India to Indonesia 2013 journey - Letter 1

India to Indonesia 2013 January

Day one

Well the trip has got off to a good start. The plane was delayed leaving Heathrow for an hour and a half – the first leg to Paris. It means unless our connection is also delayed – there is snow and ice in Paris causing the delays – will our connection to Delhi also be delayed? Will we have to run when we land in Paris? Landing has just been announced so am sucking a Werthers to counteract my ears popping and keeping my fingers crossed.

2 days later

Am now in the hotel in Delhi. When we got off the plane from Heathrow in Paris we ran down long corridors, it was chaos – there was so many people dashing about trying to find if their connections had been missed. Eventually we discovered that our flight had left 10 minutes before we finally landed. We joined a long queue of people, all had lost their flight connections. The man in front was en route to Cuba. Another had been on his way to Salt Lake city, Utah – for skiing! Another couple was going to Thailand. I texted my daughter while standing in queue to check if Air France had any other flights going to Delhi that day, but she only came up with one for the next day. She said there was an Air Asia going that eve about 9 pm. Which was just as well she did, becase when we got to the desk the smartly uniformed \air \france girl tried to put us on 'the only flight a available where you would fly to Russia (wrong direction) that night and then take a connection ot of \russia later the following day. I refused that one point blank and said what about the Air Asia one and she said (meekly) that we could join that one and booked us on it. Now it was only 12 noon and we had 9 hours to wait. She had told us we had to go to Terminal 3 in another building a good long walk to get too.

Anyway the day dragged on, the long walk to Terminal 3 ended with us being sent back to Termnal 2 as the girl had made a mistake. Julia said the day was highlighted for her by me making a huge fuss with an Air France manager. When we got back to Terminal 2 they wanted to keep us out of the departure lounge until 3 hours before take off. The outer area was cold and depressing. I went mental, demanded a manage, highlighted and over emphasized my age, health problems and everything I could think of and said their customer service was rubbish and I would never use Air France again. Ever. When the manager came (o you do have to make a lot of noise to get a manager – the other operative told me the same old.. same old … the manager will only say the same, no different to what I'm telling you, we can't help etc. Well in my experience manager's are more flexible and more likely to solve the problem efficiently. This one was kind, considerate and helpful – she checked us in herself so that we had our boarding pass 6 hours before take off. Now at least we could go to the Departure Lounge.

The departure lounge was like they all are. There was nothing to do but look in designer shops like Praada, Gucchi, Jimmy Shoo – it's OK for about half an hour max, then they get very boring -, over priced, irrelevant to ur lives. There was a couple of fancy cafes – 4 Euros for a bad cappucino in a v small plastic cup. They had some baguettes, but have les frogs heard of vegetarians? Mais No. Ah …. sorree medame, rien sans viande (nothing without meat), I gave in and had tuna. By the time we got on the plane, we were tired, bored and hungry. On the plus side I got to practice my bad French all day and by the time I got on the plane, tired, bored and hungry I was able to have short conversations with the couple next to me who spoke no English at all. They were my generation, v pleasant, Bob Marley fans who were carrying on from Delhi to Bangkok.

I'll skip the plane journey – didn't sleep much, watched a Liam Neeson thriller – not v good, 7-8 hours flight, by the time we touched down I was v grumpy. ..especially as Jules had 3 seats to herself and I only had one....

My first view of Delhi – looking out the window of the plane – fog, thick thick fog and as we disembarked you could smell the air heavy with it. This was not a cool mist but a warm fog full of pollutant, made you cough. On the plane I read an article that Delhi is one of the most polluted cities in the world, second only to one in China. It has a population of c 28 million I think... the drive from the airport involved sitting in long dual carriageways of gridlocked traffic, of course with the usual mad driving, horn ublowing near missing tuk tuks, vans lorries, cars, bicycles and scooter – all squeezing past each other through impossibly tiny gaps and as we got closer to the centre, mad suicidal pedestrians jumping out of the way at the last minute. The dust and fog around the hotel is choking and indeed I could not open my hotel window for long becase of it. Rather grubby blinds, when opened I shut again quickly – the view is of the side of another grubby building and concrete rubble on the street below..
My room (large double bed, small bathroom) is on the second floor of a building across the street from the main building. The young man who proudly showed me the room - large with beige marble floors -  with lots of Indian head nodding announced that there was constant running hot water in the showers etc. This should have alerted me – I went to have a shower and after 30 secs the water, hot and cold stopped all together. It was back to the old tried and tested large bucket, (yes madam we can bring hot water to your room) I washed in tepid water from the bucket and scoop.
Julia later, in her room had a sudden panic attack of homesickness, after our short walk out in the dust and chaos. Then our tour organiser Manidharma rang and we discovered that the train journey tomorrow, starting at 6 am lasts to 9 pm before we reach our first site ie Bodh gaya, where the Buddha gained enlightenment. ie. 14 hours on the train.  Julia went white. I keep reminding her that the journey is part of the adventure, but she doesn't look convinced. Perhaps a 5 star hotel by the beach would suit better? Don't answer that Jules.  This is well out of her comfort zone and I have reminded her (sternly) that the journey is part of the adventure.   I've promised to do some meditation with her on the train, to 'calm her'.
Going to crash now for my 5 hours sleep before the next leg of our adventure....


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