Oh my word!
OK, so we said we were going to have fun. We didn’t expect that it was going to be that much fun! We left the hotel and before we had actually left the drive of the hotel, it started to rain. When I say rain, I mean rain!! It came down in buckets! We sheltered under a canopy with one of the hotel security guards and, eventually, the hotel tuk tuk came along and offered to take us to IFFCO Chowk station. We gratefully accepted! After queuing in the wrong queue for a while, we eventually found the right queue and procured a three day metro pass! We decided to go and visit a somewhere called Connaught Place – known locally as CP. This is a very English rounded plaza, quite similar to that one might find at the Crescent in Bath, that sports mainly well known brands … Levis, KFC for food, United Colours of Benton, that kind of thing. Of course, we were plagued by people who wanted to tell us about ‘better places to shop’ but we stuck with it for a while. Eventually, we were told (for the nth time) about a nearby market called CCI that was a very Indian market and we gave in. We must have had about 20 people by this time telling us we should go there.
Our last incumbent was kind enough to even order a tuk tuk to take us there! Therein starts the story – our tuk tuk driver took us directly to a ‘government store’. We have been in these a number of times before. There is a floor selling jewellery, there is a floor selling textiles, there is a floor selling carpets and a floor selling souvenirs. Everything is very high pressure sales and if you don’t buy something you are definitely a second class tourist. We were second class tourists! We are not interested in buying in those kind of stores, so we left. Our tuk tuk driver was, of course, waiting for us outside ready to take us on a sight seeing tour of Delhi or, in other words, an expensive trip around the centre of Delhi. We explained to him that we were not going to take him up on his kind offer and we were going to walk a little. He wasn’t best pleased but we never asked to be taken to a ‘government store’ in the first place!
Having walked away from our tuk tuk driver we turned left into a street that led to … CCI market. This is a very Indian market and not for the feint hearted. You can find live chickens, dead chickens, recently departed chickens, fruit, vegetables, clothes, electronics – even a 50 inch LED TV – and everything else that life can throw at you – but all in an environment that most would avoid. There are hundreds of dogs searching for something to eat … many in very poor condition. There is rubbish everywhere – some of the waste being of human origin – the smell is not one of India’s finest but this was a true representation of India … the colours, the noise, the taste (yes, you could almost taste the air!) and, of course, the smells! Not all of the market had bad smells – there were spices and fruit and vegetables and it was actually a really good experience! We thoroughly enjoyed it but wouldn’t recommend it to those with a delicate constitution!
We walked back to CP and, again, enjoyed taking in the sights and sounds of Delhi. We should explain that on arrival at CP in the first instance we had been almost dragged to a ‘government tourist information office’ where we would be given a free map and ‘free advice’. We went, just to shut the guy up (and there was a much needed ATM next door) and, once in there we were presented with a ‘free’ map and were then subjected to a pressure sell of a city tour! We’ve seen Ghandi’s house and where he was shot, we’ve seen the Red Fort and the Mosque near to Chandni Chowk (the oldest market in Delhi), we’ve been to the Humayan’s tomb … we did the tourist version of Delhi last year! What we are trying to do this year is to see Delhi for what Delhi is to local people. So, on arrival back at CP we didn’t walk back to the branded stores, we walked in the opposite direction towards an Indian Bazar called Palika Bazar.
Palika Bazar turns out to be a collection of hundreds of stalls that sell everything from electronics to underwear and everything in between and is run by the ‘Shopkeepers of Delhi’. It is an emporium of immense proportions and incredibly diverse. I was offered a tattoo for valentines day, a new belt and numerous watches! Captain Clarke and I discovered numerous stalls selling really good shirts and, eventually, we ended up in one of them. Captain Clarke tried a shirt on and, amazingly it fitted! (There had been an incident earlier where he had tried the largest shirt the stall had and it was about 3 inches short of doing up in the middle!) So he started to look through the shirts on offer. The stall provided him with numerous cups of Chai (it was offered to me too, but with that much milk in it, I would have been ill in minutes!) which he said was very good and, after some while and some deliberation 5 new shirts were chosen. The stall didn’t take cards though so, completely unexpectedly, I paid!
We left the bazar, not because we wanted to but because I no longer had any cash, and walked back around CP. On the way we were constantly approached by shoe cleaners who wanted to polish/clean our shoes. Since our shoes were very dirty because of the rain and the mud in the CCI market, we eventually succumbed. We negotiated a price in advance of 100 rupees per pair and then our service started. There were three people working on our shoes. One, working on Captain Clarke’s shoes discovered that there was a piece of the sole loose. He offered to repair it. Jokingly (I thought) I said to him that that would be another 100 rupees. Then another repair was identified, then another. Then new insoles were needed and, for me, new laces – the originals were apparently sub-standard and not suitable for the shoe … someone might like to explain this to Timberland from where the shoes were purchased not that long ago! Eventually, shoes clean (and, in fairness, they did do a good job on that), the total bill was 4,000 rupees – we did not pay that but left giving them a fair price for the job done and vowing never to fall for that ruse again!
Just before getting a metro to our next destination, we popped into a Levis shop where Captain Clarke tried on a pair of jeans. Amazingly (for both the shop assistant and me) he squeezed into a 32″ waist and, after some deliberation two new pairs of jeans were procured. We were, by now, tight for time as we had arranged to meet a friend for an early evening drink at his hotel. Captain Clarke had looked up the nearest metro station before we left in the morning so we hopped on the metro and, half an hour later and a little late we arrived at said metro station. Why? Why do I ever trust his sense of direction? I have fallen for it so many times!! We arrived at the metro station that he had said was nearest and discovered that we were 8.9 miles away from the hotel we were supposed to be at! When we were at CP we were about 2km away from where we were supposed to be!
We got back onto the metro and made our way back to central Delhi, eventually after 3 metros and a tuk tuk, arriving at the hotel almost 2 hours late! Fortunately, not only did our friend not mind, but he kindly invited us for both drinks and then dinner! We left him at 10.45pm, the latest we have been outside of the hotel for our entire stay! We talked about getting an ‘Uber’ back to our hotel but neither Captain Clarke nor myself know how to get an ‘Uber’ so we opted for a tuk tuk back to a station on the ‘Yellow Line’ and then a metro back to IFFCO Chowk followed by another tuk tuk to our hotel It all worked out fine, although we did feel we might have had one too many sherbets over dinner! This was, in fact, borne out by the fact that we were woken by room service this morning at 10:45 where I hopped out of bed at the sound of what turned out to be a bell and gave some poor chap an eye full of something no innocent room service person deserves at any time of day!