Daily Archives: September 26, 2018

Delhi Belhi?

It’s funny how we know stuff to be true. Absolute clarity in our minds. Facts lodged in our brains. Things that just are because, well, we know they are.

Here are some facts then.

  1. 25% of Indian trains are over 2 hours late*
  2. 20% of Indian hotels cost £200+ a night**
  3. On the Delhi Metro you are 100% likely to get pickpocketed***
  4. Brits don’t like spicy food****
  5. Everyone who goes to India get Delhi Belly*****

Boom! Mic’ drop. Glad we’ve cleared that up then. Go back to your lives proceeding safely with the absolute knowledge and certainty that the above is all true.

Happy trails.

Ian

* Based on a sample of 4 separate train journeys taken this September.

  • New Delhi – Kalka (Train #12011 Shabadi Express: 3 hours, on time).
  • Kalka – Shimla (Train #52455 “The Himalayan Queen”:  5.5hours, on time).
  • Chandigarth to Jaipur (Train #12984 Chg Ali Rath Sleeper 10.5 hours, on time).
  • Agra – Harzat Nizamuddin (Delhi South) (Train #12643 Nizamuddin Express: 3 hour journey, train originates from Kerela – 2800km away! It’d already been en route for a day and a half. A DAY AND A HALF! It was miraculously only 2.5hours late.)

Indian train travel is quite the experience. Now that’s a fact. In my many thousands of kilometres travelled across the subcontinent, their punctuality is actually pretty darn good. And it is soooo much more fun than taking the bland aircraft option.

Want more rail facts? Try these.

** Based on a sample of five hotel stays with a per room budget range from £17.00-£200.00

Conclusion? OMG hotels in India are super expensive! No. No they aren’t. But yes, you can spend a lot of money if you really want to.

We went full decandance for 3 days and stayed at the utterly glorious Samode Haveli in Jaipur, Rajasthan. It was a special treat that we awarded ourselves as a holiday within our tour. Were we in LA, Miami, Nice, Hong Kong such a stay would’ve cost £000s/night. Even so, the difference is that this jewel of a place actually feels 5*. Yet I have paid more to stay in a London Premier Inn. Sadly though, in each big Indian city there is a proliferation of giant faceless hotels in outlying compounds. Global brands where you pay western prices for a luxury cell in a fortified complex. Not here.

If you exclude this one anomaly, the average per room for our jaunt is £34.50 which is more representative of Indian “tourist” accommodation. That’s £17/night per person. In fact, we “saved” a hotel night by taking a sleeper train which was £30 – that’s £7.50 each – including agency fees.

*** 11th September 2018. Traveled two stops on the New Delhi metro at rush hour and got pick-pocketed.

I was so busy looking out for the team that I failed to take care of myself. £20 or so gone. Lesson learned: next day it was money belt to the fore.

Context: In 4 trips to India with a duration of some 5 months, spanning 24 years, covering huge swathes of the country it was the first time I experienced any crime. (Although every rickshaw/tuk-tuk/taxi ride has a whiff of tourist rip off I grant you.)

**** It seemed to us that (almost) every time we sat down to order some nosebag, the staff would bobble gently and enquire “spicynotspicy?” When we replied “oooh, spicy please” they’d double check. One can only imagine that lots of delicate flower Western tourists have taught them to err on the side of caution.

Every “spicy” plate of food that was served was richly flavoured, but none was inedibly fiery. (I’ve eaten curry in the UK that melts your face, causes unpleasant sweatiness, coughing and fear of the next visit to the loo. I recommend a loo roll in the fridge with the scrunch and dab technique if you are a victim of nuclear grade chili.) We experienced some revelatory tastes that made veggie meals come alive in ways I’d not dreamed of and brought out the flavours in fresh breads.

***** Delhi Belhi? Wrong. Just wrong dammit. Where are the facts?!

This is just straightforward confirmation bias. Sure, we all know – sometimes only anecdotally – someone who knows someone who turned inside out, but it’s not a dead cert’ by any means.

Annoyingly then, it’s pretty much the first question that people ask when you mention travel to India. “oooOOooh, did you get Delhi Belly?” There is a certainty in the knowledge that you are definitely going to fall really, really ill. No question. Is this because it has its own special name and people can think of nothing else? 

Seriously: GET A GRIP. When you eat in India, other things can happen apart from 100% inevitable diarrhea. I am more suspicious of a UK city centre “world buffet” restaurant than a typical Indian street cafe. I have been REALLY ill from a barbecue restaurant in Camberley (now closed, unsurprisingly) and Mrs B still talks about another BBQ incident that lingered with her for months in 2002 from a solitary dodgy sausage.

Apologies to those who’ve been ill due to food poisoning, clearly. In 1994 after 2.5 months on the road I got careless and was waylaid for a few days. But for the most part? Follow basic/common sense hygiene practice and get delicious food, great value. I have now accompanied my Mum, sis, wife, kids and two friends around the sub-continent without a loo related blip.

Oddly if I travel to the Lake District, no one asks if I’ve had the shits there.

I have.

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