India En Transit

The original itinerary for my travel included 2 nights and a full day in Chandigarh.  I didn’t quite get that.

Chandigarh is a city – India’s first planned city – in northern India that serves as the capital of Punjab and Haryana.  As it relates to tourism, there isn’t much to offer for visitors.  It’s simply a more organized, provincial capital than what is commonly found throughout India.  I intended to go there mostly because it seemed to serve as a good staging area for my trip to Shimla and then for my final leg in Amritsar.  It was simply a good pivot point.

Getting to Chandigarh was not as easy as I had planned.  Before I arrived in India, I booked a flight from Delhi to Chandigarh (flight time 1 hour) because it was so cheap ($30) and I thought it’d be a quick and easy way to get to a city that was about a 6 hour drive from Delhi.  So I left Delhi one day around noon and headed to the airport.  At this point my patience had worn thin with Delhi and I was more than willing to kill 7 hours in the airport if it meant not having to sit in Delhi’s filth any longer.

I killed time in the terminal by navigating the archaic security procedures (you need a ticket to even enter the airport) and gleefully finding a bar.  This was the first beer I had in India, and after the frustration that was Delhi, it couldn’t have been a more welcome respite.  I should note that this stage of my trip was also the point where my cash situation was most dire.  With only 150 rupees in my wallet, I had maybe enough to hire a tuk-tuk from the Chandigarh airport to my hotel.  I needed cash badly.

While guzzling down a few Kingfishers, I decided to try a trick that I had heard about from other backpackers in Delhi.  I asked the bartender if he could add 2,000 rupees to my tab, which I would pay by card, so that he could give me the surplus amount back in cash.  He initially declined my request but I gently persuaded him to ask his boss if it was ok.  It was, and just like that, I solved my cash problem albeit temporarily.

Boarding time for my flight soon came and I found the designated gate.  Once there, I and the other passengers swiftly learned that our flight had been cancelled.  The official reason for the cancellation was inclement weather, but I suspected this to not be the case as the air was uncharacteristically clear and the weather forecast for Chandigarh showed the same.  Indeed, despite Spicejet‘s insistence, I think the real reason for the cancellation was that they didn’t sell enough seats for the flight (there were maybe 12 of us due to board) and the airline decided to cut their losses.  So I was now stranded an extra night in Delhi.  I seemingly could not escape.

More thankful than ever for my cash innovation at the bar, I hired a taxi back my hostel in Delhi, all the while seething at how frustrating travel in India can be.  My spirits were not lifted when I learned that the hostel had no beds available, though they politely offered me the opportunity to sleep in the common area gratis.  I initially accepted their offer but then decided to see if the hotel 2 buildings down the block had a vacant room.  They did.

The room I took afforded me the best night’s rest I had throughout my entire stay in India.  I had never before been so appreciative of a clean room, hot shower, and comfortable bed.

I awoke the next morning at 5:30 and immediately headed out to Kashmiri Gate bus terminal.  I was able to find a bus to Chandigarh and was relieved to get my plans back on track.  Additionally, I was surprised to find that the bus was relatively enjoyable.  Sure, it was a typical coach bus with haggard seats, but it was reasonably comfortable and afforded me more personal space than I had come to expect.

Lest you think that the trip was starting to sound easy, upon arrival in Chandigarh, I found that the hotel I had booked seemingly didn’t exist, and I was left once again to ask random hotels if they had an open room.

I found one and then proceeded to find a Pizza Hut because my cash was beginning to run low again and I needed a place that accepted card.  I also hadn’t eaten anything for 24 hours by that point so eating a medium-sized pizza by myself was the perfect prescription for my hunger.

Because my day in Chandigarh was mostly en transit, I don’t have a whole lot to report on about the city itself.  It’s much cleaner and more organized than Delhi.  That’s clear enough for anyone that’s even heard of it.  The culture seemed a bit sterile but I can’t claim to have a full understanding of it after barely a day.


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