Thursday, November 1, 2012

Day 1: First Impressions of India

I arrived safely in New Delhi last night and feel like I've already had such an adventure just getting here!  I travelled for nearly 20 hours getting here, with two 7+ hour flights in the mix.  Fortunately, I didn't incur any problems whatsoever though, and had a very pleasant experience with all my flights.

New Delhi Airport Arrival:

I arrived in New Delhi after midnight, and didn't get through customs and get my baggage until after 1am.  

As soon as I got through customs, I changed about $100 into Indian Rupees at a currency exchange.  I couldn't buy bottled water in the vending machines until after I got my luggage though, because the smallest bills they gave me were 100's, and the vending machines only took up to 50.  Not to worry though, there was a little shop on the way out, after the luggage pick up, where you can buy water or a snack if you need to, and pay a real person & get change back.

Getting to the hotel:

My hotel had a car transfer driver waiting for me holding a sign with my name.  That was so fun, I've always wanted to be picked up by a driver like that!  He had an ice cold water, ice cold pepsi, and cold towel waiting for me in the car, how nice!

The car steering wheel is on the right side here, like in the UK, which makes sense but I hadn't really thought about in advance.  The roads/drivers here really are as crazy as they say and as you see in the movies.  I just trusted my driver, but if you are nervous, I recommend closing your eyes!  

Stoplights appear to be more of a suggestion then a rule, as my driver just honked on his way right through all the red lights!  They also honk when passing large trucks, and flash their lights as sort of a heads up.  Driving lanes also seem to be more of a suggestion then a my driver didn't seem to feel like following!  He drove down the middle of two lanes the whole way from the airport to my hotel.  Guess he thought we were too important to only need one lane :)


Sorry, you can see the reflection of my hand taking the picture through the window in this one :)

The air here is so thick, you can smell it as soon as you get off the plane.  Even inside the airport the air is hazy, which I really doubt is fog. Pretty sure it's the pollution I've been reading about.  Those with asthema or lung issues (B?) might have problems here.  Not sure what can help with that, though I've heard to drink plenty of water, and perhaps allergy pills or an inhaler would be good to pack?

This morning I finally opened my hotel room window and the air is so dirty you can't even see half a mile, though I am on the 16th floor!  Yuck :(

My Hotel:

I think I'll post separately about how nice my hotel is, including some pictures from breakfast today!  But I just wanted to mention the security here.  When my driver drove up to the driveway entrance, two security guards checked the trunk AND under the hood.  Keep in mind this was a 5 star hotel-owned car with a 5 star hotel-employee driving!  Wow, never experienced anything like this before.

Then, when we had the "all clear" and drove up the driveway, I stepped out of the car and walked up the stairs to be greeted by a man holding his hand out to me.  I thought he was "offering me a hand" but no, he wanted my purse and backpack (a doorman had grabbed my suitcases for me).  He had to put all my luggage/bags through a security scanning machine.  I had to walk through a metal detector just to get in the front door!  Scary, but at least I can feel safe & secure in my hotel now..... I guess.

Trying to not get sick:

I've read a lot about the dreaded "Delhi Belly" and I really want to try to avoid it.  I only ate hot food/bottled water for breakfast (and hot coffee), but it made me soooo sad because the cheeses, fresh fruits, and fresh juices looked SOOOOO AMAZING! I really wanted to try the watermelon juice.  However, I really don't want to introduce new bacteria to my body in these first couple days here as I got a long trip ahead of me.

Speaking of bacteria, I'm so worried!  I made the mistake of forgetting that you are supposed to use bottled water to brush your teeth here (even in as a beautiful and elegant as a bathroom as this), and now I'm very afraid that I will get sick after accidentally using sink water to brush my teeth when I got in so late last night!  B & I had gone to the travel clinic before the trip, and they prescribed some traveler's diarrhea pills, and I have some pepto and immodium packed, but I really didn't want to have to deal with that.  I hope, I hope, I hope it will be ok, but I suppose I'll know one way or another very soon!

Replacing things I forgot to pack:

Even though I purchased some travel sized ones before my trip, I forgot to pack my contact cleaning solution.  At first when I realized this, I panicked!  I had a small amount I'd brought in my carry-on in case I'd wanted to switch from contacts to glasses on the plane (never needed to), but that was hardly enough for more than a day or two, let alone nearly 3 weeks!  I went to my hotel front desk to ask if they had a little gift shop for items guests forgot to pack.  They did not, but directed me to a sort of concierge/luggage assistance person.  

I was all prepared to have to figure out shopping at an Indian pharmacy of some sort, but when I explained what I needed, the concierge asked how much I needed, called some place to confirm they had it, how much it was, and what the cost was.  He then told me the cost, and said it would be an additional 150 rupees for the cab ride, a total of 460 rupees.  That's less than $10 total, for the cab and the contact solution!  

He said he would have it purchased for me and delivered to my room when it was ready.  Within 30 minutes I had it in my hands!!!!  Wow, this is what it must feel like to be rich.  Or royalty.  At least a VIP :)

Electric Currency:

I read in my travel guide (downloaded on my iPad of course!) that the currency here is 220-240V AC.  Whatever that means.  I brought with an adapter/converter universal plug-thing that I'd purchased this past summer for my trip to Finland & Russia... only it isn't labeled for India, and I didn't know if India would be the same as the middle east, Asia, the UK, or what.  I tried googling the situation so I could charge up my laptop before going to bed (I'd actually gotten a lot of work done offline during the last leg of my flight last night, but it of course drained the battery).

Well, of course I had a hard time figuring out which adapter to use and I didn't want to fry my MacBook Air!  I need to stay connected for work for the next 3 weeks, let alone staying in touch with friends and family back home.  I thought about unplugging some things in the room to see if any of them looked like the plugs on my universal adapter, but the only two I could find were connected to clocks, and I didn't want to mess with having to reset the time on them, so instead I called the front desk.

Within minutes the front desk had delivered not just an adapter, but an entire power strip adapter so I could plug in my computer, ipad, ipod, and iphone all at once!  Guess I could have brought my hair straightener after all!

Last "tip"

Last "tip" I learned so far was about tipping itself.  It's very wise to keep a lot of small bills on you at all times in India as everyone expects tips, especially in a nice hotel like this.  I suppose many of their livelihoods depend on it.  A one hundred bill is only about $2, but since it's the smallest bill I have been able to get my hands on, they are going fast, especially with all the extra "help" I've been needing since I arrived!

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