Sunday, February 7, 2010

First day in India!

February 7th was our first full day in India. We woke up in Delhi, enjoyed a simple but delicious complimentary breakfast of paratha's then grabbed a human-powered rickshaw to the New Delhi train station to try to get train tickets. Our Lonely Planet for India was full of warnings about scammers, pickpockets, and molestation of lone female travelers so we were a bit curious just what it would be like!

Delhi seemed dirtier, more chaotic, but also more vibrant and lively than mainland China. Some of the areas we passed through seemed pretty poor, even for Asia!

Just like China, almost anything can be moved by a dude with a bike.

On arrival at the train station we were a bit surprised at the garbage and shoulder to shoulder people.

Our rickshaw driver was the first (of many) really blatant scam attempts. We owed him 30 INR but our smallest bill was a 100 INR note so naturally he proclaimed he had no change. While disputing whether or not this meant we were to pay 100 INR another fellow walked up and "helpfully" offered change for the hundred. We weren't sure if it was fake or if he was trying to curry favor, though we now suspect the latter, but we accepted even so. Rod stepped away from Pavan (all of three feet) and she promptly got groped two or three times by Indian men passing by. WTF. We rapidly learned we needed to hold hands in crowds to keep this from occurring.

After all this we headed for the train station. The fellow who had changed our hundred followed us and kept offering tips and directions we tried to politely dismiss. As we neared the station he helpfully tried to guide us off to one side of the actual station to "where you buy tickets". Lol. We picked out the actual sign for tourist ticket purchase and walked into the building. The next scammer in line was a fellow who asked for our tickets, which you do not have to produce just to enter the building. We informed him we were on our way to buy them and pushed past. Phew.

The tourist ticket purchase office proved to be a small room with three or four desks that had to be visited in a specific, obscure, undocumented order. The rather predictable result was that the room was also full of confused looking tourists. Courtesy of Pavan knowing Punjabi we were able to get great service, getting our tickets after only visiting two desks! Unfortunately no trains were left for the sixth so we booked one for the next day.

As we exited the train station we observed the "deluxe toilet", odorous out to at least ten meters of the door.

After a quick rickshaw back to the hotel we decided to go check out Connaught Place. To get there we took the Delhi subway, which was quite nice. Connaught Place proved to be a rather grubby traffic island ringed by restaurants, stores,  and street merchants. Lots of roads converge so there is a great deal of traffic enjoying doing laps around the island.

It was getting into the evening by this time so we decided to go check out a coffee house our Lonely Planet said served good coffee and good Indian food. On walking in we were pleasently surprised to find ourselves in something that felt a lot like a British old-boys club that had been restaurantized. We grabbed a beer and a VERY spicy tandoori chaat. Even Pavan found it hot; Rod had to order a side of plain yoghurt to stop the burn.

As we sat enjoying our beer, we observed the couple next to us eating some sort of triangular thin rice pancake stuffed with potatoes and accompanied by a variety of delicious looking sauces. We enquired as to what this marvel might be and learned of the Masala Dosa. Naturally we had to have one!

As we awaited our dosa another non-indian chap wandered in. We said hello, and wound up inviting him to join us. This may have been a mistake as his lifestyle turned out to make us jealous: he spends a couple of months doing a contract, such as organizing a car tradeshow, then takes three to six months off and travels!!

Next stop Agra and the Taj Mahal!

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