The trip was supposed to be with the Chickpeas. But during the initial discussion, they wanted to take travel package once we reached there. As for me, I prefer to go backpacking and arrange everything on our own. I thought of objecting the idea but it would be selfish of me to drag them on my adventure.
So, one day out of boredom I browsed through AirAsia's website, looking for destinations to go for my year end break. I thought of going to Beijing and Shanghai but I was afraid I couldn't stand the freaking cold winter. The next destination on my mind was Cambodia but the big flood across Southeast Asia made me crossed the country out of the list.
Then, out of the blue I selected New Delhi and tadaaaaa... they were having a promotion. So apelagi, I bought the ticket without thinking twice. Selfish I know for leaving my friends, but I guessed it was better that way. Both parties will be happy. They will be happy following the tour package and I would be happy with my adventure.
So yeah.. another solo travel for me.
When I told my parents I was going to India alone, they didn't object. My dad just said, take care and don't accept anything from strangers. I took it as a blessing so with that, I packed my bag and started my journey.
I ♥ AirAsia... hehehe...
Flight to New Delhi took about 5 hours, the flight departed at 9.50am and reached there about 12.30pm. India is 2 hours and 30 minutes behind Kuala Lumpur, FYI.
I had landed in India yo!
Once you approached the immigration area, you'll be greeted with mudras. These are hand gestures that are essential to Indian classical dance, yoga and visual arts.
There are 9 mudras altogether and each of them carries a different meaning. Read all about it here.
One of the popular areas for backpackers in New Delhi is Paharganj. The area got mixed reviews from travellers, some of them recommending it as the accommodation is very cheap and the location is good but some said the place is noisy, dirty and rather dangerous for solo female traveller.
But given the close proximity of the public transportation; the area is within walking distance to New Delhi Metro and New Delhi Railway Station which is convenient if you wanna catch the early morning train to Agra, plus the cheap accommodation (yeah yeahh.. I am a cheapskate) I decided to stay in that area.
From Hostelbookers, I booked Kuldeep Friends Hostel. They offered free airport pickup which was really a huge help. So as soon as I passed through the immigration area, I walked to the arrival hall looking out for the hostel's representative. Easy cos he's holding a placard with my name. Felt like a VIP yo!
Driving from the airport to Paharganj took approximately 40 minutes. As we entered the neighborhood, I looked around curiously. The area was indeed dirty, dusty and very noisy too.
Things I noticed in Delhi (and all other parts of India that I visited), drivers like to honk their car horns and urine stench and cow dungs were everywhere. Also, the cows walked across the roads like a boss, stopping all vehicles in their directions.
The guy then stopped the car and I saw a signage...oh we've arrived.
He led me to a narrow path.. ermm.. what place was this?!
And this was my hostel.
The entrance wrote Hostel New King so I wasn't sure I stayed in Kuldeep Friends Hostel or Hostel New King. They are under the same management though. Well as long as they didn't charge me extra rate it's fine.
Before checking in, I requested to see the room. You should do this too whenever you look for a room.
The room came with a TV and hot water.
It looked a bit shabby but I only paid INR315 (around RM20) per night so I won't complain.
While checking in, Harpreet, the owner of the hostel, asked me what's my plan in India. I told him my plan roughly and asked the direction of the train station as I wanted to buy the tickets for my next destination. He looked shocked upon hearing that I haven't made any onward travel arrangements as according to him, the year end is a super peak period.
He told me there are two booking offices, one at the train station and another one in the city centre. But he advised me not to go to the train station as it would be crowded. He then said, 'I'll take you there.' It made me wondered, wahh why you so nice? He had an agenda actually.. you'll know later on.
I went up to my room after completing the check in process.
This was the view from my room's window. Classic! Well, that's Paharganj for you.
After resting for a while, I went down to the lobby and met Harpreet. He asked me to follow his friend, Dave, who was waiting at the hostel entrance, to the booking office.
Dave drove me to an area not far from Paharganj. He brought me to an office at a shoplot, claiming it was a government approved booking office. I was suspicious cos it actually looked like a travel agency. I've read the scam stories in my travel books so I had rough ideas of what to expect. But I went inside anyway.
Once inside, I told the officer I wanted to buy train tickets. He helped me checked my desired dates of travel and the destinations but unfortunately all were sold out. I asked him to check for the tourist quota tickets and guess what he said? 'The tourist quota tickets are only for travel agents so if you want to get the tickets you can follow our tour package.' Wahh.. you've got the nerve to fool foreign visitors to your country. I knew the tourist quota is a special allocation available for foreign travellers, not a special allocation for travel agents, but I said nothing, pretending like I knew nothing.
He then asked me how much was my budget and proceeded to offer me their tour package. I knew it! It was a conspiracy. Harpreet and Dave brought me to this travel agency, and they would get commission if I signed up for the tour.
I politely declined the package, telling them I was a student and I was strict on my budget and walked out of the office. Just as Dave and I got in the car, the travel agent guy came and asked me how much was I willing to pay. I told him I still wasn't interested and asked Dave to drive off to the train station.
On the way, Dave told me it would be hard for me to get the tickets and why I should just follow the tour package offered just now. Wow.. these guys were persistent ok! Nevertheless, I was firm with my decision to go to the train station. I told him, I would just try my luck.
And thank God, it was the best decision ever. I got my tickets though tickets to some of my initial intended destinations were sold out. But still, at least I managed not to fall into those travel scams.
From the train station, I crossed the main road back to Paharganj. At night, Paharganj transformed into a lively bazaar. The Main Bazaar Road is full of locals and travellers looking for bargain buys. Clothes, bags, books, jewelleries.. you get it all here.
I walked around just to see the bazaar and get the feel of India. It actually took me some time to really digest that I was in India. It felt so surreal being in the country that I once thought was never going to make it in my list of to go places.
Couldn't wait to explore the city!