The majority opinion of my friends and relatives is that I’m crazy to go to India, and the reality is that the vast majority of the criticisms of the country are spot on. More on that later, my flight to India was at 8:30AM so it ended up being easiest to stay out at the airport vs trying to fight traffic to get to the airport from central Bangkok early in the morning.
I’m flying with Jet Airways, which has an excellent safety record. It’s been flying since the early 1990s and hasn’t had a fatal accident. The fares to Delhi from Bangkok are pretty reasonable, around $350 r/t for economy class or a bit more for business class. Considering the flight is over 4 hours long, the price is pretty damn reasonable. Since it was a fairly long flight, I opted to pay a bit more and go for business class. The service on board was quite good, the male lead cabin attendant did a very good job and was very attentive. He had a female assistant who came across as far more curt. I opted for a crepe with tropical fruit compote for breakfast which was very good.
You can tell your landing in Delhi just by the haze…
The land around Delhi, and Rajasthan is extremely dry right now. The temperatures are around 40C with extremely low humidity (~10%). Once the monsoon rains start in June/July, the land really starts to green up. Although the temperatures are hotter in India, it feels much nicer than Bangkok since the humidity is so low. It doesn’t feel much worse than a hot prairie day.
Delhi airport is as modern as any airport throughout the world, the terminal I was in was opened in 2010. The lineups for immigration were very short, and I was in the arrivals area with my bag within 30 minutes of landing. Upon landing, I went to the washroom to put my money belt on and ended up dropping a coin on the floor, it was a small denomination one I wasn’t even going to bother picking up – but as I left the washroom one of the cleaners went and returned it to me. Even though India can have a poor reputation for honesty, it’s obviously not universal.
Today I was off straight to Ranthambore National Park, so I had to get down to the train station. Instead of dealing with the taxi scams, I decided to give Uber a shot as it recently launched in Delhi. With a local sim I was able to call a driver, and he was at the airport within 15 minutes. At an airport as large as Delhi’s, it was a bit of an adventure trying to locate him but Uber does provide the license plate and make/model of the car so you know you are getting into the right vehicle. Indian traffic is just as insane as Don’t Drive Here New Delhi depicts. In the outlying areas where there are relatively few cars, traffic almost looks sane. Once you get into any kind of a crowded area, it’s every man for himself. The concept of a lane doesn’t really exist, you squeeze by however you can to get a precious few feet ahead. The horn and the gas pedal are the preferred tools, with the brake being a last resort. It ended up taking almost an hour to go 23KM to the train station, at a total cost of around $13 CDN.
Since I had a few hours to kill before my train, I was hoping to get out and sight see around the station – but first I wanted to leave my bag at the stations cloak room. My research suggested the station did indeed have a cloak room, but finding it proved to be difficult. The forum post I looked at suggested it should be on platform 1, but after looking twice there was no clear english label for it. Asking 5 different people would yield 5 different answers on if the cloak room actually existed, and if so where it was actually located. In the end it was simply easier to stick around the station, as I only had a few hours to kill anyway.
The next time you complain about travelling in Canada, keep in mind millions of people travel on trains like this in India. The trains are not air conditioned, and have no windows to provide some airflow. On each car, there looked to be 10-12 people standing in the vestibules of the train plus a few more roaming around in the isles of the car. The trains would typically only stop briefly, and when they started moving again passengers would rush to get back on as the train was leaving the station.
If you ever wondered why India can look like a trash heap, they pay people to sweep the platforms and passage ways over the tracks. However instead of collecting the dirt in a bag and disposing of it, they simply dump it all on the tracks. I also witnessed people casually putting trash straight on the tracks, a place no one has bothered to clean since the railway was built most likely.
My train was a second class AC sleeper, and while not luxurious everything was in decent operating condition. The sleepers consist of 2 long seats facing each other, which convert into 4 beds (2 upper, 2 lower). I met with a young Indian family who was lovely to talk to, they had just finished visiting their family in Delhi and they were off to Bombay where they lived. It was a great way to learn more about Indian life. The guy had an arranged marriage, but he claimed if he didn’t like the wife that was chosen from him he could of refused the marriage. The attitudes in the larger cities at least are turning more western, while in the outlying rural areas they are as stuck on tradition as ever.
The train ran right on time, and I had arranged a pickup from the hotel I was staying at. As soon as I walked up the platform, the driver was there and it was a quick 10 minute drive to the resort.