Thursday, 30 June 2011


I'm supposing one could say that its advantageous that my tours were booked in India by an Indian - at least when it comes to the pricing - my Delhi City tour was very reasonable and II found myself on a busful of Hyderabadians, many of them visiting New Delhi for the first time. Whilst the bus was in AC comfort which is ridiculously cold after 5 minutes its very welcome every time the bus was entered - the tour director luckily spoke in English (perhaps for my benefit because many of those in the bus barely spoke any) although the volume was turned extremely high and even though i've been here for over a week and have pretty decent experience breaking down Indian accents i found him a bit difficult to understand (and I'm presuming the domestic travellers did as well considering what I picked up of their English skills - at least they had the ability to get clarification from him afterwards). As tours go, it was pretty good - not too much mucking around, we were given very specific timings that weren't too long (at this stop you will have 30 minutes ... that is Three ... Zero. Which means you will be back at the bus at Two Forty Five ... That is Two ... Four ... Five!) and there are some tremendous sites in New Delhi - perhaps A Song of Ice and Fire is going to my head right now but the Red Fort would have to be one of the most glorious medieval castles I've ever seen and I'm starting to understand why a lot of westerners get taken in by the Hindu faith (the ceremonies are a lot more FUN than Christianity, even if they are just as invalid when all is said and done).
Interesting for me is that nearly all of the tourists (at least where I've been thus far) have been Indian (from all of the other states) - the government obviously encourages this (the tour director's announcement that there would be an additional 20 rupee charge for two of the sites had me pulling out two battered notes only to be told that I was a foreigner i would be subjected to FIVE HUNDRED rupees - i started to protest - how did he know that I wasn't native born? But sarcasm tends to be lost on these people so i shelled up) - I'm also still getting questioned about the wherabouts of my wife (she's got to be around here somewhere), my country (which seems to prompt pleased statements of 'Ricky Ponting!' followed by a half-hearted discussion of cricket on my part), my qualifications (its easier to advance 6 months on that one), my job and occasionally even my salary. In the entire time that I've been here I don't think I've had a single conversation with a native English speaker - in some way its refreshing, hope i'm coherent on my return.
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Finally, after two days of begging - some toilet paper has been delivered to my room!
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Some more touring today, a much smaller group of AP's (this time with zero English) with me this time and a much quieter guide, the train museum was a nice surprise, and the national museum was also very pleasant (the bureaucracy a foreigner has to go through to get into some of these places is getting to me though) was followed by the major site, the Ashardham temple - the mandir in the middle was absolutely incredible - gigantic and every single bit of its surface was carved with beautiful people, elephants and gods. The security of the place was a bit ridiculous - apparently handled by a private firm, the only thing you were allowed to bring is was cash - everything else had to be left on the bus and i had to remove belt, sunglasses and wallet as i went through the metal detector and was felt up by a burly Gujarati (even the children were being frisked) - i suppose its nice to be in a place where you are free of the mobile phone although i felt a twinge at not being able to wiki the place whilst there.
The lotus garden near the end of the tour was interesting - loads of platitudes from various historical figures (Indian and otherwise) making bold claims as to the existence of God and some very hostile commentary towards atheism (I'm sure it would make Dawkins rage! I can't imagine him ever stepping foot in the place though)

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