The end of the Golden Triangle tour

After two fantastic days in Jaipur it was time to leave there and make our way back to Delhi.

It was a long journey taking around 6 hours. Like most of the bus trip round Northern India I found the journey back up to Delhi absolutely fascinating. At the Jaipur end the road wasn’t great, pretty bumpy, and we passed through busy villages and towns where the road sides were absolutely packed with lorries. This was a major trunk road for the Indian haulage industry. On the journey I saw camels being used for transport and close to Jaipur monkeys were commonplace.

Some of the sights from India’s roads are not necessarily easy viewing. On numerous occasions when passing a village I observed locals washing by a water pump. Presumably the pump was having to be shared by a number of people in the village. I wondered what toilet facilities and living conditions were like in those villages. Litter is a problem. It’s everywhere within towns and cities. In the week I had in India I only saw one refuse truck. That was on a motorway with rubbish piled high and litter blowing off the top. I did see wheelie bins and the like but they were often overflowing. Sadly towards Delhi on this journey I did see people sifting through rubbish in a refuse dump. It’s quite common to see men peeing at the side of roads. But what toilet facilities are there for motorists? It is also quite common to see people, mainly men, spitting. This is often to do with the practice of chewing paan. Paan is a stimulating and psychoactive preparation of betel leaf combined with areca nut and/or cured tobacco. Many of the buildings you see at the side of the road, used for trading, are pretty basic constructed from brick and cement. It’s common to see the chimneys of brick kilns scattered through the countryside and numerous advertisements for different cement brands.

After a stop for lunch we were getting close to Delhi. A sunny day turned foggy – or was it smog? We passed industrial parks full of manufacturing businesses. We passed a Harley Davidson manufacturing plant and there were numerous Japanese companies represented.

India is a country of contrasts. Extreme poverty seems all around but there are examples of wealth and real economic advances in areas such as IT and manufacturing.

We arrived back at the Grand Park Inn in Delhi in the mid afternoon. This did give time to potentially do further sightseeing. However the following day was when Republic Day celebrations were taking place and a number of roads and tourist attractions were closed so I decided to stay in the hotel for the rest of the afternoon.

In the evening we went out for our last meal as a group. Like the first night in Delhi, Yash led us through the streets of Karol Bagh to our restaurant. I found the walk much more relaxing than that first night and I think this is due to the fact that I had got used to the frenetic nature of the big cities. It had been a fantastic week. None of the worries I had at the start of the week had been realised. My stomach had been fine and I had felt safe and secure. I had been travelling with a great group of people and in Yash, our CEO from G Adventures, we had an exceptional group leader. He had a real presence about him which helped everything run smoothly and some of the added extras were real delights – eg the cookery lesson and the trip round the village at Abaneri. He is one of the coolest dudes I have ever met!

It was a fantastic meal and I enjoyed the best Indian dish I have ever had in my life. It is called Chicken Lababdar. I have never seen it in the UK but in India it’s a real delicacy with tongue tingling spices and also containing butter, onions, cream and tomatoes. Yum!!

Recipe for chicken lababdar

I saw this on the side of a truck and am inclined to agree!

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Recipe for chicken lababdar

My dish looked something like this....

My dish looked something like this….

After the meal we returned to the hotel and enjoyed the last room party of the week. I crawled into bed at around 2am… I had an amazing time doing the Golden Triangle. An experience I will never forget. I felt there was so much to see and in some ways we had just scratched the surface. I feel I must return to India to see more.

 

Arrival in India

Coming to India was the part of my trip that I was most excited about but this also came with worries. Would I catch Delhi belly? How would I adjust to such a different culture? What about my security and could I overcome language barriers? People say that coming to India can be a real shock when you first visit. So to alleviate these concerns I am here on an organised tour to the “Golden Triangle” run by G Adventures.

On arrival at Delhi Airport I was met by a young Indian guy as part of the pre-booked transfer. He was a splendid chap who was studying at university in Delhi and earning some extra income by undertaking airport transfers. He didn’t drive the taxi but helped the driver navigate the way to the hotel. It was Sunday afternoon and so the traffic was much lighter than normal. I saw a game of cricket in progress on a patch of rough ground on the way.

After around half an hour I arrived at the hotel in the Karol Bagh area of the city. The Hotel Grand Park Inn was tucked away on a busy side street. It was immediately apparent that this hotel was different from others that I had stayed in whilst I have been away. I was asked to complete details within a very grand and big registration book that seemed to have been in use forever.  No sign of the usual computerisation that you would generally see. A number of guys milling around in the reception area were very keen to help with my luggage. My twin room was clean but basic. It was apparent from what the guy who showed me to my room said that hot water was not always available. I arrived around 2pm and there was to be a group welcome meeting at 6pm. I decided not to venture out of the hotel in the meantime. I headed up to the rooftop terrace to see what lunch may be available. I ordered a butter chicken, naan and rice to be washed down by a kingfisher beer. It turned out that beer was not on the drinks menu but was procured and paid for separately directly to one of the guys I saw in reception earlier. I think he had a little sideline in profiting from selling alcohol in the hotel. The butter chicken was delicious. I was soon joined by Tor-Bjorn who was another member of the tour group. Tor-Bjorn, a Swedish speaker, came from a small Finnish Island and had worked for the Birka cruise line for over 20 years. Tor-Bjorn is a lovely guy and I enjoyed his company throughout the course of the week. After lunch I chilled in my room and watched tv. After expressing interest in a game of cricket showing on the tv in reception, one of the hotel guys came up and found it for me on my room tv. I was amused to see the hotel rules displayed on the door of my room and I took particular note of rule number 6 (see below).

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At 6pm I met the rest of the group and our Indian CEO (Chief Experience Officer) Yash. There were 12 in our group altogether. As well as Tor-Bjorn and I, there were 4 English girls Amy, Amy, Vicky and Holly. 3 Aussie girls from Adelaide – Prue, Susie and Carrie. A couple from Derbyshire, Dave and Emilie. Last but not least was Paulette who is originally from Belgium but now lives in Canada. I was delighted that over half the group consisted of women in their 20’s!

Yash did an introduction and spoke about the plans for the rest of the week. He talked about India and some of the differences from what we may be used to. Some of the things that stuck with me were:-

– although India may appear chaotic. – it is “organised chaos”

– there is very much a tipping culture – so tips are expected for helping with bags, tour guides, drivers, in addition to bills for meals etc. I realised at this point that I had totally failed to appreciate this and had not tipped the car transfer man, the bag helper or the tv tuner!

– G Adventures believed in sustainable tourism so we would be using local companies rather than multinationals. Eg locally owned hotels.

– the best advice that Yash provided was how it was best to adjust expectations about some of the ways that things work in India in comparison to what you may be used to. eg standards in hotels. He reiterated that all the hotels that we stayed in would be clean, and they were, but perhaps some of the things you take for granted may not be there. That explained the hot water issue earlier. This advice was really useful and really helped me during the week.

With introductions and welcomes out of the way we headed out of the hotel for dinner. Yash led us through the bustling streets of Karol Bagh for around 15 minutes until we found the tranquil oasis of a restaurant and we enjoyed an excellent meal.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel and retired to our rooms. The noise outside was something else and the main contributor was car horns. Indian drivers love to use them. Normally a “watch out” warning for other drivers. The noise abated at around 10pm and I managed a decent nights sleep feeling excited about what was to lay in store for the rest of the week.

Interesting name for travel company seen on way back to our Delhi hotel

Interesting name for travel company seen on way back to our Delhi hotel