Sunday, 3 July 2011

Out of Delhi

Desperately tried to get transportation down to Connaught Place for a wander before leaving Delhi for a few days - the rickshaw drivers are worse than Bangkok - even with specific instructions as to where to go they are drawn like moths to a flame to the handicrafts/pashminas/jewellery stores - everything will be shut because its too early (I know i've only been here for a few days but i'm not that green!!!) - just go have a look, you don't have to buy anything - eventually gave up thinking it would be quicker to take a 10 minute diversion at a handicrafts place than arguing and it wasn't too long before i found myself in the tourist hub - saw a handful of white faces down there but still very few, debated whether to see the new Transformers (negative) and found a very cheap India, Nepal and Bhutan only edition of Fall of Giants (some nice pulp to read as I am edging dangerously close to the end (as it currently stands) of A Song Of Ice and Fire) - pleasant to wander and it was relatively uncrowded so quite enjoyed the stroll. I had a very early wakeup for the next tour that Vamshi had organised for me so I tried to have an early night but received some very strange phone calls to my room over the evening relating to the seedier elements of the city.
The bus to Jaipur was leaving at 6am and i had to check out AND get my ticket by 545 - haven't really settled in to any particular time routine so it wasnt too difficult - just after i had my bus boarding pass i received a call from a fatigued Rajveer telling me that the travel company was wondering where i was (the efficiencies of the system are staggering ...) - this tour had a handful of the AP guys from the previous tour and a lot more - a few more English speakers in this group (which is lucky because our guide is doing everything in English for my own benefit) - a lot of them find is particularly amusing that all of my entries are 3 to 10 times as expensive as theirs (although my entry cards tend to be cards (with the occasional souvenir postcard thrown in) and their's are often just fax flimsies) - Amber City was interesting, the Maharajah's observatory contains the best collection of sundials (including the world's biggest) you're ever likely to see and we also saw a smattering of temples (not fatigued of this yet) and other sites of the Pink City's former (and current) greatness.
The inconsistency and complexity of pricing is hard to grasp - the security varies widely, some places you can't photograph, others you can photograph but not video, matches and lighters (and even cigarette packets) are confiscated in some, some places will charge you per camera you have on your person (that includes mobile phones), different rates for students, locals, private tours, foreigners and foreigner students (unfortunately my only student ID I have on my has expired) - and they can be strict about the enforcing! Whilst at the Maharajah's palace we were accosted by a security guard who counted the number of cameras in our group and the tickets our guide was carrying - later when one guy was using his mobile phone camera to shoot a video he was accosted because his ticket only entitled him to take still photographs - not 100% sure but it appeared that the 500 rupee fine was replaced by a 200 rupee bribe - such is India i guess ...
Did do some souveneiring in the end which involved haphazard haggling (but you cannot tell ANYONE about the deal i've given you! - It was always my plan to buy some stuff - I just wanted to do it on MY terms though - after we'd checked in to the hotel a few groups tried to use the hotel's free shuttle to the city which ended up taking us straight to another cottage industries shop. It started to get frustrating but there's no point losing one's temper with someone who can't speak your language - its good to see that the Indians who are on the trip with me were getting just as annoyed as me - it also seems that as Telugu speakers they are having almost as trouble voicing that frustration as I am!

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