So the first day in India was an eventful one. The flight from Frankfurt into Delhi was uneventful but landing in Delhi is when the adventure began. First there is this smell when you hit the airport, its a thin but pungent smell in the air. You try to place it and as you walk the maze of corridors to get to passport control you can see a fine mist in the air. Its almost like the misting they do on hot summer days at amusement parks the way, it sits in the air, but it’s dry. And as you descend the stairs, through passport control and out the door you realize that mist is actually pollution! The air is quite simply filthy with industrial progress. Instantly China flashbacks.
But before we can leave the airport we need our luggage. One bag unceremoniously makes it’s way off the belt, though the pushing and jockeying for position was fun, almost like a rugby scrum. The second one did not make it off. I knew we would lose one bag and quite frankly I was glad it was this one which had the suits and dress clothes, vs. the one with the everyday wear. After finding our way to the baggage office it was time to prepare for Mad Max style line surfing to get some help. The ticket office was a small room about 10 x 8 that surged with people trying to file claims. It seemed like Lufthansa decided to just send half the bags somewhere else. This was my first introduction to line etiquette or the lack there of India. After patiently queueing waiting to be helped. I watched one after another just push forcefully past me to the front to be serviced. That didn’t last long, then it became the full box out and crushing of the little people. Did I mention it was hot? I quickly rose to about 100 degrees F in the room and got steamy. Nice. After a couple of HOURS waiting to sort the bag, I was given 4000 rupees (about 80 bucks) and told “good luck, we will try to contact you”, but man you don’t have my number, shouldn’t I give it to you… Yea so not too optimistic about that bag. With that sorted it was time to be off into the city.
We had planned ahead and had he first night planned for us and they arranged an airport pick up. I didn’t feel like hitting the scam game the first night and thought it smart for us to plan ahead. Most of the time when you pre arrange car service you get nicer and cleaner cars than you would otherwise get at the airport just flagging one. This was not the case for us. Out little van-scooter-car pulls up and the driver grabs our bags and puts them on top of the fuel tank which is literally a tank in the back of the car behind the seats. Nice. And we’re off.
Arriving at our hotel which is in the main bazaar area of Delhi was real. It was about 5am when we arrived and were taken up to our room. We got to look at two rooms, and we took the room with the least amount of stains on the sheets. As you look at the photo below it looks nice. But it wasn’t. And the bathroom, it’s too graphic to show. So officially the lonely planet #failed us. But it was only for a couple of hours sleep because we still needed to leave later to head to Jodphur. After saying the bed bug protection prayer, it was lights out.
Waking up, or rather, getting up 5 hours later we had to sort the transport for the day. We were staying close to the New Delhi train station and knew all the details to get to the ticket office and get our tickets for the overnight train to Jodphur. Of course we didn’t stick to the struck advice of the Lonely Planet, and we took an auto-rickshaw instead of walking to the train station. Mistake #1. While the chap was really nice, we never made it to the train station we went to a travel agency office where they told us to book the tickets. Ugh this is not what we wanted. And of course the train was sold out and he offered to book us flights. No that’s not what we want. Back to rickshaw and demanding to be taken to train station.
Ok, to the station we go and of course another fare. Then at this “station” we follow signs and end up in a dusty lot of sorts and of course a very helpful guy comes and Inform us our train leaves from Old Station (which I knew to be true and that we needed to go there to buy), ok back in another autorickshaw. Hmm, as we pull up this doesn’t look like a train station but rather another travel office. Ugh. And again the train is booked full for the day but tomorrow was free. Ugh we have a wedding to go to. Tomorrow is not good enough. So then the game begins. Now given the experience of the day it’s hard to not feel like you are going to be taken. Like a voice isn’t over your shoulder saying “squeal like a little pig”. But tired and needing to get to Jodphur. We let him work it. The end plan he came up with was like $1500. Ouch. So we settled instead for the first leg. We would have a driver and DRIVE to Rajastan, go to wedding, explore region and then double back and train down to Mumbai for New Years. Epic. This still wasn’t cheap but was about the same as the flight and gave us a driver and car for a week. I am sure as my brain does the math now we were taken. But oh well, time to go. After refusing to live a week in a tiny car the size of a geo metro we got underway in a car the size of a Toyota Tercel. Sweet.
So with a planned itinerary in Rajastan of 2100km driving and us fashionably compressed into our car, we’re off.
Let’s talk a but about Indian driving. Holy crap. It’s unreal. The speed and the honking. But the cool thin once you observe it is that there is a nice system
Of driver communication and type of “flocking” almost like birds do when flying in a group. Really fascinating and clearly a lot more going on than just honking and chaos. Strapped in we just took in the countryside.
We saw all manner of people and machines on the road. This triplet of dude went absolutely nuts when they saw me.
I really liked that shot for the energy it captures as it comes closest to the feeling. It was striking to watch tractor, car, donkey, camel, all share the road together. And while India has the highest motor vehicle death rate in the world it was still quite amazing we didn’t see any of it.
Bike + Moto
We stopped to get gas along the way and it was also time to put something in the belly.
This place was awesome and well branded.
Again guide books ruin you, as you fear catching a parasite at every meal. For the rest stop I was fine to indulge in a bag of Lays and a soda. But my adventurous buddy wanted to eat some hot food. Ok. Here we go. The prep station looked impressive enough, and the chef was clearly in command of his kitchen.
But it’s hard to ignore the surroundings and when the “waiter” brought a pitcher of water to the table even our driver had to intervene and say “not for you”. But um isn’t that the water they clean the plates and spoons with? 🙂 Nice. The food arrives hot and steamy and looks delicious!
The First Supper
My buddy was grubbing and loving it. I couldn’t resist and dove in for a few nibbles. It really was tasty, not sure what it was but yummy veggie, cheesy stuff.
It’s back on the rode after that. This is when it really started to sink in. Wow, we are in India. The smell and scale of development was amazing. And as the hours wore on and miles passed it was a calming experience to just gaze out the window.
Our driver will certainly get his own section at some point but as he approached Jaipur he really was great at forcing us to take in the place. We stopped and got peanuts and watches some men arc weld pipes.
As we got into the city walls he got into tour guide mode and taught us about the sites. And he insisted we stop and get a picture of the below. It was truly breath taking under the full moon. The iPad limits my ability to really work this photo but it was truly a magical scene. We got out and walked to the edge of the rail and just took it in. It was amazingly beautiful and peaceful. I took some long exposures and had fun with the camera. Magic.
The Water Palace
Now it was time to head to the hotel. This tome screw lonely planet and it’s all about Tripadvisor (which hated the first hotel we stayed at). Sorry driver, not taking your advice just yet, let’s go to the Pearl Palace, #1 rated hotel in Jaipur and rooms from $7-25.
They had one $20 double left and in we went. Amazingly clean, comfy, and they had towels!! Yes yes yes! Then up to the roof for an amazing rooftop dinner and 4, 30oz beers. Yes yes yes!
Day 1 in India: amazing