MadTV: The journal

Letter from India III
19/12/2004
We have found an Internet Cafe with Broadband about 200 yards from our
hotel! And what's more it has A/C, which is a blessing as its 32 degrees outside.

So we thought we would take the opportunity to fill in a few details
we have missed during our previously hurried emails.

First off Delhi
Delhi is without doubt hell on earth. It is a teeming city with some
horrendous scenes of abject poverty, pollution hangs thick in the air
limiting sight to less than half a mile when you are high up looking
across the city. The huge levels of pollution obscure the night sky
making the evenings pitch black, which in turn makes them feel very
intimidating.
The touts in Delhi are highly organised and operate in large groups. They
befriend you before moving you onto another group who will try to make
you buy organised tours at outrageous prices (they wanted to charge
550gbp for our rail tickets which we eventually bought direct from
the station for 150gbp). Purchasing rail tickets here is no easy
task, you face a minefield of left over bureaucracy from the empire
days, it works like this: First off you have to find the Tourist ticket
office - ALL TOUTS TELL YOU ITS CLOSED DOWN AND DIRECT YOU TO THE
UNSCRUPULOUS NEW DELHI TOURIST BOARD (A government approved scam
house). We were once redirected away from it when we later learnt we
had been about 100 yards from the door.
You must then fill in forms detailing the train number, name of train
, number of tickets and preferred travel class along with the passport
numbers of everyone named on the form. - In order to get the
times/train names & Numbers you need to queue at the help desk,
Indians however enter the office and jump the helpdesk queue (buying
tickets for the touts so paying backhanders to the officials).

When you have eventually extracted the relevant details from the
grumpy help desk clerk you have to queue in the ticket line where the
details you have been given will turn out to be wrong and the process
will start all over again.
It took us two and a half hours to buy tickets.

Agra
What a crazy place and certainly my favourite so far. You get the tout
hassle but, because there are so many tourists, if you ignore them
they move on quickly.
In Agra we saw some strange sights, my favourite being the camel they
had dyed with pink spots (will send photos to Mad)...for a while I
thought I was having some kind of flashback, especially when the
donkey with its pink mohican went past.
The city was safe enough to wander the back streets at night, which
allowed me to really see Indian culture, and whilst it is very poor I
can say, at that moment, I loved every minute of it. The men gathered
in small 'restaurants' (an open shop front, very dirty with tables and
few chairs where the 'chef' cooked curry etc on an open fire with a
large wok like device) and watched us walk by, without the glint in
their eye that is there in the day, which says 'Hello, Money'.

Varanasi was great to see but as I mentioned previously the touts ruined it.
It was here that we began to realise just how dangerous India can be.
In Varanasi 12-15 tourists a year disappear without trace and it is
easy to understand how. The streets are narrow with doorways opening
straight out onto them and bodies are easily disposed of by wrapping
them in funeral clothing and dropping them in the Ganges. We both felt
relieved to be leaving there but were glad we had seen the sights.

Saara left her red Clark's shoes in the hotel, we discovered later,
which gave her an excuse to go shoe shopping in Candolim, Goa. The
poor shop owner soon learnt he had met his match; she tried on 2 pairs
totalling 1350 rupees. We walked out 2 minutes later having paid 500.

Satna was the lowest point of the trip and I think we both believed we
wouldn't get out of the place with all our possessions and possibly our
lives. It was the most intimidating thing I have experienced in my
life. It was that bad that I ended up carrying my mosquito spray open
in my pocket as some form of defence expecting to be set upon at any
moment. We bought tickets in the station and headed straight out later
that same night.

Candolim
This is where we are staying permanently until the 27th December. It
is good to have a base from which to explore and at 10gbp a night we
can afford to rent it even if we stay somewhere else e.g. Bangalore.

I have managed to pick up a horrible cold and Saara has a mild form of
Delhi belly but apart from that we are 100% fighting fit.

Beer is hard to come by in North India (as is meat) but in Goa you
find both in abundance. Beer costs from 30 rupees (45p) a bottle and
the food around 80 - 120
A meal out with drinks is costing around 5gbp.
The Goanese are lovely people and eager to help...we actually got
directions to the beach off a man in the street without having to
argue over the fact that he wasn't going to get paid.

Anyway things will be a little slow for a few days while I nurse
myself out of this cold.

K&S

Mad

Gone Away
How my father lived in India and had such affection for the place I'll never understand. Give me open places where humanity is thin on the ground any day. But it's good to read of someone else's experiences there. Armchair travel is the best kind sometimes...
Date Added: 19/12/2004

Gone Away
That new header pic is seriously weird, Mad.
Date Added: 20/12/2004

Gone Away
So it's supposed to be a drunk Santa? I thought it looked more like a dead car bomb victim from somewhere in Palestine...
Date Added: 20/12/2004

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