With my 30th birthday soon approaching I fancied the challenge of India before I settle on a life holidaying in developed countries and staying in 5 star hotels and doing package tours including air-conditioned transport between the tourist traps!
So many horror stories beforehand but despite a 90 minute delay at Narita Airport I arrived at my first nights hotel in the backpacker area (Paharganj) of Delhi relatively easily. That is apart from the pre-paid taxi getting a puncture on the way!
After a few ‘Kingfisher’ beers that night I wasn’t in a rush to do much on my first full day other than adjust to the climate and new chaotic surroundings of New Delhi which is full of street shops, tricycles, rickshaws, travellers, litter, touts, more touts and the king of the streets – the holy cow!
I met an Irish guy at the station while filling out the excessive paperwork for my train to Agra the following day and went for breakfast with him before going solo and taking a pre-paid rickshaw to Humayun’s Tomb. After that was my first experience of being forced by the driver to visit a few shops. As much as I hate shopping I would have liked to look at a few things throughout the trip but its made difficult as you get pounced on as soon as you show the slightest interest.
He eventually took me to Jama Masjid (India’s largest mosque) at a cheap price as he gets paid for each customer he takes to the shops. However I wasn’t allowed in as I had shorts on but I thought some guy was trying to scam me by charging me entry for a free place. I tried to just walk in but the guy ran after me and caused a bit of a scene resulting in everyone looking at me and this in a country where the people really do stare at you for a long time. Fortunately at the bottom of the steps leading to this mosque I met a kid who took me round to a side entrance where I was given something to wrap around my lower half. It was quite impressive inside though painful at times as my bare feet burned on the floor (this despite them rolling out a carpet for walking) and the tower view did offer some great views of the area and beyond.
After that I walked for ages getting lost among the pandemonium of Chandni Chowk before i got scammed by some kid who rode me on his tricycle to Old Delhi station and not New Delhi!