I booked the FabHotel online. There are a number of FabHotels, This is FabHotel Regalia. The pictures of the rooms looked good and the prices were good. I paid slightly less than £200 for 13 nights. The reviews in Booking.com were good and the fact they have good WiFi sold it to me. And the WiFi is good!
As I mentioned in an earlier post, it took over an hour to get here from the airport. This is due to a new bridge being built that causes massive traffic jams.
FabHotel Regalia reception is on the second floor of the building. The ground floor and basement are a gym. Booking in proved easy and I was shown to my room which is right next to the reception which worried me a little. I had specified that I’d like a quiet room if possible because, those that know me, I don’t sleep well.
My room is facing the main road 🙂 I already mentioned the obligatory horn honking. That said the room was cool and fresh with the ceiling fan going as well as the aircon set to 27º. The “bellboy” set up the TV for me. I turned it off as soon as he’d gone. I haven’t really watched TV since 1990 and I saw no reason to start now. Besides TV technology is beyond me these days and the number of channels overwhelms me a bit and I have this blog to write and my ukulele. What more do I need?
The room definitely looks better in the pictures 🙂 but at this price it’s pretty darn good. The bathroom is a little more disappointing. I thought I’d go through the bath when I stepped in for a shower and there are that many taps to control… (I’m not sure what,) that there should be an instructional manual. The place could be cleaner. Cobwebs on the aircon make it look shoddier than it is. The light switches need a good clean from all the other fingers that have been on them and labelling wouldn’t go amiss. There are 5 above the bed for the lighting combination and the ceiling fan and one rheostat that presumably was for the fan but seems to do nothing. Maybe it’s a dimmer for the main light, I’ll play later. The bed is enormous, clean and hard, as I like it.
The bathroom has 4 switches inside and a razor/plug point. Also not sure what the switches are for yet but the main light switch for the bathroom is on the outside, similar to many Spanish houses. All these switches could do with labels.
Interesting to note that although India uses a round-pin plug similar to that which the UK used years ago, the continental plugs that we have in Spain fit. So don’t panic if you forgot an adaptor. My phone charger and power supply for the laptop work. I did take the precaution of bringing a surge protector from Belkin as the Indian power supply is renowned to be erratic.
Breakfast in the room will cost you a minimum of 50₹; or INR. I had 1 Aloo Parantha (whole wheat bread stuffed with spiced potato mixture), 1 Gobhi Parantha (the same but with cauliflower) and a cup of chai (tea) that is flavoured with something like Earl Grey, is sweet and comes with the milk in it. It was super-good. This lot cost me 170 INR (about £2) and they probably got it for a quarter of the price from a street vendor. But it was convenient today.
I went in search of breakfast navigating the traffic with no mishap, walking in the road as the indigenous people do, down to the marketplace where Imran took me last night. It seems that it is a night time or afternoon place as most of the shops were shut when I got there at about 10:00. I bought my breakfast from a little street vendor in roadside food stall set up under the trees and sat by the roadside eating it.
I don’t know what it was but it was very spicy and cost me about 10p. It seemed to be a slice of bread filled with vegetables and covered with a thick batter of egg. It was very good and pretty filling too. I then went in search of a drink. I was tempted by the coconut milk served in it’s green fruit case but I opted for a huge mango juice that was considerably more expensive at about 40p. But it was delicious. I’m sure that as I get used to this country the prices will come down.
I had my first dental appointment at 14:00. Thinking they’d have a quick squint in my mouth and I’d be out of there I hadn’t bothered to eat. I was seen fairly promptly and it took nearly two hours. My dentist is Dr Priyank Sethi a friendly, approachable, clearly spoken man that took the trouble to explain a lot of things to do with the various forms of dentistry and implant options that were open to me. I liked him immediately.
Street vendor for lunch
I was sent out with one of their staff to have a 180º scan made of my mouth (it cost £5) and told to go get lunch and come back at 16:00 for the evaluation results. So I shot across the road from their practise and had an egg curry from another street vendor. His operation was on a much more professional level 😉 That cost me about 34p and it very nearly defeated me it was so big. Talk about spicy, aside from the relative humidity, up in the probable 90% area, I burst out in a formidable sweat. Needing to get some fluids in me I searched out another street vendor that sold coke for a bit of a sugar/caffeine jolt. The bottles here are 600ml, not half a litre, and was charged the princely sum of 40p. I shall be going back today when they start my dental treatment.
Because I’d eaten so late I decided to give the evening meal a miss and get on with this blog only to arrive back at the hotel to find that my brand spanking new MacBook Pro had developed a problem. It appears that I’ll need a new motherboard, graphics card or possibly screen. It’s going to be fun finding an accredited Apple dealer over here to get the thing repaired. I have none of the purchase documentation with me, one doesn’t expect a £2000 computer to go on the blink within 2 months. I don’t know if I’ll lose my programs for processing photos or video. I hope not as they are on the hard drive. But I guess there is a chance that this may be one of the last entries in this possibly short lived blog.
But I’ll have new teeth 🙂
New MacBook Pro needing repair after less than 2 months
I went out with another CouchSurfer called Imran last night. Imran is the same age as my son (27) and a super-nice guy. He works advising tourists what to do in Delhi (he also works with his dad in the spare time – or maybe that’s the other way about). How lucky is that? He likes advising backpackers and helps out as in tonight where a Canadian guy has lost all his travel documents.
We went to the local market square and had a couple of beers in a bar. Unfortunately for me the bar was pretty westernised and was playing boom chick music that you hear in any bar in UK or Spain and probably the rest of Europe too. I tried a White Rhino beer. The beer with the horn? It was ok but nothing to write home about. 4% by volume makes it average. They tried to sell me Coronita. Why would I want that? You can get it anywhere.
Use your horn.
Walking up the road was an experience. You walk in the road. The pavement or footpath either is nonexistent or has traders on it. There is a little man outside the hotel with his sewing machine. Tomorrow I’ll try and get some photos of him. Lights on bicycles and rickshaws are optional as are crash helmets. No one worries too much about parking diagonally across the on-coming lane of traffic and it seems that the use of the horn is mandatory. Vans, tuk-tuks and the like have signs on the back saying PLEASE USE HORN.
Crossing the road junctions: well you are a vehicle too so just do it. Don’t bother looking, they don’t. But they do seem to have a knack of avoiding you. Motorcyclists and bicycles ride the wrong way down the lane of traffic.
Back to Imran. He has invited me over to eat curry with him when I’ve got my feet under the table. Tomorrow was suggested but I declined as I’m not sure what’s going on yet. I did buy 1 litre of water for 30 rupees which translates to £0.36 or €0,40. I’ve been advised to drink bottled water 🙂 When I’m ready Imran will send a taxi down to me that will cost me about €15 or £13.50 for the day to take me round the sites and drop me back at the hotel. He also invited me to go up to the Himalayas in the middle of August to a friend’s wedding that will last 3 days.
Like most youngsters Imran is addicted to his phone. But he apologised frequently for it 🙂 He also explained that he was phoning his brother to get a chicken for supper as they don’t do frozen supermarket stuff here.
When we split up he offered to get me a rickshaw to take me home. It would have cost about 20 rupees (24p or 27¢). I felt like the walk after the flight. I was tempted to buy a barbecued corn on the cob but decided against it tonight, plenty of time for that tomorrow.
Leaving UK on Air India was a complete cockup. Firstly London Heathrow has changed so much that I barely recognised it. Only to be expected, I haven’t flown from there in more than 30 years. The information boards aren’t that informative. The instructions on them are ambiguous or plain confusing and there is little help. Good job I’m a native english speaker and God help foreigners. I eventually found a man with Heathrow Information on his T-shirt.
Tickets booked online have to be checked-in on a machine. I entered my Air India flight booking number and then scanned my passport. The machine spat out my baggage labels, which are just as confusing as the machines, and my boarding pass. Once that was done, I proceeded to the baggage drop to check my baggage. This is where my first problem arose.
Air India problems
I had had the forethought to phone the embassy before leaving about the possible necessity of needing a return flight booked. My visa is for one year and, naturally, I hadn’t a clue exactly when I’d return. Air India don’t do one year returns nor did they do an open ended return. The embassy told me that it would be OK. The Air India check in crew told me that it wouldn’t. I wouldn’t be allowed to board the flight without a ticket showing an exit date from India.
Result: an extremely apologetic Air India official took me to their office in Heathrow and got the women on the desk to find me a cheap exit flight. So £50.10 later I have a flight booked to Kathmandu, Nepal for the 29th August. Well I did want to go there anyway. But I kind of wanted to do it in my time not theirs.
On the Air India flight
The flight was one of the most uncomfortable intercontinental flights I’ve ever had. The plane was an Air India Boeing 787. For those that understand it was like being on RyanAir for 8 hours. Ok the seats did recline… a bit, and all I can say is thank goodness I’m not a fatty. The onboard entertainment was impossible. I tried to watch a film but the volume levels, even when pumped to the max, were so low that I gave up with the in flight entertainment and tried for some shut-eye. The food was good though. I opted for a vegetarian meal but they had a choice of lamb or chicken too. Mine was a dal with rice. No idea what the others were like.
Indira Gandhi Airport International
Landing at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Airport was… interesting. We were half an hour early. At landing I thought the plane was going to roll. Touch-down was accompanied by a massive jolt/roll to the left before we straightened up and made it to the disembarkation ramps. Never had a landing like it and I’ve flown frequently and all over the place.
Immigration, baggage claim and customs were a doddle. The passport check did take a while though. But everything was clear and understandable and pretty quick. No complaints there.
I found arrivals gate 6 by KFC as instructed by my CouchSurfing friend Virender easily and ten minutes later he was there to collect me. The 9 or so kilometres from the airport to the hotel took about an hour. England readers think “M25”. But it gave us a chance to talk face to face and for that and the lift I’m very grateful. So now I’m ensconced in the FabHotel writing this and then I’m going to have a siesta.
Couchsurfing is a site I joined when I was in Costa Rica in 2012. I never had a chance to use it. This trip to India seemed like a good time to test it out. So I made out a new profile and uploaded a few pics. They charge €19 a year which, as you will see later is a bargain.
Well I applied to 4 people for a couchsurf and had 2 positive responses. I was a tad disappointed. That said, the two that responded have been in contact and one was Mickey mentioned in my second post Satya Dhaam Farm. As you’ll know if you read that I’m going to stay with him for a couple of weeks on his organic farm. The second guy will be away travelling himself but we’ve arranged to meet up when I return to Delhi. So far so good.
CouchSurfing mobile app.
Three days ago I was lying in bed going through the Couchsurfing site on the android mobile app (yes they have an iOS one too), just checking out how it worked in detail and seeing if there were people in the towns that I’d like to visit. One of the things that I noticed was a link that said something like “publish and up coming trip”. I thought about it a while and decided that I’d do it. Since then I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of Indian Couchsurfers offering hosting, help, meet-ups and more. In fact on guy a little more my age called Virender is going to collect me from the airport. How good is that?
I have been contacted by Vishal who lives in Jaipur. Jaipur is a must for me. The Pink City. I really hope that Vishal and I can hook up when I go there. He’s an artist, photographer and a model and way too good looking for his own good. 🙂 Just now I was contacted by Another Virendr (he spells it slightly differently) who lives in Khajuraho. He’s a student of english in Delhi but he’s home with his folks at the moment. I’ve been invited to stay and he’s up for showing me the Kama Sutra temple there.
Am I going?Is the pope a catholic?It may be that I don’t get there before he’s back studying but let’s face it folk, my visa is for a year. I’m pretty sure that I’ll get to meet him in his home town.
Shubham wrote to me in impeccable spanish! He’s studying that. Of course I want to meet him. He’s 21 years old but what do I care? I can talk to anybody. He offered hosting. Sujata works for Barclays (oh the irony – I’ve had so many problems with my Barclays’ account) and she’s up for meeting at the weekends to show me around and having a coffee. So far to date I have had 11 offers of one sort or another.
So all I can say is: if you’re travelling check out CouchSurfing. Granted, as yet I haven’t met these friendly people, but there is absolutely no reason to assume that they are anything but interested, helpful and friendly.
So this is really the first proper entry of this blog and I haven’t even left the UK. Mickey, the farm manager, and I have been in contact on whatsapp. He’s been more than helpful with directions and advice for getting to Satya Dhaam Farm. It feels like I already know him. We’ve text daily since I reserved my place.
I had told Mickey that I was coming to India in search of new teeth and my grandmother’s roots. He immediately told me that I could rest and recuperate with him on the farm. That wasn’t my intention. I told him so. I want to help out the best I can round the farm. Whether that’s grafting on the farm or building him a website – I don’t care. But one thing I’m certainly not going to do is sit on my arse doing nothing watching others get sweaty.
So tonight he sent me some google maps of how to get there and where the bus station and drop off points are. I decided to make a google map of where these points of my journey are. I told him that I was just going to upload the half dozen photos he’d already sent to this site. “Wait” he said, “I’ll send some more“. So Mickey’s photos are the first ones on this blog, and I’m delighted to be able to show you where I’ll be at the end of the month.
Kind of get you all jealous in advance. 🙂
Mickey’s Photos of Satya Dhaam Farm
Organic produce of Satya Dhaam Farm with some photos of the surrounding area.
The first thing to know about going to India is that you need a visa for India. It’s a nightmare. There are so many different types of visa for India it’s a job to know what’s what. The easiest by far is the eVisa which is valid for a month and you can get it online here.
Ok, I know. Where? At the bottom of the page where you see this graphic. It’s not immediately obvious because the web designer didn’t make the image a link but the text underneath is the link. Click that.
My visa is a 1 year multi-entry visa. A bit harder to get and way more expensive to buy. You have to write a letter to the Indian High Commission to tell them why you want to be there that long. I found it easier to use a visa broker to do the work. These guys do the applications daily and have way more knowledge of how to present the info that is required. The mob I used were VisaHQ and they got the job done. There are loads of others out there, I looked at a lot myself.
Registering in India
I’ll have to register at the police station within 14 days of arrival and I have to exit the country after 180 days. So a the multiple entry visa for India is important for long stays. There are a couple of projects I want to undertake. One is discover where my grandmother was born. I believe it was in Howrah, West Bengal. Howrah seems to be a suburb of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) now, but I’ll find out more when I get there. I also want to look into the possibility of retiring there and I want to make this blog in spanish for the Spanish people that have difficulties with the english language. I also have a number of art projects that I’d like to see if I can get underway there.
Time will tell.