20,000 leagues under the sky, 2004- travel blog

Empty plane

Ringo's courtyard

New Building

Janta Mantar 1

Janta Mantar 2

Stairway to heaven

Janta Mantar 3

Janta Mantar 4

Janta Mantar 5

Janta Mantar 6

I'm back. I could have known I was back in India with my eyes closed when I got off the plane this morning, nowhere else on earth smells like Delhi and I'm not even talking of the smell of piss in various places, the biddy smoke mingled with the smells of spices, the local flora and CNG powered vehicles is unique. I don't think anywhere else would have policemen guarding the airport holding hands either. I had an hour wait for the bus outside the airport at dawn this morning and just sat by the side of the road watching, the best pastime in the sub-continent.

I missed my stop on the bus hoping that it was going to get closer to where I wanted to be (which it didn't) which meant that I had a half hour walk back from New Delhi Station to Conaught Place, there are some interesting new buildings but essentially Delhi is very much still Delhi, my first shock was when I turned up at Ringo's for old times sake and found that the legendary black hole of Delhi otherwise known as Ringo's dorm has been closed for 3 years and they've torn down all of their wooden frame cubicle rooms. The whole place now consists of only 5 en-suite rooms and now has a huge courtyard for a maximum of 10 guests.

I didn't sleep on the flight last night at only 8 hours that's not enough drinking time to donate any time to sleeping. The movies were crap, should have waited one day until the May schedule and I could have watched the Golden Compass. Being still tipsy and very tired I had a few hours kip in the guest house before I went for an explore. I don't know if it's just me but the city seemed very tame and lacking in vibrancy, even the main bazaar was completely lacking in hastle and hustlers. I've booked my train up to the mountains for Saturday, it's raining up there but nothing new in that, the rain even managed to find me here this evening even though the 5 day forcast was for 40C and non-stop sunshine.

Delhi is definitely changing, the sari is almost completely extinct here now, most women dressing in jeans and t-shirts or business suits, they are certainly no longer hiding in the background. The price of a decent thali has shot up to over a pound! There are more Maccy D's, Pizza Huts and KFCs in the centre than dhabas, but Wengers and Keventner are still there and still doing a brisk trade. Other than the complete unbuilding of much of it, Ringos remains the hostel that inflation forgot, my room is a whopping Rs350 (at Rs80 to the pound that's less than a fiver) but I'm sure if they still had a dorm it would still be Rs90, I remember it once going up from Rs60 to Rs90 many years ago and they said it was their first increase for over 5 years. Water used to be Rs12 per bottle on my last visit 7 years ago, most people are selling a bottle for Rs20 now which is about what I expected, it's still Rs12 at Ringo and a pot of tea is still Rs15 even though they've invested in some new pots and cups sometime in the recent past. Most of my old favourite restaurants around the hostel have disappeared but the row of tandoori restaurants is still there, where I had my thali last night. The South Indian restaurant which first brought decent Dosas to Delhi has expanded and become very popular but alas they have dropped beer off their menu.

I took a wander around the Janta Mantar today, it's a good job that I've loosened up on spending in my older age as the disparity between the Rs5 for Indians to enter and Rs100 for foreigners would have had me in fits of rage a few years ago.

I haven't tested out the new Metro system yet, mainly because it doesn't go anywhere that I want to go but I may go for a joy ride tomorrow.

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