Thursday, August 19, 2010

Incredible India... I think not

The Taj at my fingertips
Karol Bagh
Ok... so I'm back home trying to collect myself, after my India expedition. I'm not even even sure where to begin. It was like re-enacting Slumdog Millionaire but without the dancing, or the millionaire. We arrived with high hopes a little tired in Delhi. The Indirah Ghandi International Airport was less than magical. I'm sure Indirah would not be pleased! Still walking on cloud nine from actually being in India, I shrugged off this sub-par airport and we picked up our bags. A chauffeur from the hotel met us at the gate. ( Whew! airport pick- up was not a scam) We made our way outside through hoards of gawking Indian men with our packs and found our vehicle which looked like some kind of 1970's "Pinto" reject. It didn't look like our bags would fit in this car let alone all 3 of us. Once our bags were stowed we hit the "road" to New Delhi. By "road" I mean and extremely large dirt path with innumerous construction vehicles lined up by the curb, worker's shanty shacks, roadside barbers, public urination ( penises facing the road) and families squatting with fruit and water. As the car came to its first halt women and children rushed the car " Madame, food, money, please, Dont kill the baby" dust clad babies are crying while their malnourished mothers and siblings are banging on the car windows. Sounds exciting huh? Umm not quite. We made our way into New Delhi. Rickshaws, Tuk-tuks, delivery trucks, bikes, cars, and taxis whizzed and out of traffic meandering through the automotive clusterfuck. In disregard to any possible traffic rules our driver moved in and out of lanes into on coming traffic. It was like a not so fun  Indian version of Motorcross Urban Fever because I was in the backseat sans seat belt and Kate was not impressed. As we made our way through Delhi we came to what can only be explained as a village from Slumdog Millionaire. Kate and I both looked at one another and keeping our fingers crossed that this was not where out hotel was. Lucky Day! We turned down this dirt road with half constructed building and children chasing the car with their hands out. " Oh fuck" says Kate We pulled up to the Delhi Pride Hotel. The pictures online were a bit misleading to say the leasr. But once we got inside it was actually a " nice" hotel. Well Im guessing for India's standards. After resting a few and freshening up we decided to hit the town and check out the infamous Karol Bagh market. After a few right and left turns we made our way to the Karol Bagh entrance. Excited about all the shopping that was about to commence from reading Lonely Planet India ( which is severely inaccurate bordering bold face lie). Kate and I put on our bargaining faces and moved forward. But to our surprise, instead of Karol Bagh being one of Asia's most amazing markets, it turned out to be a series of run-down store fronts with a myriad of jewelry and fabric stores, needless to say we were not impressed. A little parched and sad about the lack of shopping options I stopped for a fountain Cola at a pastry shop. By the time I got back to the hotel there was a layer of dust in my cola and dust in my straw. :( That was the beginning of the end! Our hotel set us up with an Indian travel agency that squared away our train tickets and car transport around various cities. I pretty sure we got dooped on the price.I felt like that little kid on the old school Moutain Dew commercial " We've been hosed Tommy, we've been hosed!"

Yup that's about right! India was series , of one terrible experience after another. Day two we got into a car accident and Kate was almost pick-pocketed at a Buddhist Temple! C'mon now, a temple? Really? We ran the guy down and the police apprehended him. Temples, tombs, the Taj Mahl and other sites were all dwarfed by the gawking, and being followed by and having my picture taken by creepy Indian men, not to mention the fly entourages that seemed to follow me everywhere!
You say what about the food! Of course it couldn't have been all bad right? WRONG! Everyone knows how much I love Indian food it's my second runner up to Thai. I was so pumped to eat my weight in Naan and delicious curries ( thanks Kate). The food we were served was obviously made for tourists ( sorry if that sounds pretentious, but I know good Indian food) Rubbery samosas, weird chicken brinyani, strange palak paneer. "OMG did you just give me Heinz ketchup to put on my samosas!" I was insulted to say the least! I couldn't believe it after years of eating Indian food, then going to India and not having delicious food. I was sooo disappointed I could have cried.
Yet in stiil after pick pocketing, car accidents,terrible food/ service, and lets not forget constant public harassment, I still tried to make the best of our trip. I mean don't get me wrong there were some very hilarious moments. The Indian head bobbing accompanied with "teegut" or smininature, thats right sminature toilet paper rolls, or the strange veggie menu at McDonalds ( which I did not eat at)Or like when our travel agent Shabir took Kate and I out to dinner. Before getting in the car he unbuttoned his black silk shirt to right above his navel which showed off his massive mound of chest fur and umpteen gold medallions. His drunk assistant drove us to a restaurant ( where the food was great) We shared a meal while his assistant giggled drunkenly and harassed young children from the table (PEDO!!)After dinner when we reached the hotel Shabir pushed the button for the elevator , grabbed Kate's arm and said " Katee maybe we go somewhere, Tiff will not mind" I stepped in and grabbed her arm, laughed and said "thanks, but no we're going to bed!" Oh no but it didnt stop there, once we were safe in our room Kare gets a phone call from Shabir letting her know he is staying right down the hall, in case she wanted to come visit, when I was sleeping. He was sooo serious too. After Kate let him down easy as not to hurt his feelings ( because we didn't him to feel salty or cancel our tickers , because we had already paid him for our tour package) We looked at each other and laughed hysterically. He thought we wanted the "package PLUS" deal. No dirty Indian shame for me, thanks though!
Watch out for those city tigers
Kate and I toughed it out listening to the advice of friends who've been to India and who said " Once you get out of Delhi, its sooo much better" Well We did and it wasn't. Each city was a bigger and dirtier version of the last. Pigs and other livestock running rampant in street eating from the various garbage piles along the road side. During our multi-city tour, we saw sooo many pigs. Our very strange but fun driver Mr. Yogesh pointed them out " city tigers" you know? He laughed as his head swayed back and forth like a bobble head doll" Teegut"!

This is India uncovered! You know that saying " If you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all!" Well that doesn't apply here!
I know a number people who've been to India and " said "they had a fabulous time".IT IS THE LIE! Yeah it's great for photography, but guess what I don't work for National Geographic. India is not incredible it is impoverished to the likes of which I've never seen, filthy,  and  so disappointing. I've never been made to feel so uncomfortable and paranoid on vacation. I'm sorry people, but anyone who knows me, knows how optimistic I am. I can find a silver lining just about anywhere but unfortunately the silver lining was buried under a pile of garbage.Aside from the Taj, the beautiful fabrics and Masala tea, India was NO BUENO! I do not recommend it. If you are a dirty backpacker( so its true) and like being ripped off and given sub par standards of service then go ahead.
I've never disliked some place I've traveled before. It was a bit heartbreaking to have had such a terrible experience in my #2 place of all time. .In one word I was UNDERWHELMED! :(  Well at least I saw the Taj Mahal! After hours of swerving in and out of traffic from city to city, bad meal after bad meal , and 2 cases of Delhi Belly, Kate and I decided to cut our losses and hop on the next plane to Thailand to salvage what was left of our vacation. As always Thailand was fantastic so it wasn't all bad. I'm going to chalk my Un-incredible India trip up as an experience and keep on trucking. My next vacation can only get better! So with a sigh of disappointment, a hella big credit card bill, and the remnants of Delhi belly I close this chapter on  India! Namaste.

Confucius say: He who survives India and lives to tell the tale is but a wise and strong man, but he who falls victim to the Indian hype will get hosed and shit in hand.

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