Being Introduced to India
As I took careful steps along the hallway of arrival terminal in Chennai International Airport, I absorbed this novel atmosphere of being the only Chinese amidst Indians. The dull-decorated international arrival terminal didn’t make it any easier for me. Since I have prepared my visa from Jakarta, I don’t have to apply for visa on arrival which is now possible for Indonesians. I queued in a short line and a moment later, there I was – officially in India.
I was a bit surprised to experience an international arrival hall that seems to be far from what my mind imagined it to be, but it didn’t distract me from my ultimate goal – to find a domestic departure terminal. I would board on a local airline – Indigo – to continue my journey straight to Delhi. I walked through what looks like a deserted airport – seriously. It looks abandoned, especially with the help of some wild crows around.
And then I came to find the domestic departure. My second surprise in such a short time; the domestic terminal is apparently newly built with a modern minimalistic touch. Long story short, after waiting for several hours, I was finally heading towards Delhi with Indigo Air.
The trip from Chennai to Delhi takes about three hour long. When I arrived in Delhi, I immediately looked for any sign where I can buy ticket to ride Metro; an integrated rapid transit system in Delhi, Thankfully, it was quite easy. To reach my hotel in Pahar Ganj area – a bazar area where you can find a decent number of hostels – I have to get off at RK Ashram Marg station. I was actually a bit worried about finding my hotel since the only map that I have is the one that I printed out from google maps and it was almost 10.00 PM already. However, I felt blessed that night because I could find my hotel without any hassles. I finally could clean myself properly, lie down and straighten my legs in a real bed; such heavenly comfort that I have been longing since the night I spent at LCCT. Although this “hotel” does not really meet my expectation, at least the exhaustion that I have been borne the night before could be cured and I am ready for what Delhi has to offer tomorrow.
First Day (Half-Trip)
The loud sounds outside successfully wakes me up after the humid air in my room makes me feel a bit uneasy. I take a look outside just to find that it is already a busy day in Pahar Ganj. Locals, tourists, taxis and auto-rickshaws seem to compete to occupy the small street of Pahar Ganj. I take bath – it is a MUST – and get ready for my first day adventure in Delhi.
I have made my simple itinerary from Indonesia, and the first landmark that I’m going to see that day is India Gate – the very own Arc-de-Triomphe of Indians. Well, it also serves the same purpose as the one famously owned by the French. It commemorates the 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during the World War I.
From India Gate, my next destination is Purana Qila. I am actually ashamed to admit this, but I spend nearly 45 minutes to find the entrance to this fort. From the Lonely Planet book that I borrow from the hostel that I live in, Purana Qila is actually quite near. However, it is quite vast and I come to the wrong side for two times (I even find the Delhi zoo accidentally because of this). Therefore my legs are killing me after that search for Purana Qila’s entrance. Well, thankfully, it is worth the fatigue. I am impressed with what I see of its entrance. It is indeed a fort, a strong looking one.
From Purana Qila, my next destination is Red Fort (Lal Qila) – the red-sandstone walls fort – and Jama Masjid. Both are situated in the heart of Old Delhi.
Traveling Around Delhi
The most famous mode of transportation to get around – fast enough and fairly cheap – is getting the auto-rickshaw (tuk-tuk, or simply auto). One thing to remember is that always bargain. When the auto driver sees that you’re a foreigner, he will charge you double. For my short trip in Delhi and around, I paid between Rp 20 – 60 – which is in my opinion very convenient price to pay to get around Delhi.
However, I usually use Metro – the modern train system – which of course will cost more. Metro serves to most of tourist destination in Delhi. Although it is unlikely that your destination is in the front step of your Metro station, it is when auto-rickshaw comes handy. The Metro lines are easy to understand and you can find the map in any the metro station. One thing to remember is the crowd. As it is no longer a secret that Delhi is one of the most populated cities in the world, with roughly 10 million people. Commuting with metro in the morning and when people get off might be quite overwhelming – the people, the queues, the busyness, and have I mentioned the people?
Now, if you want to travel outside Delhi, you can either choose traveling by plane or by train. I chose to travel by train to Agra and by plane from Chennai to Delhi. One interesting fact that you can book your train ticket from wherever you are. I booked my train ticket from Delhi to Agra when I was in Jakarta. It was quite tricky because you would need to input your Indian phone number – which of course I don’t have at that time. However, do not worry for we are internet people and we have Google! (Sorry I couldn’t give the direct link here) You just need to google on how to do it and there will be many reliable information available for you. If you are an Android phone or iOs phone user, you can download the application “Cleartrip” to help you with train schedules and everything else.
Tips for handling scams in train station? Well, I’ll save that good story in next post when I travelled to Agra.
Accommodation in Delhi
I stayed in what-so-called Hotel Arjun. It was affordable and very near to Pahar Ganj Metro Station and New Delhi Train Station. It was not the worst choice but you might want to find something better if you cannot stand staying in a room without proper ventilation and no air-conditioning. I wouldn’t say that it is a hotel. However, for many horror stories you’ve heard around the internet about hygiene matter, this place is not that bad at all. The staffs are quite helpful. They borrowed me their Lonely Planet India edition and they helped me getting an Indian phone number. And of course, if you need help reserving taxi, they will gladly help you. One thing that I don’t approve is their thirst of getting a good review in tripAdvisor website. While I was waiting for my taxi (that they booked for me), the owner approached me and offered me a free cold soda – which I didn’t refuse because I thought it’d be just a good deed from an owner. Turned out, he subtly forced me to leave a good review while watching me doing that to make sure that I did it! I am not comfortable with that, at all. But then, his place is not that bad so I don’t mind doing that.
Well that’s all for now. I must apologise for leaving this blog untouched for months (has it been a year? I don’t even remember).