Saturday, May 10, 2008

Arrive in New Delhi, India, hereafter noted only as Delhi or the ‘Dirty D’. Cab from the airport dropped me on the wrong street, about a quarter mile from my actual hotel. There are no street names posted, and the street he thought the hotel was on was impassable by car since it was also a local market way. Things were starting off well. After wandering down the street and turning down help from a few drug dealers, I found the neighborhood ‘tourist cop’ and he lined me up with a rickshaw to the correct location. Lodging, check.

Now for dinner. First place I saw a sign for was Café Karen, advertised as a ‘fine rooftop venue’ or something along those lines. After ascending a dark, concrete stairwell that would force the unseasoned traveler to pull a 180, I made it to the rooftop. 4 tables under a makeshift canopy of sorts. It had a toilet room also. They had beer and some sort of spicy chicken over rice. It was decent, and no Ghandi’s revenge to report.

Next: SIM card for cheap long distance to US. The cell phone people had some issues with my lack of a home address. I finally gave them someone else’s address. I had an issue with the cell phone guy trying to take my passport down the street to find a photocopy shop. The words, “Wait here while my son goes and copies this.” Do not resonate well when applied to a passport. Had to wait and finalize the deal in the morning, since they had to call Vodaphone during business hours to activate the SIM. Up and running to the tune of about $0.20/min to the US.

Next: Bar and internet. I gave up on finding an internet café and concentrated on finding a place to get a simple beer. The one place I found did not have an empty seat in the very small room they called a bar… so I gave up, and retreated to the comfort of my air conditioned room for duty free scotch and Pepsi, and tore into the Nepal pictures, trying to get them web- ready.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hoping for a breakfast of eggs and bacon was ‘shortsighted’ on my part. I settled for a croissant type bread stuffed with spicy chicken. Turned down the personal taxi driver tour option of all the sights in greater Delhi and instead opted for walk-about. Hotel is a good 2 miles from the local attractions. The interesting part of walk-about begins in the fact that a map typically does not indicate what type of neighborhood you will walk through to get to your destination. Best description of my first mile might be, “light-industrial / slum.” The street once again demonstrated a common theme all across southeast Asia. Everyone on this street sold bearings, pumps, and motors. A street by the hotel sells plywood and aluminum siding. Shop after shop, selling the same damn thing. Plenty of competition to keep prices low. My best guess is that it is supply driven, the plywood truck pulls into one place and everyone gets their plywood for their store from the same truck. Just a guess though……. but every country has been the same on this- Vietnam, Phillipines, Thailand….

Anyhow, the keys for successful walk about in said slums are:
(a) Hiking boots- sandals won’t cut it here. Sewage, cow shit, etc. Also useful as defensive weapon since 90% of the people you encounter are barefoot or in sandals.

(b) Indifference. You will see conditions that are really bad. Realize there is nothing you can do and move on. Mothers with skinny babies, dudes without feet, etc… keep moving, show no emotion.

(c) As stated in Casino Royale, the most important lesson is “Trust Nobody”

(d) Look, act, and talk with confidence. Kinda like a Marine….walk tall, chest out, gut sucked in. You will get bombarded from multiple angles. Cabbies, dealers, and the occasional nice guy wanting to have tea and chat about America. After the obligatory ‘nice’ rejection, raise your voice slightly and increase your body language, gestures, etc. Be ready to physically push people away when it becomes necessary. The ‘nice’ ones always want to start a conversation, however, see item (c) above and operate on the theory that you are not in the market for new friends. Tell them you are busy and have no time for tea.

(e) Incorporate (d), while remaining friendly and cordial. Turns out people ask to have their picture taken. High school age and adults even. Just focus on your pockets while you have 10 people trying to crowd around a 2” LCD on the back of your camera.

(f) Proper clothing. Pockets that can’t be picked, sun protection, etc.

(g) Proper map. ALWAYS know generally where you’re at and how to exit said location to your home base.

(h) Small bills and change.

(i) Mental preparation. Anticipate you are about to walk into the biggest crap hole you have ever seen and be happy about it.

With these things in place, you’re set for a good time. I caught a cricket match in the alley, a kid dancing between trains, and some razor wire telling me that I was probably not supposed to be where I was. And a lot of people wanting their picture taken. Only two actually asked for money in return. I laughed at the first guy, but gave about $0.10 to a little girl.

Dinner at the vegetarian restaurant near the hotel. (Restaurant selection I extremely limited) Decent food, but as at Café Karen, you have to look past the occasional dark hair in the food.

This is where the fun begins. Immediately after dinner, at approximately 9:27pm, I logged on to determine when my flight left on the 12th. (ie tomorrow). Turns out it left at 00:50. As in 3 hours and 20 minutes. Can you say go time?

1 hour to get to hotel, pack and shower….. 22:30
45 minute taxi to airport……….. … 23:15
Clear immigration and check in.. …. 00:05

Time left to grab an Indian spiced hot dog and a Coke before boarding. Rock on........


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