Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Our day in Delhi

Well, looks like our original plan has gone completely out the window now... One of the guys at the hotel we're staying at showed us a tour which included transport and accommodation for all around Rajasthan, also Agra and Varanasi, so... We decided to take them up on it because even though it would've been cheaper arranging everything ourselves, it would have been so much more hassle as well, and even from going around Delhi today, I became reeeally appreciative of having an air-conditioned car to go back to, and also windows to hide from the constant barrage of beggars.
In a way, I guess it would be more 'authentic' to go super-budget, but there seem to be so many scams and people wanting to rip you off that things are much more likely to go wrong if you go completely DIY. Not that we're exactly going 5-star, either! You can't really escape from the... I guess I'd have to say... crappiness, if you go outside at all. I mean, India is indeed Incredible! as advertised, but not all in a good way. Every time you stop at a traffic light there's a beggar woman holding a baby asking for money, or some kid banging drums, also hoping for a rupee or two. At the tourist attractions themselves people are constantly coming up to you and trying to sell you useless trinkets. We're pretty good at ignoring them and saying no, because there's just no way giving beggars money is going to help in the long run, and the hawkers will just totally rip you off. Also there are quite a few people who come up and say 'photo?', I presume they want you to take a photo of them and then give them some money, but none of us were really big fan of portraits of random strangers, and there are enough of those on the internet... Actually sometimes the first thing they'll ask is 'what country?', and when we say 'New Zealand', sometimes they go away again, which is a bit funny but I guess it works in our favour!
Today we got a driver named Dinesh who took us around to all the main sights including the Ghandi Memorial Park, Humayun's Tomb, Lodi Gardens and India Gate. He was really helpful, and it was a bit funny because when we were waiting in the car while James and Mark stocked up on rupees at the ATM, he asked me, "So you and James are... friends?" I took that to mean boyfriend/girlfriend so I said, "yeah", which he quickly followed up with "Are you married?" To which I had to suppress a laugh and say "No"... I guess that sort of thing isn't really approved of 100%, though you'd think they'd be used to it from tourists by now...
There are so many animals here! Mice, squirrels, crows, stray dogs, cows... We even saw two mongooses (mongeese?) chasing each other around the park. Squirrels are unheard of in New Zealand so I was highly amused and took plenty of photos, but by the end of the day the novelty value had worn off... Also there are these gigantic ants which are about five times the size of normal ants in NZ. Yum!
We've only spent about 24 hours in India so far and already I miss things like Auckland's mild climate, being able to drink tapwater and not being hassled for money every five minutes... But! I'm still excited to be here and see all these amazing things in the flesh. One thing we really lack in NZ is the deep history which exists in other, long-inhabited countries. And I'm sure that when I look back on this we'll mainly think of the good parts, and the bad parts will become funny stories. Not that anything really bad has happened yet, but as I said, it's only day one, so we shall see. I'd like to avoid any major catastrophes if possible, but of course this won't be under our control. Also, money-wise I had no idea US dollars would bethat handy, I wish I had stocked up heaps when it was at 80c to the NZ dollar, but ah well, it's still way cheaper than travelling in NZ or Western Europe!

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