Monday, February 8, 2010

Back in Delhi

We came back to our fun little C Park Inn Hotel and had some free time to roam the city. After our plans to see a movie were thrwarted, Rebecca, David, Jonathan, Ethan, and I ended up taking a three-stop trip in a taxi (an actual yellow, New York-style taxi). Making stops in rickshaws and taxis lowers the price of the trip by a lot and you get a chance to come across some cool (albeit more expensive) stores because the drivers get commission from the stores for bringing new customers. So, we first went to a really expensive tourist shop where they tried to sell us clothes, carpets, jewelery, and other items for a pretty penny. Their stuff was really neat and their english was almost impeccable but you could tell they pick on the rich tourists for all of their business. Our next stop was a neat little tea shop where we got to try a really good chai massala and an even better Darjeeling tea. We also got taken to another clothing store where we picked up a few scarves because they were much cheaper. We finally ended up back at our hotel for an easy 50 rupees. It was definitely different than any other shopping experience I've ever had, but was fun because you never know which store you are going to next!

We went to JNU for a university exchange where we did our presentations again and got to mingle with a few more students. They served us these really good samosas and then presented a few of their own works on bioinformatics. The rest of the day was a free do to do some last minute shopping and exploration.

1/26 The Republic Day Parade
This was nuts. The entire city was shut down for this parade and security was very extensive. There were sandbag barriers, lots of soldiers with big guns, and riot police vehicles within a ten block radius of the parade route. When we went to the parade our ricksaw driver had to drop us off ten blocks away because the police had closed all the roads. Thousands and thousands of people went to this parade and each of us were searched and checked with metal detectors because we couldn't bring anything in with us, and I mean anything. We couldn't bring a bottle of water, a cell phone, a camera, or even a pen!
It's really too bad that we couldn't bring any cameras becuase this was a really cool parade. There were lots of military regiments that marched through. One section of them were all on camels, including their band! I have no idea how they were playing wind instruments while riding a camel. They also had floats that told about India's history and culture and weapons that strolled through such as missile launching vehicles and tanks. The President was the first person to drive through the parade route (his appearance was a main reason for all the security). The first finale was the amazing motorcycle show. These people were fantastic! All of the drivers were military personnel and they did crazy things on their motorcycles. One of the first was a guy who had a ladder with four of five rungs on it and he would put his bike on cruise and then put his ladder on his motorcycle seat and then walk up it! He steered by leaning on the top of the ladder. Another one was a motorcycle that had five or six people on it all leaning off either side like a circus act. The last one consisten of five motorcycles riding in paralled about five feet apart and somehow there were 36 people linked together on the top of these motorcycles! It was a magnificent sight.
The real finale was when their fighter planes did a fly-by and then split off in opposite directions Blue Angel style.
We finally got through all the crowds and got back to our hotel for dinner.

We had some complications in flying back to the states which included a 10 hour delay in the Delhi airport due to the fog. This was a bit of a bummer, but we did get to stay in a really nice hotel for a few hours from about 1am to 6am. The 16 hour flight from Delhi was really long but was actually OK since we were all wiped out. It was weird with the time difference though. For instance, we received breakfast on the flight at 10:30am and then were served again 12 hours later at 10:30am the same day! I was curious if they were going to serve breakfast again, but they served us lunch instead. We had about a five hour layover in Chicago and then flew to Seattle and then eventually Spokane. Overall, it was about 36 hour of travel. Not something I want to do again anytime soon, but it was well worth it.

-Scott Pfursich