Indian Journey Part X: Testing Patience July 5, 2010Posted by pacejmiller in India, Travel.
Tags: Agra, Delhi, Golden Triangle Tours, Hyderabad, Intrepid Tours, New Delhi, Oberoi, private tours, Taj Mahal, The Park Hotel, tour, tours
Our time in Hyderabad was drawing to a close, and it was time for us to prepare for the next leg of our journey, a short stay in Delhi. It wasn’t every year that we’d get an opportunity to visit India, so we thought we’d make the best of it. There were several other options (such as Mumbai and Cochin), but in the end we settled on Delhi and the Taj Mahal.
Well, as it turned out, preparations for the Delhi trip was a test of patience. It had to be planned seamlessly because we were going to arrive in Delhi after 6pm at night, take a day trip to Agra (for the Taj) on the second day, and the third day would be spent sightseeing in Delhi before catching a red-eye flight to Hong Kong that night.
Having had numerous warnings about touring in India without a local guide, we knew how important it was to have everything ready in advance — from the hotel to the airport transfer to the personal taxi. The last thing we wanted was to arrive at Delhi airport without anyone to pick us up and no hotel to stay at!
Anyway, we began looking around about a month before our trip, but my marrying mate told us that his dad knew some people who knew someone that could arrange the whole thing for us at a good price. Excellent! It’s always good to know someone local that knows what they’re doing and can put our minds at ease.
Well, things didn’t turn out as easy as we expected. After not hearing back for a week or so, I contacted my friend’s father who said basically they had a family friend who went with this agency in Delhi and thought it was pretty good. He then emailed me the correspondence he had with the tour group (Golden Triangle Tours), which included a draft itinerary.
It included: 2 nights stay at the 5-star The Park Hotel near Connaught Place (essentially the centre of town) and a personal driver who would pick us up and drop us off at the airport, take us to Agra for one day and drive us around to see Delhi’s main attractions for another. We’d also get a local guide in Agra to show us around the Taj. All for US$550. We actually could have probably gotten it cheaper had we booked it ourselves (through this place — Intrepid Tours) and gotten an even better hotel (such as the Oberoi), but going through our friends was less hassle…or so we thought!
Problem number 1: email issues. For some reason, my emails go through to my friend but not all of his emails go through to me. I know this for certain because others in group emails have gotten the emails I’ve missed. As a result, the correspondence between me, my friend, and his dad, was all over the place. All I got was the draft itinerary, and even though I was promised an updated one (with some small amendments), I never ended up getting it. We were told not to worry and everything, including payment, would be sorted out once we got to Hyderabad.
Problem number 2: families where a member is getting married are busy — very very busy. When we arrived in Hyderabad, I spoke to my friend’s dad at the first available opportunity to ask whether our Delhi arrangements were “locked in”. Yes, it was locked in, I was told, but he still had to call the guy to confirm and to give him our flight details. He would do this after the morning session.
For the next day and a half, I didn’t want to bother them. They were ridiculously, insanely busy, and I doubt any of them got much sleep. And so I stayed silent until the last day, until after the couple were wedded, before asking again. Oops, amidst the chaos, the Delhi arrangements had been forgotten. But don’t fear, my friend’s brother would help us sort things out. He’d call the guy this afternoon and then call or message me.
Problem number 3: poor telephone networks. We waited and waited that afternoon but didn’t receive any calls or messages. I tried calling with my roaming phone but couldn’t get through. Understandably, we were a little concerned because we were flying out to Delhi the next afternoon. I tried calling using a land line in the hotel that night, but no one picked up. I tried emailing to their Blackberries, but no response either. As expected, they were still immersed in the festivities. By the time I went to sleep that night, it would be fair to say that at this point I was freaking out a bit.
The next morning, I finally got through on the land line. As it turned out, my friend’s brother had sent me a lengthy text telling me that everything was okay except that I had to contact the guy myself to give him our flight details. Unfortunately, such was the nature of the Australian and Indian telecommunication networks! Nothing came through! My emergency texts sent the night before weren’t even received until the day after that!
So we called the guy (it was 10am but I’m sure I woke him up) and finally got everything sorted out over the phone. Yes, someone would be there to pick us up and drop us off at The Park Hotel that night.
Talk about a sigh of relief!
And here’s one of the best songs ever!