Day 1 in Delhi. The high, low and ugly (with more Quick Mei Tips)

Like my previous blog – I’ve set this up so that my tips are summarised. You can either just look through my tips, click on the tip which interests you to see the story attached to that tip (i.e. my learning experience), or you can read the whole story 🙂

There are a lot of tips because I learnt SO much on my first day. It was definitely a joy for me to write this and re-live this moment.

My Quick Tips

Mental Preparation

Crossing Roads on Foot

Food, Water and Hygiene

Costs

Site-seeing

Transport

Efficiency

My Story – Day 1 in Delhi. The high, low and ugly 

To be honest, my days in Delhi were a blur to me but I’ll do my best to recall what happened and I’ll break it into two parts to keep it short and simple. I wish I diarised more of my experiences so I could remember my trip more clearly because when I read back on the limited things I wrote, I feel like I’m reliving those moments. Now all I’m left with are my fading memories.

Here goes…

After surviving night one and sleeping, I eventually woke up to my first day in Delhi. I thought about the night before and remember hearing lots of beeping before passing out despite Madpackers Hostel being known to be located in a ‘quiet area’.

The lovely guys I met on my first night

Tip #1 be prepared to hear noise all night wherever you are in Delhi, especially beeping from cars. India is full of people…and full of cars which are traveling to different places at any time of the day. There’s billions of people in the country so you can’t really expect anything less.

There were many people talking outside. I can’t remember what the time was but it was certainly time for me to get up. I needed to use the toilet but there was a queue (there were 10 of us sharing one bathroom – where the toilet was) so I patiently waited in bed. After about 40 minutes, the bathroom was finally free and I ran inside to use the toilet.

Phew! The toilets were ‘western’. It wasn’t a hole in the ground or a squatting toilet, even though I get used to them very easily because I’ve been to Malaysia and there have been many times where I’ve had to use very disgusting toilets. But even though the toilet was clean and western… India’s toilets were still…. different to say the least.

The toilet had a sign, something along the lines of – “I can only digest sh*t. Throw your toilet paper in the bin” (or something along those lines). This was code for – you can’t flush toilet paper down the toilet. You have to do your business, wipe and throw the toilet paper in the bin. This was definitely a new experience for me which was hard for me to accept for about a millisecond. But after that millisecond was over, I realised that this is a developing country which would have poor sewerage systems.

This was the least I could expect from a developing country with billions of people right???

Tip #2 be mentally prepared to throw used toilet paper in the bin instead of the toilet.

I could have gotten ready while I was in the bathroom but I felt like having breakfast and seeing what all the commotion was about so I decided to eat before getting ready to explore. As soon as I opened the door, I saw a lot of people sitting, eating breakfast and talking.

Breakfast was included in the price of our accommodation so I was excited to see what was on offer. I wasn’t expecting much for AUD$9 per night but wanted to maximise the money I invested into this place. I went to the kitchen area where all the food was available.  There was a traditional Indian dish, fruit, milk, yoghurt, cereal, toast, condiments, chai and coffee sachets. (I really wish I took photos of the setup but I didn’t ☹) I filled my plate as much as possible. I opted to try a little bit of everything except for the yoghurt, cereal and fruit (I was still sceptical of eating fruit in India because of the risk involved). I normally eat small portions but for some reason my brain went into survival mode where I felt like I had to eat as much as I could for breakfast because I wasn’t sure when I was getting my next meal.

Looking back, my mentality made absolutely no sense because food was available everywhere in India for dirt cheap. All I know was that part of me was trying to save as much money as I could to make my budget trip a success. I think I went into the ‘survival mode’ because I was in this budgeting mindset. It was a little bit paradoxical though because although I wanted to spend as little as possible, I wanted to try lots of food. The other part of me was also scared of getting food poisoning (I was trying to avoid putting myself in the situation where I would be hungry at the wrong time and order food from somewhere dodgy).

I really wanted a coffee so I went for the coffee sachet…although it wasn’t what I was accustomed to (we are absolutely spoiled with the best coffee in Melbourne). I opened two coffee sachets, poured them into a cup and went to this large metallic hot water dispenser to pour what I thought would be hot water into my cup…only to realise it was chai tea. At this point, I couldn’t be bothered changing my drink so I went with it and decided to drink my new fresh blend of chai-coffee. It actually tasted pretty good.

Tip #3 don’t expect good quality coffee from the little coffee sachets they sell you in India or provide you with breakfast. You can only get a good coffee from decent, fancy cafes.

I also noticed the hostel provided filtered water which was great for me because it meant that I didn’t have to keep buying water. I I could keep refilling my drink bottle instead. This definitely eased my environmentally conscious mind because I like the idea of not buying plastic bottles as much as possible even though it can be a necessity in many cases when traveling in developing countries where you can’t trust the tap or filtered water.

Tip #4 if you’re staying at a reputable place – chances are you can drink from their water filters. If the place isn’t reputable or doesn’t live up to your expectations, I wouldn’t trust it. My local friend warned me against drinking from the hostels or any hotel’s ‘filtered’ water because it’s not properly filtered. But I drank different hostel’s water many times and was perfectly fine.

I sat down and started talking to people. I can’t really remember who I spoke to because I met so many people but I remember we all talked about our travels. The reoccurring topics were – where have we travelled to, where are we travelling, how long have we been in India, what we were planning to see, and for those who had travelled throughout India–the highlights of the trip.

Some of us just arrived and others had been in India for a few weeks or months already. It was fantastic because I found a whole bunch of like-minded people which were even more courageous than me to travel around the country by themselves and they were happy, safe and healthy. It was reassuring. People were able to recommend so many places to me and when I asked people about what they were planning to see in Delhi, it gave me ideas because let’s be honest…I did research but I had no idea what I was actually going to see because I hadn’t made any decisions. There were too many choices.

Tip #5 if you haven’t planned your itinerary, ask fellow travelers to get ideas of where to go because they’ve probably done their research or been to places which they can recommend

During breakfast, I fished for people that I could tag along with to explore because I was still too scared and intimidated to venture out on my own. I felt at ease and safe at the hostel. You could almost say that I felt like I was at a second home. Everyone was really nice but sadly…I didn’t manage to find anyone. I was a little bit too scared to ask anyone if I could tag along with them and was waiting for an invitation. This got me absolutely nowhere.

Tip #6 don’t be afraid to ask to tag along with others. I realised after my first day that it was normal to ask people if you could tag along with them and 100% of the time, they said yes.

One by one, everyone left to go site-seeing. There weren’t many people left. I started feeling scared and didn’t want to leave to see the outside world. So what did I do? I procrastinated of course!

I slowly got ready to have a shower but was extremely frustrated because I was so unprepared. After all, I didn’t pay attention to where I packed my stuff so I had no idea where any of my things were.

Tip #7 be organised – it will save you a sh*t load of time. Compartmentalise your stuff. You wouldn’t believe how many times I had to go in and out of the bathroom on the first day because I forgot something. I swear I had to go back to my bed at least 6 times!

Tip #8 make sure you have water proof shoes/thongs/flip flops which you can wear in the shower. I forgot to mention that many people say that you shouldn’t go bare foot in the shower because the floors are too dirty. I noticed the floor was black and it reminded me to wear my shoes

Tip #9 invest in a good pair of thongs or Crocs. They were the best! They are made of a durable plastic which is washable, waterproof and dries very quickly – something you really need when in India trust me! You can wear them in the showers and they are good insurance for stepping in animal sh*t (it’s everywhere on the streets). It’s also very nice to be able to wash your shoes when you get back from a long day of walking in dust and dirt.

After I finished slowly getting ready in the dorm room, I went out to the common area and tried to figure out what to do because I was so lost! I still wasn’t sure of what I wanted to see. So, I found another way to procrastinate – try to activate my sim card!

Even though I was procrastinating, there was purpose to what I was doing. One of the main reasons was so that I could use Uber for transport and Google Maps to give me more confidence in where I was going. It hadn’t been 24 hours since my arrival yet so there was no way my sim card would be ready. I subconsciously lied to myself – “My sim card should be able to be activated by now!” I thought. But…again…no luck. I tried activating it at least three times without success. Eventually I gave up and focused on the more important task at hand – going out to see the world.

Then I remembered – “Crap! I don’t have anyone to tag along with…” but I also quickly realised that I couldn’t stay in the hostel all day because it would be extremely sad if I travelled all the way to India to start my first solo journey but ended up seeing nothing because I was too scared to leave the hostel. I decided to speak to the staff to get some guidance.

After shedding some light on the type of things I wanted to see, they gave me a map and circled all the places to go to. They also told me how to use the metro trains to get to where they recommended. I thanked them, took the map and sat down for a little longer to digest the information and planned my day. I thought I’d take advantage of the free wi-fi while I could.

Before I knew it…I had a rough itinerary sorted but had no idea what to expect when venturing out on the streets by myself. I was really beginning to sh*t myself….so I decided to procrastinate a little more and go to the rooftop to drink another chai tea.

There was only one girl sitting at the rooftop. I started talking to her. Her name was Cassy. She was from Canada and had been traveling through India for 5 weeks and Madpackers and Delhi was her last stop. It was her very last day.

I told her about my itinerary and just as I was about to leave to explore on my own…she asked me a magic question (as my luck would have it).

“Do you mind if I tag along with you?”

This was like music to my ears. I finally found someone!!!

How did I answer??

“Of course! Please do!!!”

And off we went…to our first stop…Connaught Place in New Delhi.

Cass and I decided to use the Metro, which was about a 15-20 minute walk from the hostel. The route wasn’t difficult but it was definitely mentally challenging for me because it was my first time walking on the streets in India. There was so much going on and I really wasn’t sure how to respond or act. I just kept on following Cass’s lead.

I saw cars everywhere, lots of tiny street vendors, cows and stray dogs, poor, normal and homeless people…and lots of men. There was beeping everywhere at every second of the journey. When it came time to cross the road…I started freaking out. The road was ridiculously busy…I had no idea how I would successfully get across without getting hit by a car.

Tip #10 when crossing roads – if you’re not at a traffic light: the most effective way is to just cross the road and stick out your hand to indicate to the driver to stop for you. They will almost always stop. Alternatively, follow a local if you’re not confident enough to just cross yourself. The drivers stopped for me with this method anyway. WARNING – I have heard that the drivers have still hit into people when they’ve crossed the road. It’s just a matter of luck. I feel like if you’re too nice you will get nowhere and it will take you ten times longer to get anywhere. The cars aren’t usually driving fast enough to hit you and 9/10 times they will stop for you. Although it can still be dangerous. You just have to have your wits about you.

We walked and walked and walked…the journey to the train station felt like half an hour instead of 15 minutes but we eventually got there and followed the crowd underground.

I remember the first thing I saw was metal detectors at the entrance. That was definitely not assuring for me but I went through anyway.

Now…for the next hurdle – buying tickets.

We went up to the counter.  There was some slight formation of a line but people just kept pushing in. That’s when I realised that this was like China – queues didn’t really mean much and you just had to push to the front as quickly as possible without mercy.

We knew where we had to go. We wanted to go to Connaught Place which was closest to Hauz Khas Station so Cass could take me to this awesome restaurant she tried. I decided to let Cass do all the talking to see how things were done.

Tip #11 for meat eaters – be prepared to be predominantly vegetarian in India. Due to the country’s religious history, only vegetarian food is available in most regions. It is quite difficult to find restaurants and street vendors which sell food with meat. And even if they do, it’s risky to eat meat, especially from the streets.

Cass asked for 2 tickets to Hauz Khas station.  The guy asked for 40 rupees for each ticket I think (equivalent to just under AUD$1.00, approximately 80 cents). We paid and got these plastic tokens to put into the machine so we could enter into the platform area. I remember Cass saying “make sure you keep the token because you need it to get out of the station”. I put it in a safe spot to make sure that I wouldn’t lose it because I have a poor history of losing things.

We found where we were headed and waited for our train. When it came and we hopped on, the train was crowded…and uncomfortably full of men. I was scared of something happening to me here. Luckily for me, everyone was staring at Cass. She was getting all the attention because she was the beautiful tall, blonde girl whereas I looked like a North-East Indian to most.

Our stop was further than we anticipated (about maybe 8 stops) so it gave us time to get to know each other a bit more. The more stops we passed, the more men hopped on and the more uncomfortably crowded the train became. There was barely any room to move.

While we were minding our own business, I vividly remember feeling someone touching my hair out of the blue. I was shocked and scared. I turned around and expected to see a sleazy guy playing with my hair but saw this random lady instead. I was confused but relieved. She smiled and snickered so I smiled and quietly laughed back with her and let her continue playing with my hair.

It was only afterwards when I realised that there were female only carriages on the trains.

Tip #12 for ladies – there are female only carriages for you to travel on which are far less crowded and intimidating. Just walk to the very front of the platform (front meaning the very front of the platform of the direction where the train is traveling to) and look for the pink signs. They are in English and easy to spot.

Female only carriages in Delhi’s metro subway

We finally arrived at our destination, hopped off, followed the crowd and put our tokens into the machine to get out but the doors wouldn’t open. We were really confused and didn’t understand why. A staff member told us to go to the counter and when we spoke to the counter-staff, he asked for another 60 rupees from each of us. We paid the money but were still confused and frustrated. Our tokens worked this time. Cass thought we were given dodgy tokens so they could get more money from us as foreigners.

Tip #13 you can find out the price of tickets from one destination to another on Delhi’s metro beforehand or buy your tickets on their machines to avoid being scammed. If you want to find out the ticket price, apparently there’s a sign displaying all the prices to different stations next to the ticket counter. Alternatively, they have electronic machines where you can buy your tokens from too. For my Melbournian friends, the ticket machine is very similar to our Myki system but you get a token which gets eaten up from the machine when you leave the station instead of a reusable card. I know they have passes which you can buy as well but if you’re only seldomly using the train, the token is the way to go.

As frustrating as it was to pay more, I was just glad to be off the train and at our stop. We walked up the stairs and all of a sudden, there was a hectic feel about the place. All these people came bombarding towards or past us. There were different sounds and smells everywhere. It felt like we walked into a mess. We had no idea where we were and Cass indicated to me that we were lost through her body language (I realised afterwards that we were in Old Delhi, which is far more hectic than New Delhi). We looked at the map and realised we got off at the wrong train station but our destination didn’t look too far on the map and the route looked simple enough so we roughly figured out where we were going and just walked in that general direction. Although we could have hopped back onto the train to get to the right station, we decided to walk because I wanted an adventure and had faith that we could find our way on foot.

As we walked past one of the street vendors, Cass pointed out a dish to me and told me that a local told her to avoid eating this particular dish because it would be guaranteed to give you Delhi belly because they use tap water inside.

After doing my research, I’ve learnt the dish’s name is Pani Puri. It’s described to be like chips filled with water. Doesn’t sound too appealing.

We walked through some random park and again, people were everywhere. Once we got to an exit, we ended up in some small backstreet which seemed like a local clothing market. There was barely any sign of any foreigners. I really wish I bought clothes from there in retrospect because I was on the hunt for local Indian clothes to blend in.

Not the best picture but this was one of the local clothing markets in a backstreet in Old Delhi

We walked through the backstreet and started getting confused. We had no idea where we were, or which direction we were headed. It felt hopeless.

Cass suggested that we catch a Tuk Tuk. I hadn’t caught one yet but agreed to it because I was so confused and felt the need to get to where we wanted to go. When we started looking for a driver, a whole swarm of guys came towards us. Cass did all the work – she told them that we wanted to go to Hotel Saravana BhavanXX Hoasdgfadfsa;on;oqdnq at Connaught Place and the bartering began.

Before we agreed to anything, Cass asked each driver – “how much?”

Many quoted us around 400 rupees from memory (approximately AUD$8). I think Cass bartered the price down to about 200 rupees.

Tip #14 always ask how much ANYTHING costs before you agree to a service or buy a product. Locals try to rip foreigners off as much as possible. It’s better to ask for at least half of the asking price, walk away and then ask another person for their price to get the best deal. It shows your confidence in the country’s customs and ensures you’re paying closer to a locals price. However, I think the best way to determine transport prices is to download UBER and OLA and calculate the fee from that. Once I got data and could check the price, I would always strongly argue the Ola price and get a good deal.

Tip #15 also ask your accommodation for the general tuk tuk prices to get from your accommodation to your destination. It helps you be prepared and gives you confidence, especially when the Apps fail you. Alternatively, you can also ask a restaurant you’re in if they know the destination you’re headed to. They usually have a good idea of how much the price should be.

Tip #16 be prepared for your Ola or Uber to cancel on you often. Many drivers can speak only Hindi and if they can’t find you and can’t communicate with you when they call, they will cancel.

We got into our driver’s tuk tuk and we were off to the right place. It was my first time in my life being in a tuk tuk and I must say I absolutely loved the experience. It’s like a form of transport with a 4D experience.

For those who aren’t sure what a Tuk Tuk is – it’s a motorcycle with a carriage at the back for more passengers. They are otherwise known as auto-rickshaws. You can usually fit about 4-5 people in a standard carriage but you can definitely squeeze more in in India.

Overcrowded Tuk Tuk

Source: http://blog.martinbelan.com – http://blog.martinbelan.com/2015/01/the-tuk-tuk-the-work-horse-of-india/

When you sit in a standard car, there are windows, your view is blocked and the sound is also blocked. You’re usually listening to the radio so you zone out into your own little world, looking outside occasionally. When you’re in a tuk tuk, there are no windows and there is barely any protection from the outside. There’s just a roof so you see much more around you like when you’re on a motorbike. No windows also means that you can hear, feel and smell a lot more.

Add being in a tuk tuk in Delhi and boom! You have a full sensory experience.

You feel the wind (and dirt) against your skin. You hear all the beeping. You see all the cars and people. They get really close to you. Sometimes your legs or your bag are hanging out of the vehicle and you’re scared someone will smash into you. Other times beggars will come up to you and touch your legs. There is no need for music because being in a tuk tuk in India is enough entertainment.

Looking back, being in a tuk tuk really makes you live in the moment. I always say to people that India is a place which teaches you to go with the flow and live in the moment.

Tip #17 make sure you try using a tuk tuk! It’s a cost-effective way to get around especially when you’re lost. They eventually will get you where you need to go or close enough for a small price and they’re usually happy to jam pack lots of people into one vehicle so it’s more economical.

When our driver got to Connaught Place, he couldn’t figure out exactly where we wanted to go, so he drove around and asked fellow drivers. All of them pointed him in some general direction. They were speaking Hindi so I didn’t understand what they were saying. I found it pretty amazing that in a country with billions of people, people were always willing to help out others when they asked. The sense of community was awesome.

Tip #18 even though your driver agrees to take you somewhere, he may not know exactly where it is – be prepared for rides to take much longer than you think and for the language barrier to affect your journey. Many drivers can only speak Hindi so when you show them a map or say a place to them in English, they don’t know where it is and have to ask one of their friends.

Tip #19 be prepared for “India time” – i.e. add on an extra 15-60 minutes to the time anyone tells you. Things take longer in India. Their system isn’t efficient. If someone says something is only 5 minutes away, it could take you 10 times longer to get there. You just have to accept that this is the way it is otherwise you might not enjoy your trip as much.

Tip #20 if you make friends with locals, get them to barter the price of a tuk tuk while you stand away from them. They will get local prices and then you can appear after the price has been settled. If the driver sees you with the local, they’ll surely inflate the price and won’t budge. Their tuk tuk friends will also help them and nobody will give you a lower price.

We eventually got to the restaurant, which was clean, busy and full of locals. We were seated by one of the staff, who placed a couple of paper menus on the table which also doubled as place mats. I had no idea what to order. There was so many options to choose from but I picked a dish which sounded appealing. The menu was in English too (thankfully). After we decided on what we wanted to eat, we sat there waiting for ages before someone served us, both really hungry.

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The name of the restaurant – great Dosa!

Cass told me me she’d been traveling in India initially with her boyfriend but he left earlier I think for work reasons so she was traveling by herself for the last part of her trip. She told me about Rishikesh, a place which I was headed to and said it was her favourite place. She walked everywhere and got invited to a locals house to eat some food. And I distinctly remember her telling me that she got rammed by a cow from patting it. This made me fearful of patting the cows on the street. She also told me to expect a lot of ‘WTF’ moments.

Tip #21 be mentally prepared to wait a long time in restaurants. India has ‘relaxed’ service.

We had some Dosa (a long and thin crepe-like food dish, usually stuffed with curry or vegetables). Cass also grabbed some Lassi and I opted for an Indian filter coffee. It was delicious. After we finished our food, the waiter cleared our plates and brought us the bill.

Delicious Dosa, Lassi and Indian ‘filter’ coffee

Tip #22 there is usually no need to ask for the bill. When you’re done with your meal the waiter usually brings the bill automatically to you.

Tip #23 there is no tipping culture in India.

I paid for the bill because I was thankful for Cass keeping me company and showing me around.

We left to go to our next destination, but before we did, we both went to buy some large bottles of water and Cass bought some cigarettes. She told me that the maximum you should pay for water is 20 rupees and Marlborough cigarettes were 400 rupees, for those who are interested.

Tip #24 the local price of a 2-litre bottle of water should be 15-30 rupees

Tip #25 pay attention to the bottled water you buy. Make sure it’s as sealed as possible. If it’s not sealed, the water has probably been tampered with and you will probably end up drinking tap water.

Tip #26 for those who are interested – the local price of Marlborough lights cigarettes is 400 rupees. They are premium cigarettes so there are much cheaper cigarettes in India. You can also buy single cigarettes.

We then started journeying towards our next destination – Himuyan’s Tomb. I chose this beforehand because I saw it on a YouTube video and someone at the hostel also recommended it to me. I think we caught a Tuk Tuk there?

When we arrived, there was a massive queue to get in. I was like “F^%$!” but then I saw a sign for a tourist line. There was literally no-one else in that queue so we went straight to the counter and paid for our tickets.

Tip #27 As a foreigner, you will pay a foreigner tax for all entry fees of tourist attractions. This is usually 4 times or more than the local prices. While the locals paid I think around perhaps 400-500 rupees to get a ticket to Himuyan’s Tomb or less, we had to pay 1000 rupees as tourists.

I didn’t like that we had to pay so much more but I enjoyed pushing in line and not having to wait at all. It saved us a lot of time. After we entered, I remember seeing this really old building which I thought was the tomb – we slowly wandered around and took pictures for each other. I remember walking along the fence and soaking in the view and tranquillity of the area. Even though Delhi was hectic and you could hear beeping everywhere, when you stepped inside these tourist attractions/landmarks, it was quiet and peaceful. Cass said that going to India’s sites was a great way to get some calm amongst the craziness.

A video of the ‘tomb before the real tomb’

Before the real Himuyan’s Tomb

As we kept on exploring, we found another huge park and realised that what we thought was Himuyan’s Tomb was actually a different tomb and we hadn’t seen the real thing at all.

When we realised there was more and we weren’t at the actual Himuyan’s Tomb

As we walked towards the real Tomb, a local guy came up to me and randomly asked:

“Excuse me miss, do you have your ticket?”

“Yes I do.” (I was bluffing, I thought I had my ticket and wasn’t sure why he was asking me such a question)

He held out a ticket and said:

“Be careful not to lose your ticket. You need it to get into the other area and dropped yours on the floor”

At first I thought he was talking nonsense, but I looked in my bag and my phone case (which was also my purse), and couldn’t find my ticket. I realised that he was telling the truth and teaching me a lesson. I didn’t even notice my ticket falling out but also didn’t think it was necessary after you got past the first entrance. I thanked him and took the ticket back.

As we got to another entrance, a security guard requested to see our tickets so he could stamp them. Thank god that man was kind enough to give me my ticket back, otherwise I’d be paying 1000 rupees for another ticket.

Tip #28 Keep your tickets to any tourist attraction you see until AFTER you leave the place. You need may it to get into other parts of the area.

The REAL tomb was beautiful. It was a bright red and beautifully designed. When we went close up to the tomb, we also got a stunning view of the park.

I certainly didn’t do my research but from memory, the Himuyan’s Tomb was a prerecursor to Taj Mahal

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Absolutely stunning DSC_0600

After we finished checking out the Tomb, we caught another tuk tuk to the hostel.

There were a bunch of people on the rooftop with alcohol. I wanted to buy some alcohol for myself but had no idea where to get it from. Cass said she went with some guys to the bottle shop the day before so she would take me there. It was apparently 15 minutes walking distance from the hostel but she couldn’t remember where it was and we got lost again so we gave up and went back to the hostel.

I decided to get dinner at the hostel because we could buy dinner there and I didn’t feel comfortable going out at night by myself. I got a curry dish with some naan and it was delicious! The guys at the hostel did a great job with the food.

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My dinner

Later that night, my data started working so I was able to use Google Maps (wooooo!). I decided to get alcohol myself since it was only a 15 minute walk and I felt more confident to walk the streets of Delhi by myself. It was around 5.30-6.00pm and I wanted to get to the bottle shop before the sun set because I still felt uncomfortable walking at night by myself.

Off I went…

My Maps said the bottle shop was in a park. I got to the entrance and saw some steps which went into a fenced area but it didn’t look right so I decided not to go in and continued walking in a different direction. The more I kept walking, the less promising it seemed to find the bottle shop. I was literally walking on a random busy road with nothing around and was walking further and further from the bottle shop on my Maps.

I was really confused because Maps told me the bottle shop was in the park (which didn’t make sense to me) so I re-traced my steps and went into the park. It was huge.

According to Google Maps, I was heading in the right direction so I kept on following the route shown on my phone. I was getting really close to my destination but instead of finding a bottle shop, I found a shack-like building which looked more like family’s house. There were some clothes hung up, kids running around, and who I think were their mum and dad there. I think they were making dinner.

This was clearly the wrong place and the sun had set so I was eager to get back to the hostel – it was time to give up on my quest to find alcohol.

I quickly left the park and started walking on something that slightly resembled a pathway next to a busy road. It was getting really dark and again, there were lots of men around. I saw a group of four younger guys and girls and strategically ghosted them (walked very closely behind) to make it look like I was part of their group and speed-walked back to the hostel. I definitely felt threatened because I was told so many times to avoid walking by myself as a girl on the streets, especially at night. I made it back safely. Thank god!

Back to the rooftop! Cos that’s where it was all happening.

The little Madpackers Rooftop party

I gave up on the idea of trying to find alcohol and just chatted with the people there. Most people were mainly from England but there were a few other from different countries. I remember meeting two guys from Adelaide in Australia as well and some Americans. I ended up talking about my failed mission to find alcohol and a friendly guy decided to take me to find alcohol (Yess!!! Thank god!).

Of course I respectfully accepted his offer.

As we walked to the bottle shop, we started talking and getting to know each other. His name was Matthew. From memory, he was half Jamaican and Indian but grew up in England. He lived in London and recently quit his job to travel around Asia for about 6 months and was eventually heading to Australia. We had a very similar backstory ~ he recently got out of a long-term relationship and wanted to travel around the world and decided to drop his career to travel.

I remember feeling so much safer walking with him. The only time I got scared was when we had to cross the road. Thankfully, Matthew was already trained at crossing busy roads by traveling in Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam. He said the roads were just as, or even busier than the roads in Delhi. I stuck close to him the whole way.

When we eventually made it to the bottle shop, I opted for beer because I love beer and it’s cheap. The beer of choice which was easily available was Kingfisher (India’s local beer). I decided to get a six-pack because for 200 rupees each (AUD$4). I was delighted when I saw they accepted cards because my strategy was to use my credit card at every possible moment since I wasn’t sure that I brought enough cash with me. It was my strategy to make sure I had spare cash because when you’re traveling, having spare cash is absolutely necessary.

Tip #29 – 750ml bottles of Kingfisher (referred to as ‘long-necks’ in Australia) should cost approximately 200 rupees per bottle at bottle shops

Once I got my beers, we ventured back to the Hostel and went to the rooftop to drink. The group expanded. I remember Cass telling me that one of the local guys staying at the hostel said he’d take her to the markets at night to buy some Indian sweets. I wanted to tag along but they’d already left by the time I got back, which left me a little disappointed, but I continued drinking nonetheless and got to know the people on the rooftop. Everyone was so nice, mature, respectful and well-rounded.

Fun on the rooftop – Madpackers Hostel, Delhi

Cass eventually returned with a big bundle of sweets which she shared with us. They were delicious!

Delicious local sweets from the markets

Later that night, a smaller group joined us which wanted to eventually go out and invited everyone. I was ready to retire but one of the guys convinced me to come out. At that point, I made an executive decision to be a ‘yes woman’ on this trip because life is too short to say no right? Despite how tired I was, I agreed to go.

The next issue was deciding where to go. We probably should have asked the staff but one of the guys in the group did some online research and had a brilliant idea to go to this place called Ruin Bar because he liked the concept in Europe.

For those who are unaware of what a Ruin Bar is (like myself) – it’s a bar that’s been created in a space which was destroyed from the war, preserving the remainder of the building which had been bombed (I think).

Wiktionary defines a Ruin Bar as “A bar, selling alcoholic beverages, inhabiting an old building left in a ramshackle condition…

We all agreed to go. There were 14 of us so we opted to catch two tuk tuks. We managed to fit about 7 or 8 people in one tiny little tuk tuk. I sat on top of everyone at the back to make enough space.

The tuk tuk ride to the Ruin Bar

Our driver took us into the carpark of a big shopping mall. We were really confused and thought he had taken us to the wrong place but he was certain he’d taken us to the right place. When we checked with the security guards, they also confirmed we’d come to the right place and said the bar was upstairs. The shopping mall was completely empty because all the shops were closed. We went upstairs to eventually find the bar.

I looked around – there was nobody else in the venue except for us. It was funny. Despite the emptiness, the place was decorated amazingly. It had different areas, a little playground for kids, hammocks which you could swing in and lots of cool things hanging up on the wall or ceiling. I even remember going to the toilets with one of the girls and seeing all these wooden hands hanging down from the ceiling.

Fun at the Ruin Bar

After drinking and enjoying ourselves for a couple of hours, we eventually made our way to some rooftop bar in the same shopping complex because one of the guys scoped the mall and said the rooftop bar was awesome. He also said they were selling Hoegarden beers for 600 rupees each (AUD$11.79), which was a very good price for imported beer.

When we got there, it felt kind of like a little garden party/semi-Alice in wonderland style rooftop bar. A lot fancier than the Ruin Bar. They were closing the bar in about an hour so we pre-ordered two beers each. We sat and chat for a bit, drank some beers and couldn’t finish them all so we told the staff to take them back because they weren’t opened. And off we went to venture back to the hostel but before trying to find transport, we got carried away talking to some random local guy outside the shopping mall at some kind of amphitheatre shaped area.

Drinks at Sky High Bar, Delhi

Before we started looking for a tuk tuk to go home, two of the girls and myself were busting to go to the toilet but there was no toilet in sight. They couldn’t hold it in anymore so decided to do their business underneath a bridge. I remember them saying – there won’t be anyone at this time that would see them. I couldn’t bring myself to do it but I gave them my moral support and some tissues. As luck would have it, a group of Indian guys walked past as they were doing their business (LOL). I remember they were laughing and apparently one of the guys tried to block the view from the others. There was no harm done in the process.

We went out onto the street and couldn’t see any cars at all…at first

Oh no.

I thought we were stranded.

But eventually, we saw a tuk tuk driver parked. We negotiated a price and succumbed to his demands because we didn’t think there would be many options to get home and we made it back to the hostel in one piece.

Half of us went to the rooftop to eat and drink a little more but we eventually all went to bed. I remember I didn’t really prepare my bedtime stuff properly so I spent ages using the flashlight on my phone to try to find everything I needed. I got there in the end but it was a mission!

Tip #30 prepare your ‘bed time stuff’ during the day/morning – i.e. toiletries to get ready for bed if you’re like me and need to at least brush your teeth before bed

Phew – I survived day one in India. It was nothing like I had anticipated, but I had an absolute blast and would do it all again. My experience taught me that if you go with the flow, you really don’t know where you’ll end up and my day definitely gave me a lot of great experiences to put in my story book.

One thought on “Day 1 in Delhi. The high, low and ugly (with more Quick Mei Tips)

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