It’s now 2 am and I realize I HAVE TO book tickets now or take the chance the 2 seats at 10:30 am would be taken already. The front desk calls Shakir, the owner of the hotel, and he tells them to let me into his office as before, and let me use the computer.
Online, I discover IndiGo Air has a military special with ID, and I make reservations, only to be thwarted by my VISA card again! It’s declined, possibly because we’re now in India, even though I had called the bank ahead of time and gave them the list of countries we will travel to till we return to the States. Pre-emptive strike – prophylactic move – advanced planning.
All for naught.
I use Mark’s credit card, but discover I don’t have the CVS code on the back. Sigh:: So, at 3 am, after four tries with three different airlines and agencies to pay for tickets that are double the cost of our original missed flight, I give up and go to bed.
I wake up early, and decide to book the 1:50 pm flight on IndiGo Air since we have a semblance of making it, AND getting breakfast as well as a slight lie-in. Though check out is at noon, we’ll be out by 11 am. I check early in the morning to use the office computer again, and to see if Mark sent me the CVS code. He did, and again, the attempt to pay for tickets is denied! Calls to Customer Service finally yields an EVEN HIGHER priced ticket, but it’s DONE! We finally can head to Delhi and see the Taj Mahal! The leg from Mumbai to Delhi cost us three times what it would have normally cost, but we’re on our way. YAY!!!!!!!!!
The taxi arrives on time, and we’re off. We are at least two hours before the flight time, and catch coffee and watch TV. Amy had Nicklodean TV – Japanese cartoons. I happen to look up and see breaking news about the tidal wave hitting Japan in the Northeastern shores! It’s UN-Believable, and the force of the waters puts all the flooding in Australia to shame, as well as the fact that this disaster will hit many other countries due to the ten meter tidal wave from the 400 km epicenter from Tokyo.
Watching this disaster unfold on TV, we almost miss heading to the security check point and to our gate.
Check went smoothly, and we boarded the plane from the back ramp though our seats turned out to be in the middle of the plane. We sat next to Megha, a pleasant young woman from Delhi, but commutes monthly between Mumbai and Delhi as she’s been married for five years, and her family and in-laws live in Mumbai, but her husband works in Delhi. She used to work for Warner Brothers in Marketing for Bollywood movies. She quit when she got married. They don’t have children – yet. We fell into conversation with her while admiring her henna’d hands, and asked a thousand questions about them! Her hands were done because of her brother’s wedding about 5 days before. Henna will last about 2 weeks, depending on how often it is washed. After application, which her’s took about an hour due to the intricacies of the designs, she had to wait at least two hours before she could wash off the henna. Megha recommended watching a movie. Amy’s interest was genuinely piqued! Now, “Henna hands” is on our list!
We landed, collected our luggage in record time, and in such pleasant manner that thoughts of Mumbai paled by comparison with Delhi’s airport procedures and attitudes! Amy reports the baggage claim conveyor belt rotates WAY faster than in the States’ airports, and is much harder to get the luggage!
With a Rp. 248 Pre-Paid taxi, we lined up for Taxi Line #4, behind some people with two carts of luggage. After a number of minutes, and they weren’t moving to load up the taxi ahead of them, we asked and got that taxi. It was both good and bad… Good, taxi was ready; bad – seemed like a new driver, and he was content to place our hard case luggage on top in the racks without tying them down. I waited till he’d tied them down before I got into the taxi. The ride was pretty bumpy, and the car hiccupped through the evening rush hour traffic (yes, we arrived at 4 pm), more due to the carburetor stalling. I also don’t think he was experienced in driving a stick.
All in all, we were greeted by “Jimmy” at the Kailash House, who then explained that the Kailash House is mostly for Indian businessmen, and isn’t really for visiting foreigners. He took us to the West Inn Hotel, about ten minutes away in snarled traffic. Jimmy speaks English very well, and has some mannerisms and idioms he uses often, like, “Exactly!” The room he showed us for the same price as our hostel rate of $22 / night was better than the $70 / night room we had in Mumbai which was supposedly a 3-star hotel! The West Inn Hotel room was spacious, two twin beds, and large clean bathroom, refrigerator, a working A/C and a fan, desk, hotpot for tea and coffee provided. The normal rate if not booked through HostelsWorld.com would be $64 / night. Still a bargain compared to the Mumbai double bed room we got. The room service is 24-hours. Internet was also fairly fast, but it went out because of some power outages during the late evening.
Through the travel agency that owns the hotels, we booked a 2.5-day trip with private driver to Agra, Jaipur and back to Delhi for $300. It’s a bit pricey, but we only had two days, and this was all booked at 9:30 pm. Our driver, Raj, was to pick us up at 6:30 am to beat traffic. As Jimmy and Rambabu, the hotel’s driver noted, Delhi is known to have too much of these three things: traffic, pollution, and people. Well, on our way back to the hotel, we got firsthand experience with gridlock ala Delhi – worse than New York City. Add to that the cows that wander anywhere they wish … hee hee, FUN! This one below suddenly turned around and looked at me! Good thing Rambabu has a low-tech hands-free cell as he drove – to better twist and “mush” the car into a non-existent lane and in front of motorcycles, tuk tuks, vans, trucks, buses, and other cars who DARE to come close and try to cut in front! This might be the best wireless low-tech solution for hands-free!
Before crashing out, Amy did several hairstyles with my hair as I checked email and typed up the blog. At 11 pm, we heard loud pops like gunshots or small explosions. It turned out to be fireworks for a cricket victory party at the building next to us. Bangladesh won.