[Unrelated to food] This is a story I’ve shared on my Facebook before with my friends but I thought I could also share it here with you.
A post-International-Congress night full of reckless decisions and examples of how NOT to travel that ended up being the amazing-race Indian adventure with incredible people! Here’s a break down of the 12 hours:
The CC (the organizing committee for the conference) dropped us off at New Delhi Metro Station where we could find our way to Jaipur overnight. It had to be an overnight trip if we wanted to get back to Delhi in time for our flights in 2 days. Of course, no AIESECer ever plans post-conference travels during a conference and we were no different. Our first idea was to find the International Tourism Office inside the station and buy train tickets to Jaipur. So we dragged our overweight suitcases and backpacks up and down the rollercoaster of stairs across the huge Metro Station and an hour later, we finally found the office. But this is India and nothing is easy: all the overnight trains to Jaipur were departing from the OLD DELHI STATION and we were in the wrong station.
Time to split up! Muhammad stayed in the International Tourism Office with all our bags while Max, Daniel and I decided to go downstairs to find the nearby bus station behind a tree, directions given by a tourism office staff member. Unfortunately, there was only a police station behind that tree and none of the officers spoke English. After struggling to communicate and hoping they would understand if we just repeated “Jaipur” constantly, we got a paper with some scribbled instructions that was no help.
We found a private tourism agency right outside the train station but bad news, renting a taxi to Jaipur through their service was way outside our broke-MC-member budget and all busses at the station nearby (the one we couldn’t find behind the tree) were fully booked. Thinking this agency was trying to scam foreigners by only giving over-priced options, we walked to a hostel nearby to get better recommendations. We finally got another piece of paper with “India Gate” and “Bikaner House” written on it, the next clue on our golden-ticket hunt.
Back at the International Tourism office, we reunited with Muhammad who was getting nervous that we were gone for so long. We decided to search for the cloakroom where we would leave all our heavy items and collect them once we get back from Jaipur. Sounded like an easy task but that took us another good 30 minutes of dragging our bags around and asking for directions. Now that all were travelling light, we jumped into a tuk-tuk and headed for our next destination: Bikaner House bus station near India Gate. It was supposed to be only 15 minutes away but we had to add another 10 minutes of circling around India Gate looking for Bikaner House. Our tuk-tuk driver dropped us off and asked for more than the price we originally bargained but we avoided that situation using our broke-MC-member haggling skills.
More bad news! All buses to Jaipur were fully booked, including the one leaving at 7AM. We learned from a local student also looking to get to Jaipur that there was recently 2 holidays so all busses and trains were full. He was going to wait at the station all night hoping that he could take someone’s spot on the 7AM bus if there was no show. But being 4 people, we had less chance to all get on that bus than he did. So the bus wasn’t an option and it was back to the train. Unfortunately, the terrible 3G connection didn’t allow us to verify whether train tickets were available online. We started losing hope and the option of staying in Delhi just seemed easier. But Daniel, either the most optimistic or the most stubborn one in the group, still insisted on going to Jaipur. We decided to take a quick break to charge the one 3G phone which our lives depended on and of course, sell AIESEC to the young Indian student who helped us communicate with the ticketing officers.
After wandering around India Gate looking for better 3G connection, it just made more sense to head to Old Delhi Railway station and find out in person whether tickets were still available. Another tuk-tuk ride and we ended up at our next destination. We fought our way to the front of the line only to find out we needed to go to room 402 to buy our tickets, the line we stood in was standing class only. So it was another 30 minutes of circling around the station, from platform to platform, looking for 402.
Room 402 was just a ticketing booth. The 4AM train was full but the next train was departing at 4.30AM. However, to verify whether there was room on this train, we needed to come back to the booth at 3AM; the officer was unable to give us the information 2h30min before the train leaves. Somehow, a wandering taxi driver overheard our discussion and came up to us saying he could drive the group to another nearby bus station where tickets to Jaipur were still available. Of course, it seemed way too good to be true so we just walked away. Hungry and post-conference-exhausted, we sat down for the first time in 4 hours at a nearby restaurant and considered our options. Staying in Delhi was the obvious logical decision but for some reason, maybe the egg curry we ate, our minds were still fixed on Jaipur.
The same taxi driver came up to us and offered to drive us all the way to Jaipur, going sightseeing around the city and back to Delhi in his 20-year-old and falling apart taxi. It sounded out-of-the-question sketchy but the train wasn’t any better. We were going to be split up into different classes on the train, it was going to cost us the same price as the taxi and we would risk not getting back to Delhi in time for our flight because we couldn’t buy round-trip tickets (we would need to buy the return ticket once in Jaipur and nothing guaranteed available tickets). After some more haggling, we made the final decision to take the taxi to Jaipur. The tourism agency he drove us to was a poorly lighted booth on an empty main road. The taxi driver told us he wanted to get a better car for the long distance trip so while waiting, he took the group to drop Muhammad at a hostel, since the latter decided to stay in Delhi.
We circled back to the tourism agency to pay our fees and switch cars. Then, we found out that the original taxi driver was staying behind and that his non-English speaking brother (not a single English word), Rishi, will be our driver for the trip to Jaipur. Fuck it, whatever! We just settled into the car and fell asleep as it was leaving Delhi.
We woke up in the middle of our sleep to find ourselves near the IC hotel. We were at the toll border in Gurgaon and our car had stopped in the middle of the road while other trucks were passing us on both sides. A border officer was speaking aggressively to our driver who was searching the car frantically for some papers. The officer pulled our driver out of the car and the only thing I could get from him was “incorrect document” and “fine” before the two of them walked away. Too exhausted to care, Max pulled the windows up, turned on the AC and we all fell back asleep.
We woke up for a quick pit stop to freshen ourselves up and grab a quick breakfast. Somehow our driver got himself out of trouble with the border officer and we were only 2 hours away from Jaipur. We were still processing the events of the previous night but what seemed to be a reckless decision has now clearly paid off. Had we chosen the safe and easy option to stay in Delhi, we would have never experienced this beautiful and inexplicable chaos that is India!