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Andy & Anita's adventures


INDIA | Monday, 24 December 2007 | Views [290]

Crossing the border from Nepal, at Sunali
Local market in Lucknow; we were quite a highlight for the locals
Well it has been an eventful few days, and our most bizzare christmas on record, to say the least!

Starting from a few days ago... we planned to catch the night train to Delhi from Lucknow on the night of the 23rd of December. Unfortunately after spending copious amounts of time looking for the correct ticket counter at Lucknow station (and having a monkey throw what looked suspiciously like poo at us) we found there to be no seats left for at least a few days. We were concerned for awhile (thinking we were stranded) until our hotel suggested the night bus. They said it was "9 hours but a pretty good price for the common man". We left at 10pm and, although the train was about half the price, it was very comfy and not crowded at all. They blasted us with many hours of Hindi music (earplugs a must!) but otherwise the journey was uneventful.... all 15 1/2 hours of it! (Honestly, it takes FOREVER to get anywhere in this country - especially a distance of 500km).

So we get to Delhi with the intention of hopping straight on a train up north but we couldn't get a train and we got pretty lost. So we were directed to the Tourist Bureau in Connaught Place. Little did we know at the time that we were entering into a carefully placed scam.

The 'tourist bureau' (in hindsight a tout scamming office) tried to sell us a trip to the disputed provence of Kashmir and Ladakah ("sure, it is safe" says the tout) and would not give us any train info. Then he proceeded to tell us that there were no hotel in Delhi because of Christmas (alarm bells start to ring.... they don't celebrate christmas here) and he would "give us $500 if we could find a hotel". This worried us a bit - but we were more worried by the way the guy kept trying to trap us into buying things from him by scaring us into thinking we were stranded. We escaped to a cafe and were then approached by a 'friendly local' who, in the course of the conversation, told us that the 'tourist bureau' was very legit and we should trust them. It was all a setup. As Andrew puts it "if you can smell a rat over the stench of this city it MUST be rotten!".

Long story short - we were followed and harrassed all the way down the street to return to the 'tourist office' and then refused a rickshaw or taxi to get away. We had to walk a few blocks and then decided to just go to the hotel our tour company uses (and what do you know - they were not full after all!).

We were warned about 'touts' and scammers but we had no idea it was this elaborate. Everyone is in on it. Even today we got off the metro in a big tourist area to be told by a passing rickshaw that "everything is closed today, but he can take us to a market that is open". It is all lies and we have become very rude to people that speak to us in the streets.They use anything and everything to strike up a conversation and hook you.

Knowing this we thought we had our wits about us on our second day but, again, we looked vulnerable and they hooked us, pointing us in the direction of the market we wanted to go to. Through the course of being directed by 3 different (and supposably independent) locals we ended up 20 mins in the wrong direction at a store in a side alley, run by what looked like the Indian Mafia. Thank goodness we escaped from that one without incident... but it was a stark reminder that we need to keep our wits about us all the time.

So we wasted a few days her and I am finding it hard to really enjoy a city that is so physically and mentally draining. It would be so good to escape the hustle and bustle like we could in Kathmandu but there are no rooftop cafes and gardens that we can find and there are precious few places to really relax. That said, we only have a few more days here so we are going to take in as many sights as possible and make the most of our time here.

Christmas was a surreal experience - as it is not celebrated. There were signs of it.... a child in a santa suit in the park, cake for breakfast and a santa wearing a mask outside the dominos store (to make his face look more 'white' - and therefor look more authentic... it didn't work!). Otherwise it was a normal day and we forgot that it was christmas most of the time! It was good in a way to escape the commercialism that we are used to at home but some beef steak would have gone down a treat!

So today we are planning to jump on the metro and head to India Gate and the National Museum. Tomorrow we are going to go to the Qutb Miner and the 'Lotus Temple' and probably the Red Fort. Then we start our tour the next day - which will hopefully take some of the stress away!

Love to all from India. (despite everything I have said, it is an amazing and unique place and we think everyone should come here!)


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