16.11.2012 - 17.11.2012
Flying to India I had literally no idea what to expect. Despite having skimmed much of Lonely Planet's guide to India, knowing several people who have visited and travelled in India including my little sister, attended two Indian weddings and having seen both Slum-dog Millionaire and Best Exotic Marigold hotel, I had literally no idea what to expect I a way I've never experienced before. I spent the flight watching in-flight movies and trying to sleep over the continuous high pitched shrieking of a small child.
It was dark as we landed (at 5am) and air-side the airport seemed pretty calm. Upon exiting customs I sought out the pre-paid taxi booth in the arrivals terminal seriously jealous of those people who had pre-arranged transfers and had taxi drivers waiting for them. My guide book referenced this booth as being 'official delhi police' approved but to me it looked like a shabby mini-cab office who, were I in the UK I wouldn't trust to take me home from a night out. But, for want of no better option, and having seen the rabble jostling outside the airport, I paid my 330R, took my ticket and ventured outside where the sun was still yet to come up. Amongst the relatively usual looking cabs, I found the area to which I had been directed and the least official looking taxis of them all. I'd both heard and read about taxi drivers scams ranging from telling you your hotel is burnt down/closed/dreadful/overbooked and then trying to take you to their friends place where they receive a commission and you receive a filthy bed for the night, I was determined this was not going to happen to me. I gave the driver the address - area, street name and building number and the fact that the hotel was behind a cinema. He conferred with his mate outside before telling me it was not a complete address. They asked me why this hotel to which I replied my family were waiting for me there (which they were not) and conferred again, presumably coming up with new tactics. At this point I retrieved my guide book and pointed to the general area in which I wanted to go. This seemed to do the trick and after a bit more discussion we were off on my first experience of Delhi's highway system.
The car putted along, the noise of the engine drowning out the drivers questions. My first impressions of India's roads - people do not indicate or use their mirrors, they merely beep (literally all the time), lane markings are ignored, cars, rickshaws, busses and animals are all welcome in all lanes. The journey was longer than I'd expected, it was still pitch black outside and the roads were relatively quiet, very poorly lit but the first signs of life were beginning to appear in the form of people walking down the sides of pavement-less carriageways.
We arrived easily at the hotel, suspiciously as if the driver had had a pretty accurate impression of its location all along and fortunately, despite it being 6am I was able to check in immediately for which I was extremely thankful. Clean room, very large bed and ensuite with a powerful shower and warm water. Although I couldn't sleep, I collapsed on the bed for a good three hours happy that I'd arrived without too much difficulty.