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Trip Report Trip Report: 21 days in India, Dec 16th to Jan 7th

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Ok, here is my trip report and a link to pictures. India was incredible, but a bit more difficult than I had anticipated. I was ready to go home the first few days, but had fallen in love by the end of the trip. I took some great pictures. Here is what I did:

December 16th/17th: Off to India.....
Got on the plane in Newark 8:30 PM Friday Dec 16 for our non stop flight to Delhi. Packed flight, great food, new plane (777). Watched a couple other DVDs, popped a couple Ambien and then. slept for around 7-8 hours. Flight was relatively smooth and seemed far shorter than 14hours. Business first sleeper chairs recline 170 degrees and are very comfortable. Continental provides a great pillow.

Arrived Delhi airport 9:30 PM Saturday. Air was incredibly heavy with incense and smog. Louise's luggage no where to be found. Oh, oh. Then saw that it had been put in the "elite: area" and had been there for 30 minutes. Crisis averted.

Our tour guide was waiting for us. Baggage guys lunging at us grabbing our trolleys. They disappear into the fog with our luggage. For some reason, they seemed to know where our car was. Who knows.... Got into a Toyota "Qualis," but not before having strings of orange mums put around our neck (you will get used to these--on every arrival in every city). The Imperial hotel looks like it is from another time and place. Very British.150 year old Royal palms line the drive. As you drive in, they check under your car for a bomb. Uniformed doormen looking like they are from the"Raj" period open your door. More mums and a tikka (red powder) placed on our forehead at the Imperial. We were checked into a "Heritage room" They offered us juice, and even though we had been warned not to drink juices, I was so tired and so thirsty, I threw caution to the wind. No problems ensued. Marble floors, twin beds, huge bathroom and dressing room, overlooking the courtyard.

Showered and took both an Ambien and a new (wonderful) melatonin drug. Slept well. Been a long day.....

December 18th: Woke up at 8 AM. Feeling pretty good. Beds are the only thing the Imperial could improve upon. I think Gandhi designed these. Great buffet breakfast and our guide and driver met us in the lobby.

Great. I just discovered my computer cord doesn't work. Damn. No computer. Oh, well.

This morning we toured Old Delhi. We took a tour of Old Delhi in a cycle rickshaw. What a human and animal festival. Vegetable sellers, book sellers, cows, bullock carts, cars, buses--all in narrow streets with blaring horns as the unifying element. Our poor rickshaw driver is working hard as he has the two of us plus the guide riding on the back. He has been asked to peddle slowly so we can see the sites. We visit the memorial for Mahatma Gandhi, the mausoleum of the Mughal Emperor Humayun, the Qutab Minar, and the British-built President's house, Parliament and Secretariat buildings.

Our first impressions of Delhi are not particularly favorable. It is smoggy, poluted and incredibly noisy. However, we are jet lagged and did not have a great guide (our original guide got sick and we had a last minute substitute). We will save our opinion for our return.

Tonight we have dinner at the "Spice Route" restaurant at the Imperial. Wonderful food, but very pricey. .

December 19th: On to Varanasi.

It's Monday morning. Arose at 6:30 to pack and be ready to be picked up at 9AM. (The buffet breakfasts at the Imperial are great, and the setting is gorgeous.) As we entered the Delhi terminal, there was a huge black water buffalo literally at the entrance--looked like an airport mascot. Our plane was suppose to take off at 11, but is now not taking off until 1PM. No smog today, but some other reason that no one seems to know. I heard that Indian Airlines (IA) never takes off on time. They may be right.

It is a few minutes before we are suppose to take off and no one knows what the gate. The monitors show ads for motorcycles and only once in a while give you flight information. I've attached myself to an Indian businessman who is heading to Varanasi and we will get on whatever plane he gets on.

I believe that IA must have won some contest for how many seats can fit on an Airbus 320. "Veg or non-veg" asks the flight attendant. I learned my lesson the hard way in , amd I no longer eat anything on non-western airlines. Maybe I'll change my mind in a week or so. It is so strange being offered full meals on flights of less than an hour. In the US you don't even get pretzels anymore.

Indian Airlines female flight attendants wear saris. Their nice flat abdomens are showing. I am impressed at how well they navigate in these 6-yard garments. I don't think they are the best outfits for emergencies, but I'm not going there right now......

There are mostly Indians on the plane heading to the holy city. Very few westerners. Varanasi awaits--more later....No, wait. The airplane lands in Varanasi way too fast. The airplane slams hard down on the runway. The plane then careens to the left and over-corrects to the right. A few more rounds of left-rights and we finally straighten out. Oh, well, word has it if you die in Varanasi, you go straight to heaven without having to be reincarnated, so I guess it wouldn't be the worst place to end it all. Too bad I'm not a Hindu that believes in all this. That landing was the worst I have every encountered. As we leave the plane I look into the cockpit and see a Sikh captain and we name him "Cowboy Bob." I will be on the lookout for him on future flights.

More soon....


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