The South Asian jewel of India is one of those intriguing countries that seems at once so alien yet familiar. I’m sure we all have preconceptions of what it’s like; the sounds, colours, aromas, tastes and cultural experiences we’d encounter should we get the chance to visit.

Old Delhi from Jama Masjid mosque minaret. Photo by Jose Morcillo Valenciano

Old Delhi from Jama Masjid mosque minaret. Photo by Jose Morcillo Valenciano

I haven’t done so yet, and until I do, I’ll just have to make do with reading about it from others. With that in mind, I’m so pleased to bring you the first part of a trilogy of posts, by guest author David Bader. David is a former colleague of mine, a devoted family man, an incurable foodie and a natural comedian.

The post consists of a series of quick notes jotted down during a recent 6-day work trip, giving us an ‘instant reaction’ look through his eyes. It’s a typical look at the classic travel industry ‘fam trip’ (Having spent many years in tourism myself, I can vouch for its authenticity!). With David at the helm, it’s a fun ride, I can tell you.

Here are David Bader’s first ‘Impressions of India’.

Day One

British Airways World Traveller Plus is my new standard.

Star Trek, Bad Neighbours 2 and Independence Day: Resurgence!
Sleeping socks, blanket, pillow, eyeshades – lamb dinner!

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Morning Delhi, here I am – I was prepared for many hours at immigration, but no, a simple ‘Welcome to India, Sir!’

How disappointing. ‘Go to gate 5…’ Where the hell is gate 5?

Wow, that heat!

Times we honked at other cars/bikes/people: 35
Times we got honked at: countless
OK, I think I understand –  honking means: ‘out of the way, here I come whether you move or not!’ Who needs seat belts anyway? Rush hour in Oslo means nothing to me anymore!

Car checked for bombs before approaching the hotel. Do I look that scary?
5-star hotel!! woot woot! Full ‘airport’ style security check before entering the hotel.
Best room ever!!

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Breakfast right after check in? Yes please. I don’t know what they feed their pigs here, but the bacon is gorgeous! Nom nom nom, sweet lime juice. Ok, I am eating everything….no risk, no fun!

A short nap before going for a tour around Delhi!

Only someone born in Delhi, can manage to drive in Delhi! Nobody cares about traffic regulations here. I have no idea where we are, it all looks the same to me!

Humayun’s Tomb, just wow! JUST WOW! Amazing architecture.

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Another 1 hour drive, and I again don’t know where we are!
Bazaar and food –  momo dumplings!! nom nom nom
Chicken chop suey soup! nom nom nom
I’m only ordering ‘not spicy’ but it will still be spicy!

Market negotiations in India – I love it. My colleague is negotiating. I only understand the word ‘discount’!
I have some wonderful presents now.

Ok, this guy could sell me his entire store!

Colours in the Bazaar. Photo by David Gil.

Colours in the Bazaar. Photo by David Gil.

Old Delhi Trading, Photo by Geoff Stearns

Old Delhi Trading, Photo by Geoff Stearns

Rush hour back to the hotel again. If there’s any small space, there is a bike in it.
Or another car. Or 2 cars even!
Who am I kidding, there is no space.

I have never been that happy to get into a shower!
Relaxing evening with gym and pool.

Must sleep and get ready for tomorrow…

Humayun's Tomb. Photo by Steve KC

Humayun’s Tomb. Photo by Steve KC

Day Two

Why do I wake up at 6AM?! Ah well, let’s go for a swim in the pool.
And there is still this heat – at 6AM?!?!?!
Noooo, pool not open yet. OK, gym it is.
Can’t remember when I last went for a workout in the morning.
Even the cold showers are too warm!
Why does the waiter girl remember my room number?

Let’s see how I can challenge myself today with food items.
Noodles and lots and lots of chilli please! It’s SO difficult to ask without shaking my head from side to side and flicking my hands. I also have to be careful that I don’t fall into the accent!

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I have 6 guys wanting to bring me a coffee, 5 guys who want to clean up my plate, 4 guys who are watching 3 other people trying to bring me a new juice and 1 person asking me for my business card while instructing others to get me coffee and juice.

It turns out I was faster getting my own juice. I appreciate all the service, but it’s not easy to just eat in peace!
Pickup service at the hotel, do I wait outside? Or do I let the guy go through all the security checks just so he can go out again with me?

Naaa, it’s too hot outside, I’ll wait inside, sorry!

I think I understand the use of the horn now. ‘Hello, I am here, make way. I don’t care what you do, where you go, what you want, I am here now and I want to go past you!’

Parking works this way: You park your car in the second row and leave the handbrake off. If someone wants to drive out he can push your car away!
Tourists are charged more than locals!

It is good to see our office here, and meet the people I only know through many many emails. I understand a lot of things better after hearing it first-hand. Communication – it’s all about communication!!!!
NOM NOM NOM PANEER! How good is that?!?!?!

Transfer to the Imperial Hotel for dinner.

Imperial Hotel, New Delhi. Image by Connie Ma

Imperial Hotel, New Delhi. Image by Connie Ma

No, I take everything back, I don’t understand the use of the horn here.

Maybe it’s: ‘Right that’s IT! I have a horn, others are pushing in, so I will push in as well. TUUUT TUUUUT!!

People are Pokemon hunting while driving at walking speed through Delhi!
Ratatatatatatatatatatatatatatatatatatatatatatatatatat ARGH!!!
If there is not a father with his wife and 3 kids on one motorbike, it is bad use of space!


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Above: The Imperial Hotel, New Delhi, courtesy of Connie Ma

How many courses was this dinner now? 4, 5 6? I didn’t count!
Why is the dinner outside?! It is like a sauna here!
Going inside is like going into a fridge!
I feel sorry for the valets, in full costume standing outside all day long – it must be horribly warm.

New Delhi traffic. Photo by Denisbin

New Delhi traffic. Photo by Denisbin

Back to hotel room. Honk honk, here we come! It’s midnight and the streets are still full!
Do you mind if I park here?! In the middle of the street?
Of course not, why should I care about this, there is plenty of space here, there everywhere!

I’m shaking my head so much I am becoming dizzy.

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Above: Images of Delhi at night by Scott Dexter

Last hotel security check for today!
Norwegian hotels TAKE NOTE: ‘Excuse me sir, when does breakfast start tomorrow?’  ‘At 6, but if it is too late for you sir, we can prepare something for you earlier!’
Yes, I know – staff costs are expensive, blah blah…
Indians invented the Number 0. Because 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, these are not amounts anyone wants to pay!

I keep on looking at the laptop time, which only shows 22:15, but I keep on forgetting that I am 3.5 hours ahead!
Peace out for tonight!
Seriously, I should go to sleep now.
But just one… more… email…


Impressions of India Part Two: A Brief Stopover in Bangalore

Impressions of India Part Three: Mumbai and Home

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Disclosure: David is Purchasing Manager (Norway and Iceland) for a global DMC, and a former colleague of mine. He lives in Oslo. All views and opinions expressed are those of the guest author. Images courtesy of guest author unless otherwise stated.