Where do we start….There are just no words that describe Delhi, perhaps only a city of EXTREMES. Right from the get-go we were challenged & despite the time spent in India to-date, we were a bit overwhelmed with the people, noise, traffic, filth, touts & scams!
Our arrival was smooth until we arrived at the New Delhi railway station to get our forward train ticket for Agra before heading to our hotel. Of course there are loads of people so eager to lend a helping hand….with ulterior motives to rip you off. Short version of a much longer story, we were told by a railway official (we even checked his ID) the government tourist agency had moved due to construction & redirected us to the new location a couple of kilometers away. We headed out to find a rickshaw driver to take us to the address. This ‘official’, aka tout, was in collusion with the rickshaw driver who took us to a bogus travel agency. Upon arrival our gut instinct told us something was just not right with this seedy place & we hightailed it out of there with a different driver.
The next rickshaw driver was on his way to our hotel when we apparently hit a ‘roadblock’ & were told by the police officer who stopped us that due to security concerns & recent political uprisings in neighbouring districts the area our hotel was located was closed. He directed us to the ‘official’ government approved travel agency who would help us find another hotel. Our radar was on full alert now. Of course the agency was very helpful, even dialling our hotel in order for us to verify the closure. Yup, you guessed it, the ‘hotel’ confirmed our booking number but were sorry to inform all reservations were cancelled & even went as far as advising booking.com was just slow notifying everyone due to this recent turn of events. The agency provided us with a list of hotels, but cautioned things were pretty booked up due to a festival. Smelling a rat Bob stepped out & called our hotel on our cell phone, you guessed it we were in the middle of yet another scam! I was not a happy camper (really pissed off actually) at this point & made my opinion pretty clear; think they got the point in spades. The ploy is to get unsuspecting tourists to book rooms at much higher cost with the touts pocketing the excess. They also try to pressure you into purchasing tour packages at exorbitant rates.
By the time we finally reached the hotel we originally booked; 4-hours had passed & was only 5-minutes from the train station where all this nonsense began. These scams are pretty much on script with everything we have read, the good news we got out of this mess costing us only time, headaches, rattled nerves & a few rupees for the rickshaw rides. Corruption is alive & well in India…lesson learned, AGAIN, never trust anyone who is friendly to you!
Despite this rude intro to Delhi, after a good nights rest we regrouped & ventured out into the chaos of the New Delhi streets. This place certainly is alive – great street food, hawkers selling their wares, touts trying to engage you in conversation, rickshaws, cars, scooters, trishaw cycles, animals & people, so many people virtually smothering the streets, 24/7.
We did the usual tourist things like visiting the famous Red Fort, both at night for the light show & during the day, Humayun’s tomb (the same man who built the Taj Mahal), India Gateway, President’s house, etc., but it was the Chandni Chowk bazaar of Old Delhi that captivated us. Long, winding streets filled with all sorts of marvellous treasures. You could spend weeks scouring these alleyways, so interesting, great study of the people living here & such fun!
Oh yes, forgot to mention, Bob also caught a pick-pocket with his greedy fingers trying to inch their way into his pocket. Needless to say this would-be thief was lucky he didn’t have his fingers broken when Bob caught him. So at the end of the day I guess you could say we experienced the good, bad & ugly India that has to offer in a mere couple of days in the big city.