In case you missed it, our first day in Delhi was exciting and exotic.
The second day was much more down to earth and realistic about the risks of being an independent tourist in Delhi.
After a leisurely breakfast, we took the Delhi metro to Connaught Place, the center of New Delhi. The train was extremely crowded and we both felt uncomfortable and conspicuous. We were pleased to disembark but the escalator to the ground level was equally busy, with people pushing. At the top of the escalator, one passenger deliberately gave Marilyn a push as he was probably after her bag – he just disappeared into the crowd without it!
As we reached ground level, one charming local gentleman, who spoke excellent English, approached us and asked if he could give us help or advice, as we stood there wondering which road was the one that we were intending to walk on. He was full of advice as to how to get to the tourist information office. As we started walking, another gentleman approached and said that he vouched for the correctness of the information provided by the first man. He volunteered that many Indians were appalled by the gang-rape of a Danish lady in Delhi, a few nights earlier – he offered that he just wanted to be of some help to us.
We went to the “so-called” tourist information office and were recommended to go to the gold market and that in that same area were some interesting buildings and nice shops and they organized a rickshaw for us. There was no gold market nor nice buildings, just a shop known to the rickshaw driver. We quickly exited the shop and ignored the alternative suggestions from the rickshaw driver. The next two hours we were exposed to one scam after the other – in financial terms, we never really lost much but we were systematically ripped-off.
The day improved when we found our way to the National Museum, New Delhi. again by rickshaw. We handed over the equivalent of £10 for two entrance tickets but we were not impressed when the ticket office tried to offer us an IOU for the change – the whole time the ticket saleslady was engaged talking on her mobile. Then, we had words with the lady in the next booth, who would not hand over our audio guides (included in the price) – she kept on asking for photo ID, which we did not have with us. Alf eventually palmed her off with a plastic loyalty card, which he could afford to lose at a pinch.
We soon forgot our frustrations and immersed ourselves in the exhibits which included:
- Harappan Civilization
- Buddhist Art
- Indian Miniature Paintings
- Evolution of Indian Scripts & Coins
- Decorative Arts Galleries
- Central Asian Antiquities
- Paintings from Tanjore & Mysore
- Indian Textiles.
The museum was so cold, however it was also outstanding, so we decided to put up and shut up – however, our hands were blue! Then we saw the sign “cafeteria” and thought of a nice cup of tea, but guess what, there was no cafeteria as it was, surprise, surprise, “closed for renovation”!
We then tried to get a taxi back to our hotel, which was some distance away. Marilyn had had enough of the Delhi metro and Alf was convinced that the journey was much to far for a rickshaw as it was so cold, however there was not a taxi in sight. An honest sounding rickshaw driver offered to take us to the “tourist information office” where he said we could get an official taxi. We should have known better! The man at the “tourist information office” wanted to charge us the equiv. of £20. Marilyn, in very direct English told him what she thought of his suggestion! Alf cut in that we had been ripped-off all morning by dishonest people, but of course, he knew that.
Anyway, we found an honest Sikh taxi driver. He wanted £5 for the trip and Marilyn negotiated a price of £4. Upon arrival at the hotel, Alf gave the taxi-driver the equivalent of £4.50 and everybody was happy, especially us, as we had just saved £15.50 on one taxi ride!
We took the remainder of the afternoon leisurely and later had dinner in the hotel, as we were advised that it was not recommended for tourists to be out in Old Delhi after 6 PM. This may be a knock on affect of the recent gang rape of a Danish lady.
After dinner, we googled the tragic story of the gang-rape of the Danish lady in Delhi’s Old City. We reflected on the differences to other major capitals of Asia, with which we were familiar, including Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Saigon and Bangkok etc – Alf volunteered that many of these cities, like Beijing, had special tourist police.
Now on a more cheerful note, we were looking forward to starting our tour of Delhi the next day with an official tour guide and we knew that our negative impression of the capital city of India would quickly change for the positive. So, once again, watch this space!