Anyone who travels frequently will know that not every trip goes smoothly. The pictures today are from a trip that I made to New Delhi in late 2006 and it did not get off to a particularly good start.
I was due to be presenting at a conference and then running a two day training course for our office there. I had spend the previous five days in Shanghai and was transiting through Singapore to catch the late flight to India, due to arrive at around 10pm. A good night’s sleep in the hotel and then off to the venue for the conference early the following morning.
The travel gods did not, unfortunately, read the agenda. I arrived about an hour later than scheduled because of a late departure. In the arrivals lounge was a hotel driver, holding a card with my name on it. Almost. One letter difference in 11 letters.
I checked and confirmed – yes, it was a passenger on my flight and yes it could have been misspelling. We got into the car and set off. This wasn’t my first trip to India and I had always stayed at the same hotel so switched off a little as we were driving along. After about 20 minutes things did not look at all familiar. I asked the driver to confirm where we were heading and again, he confirmed that we were indeed heading to the correct hotel.
Becoming less and less convinced as we continued to drive along I eventually decided to call the hotel myself to check on the details – something deep down was telling me that things were not right. It was a slight surprise to discover, upon talking to the hotel, that I had apparently already been checked in to my room and presumably was happily asleep. By now, alarm bells were ringing.
I asked the driver to talk directly to the hotel just to be absolutely sure about the situation. Much hilarity ensued, then the driver informed me that he didn’t work for that hotel, but in fact for another hotel almost the whole way across the city. Yes indeed, there had been a mix up. And no, he couldn’t drive me to the correct hotel, but would have to take me to the hotel he had on his documents because they needed the car back.
Standing by the side of the road, shortly before midnight having traveled pretty much the whole way across Asia, this was not what I wanted to hear. But he would not be swayed. We had to drive to the other hotel and then wait until a driver could be found to take me all the way back across the city to the correct hotel.
In the meantime, a gentleman who had been on the same flight as me, with a name that was, as you have by now guessed, one letter different to my own, was woken up and informed that he was in the wrong hotel and would have to get ready, get packed and then be taken to the correct hotel. I am fairly sure that he was as happy about it as I was.
I finally got to sleep at about 2am. After four hours I was awake and ready to head off for work. A fun time was had by all.
The saving grace of the trip was that I added an extra few hours on the saturday morning and was able to get to the Red Fort – a place that I had been hoping to visit for some time. We arrived just at dawn, before the Red Fort opened to the public. It was hot, dusty and still. The light was dull and flat and the colours of the fort washed out and grey. I only had a few hours in total to visit, but it was one of the most beautiful and yet sad places that I have seen.
It is clear that the fort was once a wonderful place, full of water, light and shadows. But when I was there the waterways were empty, the ground parched and the buildings many years from their prime. It was eerily quiet in the early morning light which added to the melancholy of the place. As the dawn turned into day more people arrived and the colours began to emerge. Reds of the sandstone, the whites of the marbles and the faded yellows, blues and greens in the halls and pavilions. I could have stayed for hours more but the visit had to end and I had to head to the airport.
It was, as it turned out, the last trip that I have made to India to date. If I believed in bucket lists, a return visit would be on mine.
Enjoy the pictures and experience just a hint of the beauty that is the Red Fort.