Saturday, May 23, 2009


Day 1:

First I needed to get some cash, so I set off to Kahn Market (one of the fancier outdoor shopping malls) to find an ATM. #1-seemed to be working, I inserted my card, followed all the steps, then nothing happened. I enter the bank to enquire. Just a moment they say, we are fixing it. OK. After waiting 10 minutes while people look at me funny, I notice that an out-of-order sign has appeared on the door to the ATM and decide it will not be working soon. ATM #2-the guard at the door (with a rifle over his shoulder) tells me it's broken. Finally, I get some cash at ATM#3. By this point I'm hungry, so I find a restaurant and point to something I've never heard of before on the menu and wait for the surprise. Finally around 1pm I set off for some sightseeing. Apparently lots of sights are closed on Mondays, but I had a list of the open ones. I went to Humayan's Tomb (ps pictures will have to be added in later). My rickshaw driver seemed to have no idea where this was, but after turning in circles and asking multiple people we found the telling collection of waiting taxis, rickshaws, and tourist vans. Some guy decided to tell me the history of the place. Then he asked for money. I offered 10 rupees. He told me this was such an offensive sum that I might as well keep it. I thought--great, I will. As I wander around this place, I think I am going to die of heatstroke. Like, any second. Exploring the tombs becomes an exercise in walking as quickly as possible between the shaded areas. As I exit I get a cold water at the first touristy stand possible. How much is it? I would pay millions. 50 cents. A bargain for this refreshing liquid gold. As i'm leaving this place a rickshaw driver convinced me to hire him for the afternoon to go to all the tourist hotspots, so I saw Qutab Miner first. Here I starred in my first of what has come to be countless Indian family photos. It seems that all the Indian tourists want to take pictures of me with their families. If they don't have cameras, they also want me to touch their children's hands, as if I'm blessing them or something. It's a bit weird, but seems harmless enough. Next I saw the Bahai temple, which is a modern architectural feat that looks somewhat like the Sydney Opera House, but shaped like a lotus flower. Unfortunately, I had to remove my shoes to show my respect for the temple. There were pools of water below it, and I decided to walk over, leaving the straw mats that were laid across the paths. This was a bad move. The ground was freaking hotttt. I think I actually got 1st degree burns on the soles of my feet before I reached the water (5 feet away). Finally I saw the old English parade area with India gate, the Parliament buildings, and the President's Palace, before meeting up with Christina and Hunt. Some guy kept appearing trying talk to me all over this 2mile long area. Fortunately my rickshaw driver told him to go away and ushered me back into the auto. As he dropped me off to meet Christina, my rickshaw driver tried to tell me that we went to extra places so now the price we negotiated had increased. Mostly these "extra places" were government shops he kept trying to take me to where he would get a kickback if I purchased something, although had no interest in purchasing anything. At dusk, Christina and I walked through the nearby Lodhi gardens. Lots of locals were also strolling about, and a few were engaged in light "exercise." A woman in a sari was bent over this half-circle thing doing I'm not sure what. Stretching? This brings us to another observation--the Indians aren't much into exercise. All in all it was an excellent first day in India.

Day 2:
First I went to morning spinning class with Christina and Hunt at a tiny gym in the neighborhood, which was great fun. It was actually a pretty American-style class, with mostly American rap music being played. However, the funny part was watching the other Indians exercise. The instructor was great, and there was 1 other relatively fit Indian guy, but at the front there were 3 slightly overweight Indian women wearing long pants and long sleeves (what else to exercise in this boiling-hot room?).
Next I set off for Old Delhi to see the major tourist highlights that had been closed on Monday. I started with the Red Fort, then checked out Chondi Chowk, the bazaar in Old Delhi. In these narrow alleyways I was groped for the first time, but just a light little pat on my butt. Fortunately by now I am well-practiced in how to pretend that Indian men, people selling things, and beggars, do not exist, so I continued walking in my own little bubble, apparently oblivious to what had occured. The bazaar was interesting-they were selling everything imaginable: watches, electronics, tires, and bikes. Every stand had a specialty. The most intersting though were the clothing stands, which appeared to be selling goods from the Salvation Army in the US. One booth had 100s of different used men's white dress shirts. Next I decided to find my way down to the bus station nearby to get a ticket for the bus I wanted to take that night. By now it was boiling hot, so I broke down and got into a bike rickshaw. The bus station turned out to be about a quarter-half a mile up the road, as I figured, but watching this poor rickshaw driver pedal me up the hill in the heat, I felt super bad and decided to give him 50 rupees ($1) instead of the 10 he said he'd do it for. He was so happy he pulled his rickshaw over a median, put me back into it again, and rode me the last 100 yards inside the station. Now, I didn't have enough cash for the bus ticket, so after confirming that the bus I wanted was available, I had to go find an ATM. Unfortunately, the ticket window was also closing for lunch in 15min, so I figured I'd go find the ATM and get some lunch of my own in the meantime. When I returned 40 min later, instead of walking straight up to the window as I had earlier, I found a lengthy line had formed. The goal of the people joining this line then became to cut in front of the white girl, who clearly either has no concept of how a line works or can tell no difference between one Indian guy and another in front of her. At the window, the guy offered me the 5pm bus. I asked about the 7:30 one, which I had read arrived at the same time as the 5pm one but had AC. Oh, this one is an extra 150 rupees, he told me, as though this was a ridiculous frivolity. Umm, in this boiling heat, you're telling me it's an extra $3 to travel in AC and get there 2 hrs faster? Yah, I think I'll take it. Finally, ticket in hand, I set off for Rama Masjid, a huge mosque in the area. Here they really had the tourist scam running. They covered me up in a huge robe to make me mosque-appropriate, and charged 100 for the dress. After again burning my feet on the concrete, I decided to climb the tower for another 100. At the tower I received an unofficial guide, although I don't think I had a choice on whether to accept him, for another 100. Unfortunately manipulating the 2 long skirts I was now wearing made it nearly impossible to climb the old spiral staircase, but I made it to the top and got a breathtaking view of Delhi which made it all worthwhile. However, by the time I came down from here, I was hot and exhausted of dealing with all the tourist hassle in Old Delhi. I decided all i wanted to do was go back to Christina's for a cold shower and a nice nap in the A/C before my bus. Unfortunately, when I finally arrived, I was disappointed to find that the power was out. Welcome to India.

At 6pm I headed out to get a rickshaw to go to the bus station to catch my overnight bus to Dharamshala. Apparently some weird storm had materialized. There were a few drops of rain, but mostly there was just wind, causing dust to swirl everywhere. Dust was now in pretty much every orifice of my body. So much for my nice clean shower.

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