Delhi in Darkness

October 25, 2009

I'm in Delhi now. Getting here was sub-optimal but not seriously distraught.

Flights were long. Twelve hours from SFO. Eight hours from Korea. Can't really fix that, short of the hypersonic transport that has been promised for twenty years which no one has ever seriously considered building. I'm not even sure it would help. There are not even direct flights. What would help is more leg room. I've come to expect a little more room on long, international flights. The seating on the trans-pacific leg would have been just adequate for 4-5 hour domestic flight. The flight into Delhi was a cattle car. That might be complimentary of an Indian airline. Unfortunately, Asiana is Korean.

image of Pahar Ganj
image of Cow at Pahar Ganj

I arrived in Delhi about an hour late. The promised airport pickup wasn't there. I had to use the taxi system, which I had not properly researched and which I preferred to avoid. Sure enough, they tried to scam me. They performed a surprisingly elaborate ruse, including co-conspirators posing as hotel staff and an amazing amount of unnecessary driving trying to convince me that my hotel was unfindable and full. Fortunately, I have been around the block a few times and the jet lag worked in my favor. It was 3:00am but it didn't feel like 3:00am. I found their antics more amusing than threatening. When I finally reached my hotel at four in the morning, hotel staff quickly found me a room. (whodathunk?)

There wasn't much time left, though, before the din of morning traffic at the bazaar made continued sleep impossible.

Parganji is stereotypical India. Dirty, noisy, crowded, cows in the street: India. I seriously doubt that anyone around here works for Intel or Microsoft. It's also a tourist trap. Though, unlike Bangkok's Koh San Road, Paharganji seems to be a functional Indian neighborhood. It's full of backpackers but not every Indian is here to sell you something. Most of the time, the air is breathable. In the early evening, however, heavy traffic emissions mix with fog to produce a particulate swill. I should invest in a mask.

Image of Red Fort

I spent the first day just recovering from the flight and running minor errands. My gamble to defer purchasing Larium paid off. The price here is about $1/tablet or 1/14th what it costs in the States and 1/40th of what it would cost to use Malarone.

image of Jama Masjid

Yesterday, I walked to the Red Fort and Jama Masjid mosque. The Red Fort is the main attraction in Delhi and it's worth seeing if you're I town. It isn't all that old so it really needs to be architecturally interesting and it just doesn't have that. The base architecture isn't special and it is in poor condition. I'm sure it was grand when the walls were covered in ornamentation and the pools were filled with water. The mosque is actually a better visit. It is more photogenic and in much better condition.

I've done a lot of waffling about where to go next. It's a little too early for the wildlife parks. Corbett doesn't fully open until the 15th. It's a little too late for the Himalayas, at least with the gear that I brought. I was really hoping for some clear air but I guess I am not going to get that. I transit to Agra tomorrow via an overpriced tourist bus. The train is full, or at least that's what they tell me.