Aad (Art) and Mike seemed to have traction on the Visa situation so we decided that we would head off early on the morning for Delhi to meet them at the Embassy at 10.00am. There were 8 of us meeting the First Secretary there, (6 Aussies and Linda and Harry from Port Elizabeth, South Africa who are on the group after us). We were on the road by 5.00am after the usual chaotic throng of interest in us packing the bike and photos being taken….it was further complicated by a newspaper van that chose to “share” our parking space… so we couldn’t get to pack the bike….the driver was less than receptive to a nice request to moving his vehicle ….so a more assertive approach was employed…..with him eventually only moving his vehicle a few inches over…..but at least we could actually get to the bike to pack things on ….however cramped. Sometimes Indians are not so friendly…….I’m actually quite puzzled as to why he could not move up to a vacant space…….language difficulties failed to explain.
We had quite a few tolls to get through…but we eventually arrived in the complete madness of Dehli traffic (this is how we die!) and managed to navigate to the Myanmar Embassy by 9.35am, where we found young Mike already waiting for us. His Dad had gone to get the bank draft to pay for their Visas as the bank was closed when they went yesterday and only opens at 10.00am. We spoke to a guard who said we could park out front but needed to watch for traffic inspectors who come and clamp vehicles…..we took the risk! A quick streetside confab between the two couples and Emiel and Claire were on their way to the bank for us all….whilst Vince and I waited in line at the Embassy. Linda and Harry arrived and we filled them in on things….they were already all organised but as everyone was aware of the difficulties and wanted to keep things simple we all held off to put things through as a group. Time ticked on as the “Bank Crew” were having a lovely beauroctratic time at getting the money drafts…..but they made it back in time. Aad (Art) approached the window asking for the First Secretary whom he had been negotiating with and who had agreed in writing to issue visas to us today….but the guy was being obstructive….he told us that she had changed her mind and unless we had flight tickets he could not take our applications….we asked if he could call her but he refused…..UNBELIEVABLE! Aad (Art) had had problems with this guy before and went to see the security guard on the gate (as this is how he had managed to meet the First Secretary previously) but is was a different guard and no luck there. Things were looking very bleak and tempers were being frayed in all directions….the window was due to close in just a few minutes (only open from 10.00-11.00am) and it was looking like it was back to square one. Talk of trying to get help from the Australian Embassy was had….but most of us thought this was not really a situation they could assist with. In the end I gave it one last try with the “window guy” using my best “Teacher/Manager” voice….explaining that we had an undertaking in writing from the First Secretary, we had all followed her instructions in good faith, and if she had changed her mind it was only right and proper that she face us herself and on that basis I must insist on speaking directly with her. I told him it was highly inappropriate that he should have to do her dirty work……he agreed to send for her if we waited…..so we waited. When she arrived she was nothing short of milk and honey and said she had not changed her mind and took all of our documents and passports and told us to return at 4.00pm tomorrow to collect our Visas. In the “happiness” of this none of us through to ask for nor did we receive any receipt of any kind…..so I was not sure if that would be a problem for collection…..but that would be tomorrows fight! In reality it there was no need to stress…..all was in order…..I was nominated to go to the window and the guy just handed me all 8 passports….duely stamped! FANTASTIC! Myanmar we’re coming for you!
On that first day in Dehli after the Embassy, we headed off to our hotel, The Su Shree Continental (where Aad (Art) and Mike were staying) at just 1000 INR per night….bargain…..and lock up garage for the ANIMAL….fantastic! Not the best area….with open sewers, pickpockets (Vince and I were targeted at an ATM but we picked up on it and lost nothing) and the beggar situation …well….out of control really………I find it very difficult to ignore them…..especially children…..very sad……but hey it was only for a couple of nights.
On 1st October we arranged a tour ….only 400INR each….this should have tipped us off! We were promised an air conditioned car, drive and English Speaking Guide. Somehow that latter was omitted but even a phone call back to the hotel by Emiel was unhelpful. We just had to suck it up and do the best with what we had. Consequently, we are a little unclear on where we actually went and what it actually meant. My tummy trouble had started up again and being the “little one” stuck in the back of the car didn’t help my motion sickness……kindly, in the middle of the day, the others agreed to move and let me sit in the middle after our visit to Humayn’s Tomb….which was less of a problem….and Vince was in the front due to needing the leg room. 6 adult Aussies in a smallish car was quite squashy….. I felt sorry for the chivalrous boys in the back!
First we were dropped off at Shahi Jama Mosque built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1656……however when we got there you not only had to pay entry but you had to pay to take photographs…….discussion over this was heated and Claire and Emiel decided on no photos as did Aad and Mike. Vince and I decided we would pay, as our photos are the only souvenirs we have of our travels…..we were busily removing shoes and working out our money to pay whilst the others went in. However, it was short lived…..Aad (Art) was refused entry as he only had shorts and Claire and Emiel were physically harassed as they were carrying a camera in their backpack…….arguments and shouting started and we were told “All Tourists are Bastards” and to “Go back to your own country”. The guys were not impressed…..Vince and I just stood there astonished at what was going on. So with our four friends not going in ….we decided to move on……So Shahi Jama Mosque? We were there but saw nothing. These were the first unfriendly Muslims we have come across in our travels. This is when we spoke to our driver to ask about the Guide as we thought this may have helped……he was just the driver but he gave his phone to Emiel who tried to sort it out…..without luck…..we pressed on.
Next we went to the Red Fort…….about a Km walk from the car park…..where we had to pay almost 3 times the price (100INR instead of 40INR) to park because we were tourists. Entry to the Red Fort was pretty quick as there were not a lot people at the “Foreigners Window” where we paid 25 times the entrance fee of locals (250INR instead of 10INR)…..our friends were not happy about this either……but once inside the fort it proved very interesting……although again walking around not really understanding what your are looking at was difficult for Vince and I. Previously, we have either had a guide or at least and audio guide……these were available at the red fort for additional costs…..but to be honest we were starting to feel like dollar signs in India so gave it a miss. In hindsight that probably was a mistake….we should have just paid and got the audio guides…..something to be said for group pressure I guess.
We then went to the World Heritage Listed, Humayun’s Tomb where the inflated prices for foreigners was again evident. It was an amazing complex with several buildings but to be truthful I wasn’t really taking a lot in as I was feeling so unwell at the time. Will have to Google it and have another look. This is were they guys swapped places in the car for me.
We stopped off for some lunch (1000INR for the two of us)….and I just had a spring roll………it was all a bit of a blur by then….our next stop was at some kind of monument…..Claire and I went to the toilet where we again had to pay 20INR. When I came out Vince had bought our tickets but the other 4 had decided not to go in……..Vince went back to the window and returned our tickets and we all got back into the car without seeing anything.
We stopped off at a bar for a drink and to wait in the cool (it was sooooooo hot) until it was time to go back to the Embassy to pick up our passports and Visas. It cost us 1200INR for two drinks (a beer and a glass of Indian house red wine) due to all the taxes they add on to everything here (about 20% on top of your bill)…. I didn’t even drink much of the wine anyway.
The driver dropped us off around 3.35pm and the window didn’t open until 4.00pm so we waited. Harry and Linda arrived just after 4.00pm and we all had a bit of a catch up. It is always a treat to meet new people and hear their stories and adventures…..particularly motorbike riders….most enjoyable and it’s a shame we won’t be travelling with them as they seem really nice.
We caught two Tuk Tuks back to the hotel…..the “Oldies” in one and the “Young Ones” in the other (including drivers)……I must confess there was a bit of a “race” back……and it was neck and neck for a while, but in the end the “Oldies” won….it may have had something to to with the extra 50INR (150INR total) that Vince slipped the driver! All good fun!