Saturday, March 17, 2007


"Hello, please sir, this way. Welcome to India, is this your first time to Delhi?"

"Er, yes. Yes it is."

The first person I met in Delhi was our taxi driver, who for 215 Rupees (about £2.50) would drive us the 10kms from Indira Gandhi International Airport to our hotel in Connaught Place in the centre of Delhi. Looking back on it now, it was probably a mistake to tell him that this was indeed our first time in Delhi, although at the time, his concern seemed altruistic enough.

"Where you stayin in Delhi?"

"The Intercontinental Hotel in Connaught Place. You know it?"

The driver looks perplexed, intakes a short breath and frowns.

"I'm not sure where that is. I have to ask a friend in Delhi."

Now luckily I had done some research on getting to and from the airport in Delhi before I left England, and found out that the taxi drivers at the airport quite often try and con you into staying at other hotels (usually one belonging to a relative, or one where they get commission for taking you to). These taxi drivers will tell you anything, to get you to stay at the hotel of their choice (anything from it being closed for refurbishment, to it having burnt down the previous night). In this case, the driver pretended to not know where the (tallest and largest) hotel in Delhi was, even with the address and map given to him. Anyway, arguments ensued, and he became a little hot headed, trying to snatch our hotel confirmation from us. Once he'd had his little tantrum, we finally managed to get him to drive us to our hotel. He drove straight there. Not a single wrong turning.

Delhi itself is completely nuts. One second you'll be walking alongside some businessmen, the next you'll be stood next to a leprous beggar, or surrounded by a group of starving homeless children, and all of this within spitting distance of a McDonalds. The contrasts between rich and poor are shocking and numerous. It also seems that there are no traffic rules whatsoever, and cars, buses and bikes weave in and out of lanes, and appear to be going in all directions at once. Crossing the road is something that should have its own clause in your travel insurance policy as you really are taking a chance each time you cross. No pelican crossings here, kids.

The main/cheapest form of Transport around Delhi is the Autorickshaw. They are nippy little machines, and a really cheap option to get you from place to place within cities. However, like the taxi drivers at the airport, the rickshaw drivers are constantly trying to get you to go to places you don't want to go to. Usually a 'shopping centre', which will actually belong to their brother/cousin/uncle etc., and where they receive commission from the store owner for each tourist they bring. The constant hassle from touts either in taxis, rickshaws or just men on the street is a real pain in the arse. It is something that you really have to learn to ignore, else you'd go nuts.

An Autorickshaw

One particular driver who camped himself outside our hotel seemed particularly feisty. This particular day (it was the Hindu festival of Holi), he approached us as we left the hotel. He was clearly pissed as he'd been celebrating all day and started to threaten us by suggesting that if we didn't get into the rickshaw with him that we'd fall into some sort of violent trouble further down the road. We ignored him. Nobody got hurt.

Connaught Place area

Connaught place is the main shopping area of Delhi, and is where you can find the likes of KFC, McDonalds, and all other manner of faceless global chains. Centred around a landscaped park (funnily enough called Central Park), it is where you'll find Delhi's middle-class out, spending their money, and also where you'll find the highest concentration of beggars and homeless people. In the evening, it seems that Central Park is where Delhi's families come and and sit and chat. You can really notice how Indian society is based around the family, and that they clearly enjoy spending time with each other. There doesn't seem to be a drinking culture comparable to the UK, there are no hordes of drunk hen/stag parties as in UK towns and cities and the drinking age is 25.

There is a darker side to Connaught Place however. The so called 'shit boys'...This is yet another scam that involves shoe shine boys (mostly men, actually) who, if ignored or if their services are turned down, will flick bits of dog shit at you, and then point out that you have shit on your shoe. Nice.

After spending a couple of days seeing some of the sights in Delhi (surviving the Chaos walking through Chadni Chowk to the Red Fort, Jami Mosque and then down to the governmental area of India Gate), it was time to leave Delhi and experience the joy that is the Indian rail network.

Red Fort, Delhi

(Coming Soon: India Rail, Jodhpur, too much curry and more bad tourist photo's)