We’re back to India after a glorious time in Bhutan. Jer and I are simply in love with the country and its people. The Taj went out of their way to create a memorable stay for us. More on that later…
Delhi can’t be more different than Bhutan. Loud, congested, covered literally 24/7 in a thick smog, hard to breathe the air, chaotic and honking horns everywhere. We read on today’s paper, Delhi is the world’s most polluted city and my lungs and eyes are certainly feeling it. We already miss the comfort of the Taj and its incredibly hospitable staff. The next eight days, we are making our way West to East of India with a new tour group – On the Go Tours – recommended to us by Flight Centre.
Dec 26: Day 1 – was free time.
In the spirit of Boxing Day (not an occasion in India), Jer and I decided to brave Karol Bagh. It’s a huge shopping area with lanes of stores, some selling wholesale and all appealing to a wide range of customers. Even our hotel driver was nervous that we were going to shop there! “Trust no one”, he told us repeatedly and helped us with some tips and directions.
It really was difficult to choose where to shop. As we walked down the streets, we were welcomed by hoards of “dalals” trying to get us to go to their store for deals. Some dalals were quite aggressive and it was hard to keep our cool. We laughed that having Jer there was a liability as he seemed to be a magnet for the dalals. All eyes were on us and they monitored where we went, whether we bought, and I know this because about 5 minutes after we left a store, another dalal will follow us around and say I know you didn’t find anything at “store name” and I can show you better! One guy pretended to work for McDonald’s and followed us around as a good Samaritan for 15-20 minutes trying to send us to an entirely different shopping area 15 minutes away.
But Jer and I had a plan. We knew it was going to be overwhelming. We came prepared. Lol. First we dressed to impress (ourselves) – wallet was kept where there’s simply no way anyone else could access – not without some show haha! We came in the morning when the crowds were light and store owners were eager to sell (adjust prices). I remembered South Asian storekeepers tend not to want to lose the first sale of the day – I think it’s a superstition thing but not sure. We stayed close to the busy mainline where our hotel driver dropped us. We peeked through a few stores to get an idea of price and quality. Finally, we found a store that carried some awesome looking items at the prices I wanted to pay. Then the fun began…
Indian artisans are talented and the fabrics they produce really can be extraordinary. The variety is overwhelming. I wanted to buy everything. We saw piles and heaps of beautiful sarees, lehengas and anarkalis – I was in shopper’s heaven! I picked out a couple of items, which I already knew were well priced compared to everything else we saw that day, and then I started opening negotiations. But Jer had to approve the final price! Lol. We played good cop (me) bad cop (Jer) and in this case, we got good deals more so because we enjoyed the shopping experience and developed a good rapport with the store people. After the purchase, we had to wait a couple of hours for the store to “finish” my lehengas. We took that time for more browsing, more price checking and lunch.
We had lunch at McDonald’s and ordered everything on their menu that we didn’t recognize. 😀 When we came back to the store, we had the store call a cab for us which picked us up from in front of the store. Off we went our merry way back to the hotel.
Can’t say I like the hotel (The Almondz) that the tour operators picked for us. Room is cold, thermostat doesn’t work, linens are stained and the internet doesn’t work. I can’t believe this is the best tour Flight Centre offers! But we’re taking it in as best as we can. Case in point, we found the cleaning staff using our bathroom when we came to check in to the room. We just burst out laughing as we waited for 5 minutes and heard the guy flush the toilet and his fellow cleaners scurried out of our room! Rest assured, all has been disinfected!
In the evening, we dropped off a couple of our luggage at the Oberoi (our destination when school starts). We want to travel light for the next eight days. We ended up staying for a nice shower using the spa facilities and dinner at their three sixty restaurant. We also knew we wouldn’t find Aquafina water everywhere so we noted the brands the Oberoi served. The Oberoi in Delhi is a stark contrast to the chaotic city. Luxurious, Calming, and a whole lot more. I can’t wait to be back for our stay. AWESOME!
All in all, it was a great day in Delhi – I dare say we aced at shopping like locals!