This was my first journey to India which started in Delhi. My enthusiasm for adventure had been brewing for some time prior to this trip, but soon declined just a few hours after landing. I realised I was not prepared for India, well Delhi especially….therefore in retrospect I do not advise anyone who is not very well organised or experienced in travelling like I was at this time to start from such a location, landing in the middle of the night without good planning.
I did land in the middle of the night and I had no idea where to stay or what direction to go, only that I wanted to visit my friend Anna, who lived in Siliguri, West Bengal. Unknowing to me that this was a journey something like 1500 km. Well it looked not so far from Delhi when I looked at the large scale map just prior to booking the flight, which being on a budget was the cheapest place to fly into, besides maybe I would have a little adventure travelling from here to Annas house.
Still dazed and tired from the flight I left the airport to enter a hot, sticky, Indian night scene of charging taxi touts, noise, pollution and confusion, as soon as my foot landed within range, they were already upon me. Spinning around and dancing on the red stains of betel spit. OK take it easy I told myself, dont panic, sort yourself out and try to find one that will take me to a cheap place to stay.
“no problem sir” so I take a ride towards the center of Delhi where the driver tells me he knows a good place for me to stay. It soon becomes clear that it becomes a tour of tour operators, driving me around the bend literally, we stop at several places only to discover that I am being given a sales pitch…”no I don’t want to book a tour to see the Thaj Mahal, its 2 in the morning I need to sleep, “but sir all the hotels are full because of a festival here”, which was a lie I found out later, so this went on for another hour or so until finally I almost had to threaten him to just leave me at the entrance to the train station where I was about to lie down in the street and go to sleep…..”oh no good sir, I take you to my brothers, sister, cousins hotel, very good there”…..I ran for it and did try to sleep outside the train station, but got moved on by the police saying it was too dangerous for tourists to be around here this time of the day. It was a lot of stress in the end. I did find somewhere but had to spend a silly amount of money, they seemed to know exactly how much they could scam from you. There seemed to be no choice and I was too tired to argue, so I paid, stayed and went directly to book a train the next day wanting to get out as fast as possible.
All the next day was a constant effort not to be scammed one way or the other, never knowing if the information you ask is part of some other motive, well that was my lesson for not being prepared before hand and I am sure if I returned now after several experiences of travelling it would be a much better experience.
Eventually I did get on to a train to Siliguri, but not after seeing the Tahj mahal, yes somehow it was inevitable, scammed, but ticked the box anyway, been there and done that.
Nearly three days on the train and I was thinking it had taken a wrong turn and was in fact going around in circles until I signed up for an alternative tour. I was starting to realise just how big, colourfull and chaotic India was.
Reunited with Anna sometime later and already plenty of stories to tell, she laughed at my stupidity to tell me….welcome to India.
I soon recovered from my ordeals and headed off into the unknown, well Darjeeling but prepared and wary this time. It proved to be enlightening, beautifull, colourfull. I became to love India very much and to this day the dust never quite left my nostrils. I will be returning soon.