We spent the morning walking round the busy market streets of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi, and also visiting the Red Fort.
First thing in the morning, off out for the few metro stops north to Chandni Chowk. It’s a busy local market area, with very little for tourists other than photo opportunities, and we found the hassle from autorickshaw drivers to be pushing our patience far more than anything we had encountered during our two week holiday. But we had one more goal to achieve – The Red Fort, entered via the Lahore Gate where the prime minister addresses the Independence Day rally.
We had booked one more night at the Radisson Blu in Connaught Place before our flight home. Mainly driven by the excellent central location, within walking distance of a metro station to get to the Airport Link. But our earlier opinions about its poor value were confirmed. I asked about a late checkout, given that our flight was late at night. Up until 2pm, no additional charge, but anything after 2pm would incur a 6800 rupee charge (about £80, or two thirds of the full nightly rate). There seemed to be little interest either in storing our luggage until later in the day. Won’t be using that chain again!
So, bags packed and hotel checked out, we started out on the long slog back home. One station north from Rajiv Chowk to New Delhi station. Some signage issues there, trying to find where the Airport Link was. Turns out you have to leave the metro station via exit 4, cross the road outside, then re-enter via exit 5. But before you pass through the security scanners (which leads you back into the metro station you’ve just left!), take the unsigned elevator tucked away to the left. Someone had helpfully placed a handwritten sticker over it, saying “Airport Metro, this way”!
Airport Metro tickets are quite cheap, only a few pounds, and the clean modern trains take around 20 minutes to get to the Indira Ghandi International terminal. Then hours and hours waiting to board our night-time Air France flight back to the UK via Paris. There’s only so much airport shopping anyone can do before the madness sets in! Lovely Pizza and Kingfishers in the main bar though! Boarding time approaching, I converted the last of our Rupees (about £50 worth) back into Sterling.
So what should my final comments be about India? I’m not sure I would describe it as a holiday, as it was far more challenging than that at times.
It was fascinating to experience a small part of it, and there were plenty of incredible monuments and other locations we were privileged to explore as tourists. It’s also quite a poor country for the majority of its citizens. Many of the villages we passed through could only be described as ‘subsistence living’, either growing produce on smallholdings or making what little money they can in some small market niche opportunity. Also shocking to see the extent of India’s environmental problems, with no apparent organisation for the disposal of rubbish, and consequent plastic waste accumulating everywhere.
On a positive note was our wildlife count: one Elephant ride, two Tigers spotted, and lots of other really unusual stuff, including a ‘Common’ Mongoose crossing the trail in front of our jeep (certainly not that common to us, and particularly pleasing to have seen!). And of course, the omnipresent Chipmunks. Maybe they represent the indomitable spirit of some of the Indian population we’ve met – cheeky and fearless characters, always pushing their boundaries to see what they can achieve or obtain. Nipping in whenever they see an opportunity for improving their position!
India – Always an adventure, but only ever a step away from an Ordeal!