Day 131 (2): Part Two
New Delhi Travel Blog› entry 177 of 260 › view all entries
India. The one country of which I have always said I would like to visit it, but which visit I have put off for as long as possible. The reason being that this is one of those countries people either love or hate, and, judging from the explanation why, I figured I could well end up in the 'hate' camp.
While I love visiting countries with wacky cultures, I am not overly fond of crowded places, filthy places or hot and humid places. India is pretty much all of the above. And more.
Arriving at New Delhi's brand new airport was a surreal experience. The place seemed absolutely deserted, not at all what I expected. This gave me the opportunity to slowly take in my surroundings, get some money from the ATM, and book a taxi to my hotel from the prepaid taxi stand (which my guidebook -and common sense- said was highly recommended).
Once outside the whole world changed. This was pretty much how I envisaged India. Hundreds of people came rushing towards me the moment I stepped out the door. All offering me the best taxi/luggage porter/hotel deal. I waved my prepaid taxi reservation to them and followed the signs to the taxi stand.
And then there was the heat. My gawd, the heat. Nothing could have prepared me for that. While it was only three degrees warmer than it had been in Almaty this afternoon, the humidity made it feel like it was at least 20 degrees more. Within minutes I was drenched in sweat.
My taxi driver was a lovely guy who made the 90-minute crawl into the city centre quite pleasant. Although I had not booked a taxi with A/C, he happily switched it on for me after seeing my soaked state (normally this costs extra).
I had heard all sorts of bad stories about Indian traffic, but figured that after Mexico, Egypt or Iran this would be an exaggeration. It is not. Traffic in India is mental. Most cars drive with their mirrors folded inward, so that the car can fit through tighter spaces. Having any rear-view is not considered necessary, as it is replaced by intricate horn signals. Basically a driver in India only looks forward. It is the duty of traffic coming up from behind to notify their presence with the sound of a horn.
Despite being 9 PM on a Saturday night, the roads were packed and traffic into the city was excruciatingly slow. I had booked myself a hotel in the Paharganj area. This is the main backpacker area, with over 1000 hotels. And no street names. The address of my hotel was 8525 Hotel Lane. There is no such street as Hotel Lane, in fact, Hotel Lane is the name given to an entire city quarter and the driver had no idea where to go. I had him call the hotel to get instructions and much to my surprise we pulled up outside the hotel five minutes later.