I made it to New Delhi ok. I had a long list of things to do, and I got most of them done (but still need to file my taxes!) Thanks, Leah, for the great idea of having the driver stop at the post office on the way, instead of trying to get there on foot to mail off those prescriptions. (...you're welcome - thanks for crediting me in your blog.) Nothing like a last minute emergency meeting half an hour before you are supposed to leave on a 7,500 mile trip to shake up your schedule!
The trip to and through the airport was quick. No line to check-in (thank you, business class) or at security. The Air India lounge doesn't quite live up to the other executive lounges (or at least the other one I've been to -- Open Skies) (...only because you didn't know to go to the American Airlines lounge when you flew with them...) but they had plenty of vegetarian food.
The flight was great. I actually got a descent (...decent?) night’s sleep (day’s sleep? The 9 ½ hour time difference is complicated), and saw a movie (Disney’s Tangled – their 50th feature length animated film) plus the end of Due Date (started on my last business trip – didn’t like the beginning but gave it a second chance. Shouldn’t have.) (...still not understanding why you didn't like it- I thought it was hysterical) and the beginning of the Denzel Washington movie about a runaway freight train (I started it with low expectations, but it’s not bad for an airplane movie). Indian food for dinner, Indian food for breakfast, and some spicy nuts for snack. (..Indian spices?)
Breezed through immigration. Had my bad x-rayed by customs (...bag? Unless it's a commentary on the x-rays) (but I don’t think anyone was actually looking at the x-ray monitor. Maybe they just do it to zap all the New York bed bugs coming in). After leaving customs, a white suited driver was waiting with my name on a clip board. Nice! Turns out he was from the hotel, and a different RBS driver was also waiting for me at the airport. Oh, well! It was high 80s or low 90s when I landed. (...a little cooler at midnight when MY plane landed.)
The driver from the Oberoi hotel was very pleasant, but I had a little trouble with his accent. (...your accent?) It seems that everyone here in New Delhi is an entrepreneur. He showed me all the sights in Delhi – mostly bureaucratic buildings – and then said I should have him take me to Jaipur tomorrow and then Agra on Saturday. Oh, and don’t book it through the hotel – they will overcharge me (which I’m sure is true) – but to book it with him directly.
Into the Oberoi hotel parking lot, where security looked under the car and in the trunk, x-rayed my bag, and had me pass through a metal detector (which started beeping about my blackberry, but security just waved me in – why bother with metal detectors if you’re not going to listen to them?) (...seriously! I had a cane - a METAL cane, and I offered to hand it to him as I walked through, but he waved me through too, cane and all! Surprise, it beeped.) The receptionist escorted me up to the room (true white glove service!) (...I hope you appreciated how you got the white glove service for the both of us - I was just told to go on in, and I had no idea where I was going. Good thing you were sitting in the lobby.) I tipped the bellhop a whopping 200 INR ($4.50) (...oh, I didn't. Guess you were also tipping for the both of us) before I saw the sign that said not to tip any hotel staff, but instead to give the tip money directly to the hotel. (...maybe they mean the other kind of tipping- like "no tipping in the airport" -- whooaa...) And we thought the US was anti-worker!
Hotel room window faces a beautiful monument in the distance (maybe Humayun’s Tomb?) I looked down at the street and – lo and behold! – two elephants with riders are walking down the street, alongside the auto traffic. Why did I let Leah keep the camera? (..yes, that was a silly move- especially since I've got my new iPhone and all...)
I decided to walk to the India gate, about a mile down the road. A rickshaw driver pulled up and told me there was nothing in the direction I was going, but for 10 INR (20 cents) he will take me to a nearby market. (Can you say kick back?) ("kick back.") Then an Indian guy walks out of the golf course next door to the hotel and tells me the same thing. Hm, maybe I am being overly cynical.
The walk to India Gate was fine – it had cooled down by then. But the streets are not pedestrian friendly, and I passed what I thought was a dead dog (oh no!) (but it wasn’t there on my way back, so it seems it was just sleeping) (good). It is almost impossible to cross the India Gate Hexagon on foot. But then I walked back, too, so I guess I’m a slow learner (or subconsciously suicidal). The India Gate monument is reminiscent of the Paris arches. I got there just in time for a major rally in support of Anna Hazare, and protesting government corruption. Rebellions aren’t just for the middle east these days. (I still think it has something to do with your being there- we also found ourselves walking into a rally in Paris - Libyans protesting Qadaffi, Israel, and also in favor of Lesbian Women of Color.)
Back in the room, turned the TV to the hotel channel while blogging. They showed the Oberoi Udaipur (ranked #15 in the world) – looks very nice – but the scene they focused on was a tourist boating on the lake, with a beautiful palace hotel in the background – not the Oberoi, but the Taj Lake Palace where Leah is going to take me for my birthday! (...I thought it was for OUR birthdays, but I'm ok with getting to expect another present of my own. It's true that we are actually going to be there ON your birthday, and mine isn't until 5 weeks later...) Guess we made the right choice (even though it’s only ranked as the 39th nicest hotel in the world). (...hmm...we're one year late for THAT birthday-)
Off to dinner now. (...guess that's why you weren't hungry when I ate dinner at 1AM)