Saturday, May 14, 2016

Delhi - Day One

Today was our first day in Delhi.  We landed (after a 20 hour trip) at 1:30 am.  After immigration, having been met by guides (and given beautiful lei-sort of necklaces made of orange marigolds!) we were taken to our nice hotel in south Delhi. 

Aren't they BEAUTIFUL?  They smell nice, too. 

Made it to the hotel!!
We have seen movies about India.  We read a bit (not enough) before we came.  But even on the ride to the hotel in darkness it was clear - this place is UNIQUE.  I knew it would be, but I never imagined to be as struck by it all as I am. 

So maybe it was the bizarre time zone difference (we are 9.5 hours ahead of USA East Coast Time), maybe it was the weird sleep (some on the plane in uncomfortable positions, then a good sleep at the hotel), or maybe just the newness of it all  - but it hit me.  I mean BOY did it hit me...

Most people would look at our agenda for today and then look at what we actually accomplished and deem it a big, red FAIL.  I, however, call it a HUGE SUCCESS!!  We lived through a day on our own in Delhi.  The temperatures were over 100 F.  We did not get pick pocketed, I did not get raped, we saw AMAZING things, and we made it back to our air conditioned hotel. 

But in the middle of all of that, woah... 

We set out after breakfast (which was an outstanding buffet at the hotel filled with many delights we were excited to try for the fist time). We laughed that only crazy Americans would be STARTING their tourism around noon, the hottest time of day.  Our rather loose agenda was to see the Toilet Museum (something I had found online and wanted to check out), ride in a tuk tuk (motorized rickshaw), and see the Bahai Lotus Temple.  We accomplished ONE of those items:  we rode in a tuk tuk.

This is a tuk tuk
We first talked to the sweet guys at the travel desk at the hotel about how it all works.  They (and everyone else really) suggested we NOT take a tuk tuk.  The drivers apparently are experts at ripping people off - you jump in, they turn on the meter, then drive you all around running up the fare because it is obvious you do not know where you are going.  David practiced settling on a price before stepping in with one of the hotel guys, having him pretend he was the tuk tuk driver.  It was fun!!  Then off we headed!!

Tuk Tuk riding is not for the faint of heart... 

Hey!  We are in a tuk tuk!!
We agreed on a rate with a tuk tuk driver (the suggested method, instead of using the meter) and jumped in.  OH.  MY.  GOODNESS.  Tuk tuks are little three-wheeled motor scooters with seating areas built onto them.  When you ride in one you are in an open compartment, no seat belts, and the driver scoots along in and out of traffic and lanes.  Most tuk tuks appear to drive BETWEEN 2 lanes, with their front tire on the dotted white line.  This allows cars to pass ON BOTH SIDES of you as you hurry along.  Motorcycles are everywhere darting through spaces you could not imagine they can fit.  We saw motorcycles carrying a dad (driving), mom (in the back) and baby (in the middle)!  We saw motorcycles with men driving and their woman riding side saddle in the back with her beautiful sari blowing in the wind. We saw men moving EVERY ITEM CONCEIVABLE on bicycles - long metal rebar, boxes, even very very long LADDERS - all while weaving in and out of traffic!!  And the HONKING - it is non-stop!  Honks to signal "I am coming up on your left!".  Honks to signal, "Hello, the light turned green a millisecond ago, let's GO!"- honks, honks, honks.  We had the giggles a lot!

Cow under an underpass.  Cuz, why not??
Our tuk tuk driver (who didn't speak English, most people we have met outside the hotel do not) stopped at what he thought was the area that the Toilet Museum was in.  It was a very crowded market area (stalls all around).  I showed him the paper again with the exact cross streets (at least I think that is what it said...) and he thought about it, then started the tuk tuk back up and drove us further.  Of course we had no idea where we were going, so sat back and enjoyed the (hot) ride.
When he dropped us off, we were sort of in the middle of an auto zone.  Men working on tires (in the street).  Men changing oil (in the street).  Men, men, men all working on different bits of cars.  Nary a toilet museum to be found...  So we walked a bit, hoping to find some indication that we were in the right place.  Ummm, there are no street signs.  And remember what I said, no one speaks English outside the hotel??  So we kept showing our paper to people - a policeman (no English, but "Would you like my big bottle of water??"  No thanks - the first thing every guide book tells us is do NOT drink water unless you yourself have opened the bottle to know it is a fresh one and not refilled with tap water), in a shoe store (they pointed one direction), in a pharmacy (surely THEY would speak English, right??  Ummm, no, entitled Westerner, they do not speak your language...  But they DID point in the same direction as the other guy), in a TOILET STORE (of course THEY will know where it is, they sell TOILETS for heaven's sake.  Nope.  But "Do you want to buy some tile or a toilet (only Hindi spoken)", in a KIDNEY SURGERY CENTER where a doctor in scrubs DID speak English and said we were indeed heading the right direction, and offered us more water (again, boy we would like more, we are running low, but ummm, don't want to get the runs...).  The doctor confirmed we were heading in the right direction and it was "only" about half a mile more to walk.

Found this sign on our walk.  David nailed it, no?  We did not see ANY other tourists out and about today,
but boy did locals think this was a funny pose.
Do you remember how I said it was over 100 degrees?  Yes. It was h o t.  I sweat like I have never sweat before.  Even with sunscreen I was starting to burn.  And I began to feel nauseous.  I didn't want to tell David - this whole Toilet Museum escapade had been my idea and we had been trying to find it for quite some time now.  There were no sidewalks, we walked on the busy street.  We needed to be on the other side of the road, we crossed between cars, tuk tuks, motorcycles and bikes that were rushing toward us like the old video game "Frogger".  And I got more and more queasy.  We paused to drink water, but it was not at all like New York City or London where you could pop into a convenience store and grab another bottle, there WERE no convenience stores, so I felt the need to ration it. 

I finally confessed that I was feeling sick and we paused to consider what to do.  That's when it happened - it must be a sign of heat stroke/overheating - pee ran down my legs.  It was the oddest thing (and scary really).  Pee.  I was standing on a dirty street in Delhi peeing myself.  Repeatedly.  I didn't feel like I had to pee, I was sweating like crazy, and I jsut kept peeing.  I couldn't control it. 

Yup.  Time to give up on the Toilet Museum.  Time to get to AIR CONDITIONING (by the way, none of the places we popped in for directions had been air conditioned).  We stood on the side of the road and tried to hail a taxi.  None.  Tuk tuks passed us, but they are open (read:  HOT) and I really needed cool air.  We crossed the street and finally a taxi pulled over but wouldn't take us to the hotel.  Maybe he didn't want to drive in that direction, or maybe he noticed my pee stained shorts...  The next taxi to pull over DID take us, thank goodness.  (Side note:  we passed the Toilet Museum on the way back to the hotel!!  The tuk tuk driver had driven us much too far.)

Back to hotel.  Cool shower.  Drink water.  Wash clothes.  SLEEP for a few hours. 

I woke up feeling fine, thank goodness.  It was a pretty scary experience.  After what I have seen here I don't think I want to end up in an Indian hospital, thank you very much.  (Although I guess at that point if it had been air conditioned I wouldn't have minded :) ).

The other thing I had hoped to do on this first "day of relaxation" was to see the Lotus Temple.  So after resting we set off in another tuk tuk to find it.  BUT traffic was bad and by the time we got there, the entrance gate to the ground was CLOSED...  We DID get to the see the temple (through the gate) in the sunset though, which was very lovely.  But all along the road to the entrance were people selling things on carts and others begging.  Talk about tugging at your heart strings!  The little kids rush up to you, "Beautiful!  Beautiful!!  You??  You???" as they push beaded jewelry towards you.  One little boy was SO CUTE as he tried to get me to buy a bracelet.  "Only 100 rupees!!  Yes!  Yes!  Beautiful!  Yes!" he cried as he kept thrusting it toward me and I kept saying, "No thank you.  No.  No.  Really, no...".  We then got into a bit of a dance, me and the probably six year old begger selling bracelets.  He kept tryin to PUT IT ON MY WRIST, but I knew once it was on my wrist it would be even harder to keep walking (which I had been doing).  So I started to make big circles with my arm in the air.  He giggled and copied my circles with his bracelets, and in that way we danced together down the dirty Delhi street.  (One little boy selling super crappy looking selfie sticks DID have a good sales pitch - the Lotus Temple was surrounded by a high wall with barbed wire and he kept demonsrating to me how if I just invested in one of his selfie sticks I could take pictures OVER the wall.  :) )

The beautiful Lotus Temple at sunset.
So, day one in country.  Did NOT see Toilet Museum.  Did NOT go in Lotus Temple.
DID ride 3 tuk tuks, one cab, and the Delhi metro (an experience unto itself...).  Saw cows standing in the roundabouts in the middle of super busy roads, men carrying things on their head as if it were easy, whole shanty housing complexes of tents and blankets built up alongside the roads, a line of people sooooo long without shoes waiting to enter a Buddhist Temple, a woman laying herself prostrate over and over and over on a filthy market street - her face touching the filth each time she laid down and repositioned herself, and a little boy who smiled big and snapped fingers with me for two metro stops.  Was given a seat on the metro by a 20-something Indian man who told David, "Our guests are our Gods".  Ate food we had never eaten, drank some weird salty yogurt probiotic, and peed myself in public.

Some might call it a fail, but I call it magical.  I am so happy to be reminded that there is life to be seen, customs to learn, and people to meet that are unlike any I have ever seen. 
India.  I think I am going to like this trip...

P.S.- our guides meet us tomorrow at 8:30 am for a day of Delhi adventures.  We both scoffed at the idea of a "guided tour" when this trip was planned, but on the tuk tuk ride back to the hotel tonight we look at each other and agreed, maybe a guide who can explain things to us and drive us around in an air conditioned vehicle isn't such a bad thing... 


In rupees, we are RICH!  (One rupee = 0.015 American)

Rupees are very pretty

Whatever you do, do not bring manure on the Delhi metro, it is prohibited.


Elizabeth A Rios said...

Wow...never heard about the culture in India. Ill be waiting for your day 2 Adventure.

Richard said...

If the traffic suddenly gets quiet, look around for an elephant on the street. Elephants don't like people beeping their horns, and people don't like elephants who are enraged.