India, travel and first day…

New Delhi, Delhi, India

When you first step off of the plane, it’s like entering a different world. Thousands upon thousands of people rushing from one place to another, insistent merchants peddling their wares, noisy crowds pushing forward to get some food from the sellers. “Shoe shine sir? 5 minutes and very reasonable price” “Chai, for you sir?”, “Designer jeans? You buy! You buy now!”

You look out the window at the smog, hovering in a layer, almost blocking out the sun.

And the smell… It is all encompassing. A mixture of various food stuffs from the vendors, unidentifiable chemical smells, and the body odor of the thousand desperate souls who wander aimlessly about.

Most of the signs are in English, but some are confusing and it is easy to get lost in the maze of corridors and hallways…

Yup… I think it’s safe to say that I hate Pearson Airport.

And the new airport in Winnipeg? It feels a lot like Pearson Junior. A lot of similar architecture, but very efficient.

The flight to Toronto was uneventful, just like every other of the hundreds of flights to Pearson, but this time, I’m not going in to be a theatrical sound guy for a musical… I have some connecting flights to make…

A six hour layover in Pearson is about 5 hours and forty five minutes too long in my books, but I got a chicken burger from one of the fast food places (probably the last meat for awhile) and then wandered the international departure corridors.

Next stop, Zurich. An 8 hour Air Canada flight over the ocean. Watched Harry Potter, read a little, slept a lot. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken an international flight with Air Canada and the service has improved immensely, but it still feels like I haven’t left Canada.

Arrive at Zurich… The Airport is made up of cold marble and steel, and every few minutes, an announcement is made in Swiss German. There are no less than 10 chocolate shops and about the same in cheese shops.

Seven hours to Delhi. Service starts with coffee and some cheese, then a little later, they bring by some cheese. Watch another movie, then sleep a little until the cheese cart comes by again followed quickly by the meal cart which offers either a dal curry, or the standard airline rubber chicken, complete with salad and a side of cheese with a Swiss chocolate bar for desert.

There is very little cloud cover during this flight, and I have a window seat, so I can peer out at the landscape while waiting for the cheese cart to come by again. The flight path from Zurich to Delhi zig zagged quite a bit to avoid the various no-fly zones in the area (Iraq, Afghanistan etc.) but we were close enough, and by using the interactive map in the seats, I was able to see Baghdad, Kabul, the West Bank and Islamabad. But apparently, Swiss Air has access to Iranian airspace, because we flew right through it and at one point were directly over Tehran. So I nibbled on some gouda and marveled at the world below.

Then we had some cheese.

Just before we arrived in New Delhi, the Swiss Air flight attendants passed out hot towels with a hunk of cheddar, and then we disembarked with an aufedersein and some chocolate.

I didn’t really know what to expect my first sights and smells of India to be, but it certainly wasn’t this. The air was hazy, but it smelled of smoke more than anything, as if a forest fire were blazing in the vicinity. But the thing I was really not expecting was the total lack of people in the gargantuan international terminal at Indira Gandhi International Airport. It was desolate.

So I zipped down the ten moving sidewalks, until I came to a set of escalators. As my sight lines crested to the point of seeing past, I was able to see the teeming mass of humanity waiting to clear customs. There were less people at the U2 concert in Winnipeg than there were in this line (about a hundred persons wide and thousands long).

In that line I heard German, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Hindustani, Farsi, and the occasional snippet of English. I had read about India teaching and testing one’s patience, and I have a feeling I am in store for more queueing during this trip. I did notice while in line, that for the most part, I was the only one smiling.

And so the adventure begins… I’ll keep you posted. Right now I’m going to get a nap and a shower, while eating a bit of cheese left over from the flight…


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4 thoughts on “India, travel and first day…

  1. Odessa says:

    I have a sudden craving for cheese…

  2. tokyomike55 says:

    Thanks for stopping by my India post. I think I had a much easier welcome to India than you did in Delhi. At least at customs. There were only about 70 people waiting in 3 customs lines, and less than 100 outside waiting to greet, sell, or fleece new arrivals. Plus I had somebody there to pick me up and get me out of the crowd. Still, it was a test of patience as the locals didn’t hesitate to jump in the line just as I was about to go through immigration. But the officer told them to pound sand and get back in line. Still, just as your wrote, me and the one other non-Indian in the crowd were mostly smiling the whole time. We were, after all, in India. What a rush!

    • JBJ says:

      I actually went through customs at the Indira Gandhi International Airport four times on this trip, and the first time was the only time it was really crowded. I think a bunch of large planes had landed all at the same time and not all of the booths had customs officers at them. When I came back through New Delhi from Kathmandu, the lines were really small. And I agree, it was quite the rush. Thanks for reading, and I love the eclipse pictures on your blog! 🙂

      • tokyomike55 says:

        Thanks, yeah, eclipse was pretty trippy. Makes you feel pretty tiny in the universe when you see the sun blotted out.

        And thanks for the clarification on customs. It definitely is a hit-and-miss process anywhere I guess. But I think I will also be expecting those crowds of humanity –and I will be equally surprised if the airports are empty! lol

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