The drive from New Jersey took a quick hour, surprisingly. We figured Monday morning traffic would make it as much as two hours, so we now had four hours to kill before our departure. No worries, because we found that we didn’t print off the final approved visa for India. No visa, no trip! Fortunately, a lovely person with Air India allowed us to use her computer and we were able to print the visa.
Next, you have to go throw a huge serpentine line to get through security. Now, we were only two hours ahead of departure. Our boarding time was one and a half hours prior to the flight, probably due to the many wheelchair passengers and families with children. It was a large plane and almost totally filled.
The plane itself was a little shabby, I thought. The flight attendants were a little surly, too. But, I guess accommodating three hundred passengers for eleven and a half hours can get a bit crazy. We slept a bit, too. I think we will have a little melt down once we get settled in our hotel.
Our guide, Ravi, has worked for Smartours for 21 years and seems very knowledgeable. The groups can be as large as 35 people. Our group consists of only seven of us. There is a couple from Las Vegas and a family of three. The parents live in Florida and their adult son lives in Flagstaff, AZ. We were all on the same plane. Our 15 passenger van will be home throughout most of India.
As we drive in, the traffic is nuts. Cars and trucks fight for space with motorcycles, as they all weave on and out of lanes. Lots of honking, too. We pass many embassies and park-like areas, which are very prominent. Dehli is a very green city. All the buses are powered by natural gas and despite what we heard about pollution, it doesn’t appear to be a problem, as it was in Beijing and Shanghai. Oh, and there are cows wandering around and hundreds of monkeys all along the way.
The Presidential Palace, as well as the government buildings are very impressive. Finally made it to our hotel, Le Meridien, near the center of a Dehli. It is an exquisite hotel. The room is lovely and it has a huge tub. Love that! It also has a bidet, just like the airport bathroom. Very European and civilized.
Our breakfast is included, but we were a bit hungry. The dinner buffet was the equivalent of $38 US and the sit down restaurant even more. We went into the bar and had two local Quicksilver beers and shared two sandwiches. Still, it was $50 for our snack. The taxes on the meal were 38%! Yikes! Off to bed.
Tomorrow is a big holiday in India, New Year’s. There will be lots of celebrations, which is why the plane was full. Folks were going back to be with family.