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7.26.10: Delhi, India

Exploring Delhi

I was up until 3:30 in the morning thinking about all sorts of fun things I could do to make this managers life a living hell. You know what I came up with? Squat. We had already paid, they had our credit card on file, along with copies of our passports, and we were S.O.L. The manager’s attitude was clear and customer service was not his forte. So, I decided that the best thing to do was to checkout without a word. Seeing as how we had already paid for the room and I was not paying a dime for my lubricated egg rolls, we had nothing to do but leave the key and walk out. I sat the key down and walked out. I walked down the street and into a travel agency to arrange a car for us for the day. I sat down in the welcoming air conditioned room, glad to be rid of the filthy hotel. As we were discussing our options for the day, the door swung open. "Madam you no pay!" it was the manager from the hotel.

Excuse me?
You no pay! You must pay bill!
We already paid for the hotel.
You no pay for food!
That's right! I didn't pay for the food and I'm not going to!

We essentially had the same argument as the night before. I told him how dangerous and unhygienic it was to serve food like that. I told him that, not only is it unprofessional for a hotel manager to treat his guests like this, it is a health hazard and he's lucky I don't report him for investigation (even though I doubt there is such a way to do that in India). He accused me of being cheap and prissy and told me that if I expected better service I should have paid more. He told me, "This is India, food is served in all different bags. You want different, you go somewhere else!" As it was about to come to blows, I grabbed the package (which I strategically saved) and shoved it in his face. Since he refused to come to the room last night, this was the first chance had to review the evidence. I watched him read the packaging. I, once again, explained that a catheter is a surgical instrument that goes up a man’s penis, using awkward hand motions and giving special emphasis on the words "up" and "penis". I watched his eyes widen. I think this was the first time he understood the severity of the situation. Quickly the conversation was over. He acknowledged his fault without so much as an apology and walked sheepishly out the door.

Feeling satisfied but slightly embarrassed for having a confrontation inside of this travel agency, I apologized to the man sitting at the desk across from me. With a smile on his face he said, "No problem miss, this has happened before with that hotel." Come to find out, two other tourists were chased in there because they had not paid for something. Apparently their rooms were disgustingly dirty and the staff had refused to clean it so they left without paying. He assured me that the Ivory Palace Hotel does not have a good reputation and didn't blame me for the situation. I felt much better.

We booked a car for the day through Discover India Tours and Travel, one of the most professionally run companies we have encountered in India. The car was well kept, the air-conditioning worked great and the driver was informative and polite.

We breathed a sigh of relief and set off for our first day in the capital of India. Delhi. Is divided up into three main areas; Old Delhi, New Delhi, and South Delhi. It is crammed with over 14 million people packed into less than 600 miles and is increasing by the day.
Although it is said to have the highest levels of pollution and poverty, New Delhi is, surprisingly, one of the nicest areas we've seen in India. So we decided to start our tour at a Temple, right in the heart of New Delhi.
The Lakshmi Narayan Mandir Hindu temple is said to be one of the finest temples in Delhi and it certainly was not a disappointment.
It's open, contemporary style was unlike the other Hindu temples we'd been to. Inside was dressed with white marble floors, gleaming crystal chandeliers, and intricate carvings. Large vats perched on octagon-shaped stone pillars adorned shrines encasing golden statues of different deities.
We walked around the temple exterior through a jumble of pathways connecting the temple with a huge backyard garden area.
It was certainly bigger than we had expected.

Our next stop was the India Gate.
This colossal memorial was built to commemorate the people who gave their lives in World War I. The names of those deceased in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war are inscribed in the memorial, towering high in the sky for tribute. It was a nice monument however the construction didn't add to its allure.

Next on our New Delhi tour was the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the President of India.
As you drive up to the mansion, placed at the end of a cul-de-sac, you pass two, almost identical Secretariat Buildings before you come to a giant gate fencing the perimeter.
Although there are armed guards stationed in front of the house, I was able to poke my head through the gate and take pictures without so much as a second glance. It is a beautiful home with a slightly colonial feel. It's not white house, but he's certainly not slumming it! After only five minutes of observation, it was clear who was running this operation, not the guards clad with automatic ruffles, it was the monkeys.
Wild monkeys ran across the grass one after another after another.
A parade of monkeys danced across the lawn out numbering the guards 4 to one.
I clicked my camera at the photogenic primates until it was clear that I did not have a big enough memory card for all of them.

It was time to cruise out of New Delhi and head for south Delhi, a mission I was happy to make considering the blasting AC that was waiting for me on the drive. After a refreshing drive we arrived at the Qutb Complex.
The main feature of this complex is the centrally located Qutb Minar, a 234 foot sandstone tower that took almost 200 years to complete.
It was named a World Heritage Monument which maintains its preservation and protection for the good of humanity. The pictures really do not do it justice.
The steep scale of the tower is dwarfing and the meticulous carvings are noteworthy as well.
We took a sightseeing timeout as the day drew to an end. We had a 12 hour, overnight train to catch which would drop us in Dharamsala, but we still had 5 hours to kill before we had to board. The only thing worse than wandering around a city like a vagabond, waiting for a train, is waiting at the train station. The train stations in India are nauseating cesspools of unwanted cat calls, swarming flies, and steaming piles of human waste waiting to be hosed off the train tracks. It's not a place you want to be in for five minutes, let alone five hours.

We stalled for an hour or two, inside a nice restaurant our driver recommended. I grubbed on a helping of Galub Jamun and a bowl of strawberry ice cream which I combined for the perfect mixture of mouthwatering awesomeness.

With a few hours left we headed into Old Delhi. There is definitely a distinct difference between the modern style and general upkeep of New Delhi and the drab deterioration of Old Delhi. Old Delhi was similar to every other big city in India; a dirty mixture of beggars, hustlers, trash and traffic. I had just finished an enlightening book on Indian Deeksha blessings and I needed another good read. After perusing two or three street stalls I found a bookstore with just what I was looking for.

We took a rickshaw ride a few blocks to Khari Baoli, a street side spice market that was said to be one of the biggest around. Maybe we came on the wrong day because it didn't seem to be such a grand affair. Although the size of the market didn’t live up to the type, the lingering aromas that spilled into the street made it worth my while. You could smell the spices from a mile away teasing your senses to get a closer look. Colorful vats of turmeric, cardamom, and masala spices lined the street and we enjoyed just moseying around the free smells. I ended up buying a few packets of spices I knew I wouldn't be about to get my hands on back home and headed out of the congested marketplace.

Since we still had a little over an hour left to kill before our train, we decided to head back to the India Gate. At night, this monument is much more of a spectacle than during the daytime hours.
It can be seen from miles away illuminating the sky with gleaming gold as people sit underneath and enjoy it's beauty. We picked a nice spot in the surrounding park and kicked back in its shadow until it was time for our train.

Posted by emichele 22:40 Archived in India

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