19 May, India – ‘All Over The Place – Asia’
Here we go again. This is series 7, yes, SEVEN, of ‘All Over The Place’. This time we’re doing Asia. Well, as much as we can between now and October. First stop – India.
For Block One I have the pleasure of being joined by CBBC’s Chris Johnson. Our plane arrived in New Delhi at midnight. Once we were through customs (where they very sweetly seem to give as many people a job as they can – there’s a man to stamp your visa, then two men in chairs that you pass one metre later who check that your visa has been stamped) my first impression of the airport was that I felt like I in Gatwick. They even have a Costa Coffee and a WHSmiths (where, rather confusingly, Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ is at number 26 in the bestseller list).
Didn’t feel like I was at home when I stepped outside though. A warm soup of dusty polluted air enveloped us as we pushed our luggage trollies out of the doors and precariously into the path of oncoming buses and taxis. Once on our bus the first thing that struck me was how many street vendors and lorry drivers there were sleeping on the roadside. They just seem to pull up, get out, lie down and have a good old kip. Quite a few children and young adults too which was sad to see.
Our hotel is a huge block of a place opposite the station in the catchily named Dwarka Sector 10 area. Never seen anything quite like it. It’s a four star hotel surrounded by barren land, roads and crumbling housing. It’s like someone built it thinking “If I build it, they will come” – and they didn’t come. After the inevitable scramble for wifi so we could say goodnight to our loved ones it was off to bed.
Enjoyed tucking into the curry buffet for breakfast (I love it, so having an excuse to eat it for 3 meals a day is fine by me), and once the heat had died down ever so slightly we decided to all head out into the centre of the city. Had some fun negotiating the metro system, which is still probably easier to understand than the Tube back home if you’re a tourist, then as we emerged from the central station we all decided to pass up the tuk-tuks plying for business by the pavement and walk the 15 mins to Central Park. Big mistake.
Within a few minutes the pavement petered away and we were gagging in the searing heat by the edge of a main road that basically seems to be used as an open air toilet for market stall holders. At points where we had to cross the road it soon became apparent that no one stops for you, so you just have to pluck up the courage and throw yourself across the road hoping for the best.
Around the edge of the not particularly big park is a white colonial circular parade of shops called Connaught Place, and we began to scout around for somewhere we could sit in the shade outside and have a drink and a bite to eat. Every place we found was indoors, dark and air conditioned, and a passing Delhi dweller called Rahid who was eager to help thought we were mad not to take up what was on offer, but he led us to the tourist office, got a recommendation and then joined us on a little tuk-tuk ride to a suitable restaurant. We all ended up having lunch with him and his mate Prince, and found out this is basically what he does with his days. As a child he was a shoe shiner and now he “helps out” tourists and engineers himself into a position where they buy him lunch. Seemed fair enough really, he’s an enterprising bloke!
Being SUCH professionals Chris and I were keen to get back to the hotel and get an early night (this is our “getting over jet lag” day) and said goodbye to the others as Rahid loaded them up onto tuk-tuks to take them to a bazaar to do some shopping – no doubt getting himself some commission in the process! Clever lad.