Day 1 Continued (India: Nothing like the movies)
Additional Photos: Paul Pine
Despite arriving so early in the morning and having to wait six hours to check in to our hotel, Paul and I made a pact to explore Delhi instead of wasting an entire day recovering. Our first stop: the Delhi gate. Once we checked in and unloaded our stuff, we left the Fort Knox of Indian hotels. Seriously, their security far exceeded any TSA requirements. After passing through not one but two metal detectors, the thorough bag scanning station, and going through a painstakingly detailed vehicle check at the gate, we finally escaped into the wonder of Delhi.
And then the rickshaws came.
Immediately after stepping outside, they descended upon us like locusts on a green field. Paul and I stuck out like crazy. Our humor and smiles at their persistence (“No thank you, we just want to walk”) quickly turned to annoyance (“NO!”). They all offered a uniquely personal tour at the “deeply” discounted price of I’m-going-to-rip-you-off. People would stare and gawk at us shamelessly from cars and mopeds. I felt like a piece of meat. Hopefully, we provided them with great entertainment.
After escaping (but not really escaping) the rickshaws, we found ourselves in front of the beautiful Delhi gate. (Fun fact: Built in 1683 by Emperor Shah Jahan). In capturing the wonders of the Delhi gate with my camera, a group of women suddenly surrounded me. Bizarrely two of them began drawing on my hands with henna paste while my hands still gripped the camera. Not knowing what to do, I just stood there, transfixed by how rapidly these women worked their intricately drawn designs. Once they finished, one minute later, the swarm of five-foot women ran after six-foot three Paul asking for money. Seeing my friend in need, I took the time to record the moment in all its hilarity. That reminds me of another time Paul was chase by three women asking for money in the states… Just kidding.
After escaping again, this time from women, by parting with 250 rupees ($5) and forcefully walking away, we made our way to the Delhi palace. The stunning architecture lacked colors and I was a bit disappointed. I had expected to see a building clothed in the vibrant colors seen in Indian attire, but it seems that the people would rather wear such beautiful colors than see them mirrored in buildings. My professor mentioned that customarily, Indian people care more for the inside of a building rather that its external façade. However, there were monkeys!!! Scattered around the palace, wild monkeys just roamed about minding their own business. I had never seen monkeys NOT behind a cage. Super cool! With all that escaping and the temperature rising, we became tired and thirsty. This time when an older gentlemen in a rickshaw approached us with promises of water and beautiful sites, we gave in after some hesitation for 60 rupees.
[ It’s funny how humans innately need to feel as if they received “fair” treatment. Although 60 rupees comes to about one dollar, we still hesitated because we feared getting ripped off. Ironically, we later found out that we did get ripped off by paying 250 rupees to the henna women (worth 50 rupees). Paul and I were definitely peeved.] Fortunately, 60 rupees for a one and a half hour rickshaw ride turned out better than expected and well-worth the price.
Everyone that visits Delhi must ride in a rickshaw! It comes bundled with wonderful near-death, rollercoaster feelings of excitement and definitely one of the more fun and authentic ways to see the city (aside from walking). Our driver took us to see different temples, patiently waited while we snapped pictures, and answered our many questions. The auto rickshaw is completely open so you can view all the vendors and travel down small roads without problem. Which is why our driver willingly took our fare without complaint. We stopped at his family’s stores throughout the trip so that he could convince us to buy souvenirs. At the last stop, we finally gave in with Paul buying a few scarves and me buying a little elephant god carving.
Paul and I returned to the hotel and caught up on some sleep (note: in my case, writing and editing) before we met up with friends for dinner. My first authentic Indian dinner was amazing from what I remember. Not only did I forget my camera, I passed out several times at the dinner table. The dishes, you ask? Palak Paneer, Chicken Tikka, Butter chicken, and of course Kingfisher beer. Once finished, I thought I would take the opportunity to get some real sleep; however, I came to realized that everyone wanted to go see the Delhi gate at night. Not many times in my life will I get the opportunity to see the Delhi gate at night and it did not disappoint.
Back at the hotel, I instantaneously passed out.