New Delhi, India – The experience starts at the airport.
A quick peek into the beginning of our India experience. I have a few moments, experiences, and cities I am going to share, but this is my first impression of India that will stay with me forever.
Â From the moment we stepped off the plane, I could feel theÂ oppressive heat and toxins in the air. The Delhi Airport was buzzing with activity. While we were in the Immigration and customs lines, I determined five different languages around us. The controlled chaos of bodies, luggage, lines, and language. It took us nearly 2 hours to get through Immigration, get our bags, and find our Intrepid representative for a transfer to the hotel in Delhi.Â
In all of the chaos, we were thankful to see the Intrepid representative waiting at the exit. Because we were running about 2 hours behind our scheduled arrival time, he was under the impression we didn’t make it. He had to call in an alternative driver to get us to the hotel. Our wait was not long. When he appeared, through body language, we figured out we were to follow him to the car. To my surprise, we had to follow him out to a parking garage. Not a big deal except that I was starting to wonder if this was a legitimate hired driver. Maybe, maybe not.Â
My eyes were burning as we pulled out into the airport traffic. I quickly forgot about my burning eyes as we exited the airport. At the stoplight, a young mother holding her child and dressed in a traditional colorful sari stood up from her shaded but littered spot in the median with other adults and kids. She was small in stature with long dark hair, dark eyes, and a nose ring. Her small, beautiful child was laughing, smiling, and looked happy. She was doing a hand to mouth motion, indicating she needed food. Incredibly mixed messages in that single moment, I was a bit unnerving. I looked to the driver for some assistance or reassurance, but he was looking the other direction and seemed to deliberatelyÂ notÂ look in my direction. The moment may have been only a few minutes, but it seemed like an hour. What to do? Before I did anything, we pulled into a stream of traffic. People, bikes, cars, scooters, motorcycles, and tuk-tuks whizzed by with horns honking in a cloud of dust and dirt. It felt like a vehicle cattle-drive with drivers squeezing their vehicle into whatever space could be found next to public buses, barriers, and other vehicles. I didn’t get any photos or videos of the experience because I think I was just overwhelmed at the moment. The video below is a great example.
It was in a 3D theatre, and this was my movie. Dark men with make-shift stands and carts of colorful produce, peanuts and snacks, meat, eggs, fabrics, cows, and piles of trash filled the perimeters. Black wires and cables hung in disarray, clumped, knotted in and around buildings and store-fronts littered with signs, one on top of the other for two to three stories. The buildings were old and dingy, with large, massive air conditioners suspended from windows. Business owners used straw brooms to sweep trash from the front of their business establishment into the street or alley. As we got closer to the hotel, I noticed twinkle lights hung to decorate for the upcomingÂ Diwali holiday. A contrasting cocktail of humanity.
Hotel Pooja PalaceÂ located on an alley next to a long-abandoned construction lot. There was no courtyard or guest parking, just a glass door entrance with a questionable metal detector. The busy small lobby filled with people, but we were happy to get there finally. We were checked in by a man who spoke English. I assume he is the owner or manager of the hotel because, throughout the day, he never moved from his seat behind the counter and seem to be the man in control and giving direction to the taxi drivers and bellmen. The bellmen were happy to haul our luggage up four flights of stairs as we took the tiny three-person elevator shaft to the third floor with a tip expectation. We had no idea how much to tip, so we gave them whatever rupees we had in our pockets. The exchange rate is approx. 70 Indian Rupees for $1 US Dollar. Then we sat on the bed and took it all in.
Â Our room was a tiny dark box with a bathroom â a single window covered with bars, an air conditioner, and heavy curtains. There was a TV on the wall, a king-size bed (yes!) and a small cabinet and table. The room and bathroom are clean. After 12 hours of travel, we were happy to collapse in bed for a nap.
Behind the Scenes
Whoa! INDIA! I signed up for India because I wanted to experience something different and get out of my box so to speak. Well, I got it! Reflecting on the experience above, I wanted to share that I didn’t see any “road rage.”Â In fact, the drivers all seemed mildly bored and just tolerant. The honking is their way of communicating and, in time, would become routine. i did not detect a sense of anxiousness or fear in people’s faces. As we got deeper into our India experience, the traffic also seemed to fade into our reality. It’s just a thing like the beautiful produce on the street, immense palaces, and lounging cows.
Stay tuned …
Enjoy the Climb!
I send out a monthly update with my favorite finds, experiences, stories and tips from interesting places around the world. Join me!