Room Without a View: April 8/9
We left Brandon April 8, 10 am, completed errands and
picked up China at 2. China dropped us off at Winnipeg Airport around 2:30
pm in lots of time for our departure on AC268 for Toronto. Uneventful
three hour flight to Toronto.
On checking in at Toronto we found that our travel
agent had not assigned seats on the new tickets she sent. Air Canada was
able to upgrade us to front row with lots of leg room -- no extra
charge! Our third seat partner was a young man from Ottawa, who had paid
$140.00 for the upgrade! He was meeting his wife in Delhi where she's is
doing training for ADOBE.
About midnight, we were served the hot meal: Butter
Chicken, basmati rice and a curry veg combo with naan, cuke salad and rice
pudding. It was very good. Good selection of movies to watch on our pull-up
TV screen but couldn't stay awake. Dozed off and on. Then it was mid-flight
snack... very strange chickpeas curry sandwich! Chai is good. Most of the
passengers were Indian, returning home, visiting, or business. A few kept
crossing from one side to the other in our "leg room." Breakfast was "omelet...
sort of" with tomato sauce. They should stay with curries ;-) Melon salad
and yogurt was good tho. Then it was time to get ready for landing at Indira
We had filled out our immigration papers and went through
in the shorter queue for people with E- tourist visas. Bill went quickly,
no finger-printing but they took Sue-On's -- the first of numerous anti-Chinese
biases we noticed in India. We arrived at our meeting place to find our
G-Adventures pick-up person. We found their sign only to be told that the
driver went to park the car and would soon be back. That's when a horde
of other cab drivers descended upon us -- we declined. Finally, a
young man came up and said "Sorry.. .Driver took another guest to a different
hotel and will be back in 20 minutes." Then there was word of another half
hour stalling. We were outside in 32C temps sweetened with exhaust from
all the cars in the parkade. Very clean everywhere though. We were lucky
to have found a hard metal bench. Finally, the young man came back
he called the driver to meet us at the curb. It was a woman driver who
is sponsored by G-Adventures: "Women Drivers for Women". She had been driving
for 5 years. Her car definitely showed signs of some close encounters.
It was an interesting long 20 km night drive to our
hotel. In India everyone honks their horn as they are passing or wanting
to pass - so it was noisy. Drove along a ring road. ..all around the airport
are military and police headquarters. Lots of cars and little motorcycle
type "cabs" (tuk-tuks) are parked along the roads.
Our "Good Times Hotel" had a strange entrance...blocked
off by a concrete barricade about 20 feet from the front steps. "Wild dogs"
roamed and cab drivers smoked outside. Looked a bit worrisome, but the
porter came out right away and took our bags. The foyer looked fine - mirrors
can do so much! 300 rupees for WIFI for one computer for 3 days. We got
to our room, -- it was definitely without a view - no window! But we were
told that location had better WIFI connection. It was pretty basic... A/C,
twin beds pushed together, duvet, TV, kettle, little fridge, big bathroom
with big shower...definitely does not measure up to the 5-star hotels in
China or the ones in IndoChina. Just have to remember this is India!
Had some problems with Internet cutting out and to
program the TV. The night manger came up and got us all going again. Very
chatty fella but it's sometimes a bit of chore deciphering accents when
we are tired! He said he could hire a cab and driver for us to tour the
city in the afternoon if we would like. Bottled water is 40 rupees each
and beer is 250 rupees - large bottles. They have a restaurant downstairs,
for breakfast, lunch, and supper. They also have room service, but we were
not hungry. Bill explored a bit downstairs - the manager took him on a
late night tour of the facilities: conference rooms down in the basement,
teaching room, dining room, etc. They wouldn't let him go walking outside
as it is not safe and there are wild dogs around... Shades of Pukatawagan;-)
We are in the outskirts, no shops, restaurants etc around. Sue-On did journal
writing in her book and Bill caught up on his e-mail mail. We tried a bit
of TV watching -- nearly all channels were in Hindi -- but both of us fell
asleep till mid-day.
We met with our guide Parakrum (Perry) our CEO
(Chief Experience Officer) and the rest of the travel group at 6 pm. He
gave us a schedule and a bunch of forms to fill, then we went out to supper
at a restaurant. It was a few of blocks away - through dark alleys, detours,
garbage, homes that shouldn't be, etc. It's really quite a cultural shock!
The smells, the sounds, the people, all can be overwhelming if one is uptight.
Crossroads Restaurant is on the main floor of a tall
hotel. Quite nice inside with a loud disco/bar downstairs. We shared a
"platter" which consisted of chicken various ways and one piece of either
fish or ground chicken. Certainly more expensive than IndoChina, Malaysia,
and China. Back at the hotel and went to bed after a bit of "calming
down" of our brains with hot tea.