Ahhh I had had a wonderful time in Agra, seeing the Taj Mahal, making friends and catching my first ever Bollywood film, and the ups and downs of my first visit to India seemed like they were ending on the up part. I had to get back to Delhi where I would spend a couple of nights before flying off to Europe and continuing my first ever round the world journey.
I had a train at about three o’clock in the afternoon or slightly earlier, getting into Delhi around the 6pm mark. It all sort of started then because you see, the train was not to be on time. In fact it was a couple of hours late. It was supposedly the ‘fast train’, but it stopped numerous times on the way back to Delhi. In fact, we arrived somewhere between 10.30 and 11pm.
I had picked out a guesthouse for myself, ‘Ringo Guesthouse’, in fact I had visited it without staying there when I was earlier in Delhi. It was full of backpackers, and for a dorm bed the price was only 90 rupees, at the time about $3.50. Simple, but a decent choice. So I left Delhi station and walked over on the Paraganj side to the bevy of rickshaws and auto-rickshaws – literally dozens – waiting for passengers. Or were they? Half of the wallahs were sleeping in their conveyances.
I asked one, two, four, six wallahs to take me to Connaught Place and Ringo Guesthouse, none were even vaguely interested. It was the first time (and possibly the only time) I have found people not willing to take me. I can only presume that at that time of night they were more interested in sleep. Perhaps the wallahs came from towns outside Delhi and whilst working in Delhi they had no other place to stay.
Finally I DID find someone to take me. He seemed a little unsure on ‘Ringo Guesthouse’ but eventually we were moving. Except that he didn’t take me far – to a little travel agency five minutes or less from the station. I explained that I was tired and I just wanted to get to Ringo Guesthouse. No, I didn’t have a reservation (big rookie mistake).
Well, how about all these hotels instead? The wall was full of different Delhi hotels, most of them twice my daily budget or more. No thankyou sir, I just want to go to Ringo Guesthouse. Hmmm, okay, it’s very busy in Delhi at the moment (it wasn’t) how about we call them? So he dialled a number and passed me the phone.
Is this Ringo Guesthouse? Yes, it is. Do you have any beds free tonight? Oh sorry, we are full. End of conversation.
This seemed very unlikely, it was far from full last time I’d been. In fact it was pretty obvious that this was not Ringo Guesthouse on the phone. So there were arguments, I didn’t want to stay in a 1000 rupee a night hotel, or even a 500 a night. I was too far to walk it, and it was midnight now. He showed me a picture of a guesthouse – Vinagara Inn. It looked… ok I guess. The rooms had TVs. They had a room for 220 rupees.
In the end I gave up and he called and I took a room there. It was late, hot and I wanted to sleep. The rickshaw wallah took me there. I climbed up several flights of stairs to get to me room. It was small, and there was no TV. I had to ask for one. It was black and white and owing to the size of the room it had to sit centimetres from my face. There was a big window on the other side of the bed, and outside that window was a huge red neon light that flashed all through the night. I barely slept.
I decided I was in hell and by 7am I was already up, packed and handing my key back to reception, who then informed me I had to pay extra because I’d paid at the travel agent and that didn’t include tax! What a nightmare! Took a rickshaw to Connaught Place and found Ringo Guesthouse by 8am. Not even half full.
Lesson Learnt. Book ahead if arriving late ALWAYS, or this happens. I was travelling alone and vulnerable, being tired also didn’t help. And people wonder why I don’t like Delhi! May the Journey Never End!
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