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Published: March 12th 2008
The Streets Of Old Delhi
Noise, chaios and pollution
The intoxicating smog fills your lungs while you adjust to the ridiculous heat. Sweat poor’s down your face as you climb into an official taxi knowing full well you are at the mercy of his honesty. Suddenly your senses go into overload as a Tuk Tuk comes hurtling past weaving in and out of elephants and camel drawn carts. Hundreds of children beg in the street while you begin to notice the smell of urine lingering in the stale air. Cows graze on rubbish while overloaded cars bring child hood jokes into reality. Suddenly you become aware that you have just entered a race, a race for survival, with you holding their meal ticket. You quickly learn to stand your ground and rightly so, for this is a country like no other... this is India
As we flew into Delhi airport, the delayed hangover from two nights of partying momentarily disappeared as the reality of what we were doing sunk in. As the aeroplane taxied the dusty runway and the seat belt sign turned off with a piercing sound, Glyn reassured me that we were in for an easy couple of days. Apparently his Indian colleague regularly visits Delhi and
The race is on...
There are few road rules!
recommended a nice hotel. All we had to do was get into our pre-arranged taxi and head for Hotel Bright on Connaught Circus. Back then, it all seemed so simple!
We walked out of the arrivals hall and got bombarded with a hundred banners. We looked around in anticipation but our names were nowhere to be seen. As the banners began to disappear and the fat Indian businessmen climbed into their executive cars, it was assumed our driver must be late. Little did we realise the wheels were in motion for a well planned scam. A scam that would quickly open our eyes to the harsh reality of India.
To be cautious we decided to use an official pre-paid taxi to independently take us to our Hotel. A tourism board official pointed out the yellow and black number plates indicating a commercially insured vehicle. For the first time we confidently threw ourselves into the back seat and held on for an adrenaline fuelled adventure right into the very heart of India, Old Delhi.
As we left the airport it became apparent the driver spoke no English. He drove us out of the airport and onto a small
People, pollution, noise and smells
slip road. Suddenly the car screeched to a halt, the passenger door swung open and an official looking Indian jumped into the passenger seat. We looked at one another with slight curiosity. Is this a normal custom? Is our driver giving his friend a lift? Being typically English and battered into political correctness, we decided to let things be, after all it was our first day, and we didn’t want to offend.
We drove for about half an hour before alarm bells began to ring. It began to occur to me that we were trapped in the back seat. We didn’t have a clue where we were going and the strange man kept looking at our bags. We were being driven through a slum when the driver claimed to be lost. Apparently they could not find our hotel or Connaught Circus. It was obviously a scam when they offered to drive us to their office, but we had no choice, this was no safe place to get out and walk.
Eventually we drove down a dusty road and arrived at a small shack on the outskirts of Delhi. Outside a makeshift sign hung above the door. Suddenly the
Dog & Bones
Bitten off more than you can chew there mate?
mood began to change. The silent passenger became irrational and aggressive. He demanded we get out of the taxi. I agreed, but persuaded Glyn to stay in the car and guard our backpacks.
I approached the entrance and pushed open the large wooden door to be greeted by a man in a suit, waving me in from behind a desk. The desk had no clutter; there was no computer or stationary. All that existed was a rather old black spin dial telephone that he repeatedly used before glancing over his glasses and addressing me in perfect English.
He explained that he was having an extremely busy day. Apparently our taxi driver was lost because the hotel we had requested does not exist. He recommended that we book another hotel room through him until the matter could be resolved for the small fee of fifty United States dollars!
Luckily Glyn had the reservation form he printed off the internet. It had a clear letter head with the address and telephone number. I politely handed over the reservation sheet and asked him to telephone the hotel and learn its location. Someone answered and he began a conversation in Hindi.
A tired cow having a snooze in the middle of the road
I was asked for my surname and then told the room had been double booked.
He passed the telephone over. The woman on the other end asked me to re-confirm my booking dates. I replied that she should already know the date of our booking if we were double booked? I instantly realized I was not talking to the official Hotel and the scam had indeed started.
I put the phone down and politely told the guy that he must have dialled the wrong number. He passed the phone over to me and let me dial it. When I began dialling, I noticed there was no ring tone - I often make the same mistake at work, it was dialling an internal number, returning me to the same woman as before.
I stood up and leant forward firmly telling him that I knew what he was doing and if he did not take us to our hotel I would report him to the Delhi Tourism Office. I completely made it up; I didn’t know if a Delhi tourism office even existed. He denied everything and tried the number again - suddenly he got through and 3 hours
The holy cow rests while the indian man works!
later we were on our way with an extremely aggressive driver.
We were relieved when we pulled up outside the run down hotel. The driver left us to get our bags while he ran up to reception. Moments later we were asked to produce our passports. They soon confirmed that our room was doubling booked while informing us that we had made a booking for the following day. We got into a heated discussion with the receptionist until we were asked to show proof of our reservation. As I searched my pockets I soon realised it had been stolen back at the office. Luckily Glyn had a backup copy. The hotel staff and taxi driver became very annoyed.
We were told that our room would not be available for another 3 hours. We were asked to wait in an office and review their tourist literature until it became available. As we waited three Indian men came to greet us. The largest of the three stood by the door while the other two sat opposite. They had a strong intimidating presence about them.
For the next couple of hours they tried to push us into buying a tour
This Is Delhi
A typical scene around Delhi
for six hundred pounds. They would not let us out of the office and kept re-calculating the tour in different ways - luckily Glyn is an accountant and kept catching them out. The Indians became very aggressive, saying that “you are too smart for your own good” and “that we should really consider buying a tour but it’s not like we are going to stab you in your sleep if you don’t!”. We both stood our ground - but agreed to by a cheaper tour for 5 pounds to keep the peace - after all we were only going to stay one night.
We both got into another car. The driver took us to 2 sites and then on to various shops. As an excuse we told him that we didn’t have any money. You guessed it - he then drove us to his friend’s money exchange saying "it is in your own personal interests that you change money - now!"
We decided to change one hundred United States dollars into Rupees at a ridiculous exchange rate on the condition we could go back to the hotel and left alone. He accepted, but told us that "if you
A Room With A View
The view from our hotel!
tell my boss anything other than you had an excellent time on this tour then there will be trouble for you."
At this point we both decided that Delhi is perhaps not the nicest of places in the world and we should leave for Rajasthan the following morning. After navigating through a constant tide of touts we eventually found the official tourist office and booked our trip out! By this point we had not eaten or slept in 36 hours! We were both extremely tired!
"Hit the road Jack, dont ya come back no more!"
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