Saturday – Monday, Dec. 15-17, Delhi, India
We headed out in the morning to go to the airport in Cochin. We took a rickshaw about 5 min. to the ferry jetty, then a 20 minute ferry ride to the mainland and another rickshaw for about 60 minutes to the airport. The rickshaw ride to the airport was interesting, but we were breathing fumes most of the way. It seems there aren’t any pollution controls on vehicles here so they all puke various colors of smoke. The Cochin airport was quite nice. In the waiting room for the flights, they have hundreds of comfy chairs and we just relaxed until our flight was called. Our travel plans for the day were to fly via Indigo Air from Cochin to Mumbai (Bombay) with a stopover in Goa. Then we switch to Go Airlines to fly from Mumbai to Jaipur with a stopover in Delhi. Our plan is to head to Rajistan a state in the northwest of India. It is supposed to be a very colorful and diverse place with many forts, castles and other interesting sites. The first flight went well. It left on time. It stopped in Goa, for a few minutes. It was sort of the airline equivalent of the bus stops here where they kind of slow down and you jump off or on while the thing is moving. Then off to Mumbai. Mumbai had a nice airport as well. Our opinion of Indian airports improved substantially with these two exposures. We ran into a bit of a snag in Mumbai, however. Our flight finally showed up on the departure board indicating a 2 hour delay, then a change to a 4 hour delay. At 5 hours our flight was called and we boarded, getting pretting tired by then. This flight was to stop in Delhi and then take of for Jaipur in Rajistan. We were dreading the 2:00a.m. arrival, but decided it was just one of those experiences. We finally arrived in Delhi and we were relaxing in our seats waiting for the Delhi passengers to disembark, when our names were called over the intercom. We picked up our stuff and met with the attendant who called us. He informed us that this flight wasn’t going to continue on to Jaipur now and he gave us several bad options as alternatives. We also happened to notice that we were the only passengers who weren’t getting off in Delhi. The first thing he said was that the Mumbai ground staff screwed up and should have rerouted us from there. Anyway, he said we could stay on the plane and return to Mumbai. He said this with a straight face. Why would we want to go back to a city we just left to go somewhere else. He then offered us a smoking deal. He would refund our ticket and allow us to buy a slightly more expensive ticket on another airline (he twisted arms to get us a good deal) and we could hang out in the airport for 5 more hours and get that flight…. huh?). About that time we were officially grumpy and Ted asked about other options. There were none. Ted suggested some. They “couldn’t” do any of them… company policy. Finally, we settled on a ticket refund and we would stay in Delhi and develop a plan B. Delhi is much closer to Jaipur than any of the other possibilities and we would then at least not be out more money. So, we started working on the refund. Another snag. He couldn’t actually give us the refund since we bought the ticket at a travel agency. They had to issue it to the person that paid for the ticket. It’s not about 3:30 a.m. and we are officially GRUMPY. They ground us down and we will try to get our money back from the travel agent, but we’re not sure how that will go. We got the paperwork done, they gave us some leftover food from another flight … no thanks, we called around and woke up some hotel staff and found a room for the night (half night). This was not a good start to our visit to the north and to Delhi. We have been told by several people who have already been in Delhi that we need to watch ourselves and be careful. One guy simply called is a nest of vipers. Oh ya, a wierd thing happened. When we were at the Kerala dance thing in Cochin, a staff person came around and asked everyone what language they spoke and where they were from. The guy sitting next to us says US. This is wierd. We have only met about 5 people from the US along the way. So we lean over and say where in the US are you from? He says “Arizona.” “Oh,” we say, “where.” He says, “Tempe,”…. it goes on. He is a professor from ASU on a 3 week trip to India over the Christmas break. He started in Delhi and wasn’t impressed. Sorry about the diversion. Our antennae are up for scams and now we have already got a bad taste in our mouth. Ted headed over to the prepaid taxi counter to hire a taxi to the hotel. These are supposed to be the good guys. You pay in the airport for a taxi ride to an area of the city, the rates are set, and you get a coupon to give the taxi drivers so they don’t rip you off. The fare was 250 rupees. Ted gives him a 500 note and the guy writes up the coupon and hands it to him with 50 rupees change. Ted says nope, I gave you 500. The guy then nonchalantly pulls back the 50 and then asks if Ted has 50 so he can give him change in 100’s and save the smaller bill. Everyone needs smaller bills here because nobody seems to ever have the right change. Ted puts up 50 and the guy then gives him 200 back and goes back to work. Ted says no you owe me 100 more. The guy says oh ya and gives it to him. This is not good. Two rip off attempts by the same guy before we leave the airport. We got a taxi, after some clammer and got directly to the hotel. Sketchy street, sketchy building and sketchy place (Ringo’s Guesthouse – Ringo wasn’t there). The sheets were clean and it looked safe, but this was one of those read between the lines places in the guide book. We didn’t really have a choice because we had called several other places and they were all full. The best part was the furniture in the room. It had a small sitting area next to the bed. The coffee table was old and beat up, but that’s normal. This was the first time we have seen webbed aluminum beach chairs in a hotel room. Another bonus, a beach day in the hotel room. The other bad thing is that it was really cold (well cold for us, it still was above freezing) and the place had not heating. We spent a cold night there and then changed places the next day. We had decided to stay in Delhi a couple of days and see the city and then arrange to go to Jaipur later.
The new place was good (Choudray Guesthouse). Hot water, a TV, a quiet location and a less sketchy location. We decided to look around a bit and work on our revised itinerary. There are a few things that are wierd about Delhi. There are men in the streets everywhere, just sort of hanging out. They continually hassle tourists. Things like “Excuse me sir, where are you going.” Like you probably need help because you probably don’t know. Or, “Where are you from.” Or, “Excuse me sir, the tourist office is right over here, I will take you there.” There are numerous dubious travel agencies in Delhi that put signs out that say “Official Tourist Office” to lure people in and get them hooked up with tours or something else. The deal is that if someone brings in a sucker, they get a commission from the travel agent. So, these guys wander around hoping to get lucky some time. Then, there are all the people who want to sell you stuff. Then there are guys that just seem to follow you. There’s more. To put it simply, it’s not fun to walk the streets and we kind of hustle from place to place and try to ignore these guys. Every once in a while Ted snaps and says something like, “No, excuse me sir, where are YOU going.” Or just tells them to get lost.
posted Tuesday December 2007