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January 7

It’s hard to believe that we are finally in the air on our way to Bangkok. But as I anticipated, India had one more kick in the teeth for us before we left …

After breakfast at the Yatri we took an auto-rickshaw to the American Express office in Connaught Circus, changed some more money, then walked to the nearby row of state emporiums to do some shopping. Even here the staff were sullen and unhelpful, but the Rajasthani shop was OK, and we bought some fabrics. K was still having no luck finding a sari for her friend however, so we decided to try a shopping area somewhat further away called Hauz Khas. This proved to be a sort of Indian Double Bay area, though still grotty and run down and in various stages of construction. The shops were hopeless.

We decided to have some lunch here and found ourselves in a sort of restaurant complex, and a very expensive (by Indian standards) Chinese place. The food was OK. Our problems began when we paid the bill and left however, firstly with the waiter following us to complain about the condition of one of the notes we’d left. I basically said “too bad” and we left. However, five minutes later we were down the road and in a shop, and to our amazement the waiter appeared again – this tim to tell us they had given us the wrong bill and we owed them another 70 Rs or so. We couldn’t believe it! After a short lecture from us on professionalism we began walking to a rickshaw and found ourselves virtually chased by a man in a tuxedo (white shirt a bit soiled, top button undone underneath his bowtie); obviously the next lackey up the totem pole. I was completely fed up by now, we both were, and after lecturing this guy we got into an auto-rickshaw and got out of there! Incredible!

Anyway, after a break at the hotel, we went to the Cottage Industries Emporium, which was a bit like a department store, and K finally found the ideal sari. After another short wander around Connaught Circus we went back to the hotel to pack up all our stuff and get ready to leave.

Leave… easier said than done…

At 9 pm our taxi was ready and as we climbed in the back seat K said “ do you smell something?” The guy in the front passenger seat was stoned; he chuckled to the driver for half of the journey then completely crashed out. A thick pea soup fog had descended and visibility was virtually nil. It was the scariest drive of my life and I was amazed that we made it to the airport in one piece. The driver ran three red lights on the way. I don’t think he was stoned too – his eyes were clear – but, like most Indian drivers, he had a total disregard for the road rules.

Of course, the fog meant our flight was delayed. Midnight came and went, and eventually we were told to get on a bus outside, to be taken to a hotel. India wasn’t letting go of us just yet. Anyone would think this was the first time in history this had happened, and the confusion was ridiculous; not not once did we ever see a Thai Airways representative or directly receive any information about what was going on.

The bus dropped us off at the Park Royal Hotel, but someone had neglected to make a few basic calculations, so after several hours it was revealed that they had run out of rooms. A couple of pompous Indian businessmen lost their cool. We were given some food, but it was 3:30am before the remnants of the passengers were put on another bus and about 4am before we finally collapsed at a room at the Hilton. At last, a comfortable bed. What a night. We just want to go home…

January 8

A 7am wake-up call, a good breakfast, 9am on the bus, 10am still sitting on the bloody bus waiting for it to move… we were completely fed up. Finally, we were back at the airport at about 11:30am, and then informed the flight would leave at 2pm. We got off the ground at about 4pm.

I’m now writing halfway to Bangkok. Looks like we’ll be spending a night in Bangkok. At the moment, we’re just grateful we finally made it out of India.

I’m writing from the next day now – we’ll be landing in Jakarta soon and this pen has just about had it. Arrived in Bangkok and as soon as we got off the plane we found a uniformed Thai rep with a sign and the incredible contrast with Indian inefficiency began. Forms had already been filled out and we were put in a room at the Amari Hotel, next to the airport, with a minimum of fuss. Another luxury room, even nicer than the Hilton in Delhi, and a pleasure to eat some fresh food for a change; we got vouchers for dinner, breakfast and lunch. We had dinner with Sarah, a New Zealander that we met at the airport in Delhi, who was really nice.

Very comfy bed; we were both asleep as soon as we hit the pillow.

Now descending to Jakarta for a hopefully brief stopover, then HOME!

January 9-10

This morning we took a taxi into Bangkok for a bit of duty-free shopping. K bought a beautiful watch that she’s had her eye on for years. I was going to buy a PalmPilot but the price wasn’t much cheaper and despite a quick trip to the mall that is the computer centre in Bangkok, I didn’t find anything worth getting.

At last, we’re heading home. The stopover in Bangkok was a pleasure and the Thai people friendly and efficient, in wonderful contrast to our experiences in Delhi… oh well.

Well, we’re about an hour from Sydney and it’s time to wrap up this travel diary. I won’t make any closing comments about India as I think we need the distance of a few weeks to fully appreciate our trip; right now we’re pretty fed up with anything Indian, to be honest!

It was an amazing experience though.

Wonder where I’ll go next?
5:50am Sydney time, 10 January 1998

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