Arrived in Delhi after a nightmare exit from Thailand.....
....fatigue induced pointless bickers, and stolen iPhone from hotel room (more strained, yet calm conversations with hotel staff).
After a fast and furious cab run to Bangkok Airport I rushed to the internet/post office to cancel my Aussie SIM (Telstra were great!), change all account details linked to iPhone, and print my Air Asia ticket (until now had been using their handy iPhone app).
Just when things were nearly on track to check in, the zip of my backpack split and broke after trying to fit too much in one of the pockets (finally, the pack duffel comes in handy!).
These things come in 3's right? .... and it had been a pretty easy ride until now - so something had to come up! Karma police were in force.
Finally I checked in with 40 minutes until boarding, which is exactly how long it took to pass through customs and security.
Made it JUST in time to board.
Shortly after take off I was served a pre-ordered biriyani which I wolfed down then passed out....
Woke up to the captain letting us know we would be landing soon...
Delhi Airport is really nice, modern and big!
It's very tightly secured and was very quiet when my plane arrived (7:30pm).
After clearing through a very surly customs officer I was greeted by a cheery representative of Intrepid who drove me to Hotel Perfect, where I would meet my pal Marnie and our travel group for the next 2 weeks.
Despite it's name, Hotel Perfect is a bit run down, but has plenty of character.
After checking in, the bell man, showed me my room. The last guest had been a smoker and the windows weren't open. I inquired at reception if there were any non smoking rooms I could move to. He seemed puzzled by the concept of non smoking rooms. The conversation was a bit Faulty Towers:
Me: Hi, my room is a bit smoky, do you have any non smoking rooms?
Reception: Smoking? Yes sir you can smoke anywhere
Me: No, do you have rooms where you cannot smoke, where I can move?
Reception You can smoke anywhere you like, sir.
Finally, a man watching cricket in the lobby yells back "We do not have non smoking rooms!".
No problem, just thought I'd ask.
It was a frosty 10 degrees outside, but I opened the window and got the fan blasting.
My silk sleeping bag liner and thermals finally came in handy after tropical Thailand!!
At least the telly was good - massive flat screen attached to my wall and 100 channels to choose from.
News in English, soaps in Hindi, about 30 Bollywood channels!
I ordered room service - the food was delicious!
My hotel was located in Karol Bagh, Old Delhi - a bustling market area and probably the best way to experience India for the first time - in the deep end.
The next morning I went for a walk - bicycles, motorbikes, cars, tuk-tuks and chatting people moving in any and every direction, joined also by wild cows walking about aimlessly.
Hustlers asking where I'm from and telling me Australia is their "most favourite country, G'day!", sweet smelling chai lingering in the air mixed with curies, spices.... and exhaust.
Absolutely anything and everything was available across the myriad of shops and stalls.
I found a mini toolkit/pocket knife with pliers to fix my bag at electronics shop.
Marnie arrived in the evening and the next day we set about exploring Delhi.
First we got into a tuk-tuk and asked for New Delhi.
The driver went into an elaborate story of how he cannot drive into New Delhi until midday because of traffic restrictions and that he would drop us off "at the border"
Of course he took us straight to an emporium where he earns commission
We were greeted by their employees as soon as the tuk-tuk arrived and ushered inside.
We did a quick lap and walked straight out.
The driver was waiting for us. I told him to get lost and that he lied, but he insisted he would take us to New Delhi "for real" at no charge.
We just walked anyway.
It turned out to be an interesting journey. We got to market street just outside of New Delhi and got a good feel for it.
Nothing really prepares you for a big Indian city. They are crowded, colourful shambles of chaotic activity everywhere, and the roaming cows just make it even more surreal. I had been foretold, but still, nothing prepares you!
When we got to Connaught Place, New Delhi, it was like crossing back into a more familiar world.
Amazing how these two areas co-exist as one city.
We stopped for lunch at one of the nicer hotels and took the metro (very nice, easy to use, helpful staff), which had been upgraded for the recent Commonwealth Games back to Karol Bagh to meet our group.
Tours can be really great, or a nightmare - it all depends on the group and leader.
Normally I prefer independent travel, but India is a different beast, and Marnie had a great experience with them on another tour.
In retrospect, doing this tour was a brilliant godsend as our group leader Akhi took all the hassle out of booking train and bus tickets, checking us in to hotels, finding reliable taxi drivers, etc... so we maximise our time actually doing and seeing, relatively hassle free.
There were 10 in the group (origins spanning UK, Ireland, USA, Canada and us Aussies) plus Akhi, our leader.
We got over the formalities, dos and don'ts in India, etc and enjoyed a lovely dinner!
You can see all my Delhi pics here