Day 135: The arrival of Ed

New Delhi Travel Blog

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The park surrounding India gate

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.

At India Gate
It was a nice hotel, though not something I would ever book by myself. As it was run by the same management as Merrygo travels we got a nice discount (in fact, they gave us a night for free!), but it is not the sort of place I would have booked if paying with my own money.

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.
Detail of India Gate

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.
Here too the guards have these orange mohawks on their hats.

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.
India Gate
All these were designed by English architect Edwin Lutyens, who designed most of New Delhi when the British decided to move the capital from Calcutta (Kolkata) to Delhi in 1911 - a process which took 20 years. The parallel with Kazakhstan, where I was last week, did not escape me.

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.
Rajput, looking back towards India Gate
If you go to the New Delhi train station there will be thousands of tuk-tuks there, all trying to rip you off. Few ever succeed, because anyone in their right mind will ignore these people. As a result, they're not making much money. A few kilometres from the train station it is almost impossible to find a tuk-tuk. What few tuk-tuks there are roaming the streets, none of them will stop for a person trying to flag them down. Not because they don't want to, but simply because they are not paying any attention when driving. As I said before, Indians only look straight ahead when participating in traffic, so they simply do not see anyone standing by the side of the road waving their arms.

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.
Presidential residence. Like so many of its counterparts around the world, this one too seems to be mainly inhabited by monkeys.
No one seemed to have heard of the Gandhi memorial and pointing at the map did not do much good either (most tuk-tuk drivers can't read anyway).
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).
The best welcome for Ed I could come up with
This inevitably means that any metro trip starts with a 15-minute queue to buy your tickets. Well, I guess it beats having to bargain with a tuk-tuk driver for 15 minutes.

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.

Biedjee says:
...and when I finally did get there, it was closed. But that's another blog entry :-)
Posted on: Nov 13, 2010
edsander says:
> No one seemed to have heard of the Gandhi memorial and
> pointing at the map did not do much good either

I had exactly the same experience a few years ago. Telling the driver what street it was in finally helped.
Posted on: Nov 13, 2010
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The park surrounding India gate
The park surrounding India gate
At India Gate
At India Gate
Detail of India Gate
Detail of India Gate
Here too the guards have these ora…
Here too the guards have these or…
India Gate
India Gate
Rajput, looking back towards India…
Rajput, looking back towards Indi…
Presidential residence. Like so ma…
Presidential residence. Like so m…
The best welcome for Ed I could co…
The best welcome for Ed I could c…
Rajput and the Secretariat buildin…
Rajput and the Secretariat buildi…
Detail of the wall surrounding the…
Detail of the wall surrounding th…
New Delhi Hotels & Accommodations review
A suite hotel? Nah, not quite, but an ok mid-range option nonetheless
The Jeniffer Inn is a brand new hotel in New Delhi, located in Karol Bagh at walking distance from the Karol Bagh metro station. According to the … read entire review
New Delhi
photo by: spocklogic