Saturday, 4 February 2012

New Delhi

I froze in the hostel at night. I slept with all of my clothes on, under 2 blankets in child's pose all night long, shivering and unable to fall asleep, and thanks to the jet lag, I was fully awake at 4am lying around counting minutes until at least somebody will wake up. In my room there was a South Korean family, husband, wife and 2 kids. All of them quit their jobs and schools and went travelling around the world. I have to check the salaries in South Korea, if they can afford that kind of trip, with taxies and flights, I wonder if it's worth moving there :) They're very nice people, but they're so loud! It doesn't matter if anybody is sleeping, as long as they don't, nobody does, even if it's 2am or 6am. They weren't even trying a little bit to keep it quiet, what's up with that??!!
For breakfast had some weird grain stuff with potatoes, onions and tomatoes, and it was spicy! Not something I'm used eating in the morning, but food is better than no food, and since I'm paranoid about food in India, I was happy it was made in the hostel.
During breakfast I met Maria and we went to city center. The hostel is pretty far away from everything. First we took a 5 minute rickshaw until the subway, and then 25 minute subway till the center. I have some good reasons for being born a girl, but subway lineups outweigh all other reasons by far! There are separate lineups for men and women. There is so much police in New Delhi, and subway is no exception. It's like passing airport security. Everything has to be taken out of the pockets, bags go through x-ray machine, and everybody is getting checked by the beeping stick. Women enter without any lineup! Sweet! Not only that, there are 2 wagons in each train that are dedicated only to women, not that I mind, it's just less busy and people stare less. I got in line to buy a token to get in, and people started to get ahead of me, and stick their money in the counter window. One I let by, the 2nd one I tapped on the shoulder and told him to get back! Manners are just great in here!
Inside the train you would hear the names of stations, which side to get off, to mind the gap, and messages like that: "passengers are requested not to sit on the floor"; "be aware of suspicious articles: suitcases, toys, thermoses could be bombs".
To get to the bazaar area we had to go through railway station, again, the lineup is huge, we couldn't even see the end of it. While we were looking, someone told us to cut through the line, so we did. As we approached, the army person told us to get to the end of the line, so we turned around and told him that they told us to come here. Who's "they"? I don't know, how can you tell from 1000s people who's "they", so we just pointed a finger at someone random and were let through :) I think since we're in India we have to adopt to their great manners, just to show them what it's like :)
To cross roads here is crazy! Nobody will stop for you, so pretty much you have to take a deep breath and start walking, they will go around. Next we took an auto rickshaw to the red fort, the "must see" attraction in Delhi. The driver told us some unreal price, but we negotiated it down, and also arranged for us to get dropped at some shop to "look around", that way he gets money from the shop for every customer he brings, so we spend 5 minutes and get incredibly cheap price. Sometimes these schemes they use work for our advantage as well :) Just need to know when to use them. Red fort was closed for a parade to be held in a few days, so we went to the mosque. The driver again gave us stupid price, but we said no and decided to walk. He said it's very dangerous area and we should go with him, still no, we're walking! He said ok, no problem, and actually drove us through the bad area with no additional charge.
The whole day I was paranoid about food, since I couldn't find any washrooms, and thought if something were to happen where would I go?? So that was a diet day, I just ate 2 bananas and ice cream.
Mosque was not too interesting. It's the largest one in India and could hold 25,000 people, but inside is all empty with no decorations and no nothing, just 1 big square. Again, since their manners are nonexistent, and I have to blend in, I started taking pictures of everyone without their permissions, and if they don't like it, they can move to Canada! :)
Got another rickshaw to someone's tomb, the driver again said that we can't walk there, and not from there to gardens, and not from gardens to subway, and we should book the whole trip with him. Being from Canada and having an ability to read maps, and assuming that 200 meters is walkable distance, I politely declined, or not so politely, I don't remember. I think I was in a good mood, so he was lucky :)
In the tomb, there was this puppy that was following me around. I felt so sorry for him, he's just born, and has no idea what he got himself into! He's so skinny, you could see all the bones, mother was nowhere to be found, and he didn't have that happy puppy face, he was miserable :( I wish I had some food for him.
After the tomb, rickshaw drivers jumped at us to get a ride with them, but they thought that we are stupid tourists (again, sometimes it's useful to be one), but not when the price is 3 times inflated. So we got it down from 120 to 40.
Gardens were described at most beautiful in Delhi, where royalty takes walks. I'm not sure which royalty they refer to, maybe ones that lived there 500 years ago, but now the gardens look alone and abandoned. In there I finally got the courage to try some food, mainly because I was too hungry, not because I was brave :) So we bought some balls that are made of I don't know what, and are warmed on a stone, so the guy took them with his bare hand, smashed them on the stone and put it on the plate, along with some salad, also hand served. I told him that I want to pick them on my own, and I don't want any salad. I didn't get sick thank god, but I would never do it again. Unless it's fried or boiled in front of my face, I'm not eating it!
Overall impression of the first day is not too bad. I expected much much more hassling, much more poverty and scams, but nope. I think South America is worse, so my bullshit immunity is back on track! (I hope :S )
Next day during breakfast somehow all of us (10 people) got together and decided to go to town. I wanted to buy train tickets to Agra, so I and 2 girls got off the railway station. It took us 2 hours to buy the tickets. First off, we went to a regular lineup, but they told us to get to the tourist office. What kind of discrimination is that? Took a while to find the office since there are no signs, and inside the office there are also no signs as to what to do and who to talk to. We filled out the form, and sat in line which barely moved, it took about 1.5 hours to get to the agent. During that time 2 Indian guys came in, and were walking around. They looked suspicious to me, so I kept an eye on them. The line went around the room, through information desk, and then to the agents. Some girls got stuck at the information desk, and there appeared space just before them, and lo and behold, these 2 guys magically took that space (about 3/4 through the entire line). Everybody was looking at them, the 2 girls I was with said how much they hated people like that, and for some reason nobody but me, whistled at them, snapped my fingers, and pointed them in the direction of the end of the line! Bustards!
I find that Indians close up when they don't know the answer. And you have no idea what's going on, they start looking around, chat to other people, are they asking for tips or just talking? Usually it's just talking, then they look at you after some time, and almost jump with surprise with an expression of "oh man, what are you still doing here?". Either that, or they just stare at you.
Now I understand their mentality a bit more. Manulife started to do business with India, and they sent one guy to Toronto as a link. We gave him some task to do, 3 days later we heard nothing from him, nobody knows the status, what's going on. Finally we ask him and we get a response "oh, I don't know php!". So for 3 days he was sitting there quiet, not doing anything, and not asking anybody for help!
p.s. I'm sitting now in the lobby and overhearing everything that happens in the reception. Everybody who got in to check in got a different price for the room for some reason. "Oh yeah, the rate is different right now!" I'm paying 380 per night, while he gives 490 as a price. Then he helped a girl to book train tickets. She asked if it's the same price if she'll go to a train station, "yeah, of course it is". Ok, first of all, he "found" her trains that leave at 5:40 in the morning. Well guess what? The subway doesn't start that early, and who's taxi do you have to take to get there? Of course hostel taxi which they charge 500 for it, while on the street it will be around 150. I paid 140 for the ticket, meanwhile this girl somehow paid 400. And what else, there is 100 rupees service charge per ticket! So overall I'll be paying a total of about 260, while she just paid 1000. But at least she got the ticket. One girl tried to make a reservation through them, so he told her that everything's booked and she’s good to go. She came back in the evening when someone normal was at the reception, asked for the confirmation number, and was told that there were no bookings made for her!

Back to the original story ... I finally ate food ! It was soooo good! with spices but not hot, so I wasn't turning all red, sweaty and having a liter of water with every bite. Its next day, and I'm still feeling good :) What's even better, I couldn't finish it, because there was so much of it, and it only cost $2 :)
Speaking about prices ... again ... we got approached on the street to buy sunglasses, well, we don't need sunglasses, so we kept on walking, and he kept following us. While we were walking the price was dropping from 300 to 200 – you can’t find any cheaper than that, a second later, ok 100, last offer 80! So if they tell you 300, and you bump it down to 250 and think you got a deal ... think again!
In the evening we went to a temple. It was so amazing!! Too bad cameras were not allowed inside, but it's free, and it's the most beautiful building I've ever seen! All of it is carved from top to bottom to the tiniest detail. Inside the majority of it is covered in gold. The eyes just don't know where to focus, it's so unbelievable beautiful, wow! Actually I think it deserves to be in caps with a few more exclamation marks ... WOW !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! now that's better! :)
If I were to believe in any religion, I would definitely believe is some Hindu one. They don't just believe in some unknown and unproven god, but they believe in a person who lived a few hundred years ago who inspired people to live in peace, happiness and wealth. Which makes much more sense to me as something to believe in ... except that locals are never at peace, I haven't seen too many happy people, and definitely not wealthy. Maybe that's why the temples are so impressive, and there are 100s of festivals going around the country, just so that people will have something to believe in.

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