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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

Days 1 & 2: Delhi: First Impressions

INDIA | Wednesday, 7 November 2007 | Views [459]

Tuesday 6th November

It took me a while to get my head and gear together once I had rested for a while. I emailed home to let the family know I had arrived safely at my destination(but with a little diversion), and had some dinner in the hotel restaurant (a vegetable thali, basically a meal with several little dishes of rice, sauce and tasty naan bread...very nice). I then set out for a wee trip about town to see what was going on.

The quickest and cheapest mode of transport in India is the motorised rickshaw or tuk-tuk. It cost about 50p to get from my hotel into the central commercial area of town - Connaught Place - a decent distance and through very heavy traffic, so the price was very reasonable.

It may have been cheap but I've had less fun at Disney World and the stresses of earlier in the day were soon forgotten as we weaved through the Delhi traffic. I had a big smile on my face as I took in the sights, sounds and smells of India for the first time - I had finally arrived and it was good.

It's all very much bumper-to-bumper on the roads, or bumper-to-person as is often the case - pedestrians tend to walk out in front of cars or tuk-tuks with little fear of getting knocked down. I have yet to see any collisions. Vehicles drive on the left side of the road in India. Well, they're supposed to, but what does the law really mean? Half of the motorists do stick to the left, while some veer to the right if a larger vehicle is oncoming, with the result that there is an unofficial middle lane where it's basically every man for himself, a veritable free-for-all. It's quite thrilling, fairly chaotic, but there is an order to it all. That may sound a bit ridiculous but I have yet to see an accident, so there must be some order. Despite the constant horn blowing (tuk-tuks and lorries actually have signs on the back requesting those behind to blow their horn!), there is no sign of the road-rage that you might get back home. You're not going to find anyone jumping out of their car to attack you with a big crow-bar just for cutting them up.

You undergo a very intense attack on the senses when travelling through Delhi, much more so than what we are used to at home. The sights and sounds of the traffic are mixed with a variety of aromas: some good, some not so good. You have to admit that some places do have a terrible pong, there's no getting away from that. Stale 'toilet smells', to put it politely, are quite common. But there are some very pleasant ones as well: the smell of incense wafts through some of the streets, and then there is the spicy smell of the many food stalls that line the streets. So, people may say it stinks but the stink ain't all bad. I've smelt worse at home after a steak dinner - onions and mushrooms are the most potent of combinations!

Another shock is the level of poverty, evidence of which is all around you. Little shelters line the road-sides, kids walk about barefoot, the usual stuff that you might associate with a 'third-world' country. The diversity in the population is obvious - polar opposites exist where you may see an affluent family walking beside a beggar and their child, and this is a common sight. They say that India is a country defined by it's diversities, and that is very true of the spectrum of people you see in this city.

Another problem is pollution, and what seems to be a lack of sanitation, at least when compared to western standards. Rubbish lines the gutters, and piles of junk can be seen in many places. Roads are uneven and sometimes non-existent - not exactly what you want when you're in a tuk-tuk!

There is a lot you can say about Delhi: it's cheap; as a white tourist you get a lot of hassle from hawkers and beggars; it's a massive city that seems to be ever-expanding. However, it's an exciting, vibrant place, and I'm very glad to be here.

Tags: planes trains & automobiles


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