Day 135: The arrival of Ed
New Delhi Travel Blog› entry 183 of 260 › view all entries
Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Ed (Netherlands)
The train from Amritsar to Delhi was the complete opposite of the train I took on the way to Amritsar. Not just the direction, no, the train was also far more comfortable and above all: faster. The train I had two days ago is one that runs across the country. The train this morning is a special express train which runs daily between Delhi and Amritsar and vice versa and does the journey in less than four hours
As part of the trip Ed and I had booked with Merrygo, we had two nights in a hotel in Delhi. I walked over to the Merrygo Travel office (close to the railway station) and one of their drivers brought me to the Jeniffer Inn hotel in Karol Bagh.
Karol Bagh is still marketed as a 'quiet residential area' though these days it is fast on its way to becoming the new Paharganj, albeit a more upmarket version. This is the place where most people on organised tours end up.
It a nice and more quiet alternative to Paharganj, though a bit further removed from the city. Fortunately there were two metro stations within walking distance of the hotel.
As Ed was not arriving until late this night, I had the rest of the day to explore Delhi a bit. Since Ed has already been here several times, we were not planning on seeing anything in Delhi during our time together, so I made the most of my day.
Well, I tried to at least. First I had to wait until the daily rain had passed. The good thing about monsoon in India is that it generally only rains once a day. The bad thing is that this single shower can last anywhere between 10 minutes and 10 hours!
I went to get a haircut. As I will be getting company today, I might as well look a bit smart, right? Since Turkey I have taken up the habit of having my scalp shaved every week or two. In these regions it is cheap, and it makes the life of a balding man very easy.
This was my first haircut in India and I decided to pamper myself by having a shave as well. In order to shave my chin the hairdresser lowered chair until my face was level with his waist. He asked me, “do you like any additional service? Like a massage or facial?” had to think twice before answering that one.
Once the hair had been cut and the rains had subsided, I caught a tuk-tuk outside my hotel and immediately another big difference with Paharganj was noticeable: I did not have to bargain the fare, instead, the driver switched on his meter without any trouble. This gave me the opportunity to learn how much 'normal' fares in the city cost. The trip to the India Gate, my first stop, was over 7 kilometres, yet I only had to pay 35 Rs - quite a difference from the 50 or 100 Rs I regularly got quoted (but never paid!) around the Paharganj area for the 2 km trip to Connaught Place.
The India Gate is Delhi's Arc de Triomphe. The 42-metre high arch commemorates the 90,000 Indians who died fighting in WWI and the skirmishes at the Northwest Frontier and in Afghanistan around the same time.
From here I walked the long Rajpath (Kingsway) towards the presidential residence and the governmental buildings.
Next I wanted to visit the nearby Mahatma Gandhi memorial. Well, nearby, it might be nearby on the map, but in a city designed at the height of Britain's colonial lunacy, nearby means there are several kilometres of broad boulevards and city parks to cross. And walking several kilometres in a hot and humid India is not much fun, so I decided to grab a tuk-tuk.
Now there is something you should know about Indian tuk-tuk drivers: they are stupid.
After 15 minutes I decided to walk to the nearest metro station and try there. There were a few tuk-tuks waiting in front of the station, but I was not able to explain my destination to any of them.
As it was getting late, I decided to give up and took a metro back to Karol Bagh instead.
Riding a metro is always fun, no matter where in the world you are. In Delhi it is even more fun, since the metro is a relatively new mode of transport here. There were several people in the metro who seemed thrilled at riding the metro for the first time in their lives.
Also fun is India's persistence to make seemingly simple things as complicated as they can be. Whereas anywhere else in the world a metro basically takes a single ticket or a token, regardless of the distance you travel, here in Delhi the price of the token depends on your destination. It can cost anywhere between 6 and 22 Rs (quite expensive for Indian standards).
Ed's plane was due to arrive at 11 PM and Merrygo had arranged for a car to pick up Ed from the airport. Since I didn't have anything better to do I went along to pick him up.
For the occasion I had made a sign, welcoming him to India (deliberately misspelling his name, since I know he is quite sensitive to that).
It was great seeing a familiar face after nearly five months of travelling.
We drove to our hotel, where we cracked open a couple of beers which I had bought earlier.