Wednesday, August 5, 2009

July 31st to August 2nd - India

Jordan seemed to fly by in a second. It was only three days but I managed to pack in so much in that time. By the time I was on my way to the airport, I felt I had only just arrived and was leaving again. That's travelling for you.. Particularly when you try and fit in so much like I am.

The journey to the airport was err.... entertaining... The directions for the Royal Jordanian City Terminal were vague and that's being generous. They stated....

Royal Jordanian - City Terminal
7th Circle
Amman

The 7th Circle being the seventh roundabout in Amman. The good news was that the cab was pretty cheap, the bad news was that there were oooh about a hundred buildings on or nearby 7th Circle with no obvious sign for Royal Jordanian to be seen. So, what do you do in a tricky situation like this.... that's right, you ask a policeman.... So I did....

"Excuse me... do you know where the Royal Jordanian City Terminal is please?" I asked....

"What the address?" came the response from one of the three policeman I approached (the other two were busy smoking)

"Oh, it says it's at the 7th Circle," I responded....

"Yes here is the 7th Circle," he said pointing at the roundabout...
"Thank you and have good day..."

"Errrr.... ok well I kind of knew that this was the 7th Circle on account of it being a roundabout of the circle variety and it falling between the 6th and 8th Circles....," I desperately wished I was brave enough to respond..... my real response was....

"Thank you... do you know where the Royal Jordanian office is please?"

At this point smoking Policeman number two joined the conversation...

A lightbulb suddenly lit up in Policeman number one's eyes also....

Policeman number three then didn't want to be left out either.... They chatted between themselves and then collectively.... almost with perfect synchronisation.... nodded their heads and pointed in three different directions....

"Righty ho.... errr.. thanks...," I responded and headed off to what looked like the busiest side of the roundabout...

I asked four other people all of whom pointed in equally random directions before the sign caught my eye, hidden down a slope at the back of some other buildings... Royal Jordanian City Terminal.... it was almost like finding an oasis of water in the desert.... I was saved.

I went in the booking office and was told I could only check in up to 3 hours ahead of the flight and it was now 2 hours and 50 mins ahead of the flight... Thanks for the signposts and directions you buggers... I thought.

At that point, the manager came over and explained to me that the economy class for the flight I was on was overbooked so if I dressed up a bit I could be upgraded...

Wow... an upgrade... never had one of those. I got on the shuttle bus and got to the airport. Shimmied into the nearest toilet and pulled out the smart trousers... Nice....

Sure enough, I got upgraded.. It was heaven. The seats were big and comfy, the service impeccible and the flight ermmmm flew by. I had lots of champagne, red wine and fresh fruit juices to drink... the stewardess also got me a cognac to follow dinner. For dinner, I had a choice and opted for the Salmon Gravalax for starter and then Pepper Steak for main course... It was very nice indeed... I even had my own salt and pepper shaker...

Got to Delhi and walked around looking for my driver. It was 4am and I was exhausted. As soon as we pulled out of the airport, I knew I was in India.... there were cows ambling along the middle of the road and women dressed in beautiful bright green, yellow, orange and pink sari's walking on the pavement.

It was stifling. I got to the hotel and fell asleep for a few hours. When I got up, I went to the thriving Connaught Place to get some dinner. I'd been recommended a few places by the lovely Sheily, my flight attendant who was just wonderful. Originally from India, she provided me with a host of recommendations. I was very grateful.

From Delhi and Jaisalmer


From Delhi and Jaisalmer


I got into a rickshwaw and asked:

"Namaste, can you take me to Connaught Place please?"

"Where you from?"

"England."

"Aah Andrew Flintoff..."

"Close.... Andy Sommer actually.... but I live in Australia now..."

"Ricky Ponting.."

"Nope not him either.... so how much to Connaught Place?"

"80 rupees."

"I'll give you 40"

"Ok."

Well that was easy enough.... Midway through what I now like to call the journey of death the driver turned to me... yes turned as we were heading towards a less than quiet roundabout with many large modes of transport around.... and said...

"Where in Connaught Place... my friends shop?"

"No, not your friends shop actually... strange as that may seem... can you take me to a good restaurant please... and err...." gesturing towards two large headlights about a metre away.... "Do you mind keeping an eye on the road please."

"Hmmm nice restaurant..." said the driver as he swerved around the bus and inside the taxi between the bike and narrowly avoiding two suicidal pedestrians hot footing it across the road... "Ok, I take you to very good restaurant," came the reply...

"Well not too nice please... I have a budget...."

"No problem budget... we stop at KFC... very popular in Delhi...."

Hmmm, I never thought I'd hear KFC as an option to a request for a good restaurant.. That's Delhi for you.

Connaught Place was great.

From Delhi and Jaisalmer


I went for dinner and got an extra portion of food delivered to my table by mistake... I questioned it but something was lost in translation. After I finished, the manager came up and highlighted the error... He said:

"My friend.." (we'd only just met....) "You have extra food which not for you..."

"Yes, I thought that was strange," I replied. "I asked the waiter whether it was part of my meal and he seemed to say yes."

"Ok, so it was for other table..."

"Oh right, sorry about that...," I said.

"So, I charge you for it or no?"

Well seeing as you're giving me the option, I thought... I'll choose no...

But alas... in my classic not-wishing-to-rock-the-boat-and-being-apologetic-for everything English way, I actually said: "Errr... well, I don't know.... erm... what does your conscience tell you to do..."

Good one Andy, ignore the obvious get out and put yourself into the hands of his conscience... smooth... you idiot!!

Fortunately, this man had a conscience and I wasn't charged... "Where you from?" he said later....

"England," I replied.

"Aah Andrew Flintoff....," he said smiling

"Indeed," I retorted knowing that this was going to be a recurring theme of my trip.

I left the restaurant and bumped into two Spanish tourists who let me practice my Spanish on them... We walked around for a bit and then went for a drink. It was very pleasant.

From Delhi and Jaisalmer


When it was time to get a rickshaw back to my hotel and, noticing all of the shops were pretty much closed (it was 10pm), I quickly realised, I had no idea of the name or address of my Hotel.. I knew the name, I did... but I couldn't for the life of me remember.

I must have looked lost because this lady who was still selling from her rug on the pavement asked if she could help. I explained the situation and she sent her very happy and willing son around looking for somewhere with access to the internet. Bingo, I was invited into another hotel and they let me check my email free of charge. So kind.

From Delhi and Jaisalmer


I stopped and chatted to the woman who shares a single room with her four adult sons. She was fascinating and I was chatting to her for an hour... I bought some trinkets from her and bid farewell... A lovely start to India, I thought.

I met my group and tour leader the next day and we had our orientation meeting followed by a lovely meal. The group are great.... mainly Brits and mainly from Surrey bizarrely. I'm sharing a room with Allan from US who is a great guy and we got on immediately. I tried to explain cricket to him but as soon as he started offending the great game by referring to sixes as home runs I realised my challenge was a big one... We have a similar sense of humour so I couldn't have asked for a better room mate.

The meal was superb. Uttam our tour leader recommended we stick to vegetarian for a couple of days and I'm surprised to say I loved every mouthful of my first real Indian meal. The tour started in earnest the next day.

From Delhi and Jaisalmer

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