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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

The Eagle has landed: Arrival in Delhi

INDIA | Tuesday, 6 November 2007 | Views [581]

Monday 5th November

The plane for Delhi was packed, the majority of people were Indians who were on their way home or going back to visit family, while there was a smattering of us whiteys. Things were going well as we left the terminal ahead of our eight hour flight. However, things started to go wrong when, after making a short distance from the terminal, the captain came on the PA to announce that there was a fault with one of the engines and we would have a delay.

Three hours later - and after much frustration amongst the population of economy class (someone was even driven to smoking in the toilets, which provoked a warning of arrest from the chief steward....naughty, naughty!) - we were on the road, so to speak. A relatively uneventful journey was punctuated occasionally by the most horrendous whiffs of BO from the guy in the seat beside me, but I soldiered on. Seated at the back beside the toilets, I was lucky to avoid the vomit from a poor women who could not hold on for the toilet long enough (I know the feeling...last year at Heathrow, 4 pints of beer plus no toilet equals terrible nightmare!). The guy on the other side of the aisle ended up with sick all down his back. I think it was some dodgy sag paneer that did it.

After arriving in Delhi we got through immigration pretty quickly. The baggage carousel was possibly the slowest I have ever seen but I got my bag after a 40 minute wait and headed for the exit. I was supposed to be met by a driver from the hotel (Hotel Ajanta) at which I had booked a room, but couldn't see him amongst the 100 or so other drivers that were waiting in the packed arrivals hall. So, I decided to do it myself and get a taxi....big mistake!

To say it is hectic outside Delhi station would be an understatement. It may be a few thousand miles from Heathrow but in terms of practicalities it's like going back about two millenia. Everyone seems to be a taxi-driver except you can't really tell who's genuine or not. Being a shiny white tourist with a backpack really makes you stand out and you're preyed on from the moment you step out of the doors of the airport. I felt pretty vulnerable and was conscious of the fact that I was liable to getting ripped-off fairly easily. So, I at least had my wits about me, but it would turn out that my wit alone was not sufficient.

I paid for a pre-paid taxi, thinking that at least I would only hand over enough cash as was necessary for a journey into the hotel. My taxi-driver met me and asked where I was going, and so began the scam that I was almost to fall victim to (not completely, but almost)....

I showed him the address and he told me he didn't know where it was, that he needed a block number. I asked him why he needed this when I had the address detail down to the very street number. 'I need block number....things work differently in Delhi'. Silly me. To cut a long story short, he drove to a 'tourist office' (in the most untouristy looking place I have ever been to), where a guy behind a desk offered to call my hotel. Obviously using the number of a cohort acting as the receptionist at Hotel Ajanta, I was told that the place was full up and I would have to go to another of their hotels.

We got to the luxurious sounding Blue Sapphire and I was shown inside. I insisted that I had already paid online, so thankfully no money was handed over (this is the bit of the scam that didn't work, and clearly the most crucial). By this stage, I had a proper signal on my phone, so called Hotel Ajanta to find that they had no knowledge of the Blue Sapphire.... hardly a surprise! Thankfully they sent a car over to pick me up, and I finally arrived at my intended destination at 8am. They explained that taxi-drivers are not paid a commission by their hotel, but that there was cash on offer to them from those hotels in the crappy parts of town. I got to my room, tired, slightly embarrassed, but just glad to be where I was supposed to be. I crashed out until 3pm.

My embarrassment was made worse the next day when I read in the Rough Guide that this was the most common tourist scam in Delhi.... and I had read this little paragraph a few weeks before, only to forget the bloody thing when it really mattered! The only difference between the article and my experience is that it didn't mention my name! I did feel better when I spoke to an Irish couple in the hotel who said that the same thing had happened to them the same day that I had arrived. Maybe it's just an Irish thing. A lesson had been learnt....

Tags: Airports


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