OK once again my preconceived North American views on India proved completely erroneous!!
Firstly one can not judge India by North American standards & get an accurate reading on the country. Sure you can go staying at the 5* hotels in the area of the government offices & headquarters of business. See the nice parks & homes then take a tour of other areas, form the impression that the masses live in abject poverty, come back & write about it & have your one sided distorted view taken as gospel by the sheep.
You can go stay at one of the $10 or less hotels in one of the Bazar neighborhoods & comeback with a view that the majority are doing what it takes to have a decent life with the support of family & are fairly content & happy. The truth is probably somewhere in between but it would take living there long term to discover it.
The Taj Mahal is an extraordinary piece of architecture in an amazing setting & a must see on any ones bucket list! Now here again we have erroneous news being spread as I read somewhere on the net that they were considering closing it to the public to preserve it from pollution. BS. They have closed all the factories in Agra to stop the air pollution that was harming it + stopped all vehicle traffic within 500 meters of it, of course in true government idiocy they exempted a few motorcycles (driven by lazy simple serpents, some things are the same the world over). At 750 Rupees/visitor it brings in way too much foreign cash to close!
For a self-proclaimed city hater to form an attraction to a big noisy polluted city like Delhi means that culturally it has something unique to offer especially after an 8 1/2 hr flight & going back 2 1/2 time zones arriving just after dark at 6pm local time, passing through relatively painless immigration & customs then finding the “prepaid taxi” booth (given the tip by my seatmate on the plane a UBC student returning home for a bit). Then when the streets became too small & crowded he got me a rickshaw to take me the rest of the way to The Hotel Double R. A mighty fine introduction to Delhi!!
Now there is just something about the traffic mix on the streets of Delhi that is intriguing, fascinating & addictive, take your cars, Tata trucks & multitude of buses & motor bikes throw in masses of Tuk-tuks as many rickshaws & bicycles now just add a few farm tractors horse & ox carts, mustn’t forget the pedestrians running through the 8 or so lanes of traffic along with the inevitable English roundabouts then just for fun make a few traffic lights in operational then make sure everyone has a working horn & you can pretty much imagine Delhi’s fascinating traffic. Super cool LOL
Then you have the Bazar’s, similar to the markets of CA & Korea only the people live there & also hotels are located there making for a self-contained community with all the hustle & bustle just a normal part of daily life where the unique Indian music just fits like a glove. Another amazing experience that should carry the warning label “Caution too much exposure can be addictive” as can the best tea I have ever tasted.
The reason for the long bus ride is that my trip to Kathmandu coincided with a major Hindu festival & everyone was traveling home for it so no seats were available on the trains. Preferred route would have been train then bus across into Kathmandu but guess I was lucky even getting a bus seat. That’s the problem with a set itinerary which will be over once I hit Beijing then I will just follow the wind.
At first the people seem a bit standoffish but as I found out on the 38 hr bus ride from Delhi to Kathmandu, supposedly a “tourist” bus but with the exception of myself & 2 Israeli back packers was full of local Indians & Nepalese, they just reserve their judgment until they know a bit about you then turn out to be friendly & helpful.
At the Nepal border a couple girls from Nepal gave us some advise on the procedures which were reinforced by the guy from the bus company that led us through the relatively painless procedures (if done properly) like you can only entre Nepal with 500 Indian Rupees (money changer just before border) & the visa fee is $40 US payable in CASH only + if you left your extra passport photo packed in your bags (DUH) you only had to get a copy of your passport (5 Rupee). Then get exit stamp from India & off to the pink immigration building on the Nepal side, walk back to bus wait for customs check & hello Nepal.
Talking with these girls while waiting at the border they said they had wondered what “the old white guy” (not in those words) was doing on the 2 day bus trip with the locals but that I had handled myself well (no bitching & eating the local food at stops??). Before we reached Kathmandu another 1/2 dozen had asked me in their broken English where I was from & wished me well. As I got off at a suburb before the heart of town an older lady asked if that was the stop I wanted & I assured her it was as one of the girls had said there were numerous hotels & guest houses there & since it was 4am not the 8am I had been told (hadn’t booked a room) I figured some one that spoke the language might be an asset! Guess it pays to try & blend in as much as you can.
Guess the bottom line on India & SE Asia is that they do what they have to for the survival of the family & if you figure you were overcharged it wasn’t really a scam but your lack of knowledge or bargaining ability. This I know from dealings with them in the bus business in Toronto where they do business the same way. Personally I much prefer that way than the western way of bigger is better & use any devious tactic to drive the small businessman out & replace them with a multi-national corporation that then simply screws the public with no sense of morals what so ever!!
Kathmandu is larger than I imagined with way more, mainly European trekkers but quite a few grey haired Nikon toting tourists & the shops in Boudha where I am caters to them.