According to our rickshaw driver, we experienced “the real India” today, bumping along narrow city streets packed with people and lined with shops selling saris and spices.
The day certainly started authentically enough, with Sam and I waiting for hours in queue at the “foreign tourist tickets” room in the Delhi train station. To have arrived at the room at all seems something of a miracle given the dozen or so touts who had set upon us to throw us off the scent. These hucksters stalk hapless tourists and waylay them with all manner of lies ranging from “you cannot buy tickets at this station – my friend will take you to another tourist office” to “the train no longer runs from Delhi to Agra – my friend can take you in his car.”
Eventually, we procured what we’re assuming are authentic tickets to Agra, the site of the incomparable Taj Mahal, which we will allegedly visit on Sunday, after we return from two days in Dehra Dun, site of an orphanage that Sam and his family have supported financially over the last few years. I’m looking forward to building relationships and sharing ideas with other colleagues and meeting those kids.
After being released from the purgatory of Indian transport bureaucracy, Sam and I escaped by tuk-tuk to the Red Fort, a 17th Century Mughal palace. It was picturesque and red and fort-like. We then hired the aforementioned rickshaw driver who ferried us hither and yon through the back streets – and a few rooftops – of the old city.
As Sam observed, “This would be a lot harder in 100F weather.” Today’s temperature was mighty fine indeed – about 60F – perfect for jeans and jacket. I’ve only been here one day, but I can say with certainty that January is the ideal time to visit Delhi. I’m betting that it won’t be so pleasant when I return with the family this summer, but I’m sure we will have a great time nonetheless.
I can also tell you that I greatly prefer Delhi to Calcutta which, even for an experienced world traveler and extreme extrovert, was non-stop sensory overload.
I would love to write more, but that will have to wait. I’ve taken a short nap, and it’s time for dinner. I’m sure it will be delicious – everything in this country is. If I’m not too exhausted I’ll check in once more before leaving for Dehra Dun. Peace.