Letter from India III
We have found an Internet Cafe with Broadband about 200 yards from ourhotel! 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 detailswe have missed during our previously hurried emails.First off DelhiDelhi is without doubt hell on earth. It is a teeming city with somehorrendous scenes of abject poverty, pollution hangs thick in the airlimiting sight to less than half a mile when you are high up lookingacross the city. The huge levels of pollution obscure the night skymaking the evenings pitch black, which in turn makes them feel veryintimidating.The touts in Delhi are highly organised and operate in large groups. Theybefriend you before moving you onto another group who will try to makeyou buy organised tours at outrageous prices (they wanted to charge550gbp for our rail tickets which we eventually bought direct fromthe station for 150gbp). Purchasing rail tickets here is no easytask, you face a minefield of left over bureaucracy from the empiredays, it works like this: First off you have to find the Tourist ticketoffice - ALL TOUTS TELL YOU ITS CLOSED DOWN AND DIRECT YOU TO THEUNSCRUPULOUS NEW DELHI TOURIST BOARD (A government approved scamhouse). We were once redirected away from it when we later learnt wehad 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 passportnumbers of everyone named on the form. - In order to get thetimes/train names & Numbers you need to queue at the help desk,Indians however enter the office and jump the helpdesk queue (buyingtickets for the touts so paying backhanders to the officials).When you have eventually extracted the relevant details from thegrumpy help desk clerk you have to queue in the ticket line where thedetails you have been given will turn out to be wrong and the processwill start all over again.It took us two and a half hours to buy tickets.AgraWhat a crazy place and certainly my favourite so far. You get the touthassle but, because there are so many tourists, if you ignore themthey move on quickly.In Agra we saw some strange sights, my favourite being the camel theyhad dyed with pink spots (will send photos to Mad)...for a while Ithought I was having some kind of flashback, especially when thedonkey with its pink mohican went past.The city was safe enough to wander the back streets at night, whichallowed me to really see Indian culture, and whilst it is very poor Ican say, at that moment, I loved every minute of it. The men gatheredin small 'restaurants' (an open shop front, very dirty with tables andfew chairs where the 'chef' cooked curry etc on an open fire with alarge wok like device) and watched us walk by, without the glint intheir 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 iseasy to understand how. The streets are narrow with doorways openingstraight out onto them and bodies are easily disposed of by wrappingthem in funeral clothing and dropping them in the Ganges. We both feltrelieved 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. Thepoor shop owner soon learnt he had met his match; she tried on 2 pairstotalling 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 wewouldn't get out of the place with all our possessions and possibly ourlives. It was the most intimidating thing I have experienced in mylife. It was that bad that I ended up carrying my mosquito spray openin my pocket as some form of defence expecting to be set upon at anymoment. We bought tickets in the station and headed straight out laterthat same night.CandolimThis is where we are staying permanently until the 27th December. Itis good to have a base from which to explore and at 10gbp a night wecan 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 ofDelhi 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 youfind both in abundance. Beer costs from 30 rupees (45p) a bottle andthe food around 80 - 120A meal out with drinks is costing around 5gbp.The Goanese are lovely people and eager to help...we actually gotdirections to the beach off a man in the street without having toargue over the fact that he wasn't going to get paid.Anyway things will be a little slow for a few days while I nursemyself out of this cold.K&S
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...
That new header pic is seriously weird, Mad.
So it's supposed to be a drunk Santa? I thought it looked more like a dead car bomb victim from somewhere in Palestine...
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