Around the world travel, Backpacking, Bucket List, Travel, Travel Wishlist, Uncategorized

Welcome to Delhi…Oh Sh*t

All smiles atop a moped in Delhi’s city center.

I arrive in Delhi at 5:30 a.m, and I make my way to baggage claim. I have everything crossed as I’m not entirely sure my bag is going to be here. It has been checked through all the way to Delhi from the UK, and probably spent most of yesterday floating around Moscow airport. Thankfully, it is here. I then find the closest bathroom and have my first experience using a non-western toilet. I see Asia is going to be great for strengthening my quad muscles.

During the drive from the airport to the hotel, I get a small glimpse of what India is like. It is early morning, and people are waking up from where they have slept the night before, be it the back of a rick-shaw, the top of a bus, or the side of the road. Some are cleaning their clothes on the side of the road, using the sewer lid as something hard to scrub on. Many people are just hanging out on the side of the street, some waiting for transportation, others just sitting, watching and waiting for nothing in particular. There is a massive amount of extreme poverty here, like I have never witnessed before.

The market at Connaught Place, Delhi

There are also signs of growth. My driver tells me that Delhi is the host of the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and the next Cricket World Cup, so a new Metro system is being built. Construction seems to be going on everywhere, with signposts that read “For a Better Tomorrow.”

I arrive at the hotel, which is a little safe haven of luxury, away from the complete craziness of Delhi. First things first, I take a shower to get rid of the grime of two overnight flights and a day in Moscow, and now, it’s time for breakfast. I sample some Lassi, which I ask our waiter about. He informs me it is curdled milk and insists I try it. I don’t think twice, but my father looks at me like I have two heads. (Ten business trips to India and no visit to the Taj Mahal yet… we’re going to work on that.) Lassi, which tastes like a yogurt smoothie, instantly becomes my new breakfast drink. It’s sweet, sprinkled with pistachio nuts and jam packed with probiotics… in Delhi, it might be good to have a few extra of those on hand.

The scene of the crime.

We spend the afternoon at Connaught Place and the Red Fort. Connaught Place is considered to be the center of Delhi. Seven roads converge into a circular round-about, and other than that, there’s not much to see. The plan is to walk through the market and then take the metro to the Red Fort, but the market is just pure insanity. People flock to us selling everything from food to jeans, to bags, to watches. In an effort to escape the insanity, we walk along the outside of the market and find ourselves surrounded by a few men, all who are trying to point us in the “right” direction. Since we are both feeling a bit uncomfortable by this point, we decide to make a beeline for the metro. Before this can happen, though, there is some commotion and a man exclaims, “oh no sir, it looks like a bird has pooped on your shoe.” We look down to see a pile of fresh shit right atop my dad’s shoe. I quickly remember reading about this in my guide book. It’s a typical prank in India. Don’t ask me where they get the matter from, but it’s definitely no bird. It works like this: A scammer approaches you, flings a sizeable amount of crap on your shoe, and before you have time to do anything about it, he’s “helping” you to clean it off and then asking you for an obscene amount of money. I figure out what is going on, and ask the man to leave us alone.We are then left to clean up ourselves… good thing I came prepared with tissues and wet wipes. We brush it off and have a laugh, and spend the rest of the afternoon trying to determine what kind of birds they are breeding in India that take a crap that size.

From here, we find the metro and get the hell out of Connaught Place. We head to the Red Fort where during the five minute walk to the entrance, it feels like every scammer and beggar approaches us, well actually approaches my dad. They pretty much leave me alone, but for some reason, they love his moustache and everyone comments on it.

Delhi’s Red Fort

At the Red Fort, we are able to bypass the long wait because we’re foreigners. I’m astounded by the number of Indian tourists at the sights we are visiting. Very few American and European tourists seem to be traveling here. We spend the afternoon touring the fort, which was built by Shah Jahan, the same Emperor who had the Taj Mahal built. He ruled here during the Mughal Empire but was overthrown by his son, Aurangzeb, who was the last to rule from here. Today the fort is used as a place for the prime minister to give key speeches, especially on Independence Day.

The entrance to Delhi’s Red Fort.

From the Red Fort, we are back in the craziness of Delhi’s wide open roads and try to get the first taxi we can. This happens to be some sort of Land Rover, so we hop in the back for another driving adventure. Driving is a true free for all here. Lanes are non-existent. Traffic lights are sometimes obeyed, but not on Sundays when the city is not as busy. All types of transport go- truck, van, car, bus, rick-shaw, horse, or your own two feet, and that applies to any road- whether it’s a village road or a major highway. And they will squeeze in as many people as will fit. It’s not uncommon to see a family of three atop one moped.


Our choice of transport for the afternoon.

We make it back to the hotel (safely). It’s late afternoon and finally starting to cool off. The heat has been oppressive today. We get some bizarre looks as we climb out the back of a Land Rover at hotel reception. My dad gives me a look that says, “what have you got me into this time?” I’m kind of wondering the same thing myself…

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