It’s 1:30 am and I am wide awake in a “sleeper” coach heading from New Delhi to Jaipur. The bus has experienced a delay or two along the way and it has become apparent that we won’t be pulling into Jaipur at midnight as expected.
Two days spent in New Delhi were a nice way to ease into what I believe will be frenzied weeks in India. I’ve heard a lot about culture shock during the first few days here and I had some of my own when I arrived in ND. My first stop was checking into a brand new hotel that provided a bit of immediate culture. It was, by far, the nicest place I have ever stayed, by a kilometer. 🙂
Upon arrival, one of the 1,000 staff members greeted me with a neck chain of flowers, greeting with head oils and wishes of luck and good health, and a private “in room” check in. The room was amazing (an overused word I know, but it WAS amazing)! There was fresh fruit, a cool beverage, and huge tub. As the “butler” showed me around the palatial space, I tried not to appear giddy – and tried to be nonchalant like I see this kind of room every day. However, when he pulled out the IPod that was used as a remote control for everything in the room, I couldn’t control my look of shock and awe. The staff was lovely. After two days, I have forgotten what it feels like to open a door for myself and have come to appreciate a line of team members anxious to meet my every need.
Aaahhh…a down comforter, sturdy pillows, 100’s of movie options to choose from my bed. Only yesterday and it feels like a dream, because 24 hours later, and my head reluctantly sits on a vinyl pillow in a top story bunk that isn’t even as big as the hotel tub. As I peek my head out of the curtain, there is a police officer on the bus trying to help the driver and another passenger figure out where his money has gone…stolen or lost?
My first days in New Delhi were oppressively hot, but as a Chicagoan, I am proud of my weather resilience and believe there is little Mother Nature can do to intimidate me.* I learned to navigate the easy to use Metro system to visit Connaught Place, the Jama Masjid mosque, the Red Fort, and Humayun’s Tomb.
The walk between the Metro and Red Fort was laden with persistent “touts” trying to solicit Rickshaw rides which is very typical. I am very accustomed to being approached to spend money, but there was a different feel about this area, one I have yet to identify specifically. It was a mix of poverty and disrepair that I can’t describe adequately with words…
Hours behind “schedule” and we are on the road again. It looks like this cramped space will in fact be where I spend my entire night, so I’m off to sleep were I’m hoping for a sweet flashback dream imagining that I’m still enjoying the Leela Palace.
*Dear Mother Nature..please don’t see this as a challenge. I would prefer to avoid a monsoon during my time in India.