It has been close 2 weeks since I embarked on my journey to India. Time appear to pass so fast when you are on the road but on the other hand, so many things had happened. It has never crossed my mind that I am going to visit India.
It all happen when I saw the “2014 His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Southeast Asia Teaching” organized by the Tibetan Society of Singapore. His Holiness, Dalai Lama is one of the great people on my list that I wanted to meet. Recognizing that this is a rare opportunity, I sign up for the teachings without hesitation. It was then I started to find out more about when I began to plan for my itinerary.
To be honest, I know very little about the geographic of India. But as I start to research, the list of places that attracts me grow longer and longer. In the end, the trip which I initially plan for 2 weeks extend to a month and even then, I have to skip many places and shortlist them for my next visit to India.
Since the day I announce my travel to India, I have heard so many “horror” stories about the country. It goes to the extent that I decided to stop telling anyone about my adventure, worrying that I may just freak out and change my mind!
So here I am, in Delhi, or should I say, in India for the first time in my life.
I took a direct flight from Singapore to New Delhi with Air India. The departure was delayed for about 2 hours and the plane arrive at Indira Gandhi International Airport at about 1:30pm.
I have heard about how things are done slowly in India and the airport service was a beginning for more to come. It was a long walk from the arriving gate to the luggage collection and as usual, I walk rather slowly since I stop at different point to snap some pictures. Upon arriving at the conveyor belt to collect luggage, it was unexpected that the luggage has not reach and it took about a further 20 minutes for the luggage to appear.
Once I clear the custom check, the first thing is to get a pre-paid card for my mobile. The Airtel counter is right in-front, the pre-paid costs 1285 Rupees (about US$20) which include 1GB of Data and about 300 over minutes of talk time. (you can top up for additional data at 455 Rupees for 2GB of data). Passport is required for the registration of the pre-paid card and they will snap a photo of you for verification. (you don’t need to have a photocopy of your passport or photo, they will photocopy your passport and snap a photo of you on the spot). They will ask for the name of the place you stay and your father’s name and the operator will call you back in one hour to verify the information you have given before they activate your line.
Getting to New Delhi city from the Indira Gandhi International Airport is a breeze. The Airport Express train is clean, spacious and took about 30 minutes to reach the city. The moment you step out of the train station, the reality strike. The street was filled with people, taxi, auto-rickshaw and all kind of vehicles. All kind of people will approach you, the taxi driver, the guest house owner and even the beggar on the street. The cars are horning non-stop and it took great skill and courage to cross the road. Despite of the chaotic traffic conditions, I am impressed by the fact that everyone knows exactly what they are doing!
I was told to be alert and have read from travel blogs about the possible scam. Within the next hours, I have three encounters with scammers. The first was an over friendly guy who told me that the train ticket office was closed at 4pm and try to persuade me to go to the tourist information center to purchase the ticket. Having read about the scam and knowing that the train ticket office close at 8pm, I simply ignore him. The second encounter was a self-proclaim police who tried to fine me from taking photo outside the train station. He even tried to escort me to a police officer but when I walk towards a police vehicle, he disappear to nowhere. And the third one was a guy who asked me for train ticket while I was heading into train station. For those who are familiar with New Delhi, you will know that in order to reach the Metro station from the Main Bazar street, you will have to pass through the station. So even without the train ticket, you can still get into the station.
Over the next few hours, I learn that the best way to avoid all the touting is to simply ignore them, avoid eye contact and if in any case you can’t, just act as though you don’t understand what they are saying. I was a little worried that I will have to do appear “very cold” for the rest of the trip but luckily, I only have to do this in big city like New Delhi!