After a glorious time in Europe, we were due to step out of our comfort zone and experience a different life and culture. We took an early bus from Nazaré, Portugal to Lisbon to start our long journey to Delhi, India.
We had done a lot of reading, talking to friends who had been to India, so we deemed ourselves prepared for what lay ahead. But nothing could have prepared us for Delhi.
We arrived in Delhi in the early hours of the morning after a very long sleepless flight and on edge from going 24 hours without shut-eye. Delhi airport was surprisingly quiet. Perhaps that was due to the early arrival. Stepping off the plane, your senses are immediately assaulted with the choking smog that had engulfed the city worse than usual due to Diwali celebrations.
We made our way to the visa checkpoint and looked like we would get through quickly but we forgot one important thing, we were on India time! We chose one of the booths and stood in line waiting to get fingerprinted and our passports stamped while trying really hard to keep our eyes open. As we got closer to the passport agent, he decided to leave! We just assumed he was going to show the person he was dealing with the exit but as minutes passed, it was obvious he wasn’t coming back. Annoyed, we moved to another line and eventually managed to cross the threshold into India.
The first thing we always do is acquire a sim card when we land in a new place. I was prepared for this and knew exactly where to go. We approached the Airtel store to buy a sim card but was greeted with very rude agents. The price they quoted us seemed rather expensive. I had paid less in some European countries but we didn’t really have a choice as I knew there was no way we could acquire a sim card in the city. To make things worse, the activation isn’t done immediately. You have to wait four hours before you self-activate at which point it tells you there is another four-hour wait for data activation. We were really counting on having data to be able to get to our hotel. Oh well, we had to just wing it.
India Roads – A Wild Ride
The next annoyance came when it was time to take the taxi. I couldn’t find the Meru Taxi stand, so we opted for the pre-paid taxi service we saw just outside the gates. They seemed reasonable but from the advice that we read online, it was said to hold on to our receipts until we get to the hotel and then hand it over to the driver. That certainly didn’t go over well! None of the drivers wanted to drive us. We walked over to the police stand and eventually one of the drivers agreed to drive us in his car which was just a notch above a tuk-tuk held together with duck tape.
The drive to the hotel is one of the most depressing experiences I’ve ever had. The poverty you witness is overwhelming. There were little children on the side of the highway, half naked in the dirt. That’s where they live! The amount of garbage you see along the road is insane and I thought the dog poo on some of the streets of Nazaré was bad. And then there is the crazy traffic with cars, motorcycles, tuk-tuks, bikes, cows and people, all sharing the same street and going in various directions.
It was impressive watching the traffic. They all speak with their horns and it’s not out of anger. Everyone just manages to continue through without any problems. It was fascinating to watch.
Our taxi driver couldn’t find our hotel and dropped us off on a busy boulevard near the hotel. It’s a good thing Bruce has an awesome sense of direction. We were able to access google maps with location services on the phone and with our packs on, we made our way through the small streets towards our hotel. Thinking back, I can’t believe we did that! There is no way, I would repeat that again in Delhi! We have to go back at the end of the month to fly out and I’m already dreading it!
Our hotel was fairly decent. We checked in and crawled into bed as our bodies were screaming for dreamland. After our nap, we had dinner at the hotel and spent the evening inside reading and relaxing and mentally preparing for a day out the next day.
The next day we headed out to find a tuk-tuk to take us to the N-Market for some shopping. I needed to pick up pants and tunics as most my clothes weren’t deemed appropriate for India. Surprisingly, the prices offered by the tuk-tuks were fairly reasonable and we didn’t have to do much hard bargaining.
Lung Squeezing Smog
The smog levels in Delhi were really bad during our stay, about 10 times above the safe threshold and you could really feel it. We had a hard time breathing, our eyes were burning and there was a constant feeling of tightness in our chests which I’m sure wasn’t just due to the smog. Our stress levels were through the roof. After a bit of shopping at FabIndia and Anokhi, we decided to go to the Select City Walk Mall in Delhi. It’s a gorgeous mall filled with mostly western brand stores but it gave us a chance to take a deep breath and fill our lungs with clean air and calm our nerves.
Kasm outgrew his running shoes while we were in Nazaré but we decided to buy him new ones in Delhi thinking it would be much cheaper. We were wrong! Brand names such as Nike, Adidas etc are much more expensive here. We had to spend $140 CAD on a pair of shoes for Kasm! I don’t think even mine cost that much.
We headed back to the N-Market again so I can pick up some clothing from Anokhi and had a rather expensive dinner out. It was quite tasty but tourist prices were definitely in order here!
Our train to Udaipur the next day was at 7pm but there was no way we could spend another day out in Delhi. The smog was just too dangerous to be outside. We opted to pay extra at the hotel and check out at 5pm and spent the day indoors counting the hours before we can leave Delhi.
The train station in Delhi was definitely another shock to our systems. The smell that hits you when you walk down to your platform will knock you off your feet. It took every ounce of energy for me not to gag and keep a straight face as we walked to find our coach. [Note from Bruce, Kasm and I saw at least 4 rats running along the rails, suppose this is normal]
We couldn’t have been happier to step on that train and hide inside our cabin to make our journey out of Delhi towards Udaipur. And as Kasm said, “India is definitely not boring Mommy” !