Not an auspicious introduction to India. We got off the plane and headed for the ATM then to the hotel. On the advice of all of the travel sites and books they suggest taking the prepaid taxi option to avoid the arguments and dramas of the hawkers etc. so we paid 800 rupees (about $16 and a 100% markup) and got the prepaid cab from the “government tourist travel bureau”. Well that was a disaster. After taking about 45 mins to do the 15 km drive, the road was blocked off (outside the US embassy) and we had to go to the tourism bureau to check availability of road access while also discussing our future plans in Delhi. Needless to say this was the scam that all the books talk about and the road next to the US embassy is always blocked. The to and fro went on for a bit but we did not not fork over any extra cash or sign up for unwanted services.
When enough was enough we got quite snakey with the driver and he backed down and took us to the hotel. We had in fact driven around it about 4 times but with no context of the world we had just landed in and no GPS to guide us we were at the mercy of this shonk. He had the nerve at the end of all this to ask for a tip to cover the extra distance that he had to cover. He got a mouthful from both of us and no tip. We both got out of the cab mighty annoyed, tired and hungry.
After swearing wildly and casting vicious aspersions on an entire nation and it’s people we checked in and headed out for a meal. After a lengthy walk we found an area and settled in for a feed. We had a mushroom paneer, raita, and a mutton curry with 2 naans and a paratha washed down with 5 kingfisher lagers for about $20. The meal was excellent with the minor exception of the mouse running across the room half way through (actually happened). We headed home, a little calmer, deciding not to damn an entire race on the back of a poor first up Impression. A good night’s sleep and the world would commence anew tomorrow.
I woke to find that my wife had spent a not inconsiderable amount of time in the bathroom overnight then we headed down to the included breakfast. Toast, egg (with chilli), conserves and a banana washed down with the sweetest coffee on the planet (undrinkable). Internet access atrocious. Made the decision to get the HOHO bus (hop-on, hop-off for the uninitiated) which will hit the 26 big tourist sites around town for a single fee.
We decided the HOHO bus could wait until tomorrow and headed out and actually had an ok day. We were trying to arrange local SIM cards so we could get our GPS and dodge the shonks. Indian government bureaucracy made getting a SIM a 2-3 day odyssey. Hopped the metro to Connaught Circus where the world is full of shonks and the “government tourist travel bureau”. There is actually one “government tourist travel bureau” but based on the word of the shonks there are about 70 on Connaught Circus alone. So far we are both massively unimpressed with India, we have held off on posting this for 3 days in a row now as we wish to see the positive in things but after 3 days we have been lied to, cheated and attempted to be conned on about ten occasions.
We are hoping that the initial hassles are a New Delhi thing, and that when we get out of the capital we will see the true nature of both the people and the land. Agra is the next port of call so the Taj Mahal etc may be the saviour of my mental health. I cannot express how disappointed I am at this point. I have Indian friends, neighbours former colleagues and employees and they have all been fantastic. I love the food and the images of the sites look spectacular. This was the leg that I have most been looking forward to. I truly hope that this is a rocky start to what will be a great experience.
Can’t decide in which city of the world the honking of horns is worst…New Delhi maybe not #1 but it is up there…certainly in the top 5.