Delhi & Agra
15.12.2016 - 22.12.2016 23 °C
So, India. Where to start?
First of all, we weren't able to collect any Indian Rupees from Birmingham airport and so we decided we would get them from Delhi airport when we arrived. Well when we arrived, it turned out that the airport had no way of withdrawing Rupees. The ATM's were all out of cash and we literally had our bank cards and that was all. Not to worry we though, we had arranged for airport pick up with our hotel and so we said we could just stop at a cash point on the way. Well, after an hour and a half of waiting, our ride hadn't turned up, so we started to look at options for taxi's. We couldn't find any of the taxi stalls which accepted card and so we approached a taxi and asked how much it would cost to our hostel, with a stop at a cash point. We were quoted about £2 more than what we had arranged, so happy days we agreed and off we went. The taxi guy didn't speak great English and about a mile down the road, stopped to collect his so called "brother". The "brother" did speak English and so that was helpful, however, he explained to us, something that had a big affect on our trip to India. A couple of weeks prior to our visit, India's priminister had made an unscheduled address to the nation. By the next day, 500 and 1,000 rupee denomination notes would no longer be valid after midnight, with these amounts being the former largest bank notes in India — equivalent to about £6 and £12, it sent the country in to crisis. Respectively the old 500INR and 1000INR notes were replaced by a new 500INR note and a 2,000INR one. All old notes were decommissioned. Reason being was to combat tax cheating. At the point we arrived a few weeks after the news was first announced, it appears as though things were starting to recover, however, ATM's still have long queues for 1-2 hours with no promise of funds being available by the time you reach the machine.
Our taxi took us to a store where he said they may be able to give us cash back for a small price. Dodgy as! Upon going in to the store the arrogant salesman tried to sell us excursions, in order for us to pay more (most likely get ripped off, with no other place to compare to). We refused and told him we simply were not interested. After a long flight, we couldn't be bothered with this. We told the taxi man to take us to our hostel and they would pay it. Luckily, he took us straight there and the man at reception gave us enough to cover it. We would later pay him back.
The hostel was decent in comparison to where it was located. It's more like a hotel to be fair. We have a private room and bathroom but it's just a bit beaten down. Considering that we are literally right in the middle of it all, it's good. We were staying just down a little side road from the main market street (called the main bazaar) The side street is called Chandi Wali Gali. We often took walks down the main Bazaar in the days and evenings. It was like our little Indian Neighbourhood. There are cows just walking down the streets and people are preying to them.
You see lots of people living in slums and beggars & homeless people.
Bits arent too nice to see, but we really wanted to get a real feel for things. We certainly through ourselves in at the deep end we think. Lol. I feel like a bit of a celebrity to be honest, because I am blonde, people keep approaching me to ask for selfies with me. I expected that, but expected them to ask for a picture, not use the phrase 'selfie'😂 Funny. It's really foggy here from all of the polution and smells like inscense sticks, not sewage which was what we were expecting. 🖒
We have been very cautious with food, only eating things cooked above certain temperature and no meat or salad as advised by some fellow travellers.
We get breakfast included with our hostel. It isnt amazing but its edible. Its basically an omelette in a toasted sandwhich with some chai tea. Omelettes a little bit salty but it served us well and some how we managed to dodge the dreaded Delhi belly. The Chai tea had a peculiar skin on the top of it 🙈 but once you pick that off, it was actually really nice. It has a strong ginger taste which we both like .
We have met others who have found that the whole money situation was a nuisance. One girl told us how she arrived right in the midst of it all and that she was alone. She had been given a 2000INR (about £24) note and nowhere would accept it because they didn't have enough change for that amount. She had gone two days without eating until she suggested to a restaurant to pay the 2000INR there and she would eat there over a few days. Obviously, the place was okay with this. We had been pretty lucky to arrive a little later really. We ended up waiting at an ATM one day to find that it declined us when we reached it.
People hassle you a lot in the street! They give you advice and then want a tip for doing so. Most places expect a tip in India, taxi's, porters, waiters ect. As stingy Brits, it took a few awkward moments to get used to it. People in the streets will ask you the same questions. Where are you from? and how long you are visiting for and what excursions you are interested in so that they can recommend a friend to you. Considering the fact that we did actually wanted to visit the Taj Mahal, we decided to book with an agent and then get cash back from them that way. We also booked a taxi driver to take us around Delhi for a day.
We went to the Taj Mahal. That was epic! and gave me butterflies. It was very romantic in a weird way and we agreed that it was the best part of the trip.
It was hard work getting in there. At first our taxi driver took us to the back of the Taj. The back is basically over the river Yamuna and is about 500 meters from the Taj. Add to that, the fogg. 🙈 We laughed a little. We were having none of it. We asked to go to the front and decided that we wanted to go inside. After walking about 15 minutes from where the taxi dropped us, it came to our attention that you can not pay by card. So we walked the 15 minutes back to find a store where we could negotiate some cash back for another charge. Marvellous, anywho, we sorted it and walked back. We waited in line to pay 1000INR each (£12) Locals pay 40INR each (about 50 pence), however, none residents get certain privileges, such a queue hopping. After the queue hop, I was told that my bad was too big and that poor Neil was not allowed in to the grounds either. We were directed to the lockers which obviously cost some more (not much) and are another 15 minutes away from the Taj. No argument left, we did as instructed and actually managed to enjoy the rest of the day.
The Delhi day tour was really good. We visited a Mahatma Ghandi museum, museum of Indrah Ghandi (first Indian female president), temples, India gate, The Lotus temple, a nice park and much more. We enjoyed that.
Other days have been spent exploring really. We found that after a few days, we had worked out how to fit in as best as possible and not get bothered so much. Basically, dress scruffy, don't look around and stay deep in conversation with each other. It also helped to walk quickly 🙈 we found a nice central park where we spent some time and generally chilled out.
We met a guy from south India called Sayid and spoke to him quite a lot about his life and what it is like for other young men growing up in India. He had moved to Delhi in hope of finding a job. It didn't look too hopeful if I'm honest. 😕 He was a Muslim and told us how he had a girlfriend who was Hindu and so they had to hide it from their families. It was really interesting talking to him. He was very curious to know all about England and how things work differently. He was shocked when we told him about the size of our families and that we can marry who we want. He had never learnt about these things.
We both agreed that we wouldn't choose to visit Delhi or Agra again, definitely not for a holiday, but that maybe we wouldn't mind visiting a few other places around India. We really have enjoyed our time here. But more than one week would be too much.
P.S Disneys Aladdin really actually does paint a good picture of India. Lol xx until next time.