BACK TO DELHI
The train pulled in at the Delhi station about 8AM, far earlier than we'd expected which was a big relief. Instead of returning to Hotel Jukaso, we were taken to a thoroughly modern hotel far from the center, closer to the airport. Since this stranded us in the hinterlands, a bus was hired to take us back into Delhi for the afternoon, dropping us off near the 5-star Imperial Hotel, to retrieve us again in the early evening.
Dave and I accompanied Scott, Louise and Bob on a carpet-buying expedition in a 4-story arts emporium, where they bought carpets. And we picked up a small silk painting for just $2.50.
For lunch, Dave and Scott dropped in at the local MacDonald's, which was guarded by a colorfully liveried doorman. Scott reported back that the veggieburgers they were served could make him a regular customer in the U.S.
We all spent an hour or more in the government-run handicrafts emporium where everything was fixed-price and bar-coded, eliminating the need to haggle. The goal of these establishments is to preserve traditional Indian arts in the face of industrialization, so the quality of the goods is high while the prices are reasonable. A sitar player's music greeted us inside the door; other artisans demonstrated stone carving, paper cutting and dancing at various points inside and out. And, like good visitors, we purchased plenty of lovely items!
Dave and I went our own way after that, and through a tangle of words and gestures we ended up in a motorcycle rickshaw thinking we were riding around the block to avoid walking past a dark and unsavory area. Instead we were taken on a long ride back to the very shop where we'd started the day. Backtracking, we stopped in at an upscale spot for delicious and inexpensive snacks, and at several shops in a futile quest of plastic Ganesh statuettes.
To decompress, Dave and I walked into the Imperial Hotel and spent some time just sitting in the lounge, soaking up the tony atmosphere. What a variety of guests were there, from upper-class Indian businessmen to jeans-clad Anglo tourists with their children.
That night we enjoyed a very nice Thai dinner in a flashy new, 4-story shopping center with Scott, Bob and Louise. On the way out, we passed on coffee from a Nescafe bar with various vending machines, but stepped right up for ice cream at Baskin Robbins.