Tuesday, December 27, 2011
arriving in New Delhi, Paharganj
The train ride into Delhi was contently uneventful. There are so many things to worry about on the train that it's hard to relax but once we made it through the night it was okay.
We talked to one man about the threat of people offering food that has been dosed with sleeping medicine, so they can come back and rob you. He said we are lucky because we can easily say no but for Indians it's culturally rude not to accept a food offering because they present it as an offering from God. I didn't realize that it wasn't only tourists this happened to. I thought, "It's too bad it's not as much a problem to offer poisoned food as it is to refuse it," but I know it's not exactly as simple as that.
As we approached Delhi, the passengers seemed different from those I'd joined in my previous train rides. There were more women and children than the usually men staring at us. They seemed relatively wealthier (in contrast to the view out the window) and I heard more people speaking in English.
There was definitely a different, less humble, attitude, too. Carlos was thinking about getting some jewelry for his sister so I showed him what I'd bought in Jaisalmer. When he asked how much I paid, I told him 600 rupees. The woman sitting across snorted loudly, letting me know I'd been ripped off. I asked her if I paid too much and she said, "Well, I wouldn't have paid that much." I thought to myself, "Of course you wouldn't have. You're Indian, you were born knowing how to haggle, and you know what a fair price is." Throughout my trip, it hasn't been a matter of whether or not I'm being ripped off but just how much. I told her it was 600 rupees for the whole bag and, wobbling her head side to side, she said that actually wasn't too bad.
We arrived in New Delhi around noon and crossed the big street in front on the station and made our way into the market to find our hotel. Carlos had stayed at the Vivek Hotel when he first arrived a said it was good so I followed. It's clean, has a pool table and an internet cafe, and a rooftop restaurant, more than you could ask for on the shoestring circuit.
The rest of the Paharganj market (aka the backpacker's ghetto) was a chaotic nightmare, as far as I was concerned, though. It had a certain charm to it, but only in a way I could compare to what ever it is that makes us love Jack Nicholson characters. Aside from the pick-pockets, muggers, con-artists, and molesters (this is where my friend Nadine was grabbed), the market also has a few really good restaurants. One of the most highly recommended is the Malhortra, a couple blocks down, one block in, and another half a block down from the cinema. Something came over me to try their Chinese chow-mein, which wasn't too bad, but nothing compared to their tandoori chicken!
We spent the rest of the night stocking up on supplies like toothpaste, soap, lens solution, stuff like that that I was actually glad to see. Once that was done, I really just wanted to head back to the hotel. I wasn't comfortable in this place at all...