Varanasi was the last “new” stop in India. All that stood between me and Southeast Asia was a quick one night stop in New Delhi.
I saw some amazing things in India. At the top of my list would be the Amber Fort in Jaipur, the ruined city near the Amanbagh in Alwar District, taking a boat up and down the Ganges in Varanasi and of course seeing the Taj in hated, hated Agra. That being said, Northern India was far from my favorite place. Aside from seeing the cultural/touristy things, there is little to do at night (outside of Delhi) and you are mostly confined to your hotel. While I love Indian food, and much of the street food looked very tempting, westerners (who don’t want Delhi belly) are stuck with only the restaurants that have cleanliness standards that won’t lead to gastrointestinal problems. This was lousy, because at tourist restaurants they never believe you when you say that you want your food really spicy (the one exception being the Copper Chimney in Jaipur, where they actually brought the heat).
Beyond these minor trifles, India can just be oppressive. I wrote a note to myself one day saying “Visiting India is like playing Golf. If you manage your emotions and accept and deal with the unavoidable adversity you can slowly improve your score and have an enjoyable experience each time; but it is not set up as the type of sport/country you can ever “win.” I stand by this, and it was more than just the poverty. I’ve seen crushing poverty in the townships in South Africa, slums in South America and the countryside of Vietnam amongst other places, but there was something different and lifeless about India. The red dust hangs everywhere, the smell is relentless and everything seems drab and devoid of color, like the air has already gone out of the place. The further south we got, towards Rajasthan, there was more color. For sure I will return and see if I find the southern part of the country more agreeable, but Northern India is definitely not on the short list of places I’ll be rushing back to.
The ride from the Gateway Ganges Hotel to VNS took about 30 minutes over a fairly decent road. As we approached the airport, the driver said he couldn’t go right up to the front of the terminal, so it was a short walk in the scorching sun. Check-in was quick. Security was a hassle and they insisted on opening up and rifling through all of my bags in search of some phantom knife that didn’t exist. Once I was re-packed and had my carry-on tags stamped by security I sat down in the common area. I think VNS was the only airport I encountered that didn’t have a lounge. I had seen an Indian beverage “Thums Up” sold in a few places and I decided to give it a go. It was a bit like Coke with a more cinnamon-y flavor. I rather liked it.
Unlike my arrival into VNS, departure was mercifully via jetway. I had a brief chat with an old Canadian couple who told me I absolutely had to go to Burma immediately. I would later attempt this, but after failing to get a visa on the one available day before the embassy in Bangkok closed for Songkran, it would have to wait for another trip.
The flight on this 737-700 was uneventful. Even though it was almost the exact same flight time as the DEL-KTM flight, this was domestic so there were no printed menus and the service was not as good. Additionally, this cabin had 16 J class seats (as opposed to 8 on the 738 DEL-KTM) and they were not as comfortable as the plush recliners on the 738.
The pre-departure beverage choice was either orange juice or a strange green drink that was a blend of several juices. I opted for the green stuff. It was an odd mix of sweet, bitter and salty. I was repulsed by the first sip, but then found myself unable to stop drinking it. I looked over at the gentleman across the aisle and he too recoiled in horror after his first sip, but then after a brief interlude finished his glass. Strange stuff that green drink.
The meal service was a choice of several types of sandwiches. I was in Row 2 and they were out of my top choice by the time they got to me. I ordered some sort of lousy microwaved wrap. At least they bother with a service on such a short flight.
The flight landed in DEL in the early afternoon and another bus transfer from the Apron awaited. As I was arriving from within India, there was no customs to deal with and I was quickly on my way back into town for my last night in India.
CABIN AND OTHER PHOTOS: