1st & 2nd days in Delhi; the shock: what (not) to do

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#1 Jan 11th, 2008, 14:57
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  • alspants is offline
#1
Its now about 4 pm. Im back from my first delhi experience, back to the silent, plush, ridiculously expensive room at my hotel where my partner is working.


Gurgaon is a business town, set on the outskirts of delhi. Its a void, flat, building site. There are several malls. These are malls of the wires exposed hanging from the ceiling type, but they are as western as india gets, so not India at all. At the hotel everything that you are willing to pay for is a breeze. Everything that you get for a reasonable price is a challenge, a haggle, met with frowns, lies, and eventual disgust. The hotel itself is beautiful, the rooms very modern and sleek. For this reason it feels wierd. I think I would be more comforable in something older. The nearest mall is ten mins away, by taxi. Hotel taxi is a tenner and a real taxi is four or five euro with a frown.

I went into delhi today full of oh shit excitement and went to Connaught place, the circular circus at the heart of town. I fancied a saunter and a google at the old shops and perhaps a coffee.

HOLY SHITBALLS. This place makes bangkok look like a first world country. Shit for shoe cleaners. Wall pissers. Not one shop that looked anything other then a one euro junk shop. No coffee places. Not one westerner. A million touts. "no" followed by " " followed by "Look, Leave me alone" with a flat hand in their face. I enjoyed it for the first circle, then I got into the back circles. I had six followers. I told them to .... off and to be fair they dispersed. Then I decided to jump ship and visit "top ten spot of Delhi number 2" the big Muslim temple JAmi Mased.

I got a rickshaw, which was, to be fair, cheap. I got a pre payed thing at one of those stands, which was, to be fair, an ordeal. Then I tipped him Rs10 which is, i know, only 7p, but I thought its 17% of the ride. He was dis-fricken-skusted. Swore the bejaysus off of me. Cursed my mothers earlobe. I walked through the Baazar (dirt, shit, piss, junk, sick looking dead fish, and 10 followers trying to sell me junk or wishing me welcoming "be carefuls".

I went up to the mosque. They wouldn't let me in. It was prayer time and no non believers. I praised allah to no avail. I sat on the steps with the beggars, waited three minutes before a "my friend" tried to hump my side and went in search of a taxi to get out of dodge.

Same deal. Rickshaws full of bad eyed people. Then I did the most intelligent thing I have done in a while. I followed the rich white couple with the respectable looking guide.

Bliss. No hassle at all. I even got to eves drop some exciting history of the area. see some interesting stuff. No followers. No stress. Soon though the deal was up, and I (the tail) was spotted. I improvised and asked where the bloody hell can i get a taxi to somewhere without a lynch mob. I then followed the advice and got a taxi to the Imperial hotel for "no more then Rs40" I payed fifty. I got cursed some more.

The Imperial was immaculate. So nice. Full of really rich annoying americans, but do you know what, I got a beautiful tea, sat in a lovely couch beside a tricklng fountain, and nobody pissed me off. Then they got me a taxi and haggled for me, all for a tip of Rs10 with no family cursing.

Taxi Back turned out to be a blessing. A lovely Old seek dude. He eventually told me his family history and showed me a picture book of his Gods. I kid you not. He was a nice man. He couldnt even haggle with me as he did not believe in dishonesty. So I tipped him good. Hes going to bring me around next time and show me some Sikh temples and stuff. All for the price of a taxi ride. Ill call him next week

Tell me the rest of India is not as hectic as Delhi. Where can you just go for a walk and chill without a crowd of touts. I know its inevitable to feel like a tourist (like in Cuba, Isreal, Jordon, thailand, Laos) but this is a little different. You are an alien with a cash machine of tips. Everyone is so poor. It feels horrible to be a witness to people having to hassle you to get by. I cant help but feel that the delge of tourists that hand out tips are doing more bad then good, circling a inevitable practice where if you hassle and cheat a tourist, you'll get more then the good guy who starves.

They say its a litmus test for travellers. Hmmmm.

I look forward to my acclimitisation, Im sure ill adore this place. (it always starts like this) but I thought any first time visitors might like to know what to expect.
Last edited by machadinha; Jan 23rd, 2008 at 15:57.. Reason: merged threads, adjusted title
#2 Jan 11th, 2008, 15:09
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#2
Touts are merciless with fresh meat.

Your hide will toughen up and they'll dissolve away. You'll be wondering where they all went but the only difference will be you and your new attitude.

How did you determine that all the people in that hotel were annoying, rich, and American?
#3 Jan 11th, 2008, 15:21
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  • Mickey S is offline
#3
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Originally Posted by alspants View Post Where can you just go for a walk and chill without a crowd of touts...
You can't. It will be like this every moment of every day, almost anywhere you go in India and no matter how many times you've been before.

The harassment of tourists in India is a national disgrace, and ordinary Indians should be ashamed of the impression it gives of their country.
#4 Jan 11th, 2008, 15:25
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#4
aussies like a challenge..bit like the irish..hope its as good for us on our first day(later this year)
#5 Jan 11th, 2008, 15:34
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#5
I can't ever remember being surrounded by touts. Beggars, once, in Karol Bagh- well that was my mum actually [I mean my mum was surrounded, not my mum was a beggar...]. I've had one or two people in Connaught Place try to sell me a tour, but they've backed off almost immediately. Maybe I looked fierce.

The most insistent guy we had was at Fatehpur Sikri, he was annoying but we just walked away.

What I don't like is the way they try and guilt you. "You don't like Indian people?" if you say you don't want to talk. It's pretty low down.
Last edited by karuna; Jan 11th, 2008 at 19:47..
#6 Jan 11th, 2008, 15:37
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#6
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Originally Posted by Mickey S View Post The harassment of tourists in India is a national disgrace, and ordinary Indians should be ashamed of the impression it gives of their country.
Why?

To draw a parallel, many Indian tourists will tell you which are the countries where they are likely to be consistently racially (mostly verbally) attacked

I for one don't say that that's a national disgrace because it isn't and because nobody is their brother's keeper. And it doesnt give me a bad impression of their country; it gives me a bad impression of some morons.
.
This is computer generated drivel. No signature is required.
#7 Jan 11th, 2008, 16:00
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#7
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for one don't say that that's a national disgrace because it isn't and because nobody is their brother's keeper.
I would call such racism a national disgrace. But racism is not the same issue as the harassment of tourists. Linked, perhaps, but not the same.
#8 Jan 11th, 2008, 16:05
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#8
Delhi was our port of arrival/departure when we came for a halfyear-long trip last autumn. "We" included our blue-eyed and blond son who was 3y.o. then ( if you know what I mean
There were occasional outbreaks of taxi-ride offers in CP ( we would always opt for a rikshaw) and some baby-beggars beseiging us when a rikshaw would stop at the traffic-lights and that's all. We fell in love with Delhi almost instantly despite all the "horror stories" similar to those related by the OP that we'd heard before the trip.
So even your first impressions may vary dramatically!
You,first-timers, shouldn't really be put off by somebody else's experience!
#9 Jan 11th, 2008, 17:37
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#9
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Originally Posted by Mickey S View Post You can't. It will be like this every moment of every day, almost anywhere you go in India and no matter how many times you've been before.

The harassment of tourists in India is a national disgrace, and ordinary Indians should be ashamed of the impression it gives of their country.
Mickey, I strongly suggest you get away from tourist areas, and I don't mean get away from tourist towns/cities.

I agree that many touts are bloody awful and a walk through a heavily touristy area can drive a man crazy, but when you need a break from them, turn left when everyone is turning right.

Agra is one of the worst places for touts and ripping off tourists, and I'm not proud of what I told an Internet Cafe owner he could do with his Rs80 an hour charge, so I went back to Agra Cant station intending to take a walk from the other side of the station, but there was just a goods yard.

I had about 5 hours to kill so walked from the main entrance along the main road (that goes towards the Taj), I saw a long, wide alley (pedestrian walkway really), turned left and walked about a km along the alley, then left at the next main road, walked about another 2kms and found an area with a large public school (I'm sure the name was 'Delhi Public School' ), a couple of internet cafes (charging Rs15 per hour), a nice place for Chai and a place for a shave (charge Rs10), I then walked along a long road with a big market and met a lot of nice people and not a single tout, I'm pleased to say that I walked far too far, and when I walked back towards the back end of the train station I was about 2 kms south of the station and had to walk through some wasteland and through the goods yard.

5 hours passed quickly.

The eastern end of Jaipur and the area around the Monkey temple are also great places to avoid the tourists.

In Delhi, the area to the north of Delhi Uni, and the Sikh area to the north west of Delhi Uni are good areas to avoid the touts.

I feel sure that 90% of every city will see no touts.
#10 Jan 11th, 2008, 18:17
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#10
once you get off the tourist track, especially the delhi-agra-jaipur circuit, it mellows out. Also, after some time, the touts can read your body language and know you're not new anymore.

when all else fails, here's what i do.
*
I stop walking

*I turn to them and look directly at them. If they are not squarely in front of me I turn them towards me by placing both hands firmly on their shoulders, sometimes keeping them there.

*I look them directly in the eye, never blinking, and say the following word very loudly and slowly:

NO

I repeat if necessary.

It never fails to clear out all the touts in the area.

Variation for females:
A shriek, followed by one tight slap.

...........

enjoy!
#11 Jan 11th, 2008, 19:29
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#11
While everyone is entitled to their first impressions of Delhi / India , but when the post is directed to wannabe first timers to Delhi , the highly misleading comments touted as facts need to be corrected viz ;

1)There are no coffee shops in Connaught Place – There are 8-9 exclusive coffee shops/ cafes in CP ( Café Coffee Day , Barista , Costa Coffee ) besides a host of outlets and Restaurants where one can get coffee. How come you have missed all of them ? One can’t walk 20-30 metres without encountering one. All signs are very prominently displayed. Even if you missed them , how about asking the locals for directions or better still the hordes of youngsters / college students who hang out in CP and happen to fill these cafes to the rafters. Not everyone is a tout out to fleece you.

2)There are no “westerners” in Connaught Place – Total Bull although can’t imagine why one would come to India to see westerners in the markets.But since their apparent absence is an issue ,I would like to inform that I have been to CP yesterday and today and the place is literally swarming with “ westerners” . One can see foreigners milling around even in the worst of lean summer months in CP and now is the top peak tourist season

3)All shops in CP are “One Euro Junk Shops” – I am amused at the description and curious if you have entered any of the shops . Most of the shops in Connaught place retail world class Apparel , Shoes , Sportswear , Watches , Eye Glasses, Books etc as also a horde of Top Class Restaurants and fast food Joints and most of the shops have top international décor and frontage eventho the general facade of CP might give an impression of being be a bit run down.

4)Malls in Gurgaon – I would like to know which mall is having wires hanging from the ceiling. While the malls in Gurgaon may not be world class yet , your condescending description doesn’t do justice. Besides , Delhi has over 40 operational malls ( unfortunately not concentrated on a high street as in most cities abroad) and quite a few of them can give a run for money to the malls in Singapore / Hong Kong /Bangkok. Since malls in a country apparently impress you, how about visiting some of the good ones in Delhi before passing judgement , I’ll provide you the list.

Since crowds / touts bother you ,what made you go to Old Delhi and Jama Masjid on your first day. You can easily visit the top 3 tourist destinations in Delhi – Qutub Minar , Humayun’s Tomb and Lotus Temple. All of them have sprawling landscaped lawns and gardens where you can lie on the grass under a tree and play with the squirrels. Better still Lodhi Gardens which is a green lung in the heart of the city which is a wooded landscaped Forest / Garden with scattered ruins and a jogging/walking track. How about India Gate Lawns – which is a stretch of 2 kms along both sides of the Central Rajpath from India Gate to Rashtrapati Bhawan . It has more grass / trees / flowers /lawns than you would have ever seen.

Also ,why did you take a rickshaw from Connaught Place to Old Delhi when practically all tourists are now aware that you can take the undeground metro from CP to Chandni Chowk for Rs 8 .Travel time 5 min. Of course , how else does one encounter the touts and the evil taxi drivers and then live to recount the horror stories.

Clearly , lack of even a basic research about the place you are visiting is the cause for your first day travails not the city itself.
#12 Jan 11th, 2008, 19:45
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#12

point taken

Im sorry.

I did title the page "what not to do".

My experience was obviously tainted by a lack of what to expect.

Your response is very useful and illuminating.

I walked around Connaught place twice and all I could see was not what I am used to, and I did not see how anyone could find it a place to casually saunter. It was a total surprise. Ill go back and look again.

However I wonder if I am alone in my experience . It takes some getting used to?

Best of luck.

R
#13 Jan 11th, 2008, 20:05
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#13
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Originally Posted by bijapuri View Post once you get off the tourist track, especially the delhi-agra-jaipur circuit, it mellows out. Also, after some time, the touts can read your body language and know you're not new anymore.
Partly true.

Yes, harassment is less of a problem away from the main tourist centres (we were rarely harassed in Bundi, for example), but in cities such as Agra, Jaipur and Jaisalmer it does not lessen even when you are a regular visitor to India. I have just returned from my third trip to India in the space of 12 months. I was familiar with all the places I visited, always knew where I was going and walked with a confident air. And yet the level of harassment led me to decide that I will not return. It was appalling.
#14 Jan 11th, 2008, 20:39
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#14
Will not return to India, or to those places?
#15 Jan 11th, 2008, 20:58
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#15
Alspants, I for one enjoyed your post and agree with the touts part of your post, the level of harrassment I have seen with foreigners is indeed appalling. In their place I might turn around and got physical with somebody.

I have returned to India myself after long periods of time, and it is surprising how irritable I am with touts at airports who seem to invade my space as soon as I arrive.

And karuna, I must disagree with you- and it is when a majority in a country behave badly that things become a national disgrace, in India or otherwise.
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