Posted by Amanda
They say never visit India for the first time.
So far, I love it! I was getting leery of it for fear of getting sick and all the talk of the dirt, the men trying to touch me (called eve-teasing), and the hawkers. I was actually thinking it might be worse than China.
Our diplomatic briefing made me miss Cape Town and the hassles of getting everyone off the ship didn't help the situation. Plus the dock is loaded with cars ready to be shipped and a pretty gross smell of burning trash.
Once we got out, we walked quite a long way to get to the main auto rickshaw area. It was hot and ashy. Some drivers told us the area we were going to was closed for lunch. We pressed on for more accurate information and better offers. Finally we grabbed a cab with Rachel and Mario (two other RDs) to Pondy Bazaar, a market that Indians use. Our cab ride was interesting. First he took us to at least one factory store of carpets. When we quickly returned to the cab he was disappointed. At Pondy Bazaar, he was going to wait for us. When we returned he said we had taken a long time so we needed to pay for parking. It amounted to only 50 cents so we did. On the way home he stopped at a gas station to get us to buy the gas. We gave him the money but told him we were taking it out of the total. He didn't fill up. When we got back to the ship he asked for a bit more to help feed his family. Since the diplomats said they would give 50 rupees to a driver for lunch if he stayed with them all day, we gave it to him.
Anyway, we had a terrific vegetarian Indian lunch. It was spicy and delicious. They brought us hot lemon water to wash our fingers when we finished. Then we hit the shops. Rachel's enthusiasm for the sarees led us to try some on in a department store. It was nice because they had set prices. I really don't like the whole bargaining thing particularly when we're really talking about less than $5. I bought one complete saree with the shirt and underskirt and another just because the fabric was so beautiful. They are both cotton so they are a bit bulkier than the georgette, but the patters are better to my mind. I know I'll never wear it at home, but the fabric is so beautiful. Rachel also bought a few other things besides the sarees. We ran out of time too quickly because the other two had to be back for an SAS evening trip.
Noah and I went back out with an auto rickshaw driver. He made 2 unplanned stops before we told him a new destination. The weird thing is that the other 2 stops were to places that were pretty much closed. When we got to the new destination, he jacked up the price. We gave him more than we had agreed upon. Noah tried to tell him why we weren't giving him what he asked. Finally, I just put the money in his hand and we walked away. This is apparently what you are supposed to do, but it really feels awful. You know they are ripping you off since they don't even use the meters for foreigners, but it still feels wrong.
We walked around City Center, a shopping mall basically, thought about seeing a movie, something I really want to do, and ate at the food court. We bought a few groceries and saw a mouse in the grocery store.
Our rickshaw home was uneventful other than not knowing exactly where our ship is docked. Our dirver did ask for a dollar as we left. He was willing to exchange it for rupees but we just didn't have any with us. We have a very early morning tomorrow for our trips to the Taj so packing and bed.
Okay, this entry doesn't really say why I love India so far. I'll have to elaborate on that in a future entry.