So, I’ve finally upped and left Dehradun. I hadn’t really done much travel within India other than relatively short bus journeys from Dehradun to Haridwar, Rishikesh and Mussoorie, in the time I’ve been here. I don’t count my flight from Delhi to Dehradun! Air travel lacks the buzz of overland travel, I’ve found.
Although don’t get me wrong, I do love flying. So many people don’t; I don’t get it! My grandmother is completely phobic of it, and would rather take a 30-hour long bus journey from her city in the Czech Republic to Victoria Station in London than fly straight to us in Bristol from Prague. Each to their own, I suppose. Air travel is fun for me; there’s nothing like the excitement of waiting at the airport for a plane that’s going to take you somewhere completely new! Extra excitement points if you nearly miss your connecting flight. Whoops.
Anyway, what was the point I was making? Ah yes, going to Delhi.
By the 12th of June, I had EVENTUALLY packed up all my rubbish and condensed it into my 45L backpack, my small day pack and my over-shoulder handbag. Am hoping to condense the two pieces of hand luggage into one eventually, but if I don’t, it doesn’t really matter, as I can have both with me on the plane from Delhi to Bangkok, and probably from Bangkok back home in a couple of months too.
I’d bought my train ticket a few weeks ago to make sure I was sorted well in advance; I took the “Shatabdi” which is a relatively quick train going between Dehradun and New Delhi. There were only two classes, so I ended up getting in the A/C Chair Car (I think!) which from what I’d heard about trains in India, seemed fairly luxurious! And for the relatively decent price of 850 Rupees. Good news; the exchange rate has risen back to 98 Rupees to the British Pound! Yay! So less than £9 for a fairly comfortable six-hour long journey! Not bad…
Shruti, a couple of the kids, and Dr Pandey dropped me off at the station with my bags and deposited me in the right seat. It finally hit me that I was actually leaving. Once again, I marvelled at how quickly the time had passed! Looking back, I can remember how, back in April, the two months had stretched out endlessly in front of me, but two months later, it seems like it was no time at all!
We said our goodbyes, and then it was just me and the big bad world. Great, eh?
The train itself was just a slightly shabby version of a First Great Western, if I’m honest. Whilst the trays on the backs of the seats weren’t the cleanest, and the seats a little threadbare, it was quite comfortable and I was glad to have the window seat so that I could watch as the scenery changed from city to countryside and back; with a great view of the sunset too!
I was pleasantly surprised to find that food was included in the price of the ticket; extra benefits! They brought around a “snack” of a samosa and some crisps, as well as tea, when we started the journey, and then later some soup, and then again a full dinner! Silver service a la India, maybe? Not that shabby after all. I’m sure it would be a very different story in some of the other classes though! I did sleep a little bit, read bits of Othello, wrote my journal for my last days in Dehradun, and looked at some pictures, but before long, the six hours were over and we’d arrived in New Delhi Railway Station!
If you think London Paddington is hectic; think again! Thankfully, the crossing bridge is relatively easy to spot and I followed the signs for the “Paharganj” exit, which is the district where I had booked my hostel, “Kuldeep Friends”. I got out of the station, and… wow. Delhi really is something else. I’d gotten comfortable in Dehradun but Delhi really is a completely different ball game. What struck me immediately was the mass of taxis and tuk-tuk drivers clamouring for business right outside the station.
It was about 11pm at this point, and very dark so I was eager to get to my hostel as soon as possible, and get to bed in order to be fresh for my first full day in the capital city. Practically fighting my way through all the rickshaws and tuk-tuk drivers, I made my way down Main Bazaar, which is the main street in Paharganj. The layout of the street, with its neon hotel signs and haphazard traffic, reminded me a little of when I first arrived in New York last summer. Or maybe Vegas. Not that they’re really very similar to Delhi, but it’s just that hot, muggy, lit up vibe which seemed familiar.
The weather in Delhi is very hot, don’t get me wrong, but not the coma-inducing heat I’d been warned of. Since I’ve been here, at times I’ve felt that it’s been a bit cooler than Dehradun. Temperature-wise, I mean. Also… it is cooler. As in it is hella rad. Never mind. Moving on.
I’d looked up the directions to my hostel before I got to Delhi, and after politely declining an offer from some random guy in front of an alleyway for “cheap place to stay, my place!” (in his dreams!), I went into a hotel which had been mentioned in the directions on Hostelworld and asked about my hostel.
Because, as we all know, I have the most stellar luck going, my hostel was naturally fated to be down said dodgy alleyway. Great. I steeled myself and pushed past My Place Guy and his mates, and hurried down the lane, head down and clutching my bags until my knuckles turned white. My thoughts flickered to whether I’d be able to reach my penknife, which was in my day pack, if I needed to fight them off. Knowing me, I’d drop it and get stabbed or something. Perhaps better not.
Thankfully I got to the hostel sign without incident and after asking a guy loitering outside, “Kuldeep Friends?” in a hopeful tone of voice, he took me to their office, which was mildly shifty looking but I hardly had much time to wonder whether it was legit or not before the owner gave me a free bottle of water and showed me to my room; I’d check in the next morning after a rest. Seemed reasonable enough.
My hostel was very cheap, I’ll say that first. Less than 300 Rs per night, so about £14 with a booking fee, for four nights. So I got what I paid for. The room was basic and without air-con, but there was a fan, a double bed, a couple of surfaces and an en-suite bathroom with a working shower, non-working sink (guess I’ll be brushing my teeth with the shower water) and a western toilet. And it is fairly clean. So not too bad! After all, it’s just a place to wash and bed down. And that’s just what I did. I was fairly knackered so dumped my bag on the floor, had a quick shower and fell asleep nearly straight away.
And thus begin my adventures in Delhi! Watch this space for more to come…