Delhi, a home from home
Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on July 22, 2011
Here we are, back in Delhi and whilst everything remains the same, it’s slightly different to how I remember it from a couple of years back, theres change afoot – yes the noise pollution is exactly the same as it was, probably a lot louder certainly after the peace and quiet of Chiang Rai. It’s still teeming with people, certinaly in Old Delhi, shooting off in all directions, all going about there business. The City now has a first class Underground (icy cold with air conditioning and only 12 rupees, excellent) and a Skytrain type metro system, an excellent road infrastructure heading straight into town – it’s changed beyond recognition – though not the area we chose to stay in!
We arrived late on Wednesday, landing at the International Airport on the southern outskirts of Delhi, the first thing that struck me was how different the airport looked from when I was last here – I seem to remember it being a whole lot smaller, ramshackle even, with an exit on the side (small door) out to the very busy taxi rank. This time it was much different, it was cooler, newer and unrecognisable from my previous visit – wondering whether like the Underground/Metro/new roads, it had been rebuilt for the recent commonwealth games?
Finding a cab was painless, approaching the official government/police desk saw us handing just over 300 rupees and being pointed in the direction of our ride, a battered black and green people carrier – the type you’d see on the streets of down-town Beirut was to be our transport in to the city, which we duly named the Beirut Bomber! The driver, a young Lewis Hamilton wannabe set off at breakneck speeds whilst we hung on in the back thinking the Bomber was about to roll at any time! The driver had told us that undertaking was strictly forbidden, so we asked him why he insisted on doing it to which he replied ‘…we’re in a rush…’
We hadn’t actually mentioned our being in a rush so it was good to see him using his initiative!
A (very) short time later we arrived at our destination Paharganj – an area famous for western tourists and from what Shelley had told me (several times) the one place in Delhi where no self-respecting Delhi’ite would be seen dead in. Yep, Paharganj was the place we were staying, staying at the highly regarded Ajay Guest House, bang in the middle.
I have stayedat Ajay previously, with my two friends Colin and Simon and whilst we ‘enjoyed’ ourselves, (we had a wedding to attend in southern Delhi) – I assumed that this would be a good spot to base ourselves for the first night or two. On a positive note, I’m pleased to report that Paharganj now has a paved road running through the middle of it rather than the mud stream from my previous visit, other than that it’s still a total and utter shit hole!
Paharganj is a strange place and unlike anywhere else in Delhi. It’s full of backpackers who seem unable or unwilling to leave this small part of the city. It’s full of tourist tat, dirty overpriced restaurants and everything is so much more expensive than anywhere else in Delhi. Autos (Tuk-Tuks) start at 100 rupees and they’re quite happy to forgo a fare as they know some other Gora will be along in a moment and will willlingly pay the fare. Somef Human-Tetrus (c Colin) beggars dragging themselves around on skateboard type contraptions with one leg or indeed two, behind their head with one hand in the air or twisted behind their back. There’s also thick layer of dust covering everything in sight! Food is expensive as is alcohol – I’m amazed that ‘backpackers’ keen on thrift, all of whom seem to love this place.
Shelley was greatly impressed by being here…
Quickly checking in we headed out to grab some food. Being almost midnight nearly everything was shut though the bottle/corner shop opposite Ajays was still open, though thankfully his memory is worse than mine and he didn’t recognise me from previous when we were trying to get alcohol off of him whilst he was trying to close, singing ‘Singh is King’ and trying to drive a hard bargain for beer he wasn’t willing to sell to us – it must be said though, all in good humour!
We sat down in a ‘restaurant’ a couple of doors down from Ajay; a smoky, half-built joint and if truth be told, a dirty looking place and ordered some food. Whilst waiting we heard the sound of some breaking glass and looking out on to the street we saw a policeman viciously attacking some poor guy selling odds and sods from his stall – not sure what he’d done to upset him but from where we were sat it did seem a tad over the top.
Our food arrived and as expected, was shit!
We’ve been here a good couple of days and now back in the swing of things, zipping around in autos, eating great food and generally enjoying the hecticness which characterises Delhi. I’ve found Colin and Simon’s favourite ‘Indian’ restaurant here in Paharganj – though I’m still trying to get Shelley to pass through those hallowed doors to experience the dish of house, the famed Egg and Chips al la Tandoori!
Tonight we leave Paharganj to spend several days visiting the family of which we’re both looking forward to, however it really is great to back in Delhi, a fantastic city and one my favourite places on the planet.