All of us woke at 3:30am/4:00am because we’re still on Perth time but everyone fell back to sleep again. I woke up at 7:30am which made Glen wake up, who then went and woke Christine up. We had things to see! Only two full days in Delhi! What were we missing out on?
Over breakfast we discussed our day’s plan. There was a well that we could see that Glen had found. There was also a celebration for Republic Day. We could go to Connaught Place too. And then in the afternoon we’d go to see friends. We could take an Uber and then go into Starbucks, use their wifi, and get an Uber out again. We could DO THIS!
The Best Laid Plans
The Uber didn’t come up to the hotel. At first we thought we’d dropped the pin wrong but no, he was down the road and wasn’t coming any closer. Fair enough. We found him, got in the car and off we went. He didn’t speak English, not that he should, but the directions were being spoken in English. Strange. Then again, Glen had to direct him to take the right turn a couple of times so maybe he wasn’t using them anyway.
We drove through the embassy part of town, past giant complexes with high walls, and buildings done in each country’s style. The US one had a big eagle plaque on the front. All hail the Empire!
Being a Sunday, athe roads were fairly quiet. I was still afraid for my life – added to because our driver’s front windscreen had a big crack – but there was less fear than the yesterday.
We were going to see Agrasen Ki Baoli, an old well that looks a bit like a reverse pyramid. You start at the top and go down a lot of stairs to reach the well at the bottom. At some point, perhaps during monsoons, it must fill up all the way to the top, covering the stairs. Today it was mostly empty.
The well is down a side street, one you probably wouldn’t ever find without a good map. We were a little concerned we’d been taken to the wrong place and would be left in the middle of nowhere, but it was all fine. How easily my mind turns to bad things in unfamiliar places?
The well was stunning, and such a surprise too as you walk through an arch and THERE IT IS. All those steps. All that stone. All that work and those centuries. If we find more places like this, then we’d have an awesome trip.
Christine stopped and talked to a bunch of young Indian men who were learning Spanish. Glen and I took photos. There were lots of pigeons. We could also hear bats squeaking at the top of the well’s roof. We loved it all. Such a good find. What a gem!
But where to next?
My Least Favourite Things
Connaught Place was apparently not far away. We decided to walk and were pretty soon stopped by a Sikh telling us to avoid the area because the shops were closed, people would come and beg or pickpocket, and generally it would be awful. I wish we’d listened to him.
He did, however, tell us to take a tuk-tuk – and here, he waved a driver over – and take this mini-car-truck-taxi-thing around Connaught Place, see it as we whiz past and then go to a market bazaar shopping centre. He didn’t want any money; I think he was a security guard and seemed nice enough. We did take his advice about the tuk-tuk but perhaps should have been more adamant about not wanting to go look at shops.
For 300 rupees (about AU$6) the driver took us around the Connaught Place ring road, which really did look ghastly despite the columns which Christine loves, and then to the shopping centre.
I hate shopping. I hate shopping even more when people are constantly there to try to sell you things. It’s cultural, I get it, and now I’ve done it, I don’t want to do it again. We were guided from room to room looking at soapstone sculptures, jewellery, teak carvings, tea packets, religious statues, fabrics, clothes, musical instruments and marble tabletops.
Actually, the marble tabletops I did like. They reminded me of one my uncle and aunt bought and had to ship from India to France. The ones we looked at weren’t nearly so big but they were beautiful and inlaid with pieces of semi-precious stones to make stunning works of art. Sorely, sorely tempted to buy one for AU$1200 (reduced from AU$1500 after being told the price was government-controlled and couldn’t be negotiated). I didn’t buy one.
Eventually, after buying nothing and going through three floors of stuff, we burst back out onto the street again. The tuk-tuk driver we’d taken was waiting for us. We needed to find an ATM. There was one at Connaught Place. He drove us back but I’m pretty sure he was wondering why we’d want to go there when the shops were closed and we’d obviously get harrassed. Again, I wish we’d gone elsewhere.
Naught but Trouble at Connaught Place
We withdrew money from the ATM – feeling glad we could finally pay cash for things and not get stranded somewhere again – and then walked around the lanes of Connaught Place. It’s a circular colonial building that is now home to lots of shops, all closed until 1pm because it’s Sunday.
We were approached by about three men who ‘didn’t want money’ but were nevertheless trying to direct us places. Glen ignored them, I refused them, but Christine spoke to them and so they walked with us for a while. Christine didn’t seem to mind but Glen and I got a bit worked up by it. Someone else wanted to shine Christine’s shoes. We wanted to go into the park but were warned not to by a man who was also not wanting money and really only directed us to where we might have wanted to go so I think he was legit and just being friendly. Apparently there were pickpockets in the park so we avoided it. I think we should have risked it, anything to get away from the shops, but we didn’t and that was fine.
I suffered sensory overload pretty quickly and it wasn’t even crowded. Just adrenalin keeping me looking here and there and wondering who else was going to come out and talk to us. I really just wanted to be left alone. We wanted to find Starbucks so we could use the wi-fi and get out of there.
Someone helped us, though I’d dismissed him at first, and showed us where Starbucks was. I’m horrified to say but it was like a little oasis, a sanctuary. It was false and fake and totally not what should be here but it was so welcome at that moment. We ordered some drinks. We couldn’t access the wi-fi because we couldn’t receive SMS. I think at this moment panic started to creep in. How would we get back to the hotel? Could a tuk-tuk take us that far? (Though I’m sure it could.)
In the end we reasoned we could take the metro which was somewhere nearby and go down to AIIMS and then walk or take a tuk-tuk to the hotel. A plan! A way out! Off we went.
Taking The Metro Home
New Delhi’s Metro is really good. Perhaps because it’s a Sunday it didn’t feel insanely busy. There were lots of people there but no more than the London Underground on a bad day. We bought our tokens, went down to platform 1 and then caught the train down to our station. Now that we’ve caught the metro – and are a bit familiar with setting prices for tuk-tuks – I’m a little more confident about getting around.
Once out on the street, Glen haggled over the price of the tuk-tuk to get to the hotel. Arriving back, we expressed horror that we’d haggled over the price of a ride, paying about 60c to drive us down the ride, down from the price of a dollar. Is there any excuse for not paying what is asked when it is, to us, comparitively cheap?
Back in our room, Glen and I flaked out. Totally exhausted at only 1pm in the afternoon, neither of us wanted to go anywhere, see anyone, do anything that might involve leaving the hotel. A bit of a problem as we were meant to see people. However, we weren’t really in a fit state to do it so Glen put Christine in an Uber to go visiting. Meanwhile, we stayed in the hotel room like the very particular flowers we are.
We also went to the gym and it was wonderful. I felt guilty for not wanting to explore more, for not pushing my boundaries further than they’d already been stretched, for ‘wasting’ an afternoon, but really, who cares? Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to fitting more in, now that I’m a bit more prepared.
Glen and I took advantage of the canapes in the club lounge for about an hour, guiltily enjoying how lucky we were. At 7 we caught an Uber down to an upmarket shopping mall to meet Christine and Dipika (grandaughter of Christine’s friend). They were keen to go shopping; Glen and I were not keen to go shopping. Nevertheless, Glen bought a shirt.
We had some food at a Chinese-type restaurant, which was nice, then there was more shopping before taking a taxi to Anavinda’s house. It was already after 10 by the time we arrived and I was really ready for bed. But I rallied to do a meet-and-greet. We’re returning tomorrow night for dinner.
Dipu, Christine’s friend, came with us back to the hotel and is staying the night so we can spend more time with her tomorrow. It’s going to be a busy day. Hoping we can sleep in.