Trompe le Monde: A Round the World Tour Diary

An online travel diary so people can keep up to date with what I'm doing and where I'm going.

Name:
Location: Home, United Kingdom

You all know who I am, I assume.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Udaipur, Octopussy, Illness

And so our journey took us onward to Udaipur, one of Rajasthan's most romantic cities according to Lonely Planet, due to the large Lake Pichola, ringed by hills and set with beautiful (and expensive) island hotels. In theory, anyway.

In practice, this year's extremely dry monsoon has left the lake almost completely dried up. The very-exclusive hotel, at which one can normally only get dinner at if one pays for it before one even gets on the boat, can now be reached on foot. Though I doubt we'd be allowed in...

Udaipur's romantic locations have seen better days, therefore, most notably (crashingly ignorant statement coming up) when used as locations in the Bond movie 'Octopussy'. No less than three of Udaipur's impressive palace/hotels were used in this piece of cinematic history. And, brilliantly, this leads most of the budget restaurants in Udaipur to show Octopussy on video cd every night at seven o'clock.

So, two days ago, we set off at about half six, looking for such a restaurant. Since pretty much all cheap Indian restaurants seem to be much of a muchness (or at least you can't tell what they'll be like from the outside, and Lonely Planet isn't much help on this front), we just went in to the first place we'd found. But oh dear, just our luck, it was run by India's answer to the Chuckle brothers.

Firstly they tried to 'plug' the TV in to the socket in the wall. Except that the plug in question didn't actually have a plug - it was just the stripped end of the wire. So with some tension I watched a man trying to feed wires in to a live socket with his bare hands. Somehow he didn't kill himself, and they got the TV to work, only to have to send 'a boy' off to get a video cd player and the film. It turned out that it was the first night they'd put the sign up, and we were (yippee!) their first customers (whether for Octopussy, or ever, was not clear).

Still, the food was very nice, surprisingly, seeing as it was being cooked by utter buffoons. As the evening rolled on, the video cd player arrived, along with the films, but unfortunately in checking to see if it worked, they broke it. We were assured that they would fix it and that we could go back the next day "at any time" and watch the film, however.

We left, too bemused and amused to be really angry. Since it was only 8 o'clock, we went to a Travel Guide endorsed German Bakery attached to a nearby hotel for some chocolate cake. And lo and behold, said hotel also had a policy of showing Octopussy! Since they hadn't started showing it yet, and the restaurant was almost entirely deserted, could we watch it? "No - it's too late, sir". Too late? Are you having a laugh? It's 8 o'clock! You're a restaurant! You don't close until 11 o'clock! Just how long is this film? But the chocolate cake was great, so again we left, more disappointed than angry.

However, the Chuckle brothers hadn't finished yet. The next morning I awoke feeling like the proverbial fat sack of cack. A particularly virulent dose of food poisoning confined me to bed for the whole day, feeling awful the entire time. Towards evening, though, I started feeling a little better (well, I stopped dry heaving my guts up), and decided to go out for dinner.

This time we took no chances. We went to the place that was directly opposite our hotel. And praise be, we watched Octopussy. And indeed it was glorious.

I don't think I'll ever again be so excited or persistent about watching a Bond film.

PS - Today (the day after) I feel much better, in case you were worried.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Jodhpur and Pushkar

Leaving Jaisalmer we headed to Jodhpur, the blue city (because the buildings of the Brahmins (a priestly caste) there used to traditionally be painted blue, and now most of the houses are blue). Having become fed up of the last two places we'd been to simply by dint of spending too much time there, we left Jodphur after only one full day, but it did seem very pleasant. A fairly affable town, with lots of cothes stalls and such. The highlight, though, was Meherangarh, the big fort on the hill, which has never been taken by armed force in it's whole 500 year history. Though I doubt it would pose too much of a problem these days if Uncle Sam wanted to come a-knockin' (that's Uncle Sam as in America, folks, not as in some sort of rubbish self-styled nickname). The reason that the fort could be the highlight despite it not being in itself any better than any other fort I've seen of late is the natty audio guide you get free with your 250 Rupee entry fee. The sound effects on this audio guide are unintentionally hilarious, being such things as contrived battle sounds every time any sort of fighting was mentioned.

As I write, we are in Pushkar. Pushkar is a holy city for Hindus. It has a lake that sprang up when Brahma dropped a lotus flower, according to legend. You're supposed to throw flowers into the lake to get a prayer or something, and while I've not done that yet I probably will, figuring it's best to get as many gods as possible on side over the course of my journey, as you never know when you might need divine help of some sort. On that note we're off on a day trip to the Muslim holy city of Ajmer tomo - I figure Allah is a god on who's wrong side you really don't want to get!

Pushkar, being a holy city, is chock full of holy men, and also chock full of travellers, many of whom look like twats, wearing traditional Indian costume (you're white!), daft facial hair, and all manner of ethnic tat paraphenalia. Actually, the travellers we have encountered so far have generally been either old or fools or both. Still, I suppose there's a long way to go...

[Sorry this post hasn't been as amusing or story-formatted as the previous couple...]

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Great Thar Desert

Having escaped from Jaipur without any further gem-related mishaps and without getting any bulletholes in a double bass or meeting Marilyn Monroe on the train (credit for joke: my Dad. It's not often I get to say that!), we arrived at Jaisalmer after a mammoth 13-hour commute.

Jaisalmer is in the midst of the Great Thar Desert, not that far from the Pakistani border. Not sure how far because on every map you see "the external boundaries of India have not been verified and may not be correct". In other words, whatever you do don't mention the war. Apart from being a major Indian army base, Jaisalmer is also home to the majestic Golden fort, which is basically an enormous sandcastle that people still live in to this day. It looks spectacular, and inside it is very evocative, with narrow streets (that are impossible to find your way around in) , ornate Havelis (olde merchant's houses, to you) and some Jain temples (no shoes, no photos, no menstruating women).

The main attraction of Jaisalmer, though, is that it affords one the interesting opportunity of going on a camel safari. This is where you pay a man to get you some guides, some food, some water and some camels (duh), and head off into the desert itself for anywhere up to four days of nomadic journeying. We opted for three days and two nights, on a tour arranged by the none-more-ruggedly-beautiful winner of Jaisalmer's "Mr Desert" award and model for Jaisalmer brand cigarettes, Sahara Travels' Mr Bissa, of whom I am now the proud owner of a signed photograph, given to me at the end of the safari. "Don't make a booking until you see the Face", it suggests, and I would say this was good advice.

Having paid the man, the next morning we arrived at his office at 9 o'clock and waited with some trepidation to see if there would be any other tourists on our safari. Thankfully there weren't (we were fully expecting a pair of middle-aged american feminist lesbians), so it was just myself, Trev, our two guides, and three camels.

The camels obviously had to be named. Trev called his Joe, after Cartoon Spokesperson Joe Camel, while I opted for Abraham for mine, after a vague memory I have of a cartoon camel with a red fez called Abraham (if anyone knows where I've got this from please tell me), Abe for short. The guides' camel was named Isaac to fit in with the biblical theme, Ike for short.

Camels are stubborn cantankerous bastards (bastard is really the only appropriate word to describe a camel's personality). Deciding where to go is a complex compromise process, but rest assured the ultimate decision lies with the camel. And if that means (in Abe's case) walking through bushes, or (in Joe's case) going right no matter how hard the left rein is pulled, then so be it. Fortunately, our friendly and helpful guides were on hand to curb the worst excesses of the truculent beasts, as well as to cook our food (of which there was more than enough) and, er, to guide us. Having everything done for you by a complete stranger in this manner is somewhat strange - the only decision we had to make was whether to have two helpings or three at lunch and dinner time. Needless to say it seemed pretty colonial at times (am I allowed to say that?).

The desert itself is mainly low scrub and tightly packed sand, reminiscent of a Western. There are occasional sand dunes though, and they are majestic. Since we had good guides we actually spent the second night on the top of a dune completely unspoilt by footprints (before we got there). The other thing about the desert is the heat. We're talking all day burn weather, 40 degrees in the shade during the hottest times of the day, during which we were thankfully in said shade, sheltering and trying to recover from mild sunstroke thanks to the morning's riding.

The most amazing part of the safari? Unquestionably the desert night, when (as on the second night) there are no clouds. The stars and moon are so clear, and sleeping out underneath such a sky is quite an experience.

So what have I gained from my three day trek into nowhere on a dumb dromedary's (is that the one with one hump or the one with two? To my discredit I can't remember. The camels in question had one hump) back? A pulled left hamstring, a right groin strain (steady!), a minor case of sunstroke, a sore arsebone, a bunch of great memories and a film container full of sand. A grand old time was had by all...

Friday, October 15, 2004

Jaipur

Jaipur, the town I am currently residing in, is located in Eastern Rajasthan. It is known as the Pink City because the old city, which is contained within some very nice old city walls, is all a sort of burnt orange colour, supposedly having been painted "pink" in the 19th century to honour the visit of the then Prince of Wales.

We got to Jaipur on Tuesday after a cramped five hour bus journey from Bharatpur, which is at the north eastern corner of Rajasthan. Knackered, we checked into the hopefully titled Evergreen hotel and had a bit of a rest, noticing en route that the Evergreen hotel is chock full of crusty old hippies. As you probably know, I hate hippies.

Suitably rested, we decided to go for a stroll in the old town. It's a lively shopping area in the by-now-familiar Bazaar format - like a sort of permanent market. Actually, a bit like Camden market, but with traditional Indian clothing and jewellery in place of bongs and retro clothing. Though of course ethnic tat is pride of place in both contexts...

Having strolled for a while, and gotten good at ignoring the salesmen's "Hello sir" introductions, we were stopped by a chap of about our age. "Why," he wanted to know, "do white people never stop to talk to Indian people?". We explained that it was because we were fed up of being hassled to buy things all of the time, but he wouldn't have that. He claimed that Indian people just want to find out about foreign parts most of the time, and are simply curious. He wanted to know about England and wondered if we would come and have a beer and a chat with him. One part of my mind was going "Mmmmm... beer... it's been so long" while the other was remembering scare stories concerning travellers drugged and robbed. We cautiously agreed to go with him, but declined his offer to go to a good place in his car. We wanted to stay where we knew how to get home. When we got to the place, we broke the habit of a lifetime and had water instead of beer, because bottled water would be sealed. We were chatted at by the man (whose name was Ajay) for a bit before we declined the offer of going on somewhere else because "we were tired". We then agreed to meet him for breakfast the next day at 9am.

We took our leave and headed home, only to be stopped by a bumbling fool. His name was Balaji. "Why," he wanted to know, "do white people never stop to talk to Indian people?". Trev began to say the truth, as we had tried before, but I interrupted with "because back home in England no one ever says hi to anyone so it's a bit strange for us". Balaji also wanted to go for a chat with us. We followed him (because there is no way such a melon as him could have designs on robbing us) onto the roof of a small shop, where we sat and chatted for a bit, and were introduced to Kuldeep. In contrast to Balaji's nervous idiocy, Kuldeep was a smooth operator. They were such nice blokes that we agreed to have a beer, and were invited down into Kuldeep's art shop (on which we were sat) to drink it. Inside the art shop we met a third man, older, named Mahesh. Mahesh was fairly quiet, but had worked in Germany for ten years, so could speak German with me as well as English. Which was surreal.

So here we were, sitting in an art shop in old town Jaipur, drinking "Godfather" beer with a 19-year old fool, a 22-year old smooth operator, and a 30-something german speaking quiet man. We joked and laughed with them for three hours (the jokes were a little risque for this, being a public forum and something my mum might read). And then they wanted us to go for breakfast with them the next day. We tried to fob them off with dinner, but they were having none of it. We figured that after three hours we owed them a day more than we owed suspicious character Ajay, so we agreed to meet them at ten. Then they cast aspersions on hippie-filled Evergreen terrace, using the witty, in fact Wildean, "Evergreen is never clean". But we needn't fear - Kuldeep knew of a better hotel. He knew the owner very well, and we could stay there for Rs200 a night, 50 less than it cost us at Evergreen. But first we could see the place. Well, by now we more or less trusted the boys, figuring they'd have robbed us by now if they were going to. So we zipped off to the very nice (comparitively - no hippies, you see) Akriti Hotel on their motorbikes, and were then given a lift home. We decided to check out of Evergreen in the morning and check in to Akriti.

This is the bit where in a rubbish american sitcom we would try to meet up with both Ajay and the others without either party realising. However, we are English, not septics, so we did the right thing and met Ajay, simply telling him we had met other people. "Kuldeep and the others, I know - I know them" he said, slightly upset at being shunned. How he knew them, or how he knew we had met them was not clear, but we didn't really want to have a conversation...

At ten o'clock we were checking in to Akriti, when we met Balaji, Kuldeep and Mahesh. After a quick cup of chai (that's NOT how you make tea!) we were off to the shop for an Indian-style breakfast of some kind of sauce deal, chapati type bread things, bananas and curd. It was very nice, although I only ate the bananas (though I dislike them) for fear of being rude. Then it was a quick Balaji-guided tour of the local gem workshops, where Jaipur's gem trade is run. Precious and semi-precious stones are imported from all over the world and fashioned into jewellery.

In the afternoon, Balaji was jettisoned and we rode out of Jaipur in style, on the backs of motorbikes ridden by crazy Indian drivers. I was on the bike of the relatively sane Mahesh, but Trev had the boy racer Kuldeep to contend with. More than once on the journey, as the other bike was out of sight somewhere around the next couple of corners, I thought that if two Indians wanted to rob and murder a couple of tourists and leave their bodies somewhere, the starkly beautiful Rajasthani countryside we were zipping through would be a good place to do it...

But eventually we reached our destination, the impressive Samode Palace, around 25km outside of Jaipur, safe and sound. Samode Palace was the Maharajah's palace at one time, but is now a really expensive (starting at 3000 pounds a night) hotel. But you get a tour around it for Rs100, and you even get that money off a drink at the end. And it's extremely posh...

Tour over with we headed back to Jaipur, stopping en route for more beer and a snack, and then a second time to pay for a lamb to be murdered and cut up for us at some kind of amazing roadside slaughtershack five. Off we went with the meat to Mahesh's house.

Here we all deskinned about 60 cloves of garlic between us, chopped up a daft amount of onions, prepared some ginger, bunged in a whole load of spices and oil and cooked a beautiful curry over a period of three hours. During this time we drank whisky with Kuldeep and Mahesh, plus Balaji who arrived with a new man, named Krishnan, in tow. Krishnan looks like Barry White would if he was a colombian cocaine dealer of Indian extraction, only not fat. The man is a gem dealer, and is utterly minted. He is also (bizarrely) a fan of the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays... When the curry came it was perhaps the nicest thing I have ever tasted, eaten sitting on the floor using chapati's as plates and spoons and our fingers as... er... forks? We were then given a lift home, tired, a bit pissed from the whisky, but having had one hell of a great day, thanks to Indian hospitality.

The next day Kuldeep picked us up at our hotel at half nine. We went to Mahesh's house and watched the cricket, Australia v India, second test. The game was pretty boring, though, so... no, we just sat and watched it. And kept watching telly throughout tea, when we watched rubbish Indian music channels. And then, just as the second session was starting, our boredom was relieved by the appearance of Balaji and Krishnan. We were off. But where were we going? Er, to the shop, to sit and watch the cricket. Balaji and Krishnan disappeared. Then Mahesh disappeared. We were left with Kuldeep. "Do you want to look at my paintings?", he said, "no pressure to buy or anything". With a sinking feeling we agreed, and sure enough after we'd looked through a series of very nice little pictures that would never survive until we got home, we had to tell him we didn't want to buy anything. He seemed to take it well to start with, but then lapsed into silence, and in fact then went to sleep, leaving us sat alone in his shop watching the cricket, in which we we had annoyingly missed two wickets.

So it was that we were pretty relieved (again) when Krishnan returned. "You can come to my place, we will talk for a bit, and then we will go up to the fort in the evening, drink some beer and watch the sunset". Sounded good to us, so away we went... just round the corner and into a tiny little office full of glass display cases with jewellery in. "Sit", offered Krishnan, and we duly were sat, facing his desk with our backs to the door through which Balaji entered, himself sitting just behind us. Krishnan sat behind the desk and showed us photos of him with Princess Di wearing one of his necklaces, and a picture of him with John Major (ooooh, luminaries!). Then came the crunch. We could do them a favour. Since we had tourist visas, we could buy some of their jewellery and transport it to Australia, which they knew was on our route. Then they would buy it back from us in Aus and pay us 5 grand english for the service. The whole time we thought we were experiencing Indian hospitality, and in fact we were simply having whisky with diamond smugglers. We said no to the proposition - even if it WAS legit and they DID actually turn up to buy the stuff back off us, it wouldn't be tempting because of the hassle. And of course they kept coming back and asking us, and making it awkward for us to leave. Then in came Mr Big, Krishnan's brother. Krishnan and Balaji left, and we were exhorted to either help them out as above, or buy some jewellery by an Indian man who strongly reminded me of Brando's Vito Corleone, right down to the voice and 'tache.

Eventually we managed to get out of there, and were repeatedly assured that we were all still friends and that we could still go to the fort that evening with them. We made some excuses and took our leave, promising to go back later. Then we headed straight to the train station to book our tickets the hell out of Jaipur. But the next train wasn't until midnight the day after next... until then we would be stuck in a hotel that they had got for us. But first, we had to tell them we weren't going anywhere with them that evening. We returned to the shop, to find no trace of Kuldeep, Mahesh, Balaji or Krishnan. Only Mr Big was there, sitting at the back. We waited nervously for the others for a while, but then we gave a message "we were tired so just wanted to chill in our hotel room this eve" to Big to pass on. Then we went to McDonalds (ah, crooks one can trust) and home.

But it wasn't over yet. When we got back we turned on the TV only to be confronted with a message, right there on the screen: "Call me on this number" and then a number. This was getting suspiciously film noir on our arses. What would Philip Marlowe do? Like hell we were calling that number. Then the phone rang. Hesitantly, I picked it up... "Hello" "Hello... do you want dinner? It is my duty to ask" - it was just the front desk downstairs. Phew. Then the phone rang again. This time Trev answered it, and it was Kuldeep. He wanted to know what had happened, since he was asleep when we left his shop. Trev told him we had been offered a gem transporting deal but had turned it down. Kuldeep assured us that Krishnan and his brothers were nothing to do with him (yeah, right - they own your shop!) and wondered if we wanted to do something tomorrow. We said we'd look around Jaipur's monuments ourselves. He agreed, but said we could call him if we had any problems. How we were to do this with no number wasn't something for us to dwell on - perhaps his was the number on the telly? Who knows.

Anyway, it's now 24 hours later, and there are about another 28 hours left for us in Jaipur. We have had no word from the gemsters since yesterday, and hopefully we won't hear from them again. But, as a big fan of Chandler and film noir, I am fully expecting Ajay to turn up as an undercover cop any minute, or at least some kind of a twist before our midnight train leaves Jaipur tomorrow night, bound for Jaisalmer and the Great Thar Desert...

Sunday, October 10, 2004

India in a day

Hmmm... When was the last time I posted? Not for a while methinks. {Shuffles through memory} Ah yes, twas the last day in Delhi. How young I was then...

Anyway, that fateful night myself and El Nino, my travelling companion, sauntered along the Main Bazaar of Paharganj, the area of Delhi in which we were staying, strolled into one of the several restaurants that line said busy "road" and bought us some Chicken Mughal to eat for dinner. Nothing of note in the meal itself, it was quite nice but not fantastic, although the waiter singing to himself at all times was disconcerting. Not, however, as disconcerting as the effect the Chicken Mughal had on my digestive system just over 24 hours later. Without wishing to go into too much detail (though I know you want it, every last sloppy pint of it), we're talking burning firewater. For a day. I nearly broke down and cried. And of course, it was the day I saw the Taj Mahal, neatly encompassing the stereotypical Indian Tourist Experience into a short space of time. Except I didn't meet some sort of guru and turn into a hippie...

The Taj Mahal itself is absolutely awesome, however. Pictures of it are one thing, but you don't get an impression of it's sheer size. The thing is massive, and the fact that it is so large and that it's constructed entirely out of white marble makes it seem otherwordly and ethereal, like it's been superimposed onto your eyes. It was built by Shah "I seem to have been involved in every building in India" Jahan as a mausoleum for his favourite wife (these Mughal emperors had it sorted on the women front). Apparently when she died he was so gutted his hair turned grey overnight. The big jessy.


Finally (not much today, I know, but I'm in a "small" (pop 200,000) town outside some bird sanctuary in Rajasthan so this internet connection is pretty slooooow - it feels like I'd be better off with two plastic cups and a piece of string) more on the "white man smells of the devil" front. While calmly sat on the shady side of the Taj Mahal, myself and Trev were quickly surrounded by about 40 Indian schoolchildren on a trip. They first stared, presumably in rapt awe at my sheer beauty {cough}, then all gathered round us and before we knew what was going on their teacher was taking photos of the whole merry group. There followed much "hello" and handshaking. This must be what it feels like to be famous...

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Delhi: A correction (plus additional notes and thoughts)

Correction:

In the last post I may have appeared to denounce Delhi as being smelly, overcrowded, delapidated, aggressive and generally not a nice place to be. Having stayed here for more time and become acclimatised to it, I would like to denounce this impression. It is delapidated, hot, humid and smelly, but it is also a fantastically alive, friendly and exuberant place. The people are generally extremely helpful and courteous to strangers, if occasionally over-helfpul. Once you get used to the touts they are pretty much no problem, and many of the "hello sir" and "excuse me" calls you hear are in fact people trying to be helpful. It's just that being from England I assume anyone in any way talking to me in a public place must be up to no good.


Since I last posted I have been to see most of Delhi's main attractions: The Red Fort (quite impressive), the big mosque in Old Delhi (shoes off before going in and strict and suspicious glares at non-muslims such as myself, but absolutely enormous), Humayun's tomb (Brilliant - same architecture as the Taj Mahal), Purana Qaril (disappointing). These were all forts, mosques and tombs built by the Mughal dynasty, who ruled most of India for a fair long time and who were directly descended from both Tamerlane and Genghis Khan. Technically speaking, there was a Mughal in charge of India right up until the Brits took over, but actually much of that time would have been a figurehead only. Anyway, the Mughals were the ones who built the Taj Mahal, which is at Agra, for which I leave tomorrow, by train. I'm concerned though, as the Indian train network was designed by the same people who designed the British train network, namely the British. I am therefore expecting it to be shoddy and unreliable.

Also today we saw the newer Indian government buildings and President's house, and the India Gate, an enormous monument to the India's fallen in various early twentieth century wars, including WW1. They are all nice enough, but all government buildings always seem a bit stale and severe to me. Mind you, I'd just seen the impressive Humayun's Tomb, so perhaps they just suffer in comparison.


This area of Delhi (Paharganj, since you asked) is prone to power cuts - two in the last two days. Which is not a problem since the hotels and shops have their own private generators on the whole, but it does create quite an eery atmosphere when you're out and about and there's no street lighting, just lighting spilling out from stalls and emporiums (emporia?).


Today in Delhi the sun was out. Actually, the sun has been out every day, but today the smog lessened and so the sun was blazing rather than hazy. Which meant I nearly got sunstroke walking around a crumbled down fort with no shade whatsoever. Anyway, a good amount of sitting in the shade drinking water later, I decided to get me a sunhat. Wandering round Delhi's frankly rubbish "main shopping area" Connaught Place in confusion and getting lost for a while due to the confusing diversionary signs for building work on the upcoming Delhi Metro (woah - now that's gonna be hot!), I eventually stumbled on a hat shop, and bought myself an amusing green trilby (or panama or something - I don't do old hat names). It'll keep the sun off of my head, and it makes me laugh whenever I see myself in anything reflective while I'm wearing it, and for 300 rupees (about 3 pound 75) it's a bargain. Though I think over ten months it could get fairly battered and sunbleached...


Finally, a strange occurence: While sitting on a wall in some shade in the Red Fort, taking a break from seeing old ruinous buildings and about to go to a museum (see - cultural! And I haven't been drinking!), myself and Trev were approached by an Indian family. hey were obviously tourists, though I'm not sure where they were from. But it was either another part of India, or from Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka because their first language wasn't English. Anyway, they came up to us and said, in broken English "can we take your photo?". Thinking they meant us to take their camera and photograph them so that they could have the whole family in one pic, we assented, only for it to turn out that they wanted a photo of the two late twenties/early thirties men to sit next to us on the wall, one shaking my hand, the other shaking Trev's hand, and the little boy to sit between us, for a photo op with us. I suppose they wanted to check the old Chinese saying "the white man smells of the devil". Bizarre, though...

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Delhi

I can't be bothered right now to go into details about the journey to Delhi, but suffice it to say it was long and jetlagging and I and Trev and both our bags arrived without a hitch.
Stepping out of Delhi airport, the heat, the humidity and the smell hit you. We got a taxi and went to our hostel. Traffic in Delhi, though, is not so simple. In fact it's completely crazy. In terms of concern for road safety, and respect for any kind of system of staying in lane, Delhi is literally about 5 times worse than Rome. Everyone cuts each other up all the time, beeps constantly, tailgates, undertakes - in short it's pretty much like the city's cars, buses, rickshaws, autorickshaws and cyclists are playing a giant multiplayer game of Grand Theft Auto.
Having arrived in the area in which our hotel, the lovely Smyle Inn. Our room is reasonably cool (thank God!) and at around a quid fifty a night you can't complain. To get to the hotel though we had to wander through Paharganj with packs on our backs, occasionally needing to pause to look at a guidebook or stare in wonder at the cows roaming wild in the street.
To say we attracted a few helpful locals eager to ease our journey by steering us into one hotel or another would be an understatement. Saying no to them is hard at first, because if someone comes up to you seemingly trying to be helpful you feel a bit rude. After a few hours in Delhi, though, it's second nature to completely blank pretty much all of the "Hello sir!" cries. The problem is that if such touting was restricted to one area of the city it would be ok, but it's everywhere you go. Combined with the heat, humidity, choking dust, live animals, noise, traffic and sheer pavement-with-great-big-holes-in-it squalor, the effect is somewhat tiring, especially to a man already jetlagged.
Mind you, the fact that touting does occur all the time means you soon get used to it. In order to get away for a bit we went to see the Janter Manter, an old Indian astrological site where it was nice and cool (ish) and where we were only hassled briefly by a man claiming to be the official guide.
The other thing to get away from it is to sit in our room with both fans on full blast, a 10 Rupee straight-from-the-fridge litre bottle of water in hand. Mind you it's doing that that led me to fall asleep for some hours this afternoon until about quarter to five. Though it's not really surprising - I had been awake for over 24 hours. I just hope I can sleep tonight.
This evening I expect we shall go and sample some local cuisine, being doubtless hassled en route, and then tomorrow it's probably time to start the sightseeing.