Long time not heard, eh!? Well, in the next week we hope to catch up a bit but first we had to post a couple of stories left behind so here is the continuation of Delhi! I’ll let you read and you let us know what you think!?
How do you recognise you are not an experienced traveller? When you fall for a scam that is mentioned in the travel guides! That was us and the adventure of finding an official tourist office (DTTDC… Sorry, I don’t remember what it means but here in India, the longer the initials the more important the office is!).
Delhi is defenitely not a straight forward city. The first time you get here you may know (roughly or accurately) where you are but when you try to go from point A to point B in town… well that is another story. The conglomeration of stalls, rubbish, construction equipment, police blockages, advertisments and decoration makes similarities between your idea of the way and the reality almost inexistant. Streets may change shape from one day to another or from day to night. Rickshaws and Tuk Tuks also play their part, blocking your path along the way and trying to convince you to take their services. Finally, you have touts who will try to “help” you in your desperation, chatting with you in the meantime to obtain the information they need and see if they can convince you to go to a tourist centre, where you can get better information and they can get a commission… All out of pure goodness.
With all this, maps become some sort of treasure to bring light out of the darkness! They are sometimes difficult to find (our hotel promised us several times that they would give us one) and they tend to concentrate in describing main points, showing you the rough locations of the monuments and main attractions but skipping streets and alleys on the way. We decided to go to the DTTDC, to obtain a good one, but ended up visiting 3 or 4 (thanks to the touts) before finally reaching the correct destination. There, the officers gave us some tips about how to move around in town and where to organise our tickets out of Delhi, all without the hassle or stress of travel agencies.
So, happy and relaxed, we decided to make our way back to the hotel when a person approached us and asked us if his colleague had cleared all our doubts. He sounded so smooth and natural, we really thought he was working in the office and was just out of duty. He adviced us not to talk to people on the streets and asked us if the tickets were all sorted out. When we mentioned we had to go to the Tourist Office at the train station he looked surprised and told us about the train office around the corner… “No, not again” we thought, but he showed us in the map that we had just collected from “his” office so we followed him and we ended up in another travel agency, repeating the same routine about where to go in india and blablabla. Of course we never booked any tickets in any of the offices, but we ended up exhausted from the continuous fight and the need to be always alert.
Back in the hotel room, we read the guide and found out an article describing exactly what had happened to us, commenting that the point showing in the map corresponds to the old DTTDC location, that was closed a few years ago. The maps still show it, what has boomed the number of agencies in the area using this as a catching technique… Smart asses!!!
So, a couple of things to learn:
– always follow your instincts and if you don’t trust someone, don’t be afraid just to ignore him, it may be more efficient than saying “No” continuously… And it will save you energy.
– NEVER say “this is my first trip to India”, this is crucial because as soon as you admit you have no clue about the way things work, you are lost!
– take it EASY. This is India’s toughest test for us. As days pass by, you will start feeling used to it and that will reflect in the way people treat you.
– guides are not only listings of hotels, restaurants and tourist spots. The most important information there is the history, cultural and social tips they can provide. This won’t change as quick as the favourite backpacker spots and can save you from a nervous breakdown!
All in all, Delhi was a very interesting city. It is massive and foreigners tend to concentrate in specific areas where you may feel safer but need to live with a normal level of harrasment. Don’t be afraid to get out of the Main Bazar area but remember, India is a pure jungle (with it’s main principle, “the survival of the fittest”), however, this one seems to have lots of lions and you may feel like the only zebra around! To survive you need to mutate your western habits. You need to slow down your pace, don’t rush or the lions will spot you. Don’t stare at people or places or they will assume you want something. Finally, thicken your skin to resist the continuous “bites”, grow patient. This way you’ll become the all-resisting elephant!
Bea and Jose