I flew into Colombo, Sri Lanka three days ago, and stayed overnight at a hotel paid for by the airline. It was a nice place too, right on the beach, and I had a long, hot shower, and a great sleep. Unfortunately, all this did was serve to make my transition to Delhi all the more shocking.
I arrived a couple days ago at about 8pm, and when I stepped out of the airport to arrange a taxi, I felt like I had walked into a gangster movie. It was foggy, and all the taxi drivers were wearing dark clothes with black toques, standing next to their black, 60's style taxis. I paid for one (250 rupees, about $7) and I was on my way to Paharganj, the tourist ghetto. Thankfully almost everyone in India speaks English, so it's quite easy to communicate. Apparently there are sixteen languages used throughout the country, so even their parliament is conducted in English. I had a short conversation with Manjit, my taxi driver, and soon he had dropped me off on Main Bazaar, the main street in Paharganj.
I used the word 'ghetto' to describe Paharganj, and there's really no other way to describe it. It's intense. There's cows roaming the streets, dogs, garbage everywhere, and the streets are absolutely crammed with shops and makeshift restaurants. It makes Khao San Road in Bangkok look and feel like paradise. It's not a clean city by any stretch, but I wasn't expecting it to be.
I also managed to come down with a cold on my first night, so I spent most of my first day in Delhi curled up in bed, trying to stay warm. It dips down to about 7 or 8 degrees at night, and of course nothing is heated, so it wasn't fun. But it's the first time I've gotten sick on the whole trip, and I'm feeling better today, so it's not all bad.
But I am culture shocked. Not nearly as much as when I first arrived in Bangkok (almost four months ago now!), but it's very different here. Most of it has to do with loneliness, and not having anyone to go through the first few days with, but it's already passing. Although, yesterday was the first day that I really wanted to go back home. One of the toughest things to deal with here is trusting local people. I know that sounds terrible, but everyone I talked to before I came here told me the same thing: "In Delhi, be weary and don't trust anyone." I can see how's it easier to be duped here than in Asia. The locals speak great English and they know what to say to draw you in. I've already run into problems trying to buy my train ticket with people sending me across the street, when I KNOW that's not where I'm supposed to go. But they're very convincing and very forward, so it's difficult. I have been told that it gets much better once you leave Delhi, so I'm hopeful.
Oh! I saw an Indian guy wearing a Montreal Canadiens jacket, and another guy wearing an old Mighty Ducks shirt. I wonder if they know, or maybe there's a secret underworld of NHL fans I don't know about ..
I haven't had a chance to take a ton of pics, but here are a few:
Main Bazaar in Paharganj. This doesn't even come close to doing it justice. It's the sounds and the smells combined with everything else that make it overwhelming.
This is the Red Fort in Old Delhi. If I remember correctly, it was built in the 1600's and was supposed to be the new capital, but the King who had it constructed was imprisoned.
Another part of the Red Fort.
I will definitely try and take some better pictures. I feel bad even taking my camera out. I feel like everyone is staring at me, "Look at the rich foreigner with the big camera." I felt like that in Asia, but not nearly as much as here. Everything is magnified, it's very intense. Another thing that is very different is the tourists themselves. For one, there are far less, and whenever I do see them, they're dressed like Indians, like they've been here for months, or years. I know a lot of people do come here for long stretches, but I've only seen a few tourists who look like they're a bit lost like me. Virtually all are in groups or couples, and are generally not very approachable, so it's tough to get into a conversation with anyone.
As of today, I've only got 23 days total left in my trip. I can't believe that it's almost all over. If I hadn't extended my trip, I would be home in three days. I'm almost ready to come home though, I didn't realize how exhausted I was until I arrived here.
Up next is Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. I'll be leaving via train the day after tomorrow. Hope all is well back home.