1 Delhi

-  Sophisticated Survival Game


November 14, Thursday 

Unexpectedly nice service in Etihad Airline

Kumiko, Thank you very much for getting up as early as 5 a. m. and seeing me off  at Grand Central Station in New York though you are working hard and late these days.  You looked a little bit anxious about  my one-month journey to India.  You said you would visit the Embassy of India today to apply your passport because you might join me in India on my journey there.  Please read my reports as I will write and upload as a form of letters to you on the Internet.


I left Grand Central Station at 7:10 a.m. to JFK Air Port by bus.  At the #4 Terminal of Etihad Airline, I checked in my backpack and tripod: the tripod that can be also used as a stick.  The flight EY100 delayed more than one hour and took off at 11:24 a.m. My seat was on the wing and window side.  On the next seat is Mr. Shepherd from Lahor, Pakistan.  He had a sightseeing tour in the East of the U.S. for half a year (!) and now was on the way back home.  Chatted with him for a while.

I read a small book on the history of India including the rise and fall of dynasties, Buddhism and Hinduism and the activities of Buddha.  The description of Upanishads or the ancient Hindu philosophy interested me.  The philosophy, speaking of a universal spirit (Brahman) and of an individual soul, considers the identity of both as the ideal ultimate state.  Some philosopher group does not describe Brahman as a God, whereas other thinks that Brahman is ultimately a personal God to be aligned with Vishnu, or Krishna.

Etihad Airline is the airline company of United Arab Emirates.  This is the first time to use an Arabic flight.  Dinner service begins.  We can choose one from three menus, chicken, mutton and vegetables.  I chose mutton.  I am now enjoying white wine although I was afraid the Arabic airline company would not have any service of wine.  Shepherd chose cola as a drink and prayed for a long time before the dinner.

November 15, Friday 

Delhi - the city of din and bustle. 

I slept for two hours and got up at 5 p.m. by NY time (Nov. 14) = 2 a.m. by Abu Dhabi time (15) = 3:30 a.m. by Indian time.  The light on this seat is broken and I can’t read a book.  Then I take out my MacBook to write this diary.

I saw the lights of the city of London.  Then we flew over France to Germany,  passed through Munich at 3:30 a.m., Cyprus at 6 a.m. and Lebanon at 6:20 by Abu Dhabi time.  It was still completely dark outside.  I had a breakfast at 7 a.m.,  chicken sausage chosen from three menus and enjoyed Tiramisu made of Arabic coffee after the breakfast.  Now it is dawning.  A vast Arabian Desert stretches below.  Seeing deep blue ocean at the coast of the blown earth, our plane has landed at Abu Dhabi International Airport at 8:47 a.m.

I had a rest at the airport building, most part of which is under construction.  The round hall is crowded with people.  Some people are making lines at the Internet service corner.  Several women wear a black burka, a dress covering the whole body except eyes.  It feels an Arabic atmosphere.

The flight EY281 to Delhi took off at 11:19 a.m.
Crossed over Gulf of Oman and flew over the brown land in Pakistan (Picture).  I had a lunch, Goan Fish Curry, Pulao rice, Peas/Carrot Masala.  When I was writing the immigration card, an Indian sitting on the next seat asked me to write his card, too.  He was Mr. Muhammad, 38 on his passport.  He seemed not to be able to read and write English.  I undertook to write for him willingly.  The sky was hazy over Delhi.  Is it smog?

There was no problem at the Immigration.  After receiving luggage and passing through the custom, I stopped by the airport bank to exchange $200 to Indian Rupee, Rs7,500.  Counting the bill, I found only 74 of 100 bills.  I told an officer, and then he gave me one more bill immediately!  (I had another similar episode here two weeks later.  Surprisingly the bank officers are cheating for inexperienced travelers!!!)  Memorizing that the rate that Rs100 is about $3,  I stopped by at a telephone corner to call my hotel.  A young guy at the corner asked me Rs50 for the call.  (Later I realized that he had overcharged me.  Actual price was about only Rs1.)

Next I stopped by at the corner of prepaid taxis.  I showed the address of my hotel, paid Rs250 and received a taxi voucher and  rode a taxi.  On the dusty and dim road, wild driving started.  After driving for 40 min the taxi stopped at the crowded street.  The taxi driver told me that he could not drive any more due to the crowd and that I must walk.....I walked along the street seethed with people and shopping stands.  Finally I found my hotel, “Paul’s Court Hotel New Delhi” that I had booked through the Internet.  At a restaurant outside, I had a small dishes, Onion Utthapan (Unsweetened vegetable cake) and Special Keehl (hot sweet).  Total Rs84.  In this traveling in India I must always choose hot dishes.  The first choice must be safe.  I stopped by at an Internet store to upload my diary and write an email to Kumiko.  At the store, I asked about parts shops to upgrade my MacBook.  He told me about a big market of electronics, Nehru Place, located in the south of Delhi.  It sounded like Akihabara in Tokyo, the world’s famous market of electronics.

Now my backpack traveling has started.  Despite the terrible experiences today, on the first day in India, at the airport bank, at the telephone corner and in driving by a taxi, I felt these must be trivial cases probably.  It must be hard to travel around in India, the country with different culture and customs.  Food, shower, sleeping, bathroom, money, transportation, Internet, crime and fraud, jet lag, hygiene, health........ I must manage everything by myself carefully.  But take it easy.  It is the purpose of the backpack traveling to manage various things and to enjoy new surprises and encounters.  It is a kind of sophisticated survival game, just like Life itself.

November 16, Saturday 

Acrobatic driving.   Fooling me out of my money.

Kumiko, How have you been?  Today you will play a hostess at the meeting of our group, won’t you?  Sorry for my absence.  Today I had incredible experiences like jokes.


Woke up at 2:30 a.m. due to the jet lag.  At 5:30,
walked out the hotel.  The stand stores were already gone.  Some dogs walked around.  I felt scared as they reminded me the description of a guidebook about hydrophobia in India.  I returned to the hotel and had a breakfast at 6:30.  I asked a counter boy about the rate of transportations, taxis, autorickshas and cyclerickshas because we cannot go anywhere without these.  Taxi: Rs7/km  Rickshas: Rs8/first 1km + Rs3.5/km

                                                   Autoricksha and Cyclericksha

Today’s plans are 1) Going sightseeing to know the general atmosphere of the city, 2) Buying a ticket to Khajuraho, the next destination, and 3) Visiting Nehru Place to buy memories to grade up my MacBook.

At around 7 a.m. I went out to the town and asked an autoricksha driver to go to the Castle Lal Qila by Rs50.  Starting driving, I was shocked by the acrobatic driving - passing through traffic jams, crowds in narrow streets while always blowing horn with a deadly speed.   I grasped a rod tightly during driving.  Finally the car arrived at the castle after 20 min.  The square of the main entrance was surrounded by sandbags and wire fences, and guarded by soldiers carrying machine guns and rifles.  It looked strange for me but I understood the country is under a quasi-war footing.  In such a country I must be careful about taking pictures.  Just as expected, a soldiers warned me when I tried to take a picture with a tripod.  He said that it was allowed to take pictures but not allowed to use a tripod.

Lal Qila, meaning the Red Fort, was constructed by Emperor Shah Jahan of Mughal Empire in 1639.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Picture).  The building looked hazy due to mist or smog.

I walked around the gardens and buildings. Among them I had an interest in a palace where Emperors had meetings with common people.  In this palace I saw the Emperor’s chair made of marble, originally decorated with jewels.  The number of visitors were gradually increasing as time went on.  Many young people were curious at me and asked me to take pictures for them.  I willingly did that and asked them back about their addresses.  No Indians here carried a camera.

When I returned to the main gate, a lot of people called me.  A man came to me who wanted to guide in the city.  Another ill-looking guy gave me advice that I must be careful at pickpockets.  Women holding a baby followed and begged me for money.  It was also annoying to negotiate a price every time when using a vehicle.  Probably I will be used to these matters.  I rode a cyclericksha to go to New Delhi Railway Station.

Unexpected “adventures” in Delhi 

  1. 1)I got off the cyclericksha at New Delhi Railway Station.  The square was crowded with people.  Many of them spoke to me.  An old guy kindly told me the direction to the information office.  I visited there to ask about Ticket Office for International Tourists.  A neatly dressed man came, showed me the place in front of the office and said, “The description of your guidebook is now incorrect because Ticket Office for International Tourists is closed because the station building is now under construction as you see.  The office services are now available at DTDC office located in Connote Place, the center of Delhi.”  He was so kind to take me to a taxi stand, to told the taxi driver about my destination and to give me advice, “Pay just Rs100.  Never pay more.”

  1. 2)The taxi driver looked a quiet and good-natured guy.  Drove for ten minutes and arrived at an office.  I saw a sign describing the letters of ”Government” and ”DTTC”.  Inside the office, I was sent in to a small room with a counter.  First, I asked an officer to give me maps of India and Delhi but he said they were not available at that time.  After I explained my idea of traveling, he suggested that it was very hard to travel in India by train and recommended to use a “mini bus” or to hire a common car with a driver.  After a while another Indian guy, Ashok, appeared who spoke Japanese fluently.  He said he was married with a Japanese woman who is living in Osaka, Japan now together with her daughter.  He showed me a pretty girl’s picture.  Looking at the schedule they made, I said I liked to travel by train not by mini bus.  They showed me another schedule and total price estimate, $1000.  I asked them to write down the details of the prices for hotels, train tickets and a flight.  I felt the prices of train tickets were much higher than my estimate.  The grade of hotels were not clear.  Gradually I was getting suspicious.  When I said I would come back later, they looked nasty.  This was unusual.  I said I had to go to Nehru Place first, and went out anyway.

  1. 3)Just I went out from the office, an young Indian walking the street told me, “This is not any government office at all.  The governmental tourist office is over there.  I can take you there as I am now going to the market close to the office.”  I followed the kind guy and saw the Tourist Office (the picture below).  It looked a public space where a officer and two women were sitting at the other side of a counter.  When I explained my experience in the last office pretending the government facility, the officer said, “There are
    so many unscrupulous businesses here.” and gave me a map of Delhi and information of my interests.  As I was standing up to go out, he suggested, “It is hard work to buy tickets at the common ticket office.  It is much easier to make a reservation for train tickets, hotels and flights here instead.” and made a plan and an estimate.  Taking a glance at the estimate, I was surprised because the price was higher than the price that had been shown in the last fraud office!!!  Never showing such thought, I told him that I had to visit Nehru Place within today and I would call him later.  The officer kindly suggested that he could drive a government car to Nehru Place for me.  I politely declined and went out.  The picture shows the “kind” guy in front of the “government” office.

  1. 4)I rode an autoricksha to go to Nehru Place.  After driving for ten minutes, the taxi driver wearing a light blue turban suddenly said, “Oh, It is Saturday today.  Nehru Place has already been closed in this afternoon unfortunately.  It will open on Monday.  Do you like to visit the government tourist office instead?  If you like, I will drive there.”  Ah, it is no using to drive there where It is closing.  I changed my mind and asked the driver to drive to the office.  When we arrived there I saw a guard wearing a uniform was standing in front of the office.  I began to talk with an officer.  Just after talking for a short time, he tried to force me to make a contract of booking with his scary face.  This time I went out there immediately.  Why did it happen so many times repeatedly?  I never trust anybody here!! What a strange city Delhi is!!

  1. 5)I asked another autoricksha driver about Nehru Place.  He said he was sure it was open in the afternoon. I rode the vehicle by Rs200.  After driving for a while, he told me a dangerous story, “The office you came out from is that of Mafia’s guys.  They are so violent to kill people.”  While driving more, he asked me to pay Rs500, not Rs200, because it was very far to Nehru Place.   Ah, this guy was another devil!!! I said, “Stop. I want to change a car.”  He changed his mind and accepted the original price, Rs200.  His face reflecting the back mirror looked nasty.  How strange it is here!  After a while, the driver asked me to do sightseeing in Delhi using this vehicle tomorrow.   Just thought, “Out of Question!  Who will do that.” and continued to dodge a direct answer and to watch him carefully.

  1. 6)Arrived at Nehru Place without more trouble.  There were several buildings containing a lot of small stores inside.  It looked like Akihabara, Tokyo.  I walked around while asking people a store selling parts for Apple’s laptops.  Finally I found a good one.  I installed two memories in my MacBook by myself and checked how it worked properly while the young shop seller was watching me with his big eyes.  After that he asked me if I was a professional.  The price was not bad.  Both I and the seller were satisfied.  I rode an autoricksha to come back to the hotel.  Finally I was successful anyway.

Well, what caused the strange happenings today?  In hindsight, the apparently kind station officer I met at New Delhi Railway Station is very suspicious.  Other many people must be his accomplices or similar unscrupulous businessmen!!!  Ah, they almost made me their victim successfully.  According to the guidebook, a lot of foreign tourists suffer from fraud in this city.  It is understandable now as even a seasoned traveler like me had such experiences.

November 17, Sunday 

Moving on after terrible experience.

Kumiko, How was the meeting with our friends? 

In spite of my failures experienced yesterday, I will move on.  I will have a rest enough when I stay in hotels because I will have frequent chances to use sleeping cars.


I got up at 5 a.m.  Left the hotel to go to New Delhi Railway
Station crowded with a lot of people.  Various “kind” people spoked to and followed me again.   This time I neglected all of them and walked ahead and ahead.  I found a notice on the wall close to the stair to the second floor, saying, “Do not listen to those who attempt to tell you the ticket office for International Tourists is closed.....”  (Picture)

Ah, I was caught by such a common clever trick!!!

On the second floor is there the Ticket Office for International Tourists, as just described in my guidebook.  The officers are all actually sincere and accurate.  I booked some trains.  The prices of the train tickets shown at the scrupulous offices yesterday have been found to be  about five times more expensive than the official ones.  Thank Heaven!

I checked in my luggage at a station cloakroom and left the station.  The square in front of the station was actually the place of din and bustle, as shown in Picture below.  The place abounds in “kind” people who are watching naive tourists.  Is it the progress for me to be able to neglect people who speak to and follow me one after another?

There are three- and four-storied houses over
the square (Picture).  Around that corner, the Bazar Street begins that attracts a lot of foreign tourists, backpackers in particular.  The street is the starting point in India for us.  Walking through the street lined with shops, I found a used bookstore.  I bought a guidebook in Japanese, “How to walk on the Planet: India 2007~08” because my guidebook was too old to use telephone numbers. 

In the evening I went back to the train station.  At 9:30 p.m. the platform number of my train was indicated as #11.  I went there.  My train was not there yet.  People began boarding the previous train.  The ordinary cars were so crammed that I felt fear about.  I hoped my car is much better.....

At 10:30, my train came in to the platform.  The sleeping car had a structure of compartments each comprising two columns of triple bunk and one column of double bunk.  I felt relieved as it was more comfortable than expected.  The neighbors in this compartment were five Indians and two Sri Lankans.  The Sri Lankan couple said they had traveled around the places sacred to Buddha.  They liked to talk with me and explained how their country was beautiful and enjoyable while showing several posters.  I appreciated and said I would certainly visit there some day.  I made my bed at 11 p.m.

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