Day 101: New Delhi, India. The first chunk of our day was taken up trying to sort out Lil’s credit card. Having only used the card twice so far in India, a fraudulent activity has already popped up – so the card was stopped, then cancelled, by the bank in Sydney.
After lengthy calls with St.George then with Visa International, they’re now processing an emergency card, which will hopefully get turned around over the next couple of days. Let’s see how that goes.
With credit card shenanigans and breakfast out of the way, we headed out for another spot of sightseeing. Lots of places are closed in Delhi on Mondays (it’s their cleaning day apparently), so our options were pretty limited. We decided to go and take a look at Raj Ghat, a memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, and the place where his last rites were performed in January 1948.
A black marble platform with Gandhi’s last words ‘Hey Ram’ (translation ‘Oh Ram’ or ‘Oh God’) marks the spot of his cremation. The area is roped off so visitors can’t get too close – and if anyone dares to try, one of the nearby security guards is ready to nab them.
We had to take our shoes off and walk along a boiling hot plastic runner to get to the memorial – then retrieve our shoes, where we were hassled big time by the shoe handler to hand over some money for his shoe storing service, which we did (to be honest, we were just happy our shoes were still there when we got back).
We thought Monday at the memorial park would be nice and quiet, but as luck would have it there were bus loads of school kids arriving as we got there, so we had to push our way through mobs of noisy kids at the entrance gate and inside the park, who seemed more interested in selfies than paying any respects to Gandhi.
Afterwards we went for a walk around the wooded park, sheltering under a tree while we waited for a rain shower to pass. We gave up after about half an hour as there were gangs of young guys hanging about the place that were either hassling us, or hanging back watching us, which was pretty unnerving.
So we caught an Uber to the Indian Coffee House, which Lil had read about online. It’s a legendary old cafe, and judging by the online pictures of waiters dressed up in British Empire-era waiter uniforms, we assumed it was a fairly upmarket affair, a little ‘Raffles-esque’ perhaps. It turned out to be pretty daggy – a run down room on the second floor of an old dark shopping centre. It’s still popular, still has lots of history, the coffee was fine and it was a good place to chill out and get away the noisy chaotic streets for a bit – it just wasn’t what we were expecting to find.
At a bit of a loss on what to do next, we decided to try and find The Irish House for a beer. We walked up and down Connaught Place, but it didn’t seem to be where it should be (which is surprising, given it only opened last year).
Two guys stopped to ask what we were looking for, and then started hassling us mercilessly, asking all sorts of questions about where we’re from and what we’re doing and where we’re going next, and what we think of Delhi. And then they tried to get us to go to the tourist information office, just like the guy did the other day. We said our thanks and goodbyes and managed to wrestle ourselves away – but they weren’t happy.
After the tourist office incident the other day, we had a look online to see if there were any other stories similar to ours. Online articles state there’s only one official tourist office in Delhi, all the others are unofficial (including the one we went to) and some reports say that tourists going there regularly get scammed when they book tours and transport services.
We had dinner this evening at a small restaurant called Biryani Blues. We stopped where we expected the restaurant to be, but it looked more like a bar than anything else. So we asked at the door if this was Biryani Blues. The manager said ‘yes, come in!’ opening the door to what was definitely a bar, the security guard said ‘no, it’s over there’, and pointed over the road. The manager scowled at the security guard as we left – doubtless he’ll get a clip around the ear for being helpful.
We had some really good chicken and mutton biryani at Biryani Blues – it’s a nice down to earth cafe-style eatery. They asked us to fill out a feedback form, which we did – though we spent a while wondering what on earth the field headed ‘tring tring’ meant – apparently it’s ‘phone’.
We spotted some Indian wine in a store on the way home, and thought it might be fun to buy a bottle and try it out. We had a small glass each when we got back to the hotel, and Jim’s insightful review of the Indian drop was “Hmmm, it does taste a bit like wine”.
Lil also scored a new paperback novel at a street side book stall, ‘Turtles all the way down’ – one of only two John Green novels she has yet to read. The sign at the book stall said ‘Fixed price. All books 100 Rupees.’. But of course when she handed over a 100 rupee note, she was told that this one was 150 because it was one of their new selection (it was still only a few dollars though). It’s turning out to be a challenging read as there are ink splodges on some of the pages (which look a little like editor’s mark ups), and you have to tilt your head to the right on at least half of the pages as the print runs downwards at a slant. All good fun.
Tomorrow we’ll see if there’s any progress on Lil’s visa card situation, and then take a look at Delhi’s main tourist attraction – the Red Fort, in the old town. And we may even treat ourselves to another glass of Indian wine that tastes a bit like wine.