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Saturday 2 Apr 2011
Delhi, India

Greased up like a monkey

Slight headache in the morning as I hadn't drunk enough water the previous night, but I was determined to make the most of my last day. I dropped any plans to see other sights and instead decided to spend today relaxing and getting last minute souvenirs.

It took a bit longer than expected to find anywhere in Delhi that sold souvenirs as I was led on a wild-goose chase by the hotel manager who directed me to an area that had no tourist shops whatsoever, just sarees (in India, as in Morocco, shops selling similar goods tend to be grouped together, so that this area would have been called the "Saree shopping zone"). Finally after about an hour of getting lost I made it back to the hotel and somehow got information which led me to a large government shopping emporium. These places tended to have fixed prices for goods, so normally I would avoid, but you can be guaranteed that the quality of their goods are top notch. Wanting to avoid as much hassle as possible I decided to just stick to these shops and sure enough I found nice gifts inside, including a lovely purple-red pure silk stole for Gwen.

Last on my list of todos was an Ayurvedic massage. The last massage I had gotten was way back in Khajaraho, so all the backpacking since then had done a job on my shoulder muscles and I needed my fix!

I did a quick search on d'net and found a "Keralan Ayurvedic Treatment" centre. I phoned them up and arranged a session for an hour later. Over the next TWO hours I had lots of "fun" trying to find the bloody place, taking me from one end of Delhi to the other (thankfully I knew how to use the metro this time, so it wasn't too much hassle). Noone I asked had ever heard of the place. Eventually I found a clinic that knew where it was. I hopped in a taxi and ended up at a place with the words "Keralan" and "Ayurvedic" in it's title, but was a completely place to the one I had booked! "Sod it", I thought, and booked a session here instead. Only in Delhi could you get so stressed trying to find a place where you could relax.

And so began quite possibly one of the most bizarre massage sessions I've ever had. Firstly I was instructed to strip off, given a flimsy loin cloth to cover my nether regions, then greased up like a monkey and told to lie down on a wooden slab. At this stage I didn't care, I was in desperate need of a backrub so played along. Then not one, but two lads started the massage, proceeding from the head all the way down to the toes. It was quite bizarre, and by the end I was so completely covered in oil that they gave me some soap and a towel so I could wash off. It was pretty good, although I still think that a Thai massage beats Ayurvedic massage any day. The attendants took every opportunity to run out of the room to check on the progress of the India v Sri Lanka game.

They truly are cricket mad over here and as India had made it to the Cricket World Cup final, the city had dropped to a standstill and as sunset fell crowds were on the streets surrounding shops that had small black and white TVs showing the match.

Conveniently there was one right outside our hotel and as I tried to get to sleep early for my 6am flight back home the following day, firecrackers were being flung all night amidst the cheers as India thrashed Sri Lanka. I managed to get about 3 hours sleep.

Nevertheless, India won the world cup and I was happy for em ... even if I didn't have the first clue about the sport!

And so ended my trip to India...

It was a whirlwind tour, and I only experienced a minute selection of what there was to see, but at least I felt I got a taste of the place - even if that meant I didn't get a taste of anything spicy, never mind finding the Bhut Jolokia. Alas it seems, when it comes to Indian food, it really IS best experienced abroad.

Each section of the country that I visited seemed to have it's own very distinct culture and history, and indeed before the unification of India post-Independence, much of the land consisted of small kingdoms. It is also a testament to the people that live here that most of India's tourist attractions are man-made rather than natural wonders.

By visiting, I got to see the good (friendly people / delicious food / ornate temples / vast wealth of history), plus the bad (milkshakes flung on the ground instead of being put in bins / queue jumpers / smoggy diesel-fuelled traffic / everyone in a rush, yet people walk slowly in the streets). They all mix together into something truly unique, and depending on your exposure to each you will come away from India with either positive or negative sentiments.

Thankfully, for my part, it was all positive! Cool

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