive monument.
After a good look round, I went back to the car and on the way back to the guest house, popped in to Ghandi's tranquil memorial. Later, I had a fantastic dinner at the Yatri and then got myself organised for my tour of Agra, Jaipur and Amer which was to start the next morning with a trip to Humayan's tomb in Southern Delhi.
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