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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Delhi Meet

How many official government tourist offices are there in Delhi?  We now know there are about 15 fake official government tourist offices, at least that is how many we saw, and one real one.  Often they are tucked beside shops with signs proclaiming "Money changers - Full fledged!" and offering alternatives to the tours we request.  Sometimes you have to step over piles of scaffold pipe and street dogs to enter them.  How do we know this?  On Saturday night, after two 8-hour flights, the IHI team of 2013 landed in Delhi!

We immediately embarked on what was the most alarming car ride of my life.  Courtney, Sonika, and Jenn, having travelled through big, developing-world cities, were less phased by the honking deluge of vehicles cramming into some of the world's most competitive streets, careening through markets within inches of pedestrians, sometimes cows, and motorcyclists carrying entire families complete with sari'd women and newborn babies.  The quirks of driving in Delhi could easily fill an entire blog post, but that wouldn't leave room for 36-degree night-time temperatures, ancient temples, or market haggling.

Nor would it leave room for scam artists.  On Sunday morning, there were very few tourists in Connaught Place, the commercial heart of Delhi.  That made us conspicuous targets of smooth-talking scammers who attempted to appear helpful as they tried to direct us to various tourist scams that they were connected to.  Eventually, we got our bearings (after our first Indian pit-stop….Starbucks) and found the Hop On Hop Off tour bus, which took us to some of Delhi's historic forts and temples.  Having survived the 40 degree heat, adjusted to the hyper-pace of India, and even practiced a little bit of market haggling for jewelry and souvenirs, we boarded a plane for the cooler, breezier airs of Tamil Nadu…