Avoiding the Delhi Belly (Delhi)

The Rough Guide to India warns against taxi touts at Delhi airport, so not wanting to negotiate within minutes of arriving, I thought it might be more fun to take the bus.

The guy who hung out of the window of the bus (but not the driver) was very enthusiastic to see me. “How much?” I asked. “Fifty” he replies. “When do you leave?” … but his English did not extend that far. I realised it was a stupid question anyway, as we waited around for a while until enough people got on. We then drove around the two terminals of the airport for 15 minutes, with the window man calling at people to come to Delhi.

The route along the highway was fascinating: an elephant took up half of the slow lane; policemen with rather archaic looking rifles were stationed every 200m along the route (for who’s safety exactly?); and there are posters of John Major everywhere (apparently the guest at a leadership conference happening in Delhi over the week)!

Managed to find a hotel without too much hassle (see mum!) and lay down to rest for the rest of the afternoon. I heard (ok – “read” in the Rough Guide) that a cafe called ‘Gem’ was a good place to hang out and of course instantly met some other westerners as soon as I sat down and tucked in to my first of many vegetarian meals.

The next day I went to the Old Delhi Red Fort by cycle rickshaw (I found out later that my fare of Rs50 (60p) was too high). The weather was perfect – a mild 25 degC – but a few Delhi-ites were wearing jackets (it’s winter here)! When I had to get a ticket for entrance to the fort, I naturally joined the queue along with everyone else (although I was a little surprised by how close the person behind decided to shuffle up behind me). Then a serious-looking security guard drags me out and escorts me to the foreigners’ window, where the entrance fee is fifty times higher than the Indians’ window – pah! The fort itself was quite nice (though not particularly impressive), but the restaurant inside served a very nice lunch.

The next day I noticed that my bogies had turned black due to all the smog and fumes in the city! Undeterred I ventured out to explore more of the city and arranged a taxi for the day to take me to some of the other sites around town, this time in the much more spacious New Delhi – Raj Path, India Gate (something between Marble Arch and Arc de Triomphe), Indira Gandhi National Museum (rather depressing stories of how her and her son were each assassinated), Humayun’s Tomb (older and perhaps more spectacular than the Taj Mahal) and the Baha’i Temple (lotus flower shaped and run by a whole group of westerners who speak Hindi). My driver (gosh, that sounds nice) was very adept at driving through the Delhi traffic – this essentially involved honking his horn constantly, and driving in a straight line until someone else honked their horn at us. He was also kind enough to point out the women he thought were prostitutes on the street (they all looked like quite respectable women to me, who just happened to be waiting on a street corner): this just goes to show how naive I am about such things, particularly since only two-weeks ago, Graham pointed out to me that Soho, London actually has some red-light establishments that I had never noticed before!

Alex in front of India Gate, Delhi

Woken up the next day by the lovely sound of throat-clearing by the people in the next room – but just as well, as I had to go and meet Lisa (a friend of my brother) who lives in Delhi. She gave me lots of great advice about travelling (and surviving) in India.

Since it was my last day in Delhi, I had to squeeze in a trip to Jami Masjid, the largest mosque in India, before leaving town. However, I found the place quite depressing as the stairs up to the mosque are lined with begging children and other beggars with missing limbs, hoping to receive some charity from alms-giving Muslims. It’s a shame that India is investing in nuclear weapons, when there are clearly more important things to worry about, but I suppose that is what the Indian contradiction is all about.

One Response to “Avoiding the Delhi Belly (Delhi)”

  1. Ann Dixon Says:

    The elephant sounds amazing. Look forward to hearing more. Lots of love, Daddy and Ann

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