India – Day 2

HelloHello or namastē!

Day two in India… still a bit jet lagged, woke up a couple of times last night, but sadly not because of Misty wanting to go out this time :p Rolled out of bed around 9am, the shower here is a terrific – it’s one of those rain fall shower things, which is quite nice. It’s also quite nice having my own bathroom again, did I mention that yet? lol

Anyway got up, the hotel offered to move me to a queen size room instead of a twin, since they had some available as of today, so I packed up (didn’t take much) and dropped off my stuff at the front desk for them to hang on to until the new room was ready. I grabbed my little map and went off!

I decided to revive my mission from yesterday to get a SIM Card – it didn’t work out too well yesterday. Took me forever to find the store that sells it, then they didn’t have any of the SIMs I needed, and the other place I found couldn’t activate new ones for foreigners, etc, etc, etc, etc. Today went a bit better… I thought I’d try out Khan Market because I had heard that it was a bit bigger, so I grabbed the metro… two stops and a few minutes away I found it. Pretty much everything was closed – Sunday morning, but McDonalds was open so I went in for my signature pancakes, which were actually very, very good here – better then at home.

As I was walking back to the metro I noticed an AirTel place, the guy shouted at me and asked if I wanted a SIM card, so that made the decision to get one pretty easy. It is a rather complex little process though, you need a photocopy of your passport, the VISA and you need a photo to attach to the application itself. So it took a few minutes, he charged me 500 rupees for the setup, which I’m sure was a bit much, but whatever – I wasn’t gonna find it anywhere else, and I didn’t feel like getting my own picture made up, so I suppose it was worth it. Then he has to send all this stuff off to AirTel, and THEN they will activate the sim TOMORROW between 8pm – 10pm. Wonderful.

So I’m hoping they actually send the paperwork away and it happens.

India GateI was considering just dumping it, but I really do want to have a cell phone available for my trip to Agra, and it would be so handy to have walking around. So I’ll get it tomorrow night, and have it Tuesday and Wednesday, which is better than nothing. It’s not too expensive anyway.

After that I wandered around a bit, I thought about trying to see the India Gate and started walking towards that when a rickshaw pulled over and the guy jumped out to say “hello”. He started talking to me, told me about his brother in Canada, etc, etc. Seemed nice enough, so when he offered to be my guide for the day I figured what the hell and took him up on it. I negotiated $40 for the day, which again might be a bit much but it seemed pretty reasonable to me, and since I was gonna be in his car all day, I didn’t feel like messing around with it too much.

Prez HouseHe took me around quite a bit – unfortunately the India Gate is closed off by the police in preparation for a holiday/parade later this month (terrorism concerns apparently?) so you can’t actually get near it until after the parade (the military escort guarding it didn’t look too friendly), so we just drove by and I got some pictures. We went to see the Presidential Palace and the Parliament Buildings in a drive by fashion, then visited  Safdarjung’s Tomb where I spent about half an hour walking around looking at the architecture… it must have been pretty amazing in it’s day, but they’ve certainly let it go. After that we went to a Hindu Temple, which was off the beaten “tourist” path and more of a local thing to do, so that was really interesting and neat to see. He explained some of the Hindu culture, I got the standard dot placed on my forehead by three people as we went to show respect to three different Hindu Gods, and I wandered around looking at the beautiful architecture there… now this place was well kept up.

HinduAfter that we decided it was lunch time, he dropped me off at a popular Indian restaurant for Westerners in the Pandara Market… and it was actually very good. I had the Butter Chicken with some awesome Nan Bread and rice, the chicken was much better then what I had in Australia (sorry guys!), the nan bread was really, really good and the rice added to it quite nicely (it didn’t have coconut in it this time around). I’ll have to find out what else I liked when I was in Aussie land and try that next. Overall, good first truly Indian food experience.

LunchAfter lunch Rajesh (my driver) tried to convince me to book my trip to Agra at a tourist travel place… I’d had about enough of being ripped off so I wasn’t terribly interested, but I went in to get their prices anyway. I’ll just book it myself. He also offered to drive me for a little less then the place he took me to, which I thought was kind of funny, but whatever. He also took me two places to try to convince me to buy some souvenirs or gifts or whatever – nice stuff, but I really wasn’t interested in that either. He was a nice guy, but I don’t think anyone here is really impartial or looking out for you, except for you. Which is a really weird feeling lol. And they all keep telling you about all the other people who will rip you off, while assuring you that they are looking out for your best interests. It’s not something I’ve experienced anywhere before, really.

Tomb 2There’s also a lot of begging… but not your standard sit on the street and hold up a sign begging. More like mother sends their little 5 or 6 year old to walk alongside you for 10 minutes holding out their hand and begging for money. Or as you’re stopped in the car a young girl approaches you with some necklaces or trinkets and keeps tapping on the window trying to get you to buy. Or literally everywhere you go someone is trying to sell you a stupid souvenir or something you don’t want. You quite literally just need to ignore and walk away, which is not easy, especially when you’re trying to be polite. The little kid this morning really bugged me, not just because he was TINY and cute, but because that’s what he’s been raised to do by his parents. How horrible is that?

Anyway, what else did we do?

DiedWent to the National Gandhi Museum – which was terrific. I spent an hour there. Stood on the spot where Gandhi was assassinated, walked the walk he took right before, went into his bedroom, and read a lot of the history of India’s independence and his mission. I’m sad to say I don’t think he would be happy with what India, or the world looks like right now. It’s too bad – he sounds like a brilliant man, with an amazing vision. With all the information about him, his vision, and his dream for India you would hope that it could be taken to heart… but sadly that does not seem to be the case.

After that I was reaching the “done” point so we stopped off at one more place to try to sell me some stuff – he told me it was an art gallery – and then he dropped me back at the hotel. Nice guy, and he was really good in explaining everything as he drove, generally very friendly, so I guess that’s probably about as good as it gets. He did also drive me around in a car, not a rickshaw, so that was a plus on a relatively cool 2 – 4 degree day.

Returned to the hotel and got into my new room – I did have to pay a difference, and I tried to convince them to credit me the 900 rupees (or about $15) that I paid for the airport pickup. They were surprisingly stubborn about refusing to do this… I would have understood if I was asking for the money BACK, but I just wanted it applied to the new room that I was upgrading to, so I’m not particularly happy about that. The manager was generally useless, and I lost interest in fighting after a few minutes… it’s not a lot of money, but I was a little irritated with the principal of the matter. No it’s not their fault that I was tricked into going with the other guy, but if their driver was at the airport, clearly visible and waiting for me, then it wouldn’t have been a problem in the first place.

But I digress.

Caught up on a bit of work, watched a couple of TV shows and went out for a quick McDinner (it’s close by, and I don’t feel like walking too far in the dark – sue me!). I’ve got to find a better dinner place tomorrow while it’s still bright out. I’m not terribly worried about walking on my own at night, but I also don’t get that warm fuzzy feeling, and without a cell phone, I’d rather err on the safe side for now. If nothing else, it’s easy to get lost around here, and everything looks pretty different at night.

So that was India Day 2… I still want to visit a few places in New Delhi including the Red Fort, National Gallery of Art, National Museum, Connaught Place and maybe the Bahai Lotus Temple, and I need to organize my trip to Agra, which will wind up being a day trip, and will get me to the Taj Mahal. For now my body is still a little jet lagged and irritated with me for exposing it to this weather, so I’m gonna take it easy tonight then set out tomorrow morning and see what we can see!

I think that’s it… have a good day night whatever!