We eventually reached the Hilton hotel after about 2 more hours due to the incredible rush hour experience of Delhi's smoggy 12 lanes-in-each-direction gridlock wonder. Apparently we were each supposed to have a room for 4 to 5 hours in order to freshen up and rest before most of the group was to head to the airport at 10:30 pm for a 1:30 am flight to Beijing. Brian and I had booked a $31.00 room as I mentioned earlier, but it was back the way we had just come so we knew it would be another 2 hours in a cab to get there.
Meanwhile we were returned to our luggage which is always reassuring, and provided with a magnificent buffet good-bye dinner in the Hilton, with many great options, such as real (safe) salad which we have not seen for 6 weeks! The rooms for the main group did not materialize. Seems there was a huge snow blizzard and ice storm in Beijing and all flights were delayed. Chaos, as an Indian wedding took over the hotel. The hotel did not have any overnight rooms. The tour company scrambled to figure out what to do, while many of the group went into panic mode. Another hotel was located for the group.
We found out that it would cost us $60 US for taxis, to get to our hotel, and spoke to our guide, who reassured us that they had booked a room for us at the same hotel as the group going to Beijing. We then phoned our original hotel in Delhi to cancel, only to discover that they knew nothing about us whatsoever, either under my name, Brian's, nor ice enterprises, nor the ice palace of Dallas. Okay then. We had already prepaid, but the hotel cost was less than the taxi costs, so we were ahead of the game.
Of course one of the panicked Americans forgot something at the Hilton, as we pulled out, and the baggage guy had to jump off and go back to get it. When he returned with her book, he also had a bakery box, with a magnificent chocolate birthday cake with ribbons and a plaque on it for Brian. From the tour company! So thoughtful. But also funny because there had been a New York Jewish couple travelling with their son, and because the husband was having a birthday in 3 more days, the wife had been bugging the tour guide for days about getting him a birthday cake on the last day. Meanwhile, because of the delay in Beijing and losing their connecting flight, they rebooked on their own and left for New York half way through the grand dinner. So the cake said Happy Birthday Brian and Allan, but Allan was gone! Brian broke off Allan's name, and the Mormon missionary lady travelling with us ate the chocolate, that had Allan's name on it.
We reboarded the bus with the China-bound gang, and headed out to the Pride Hotel, near the airport. Brand new hotel, beautiful room, with down bed. The bakery display in the lobby provided a knife and plates and we cut up and ate the cake while rooms were being assigned. We were given our key, but told to come back in "5 minutes" to pick up our passports. After freshening up in the room, figuring out the lighting system, and reorganizing our suitcases to put the heavy soaps, and metal pens and locks into our backpacks over half an hour had elapsed, so down I went to get our passports. The guy behind the desk with a mitfull of passports said he didn't have ours. No Canadian passports madam. Hmmmm. The tour guide materialized and said, " Go to that guy and get your passport!" I told him they weren't available. Lots of loud Indian dialogue, and another fellow materializes with 3 Canadian passports. Success! It's these 'little' things that make your day.
I looked around the lobby only to find most of the group still there looking bleary eyed and fretful. It seems they were not checking into rooms after all, but heading out once more, this time to the airport, since Air China was not telling anyone when they were actually flying out. I bade my good-byes and asked the front desk for a 5 am wake up call, which they repeated three times and I watched them write down. I couldn't go back up to the room, though, because I had left the key with Brian and needed it to operate the elevator. Five staff later, still no help, when I noticed a mother-daughter combo from our group trying to head up. They got a room because they were flying to Seattle, not Beijing. I asked them if I could join them in the elevator, and they said they couldn't make it work, so I showed them how with the key, and we were all happy, but obviously exhausted.
I was feeling very grateful for a free room, a soft bed, and a promised wake up call. But India continues to surprise. We did our evening meditation before midnight and tried to ignore all the over-stimulation of our day, and finally dozed off, after I set my iPad alarm to double check the hotel. Pitch black, deep rem sleep, and the shrill phone. I lept out of bed knowing we just had time to meditate and throw on our clothes before racing to the airport for 6 am. After a few startled minutes, I wondered why the iPad alarm had not gone off, so checked the time. 3:11 am! Love it. Back to bed. Calm the breathing, slow the heart rate. And shrill, shrill, shrill. Another wake up call. Brian loses it. "Stop doing this to us, we asked for 5 am!!" Tossing, turning, and the next thing we hear is the iPad alarm. 5 am. No hotel call for wake up.
We get downstairs with our luggage to meet up with some of the group that were off to the airplane for Beijing, after being up all night. They are disoriented and other strangers enter the lobby complaining of no wake up calls. We ask for a taxi, but a hotel car is supplied for more money than we had been told the night before. We are 5 minutes from the airport, we are now running late, and we pay the $20 US, no complaints.
We are dropped off at one end of the international terminal, with no baggage carts, and no porters, only to discover we must check in at the far distant end of the terminal. We persevere. We're tough Canadians. We get to security which takes almost an hour to get through. Ladies mixed with men until the last minute, when ladies must be checked separately in their own line. My metal pens, and questionable teas, and electronic devices all come out of my pack and into the tray to speed up the process. I eventually get frisked and stamped, and my tray comes through, but oh oh, not my pack. "Do you have needles madam?" No. "Do you have nail file madam?" No. Something metal, madam!! No. We all search. Brian is waiting, saying "Get a security tag!" I'm saying, they're looking for something. He repeats. I repeat. Finally, they find it, my metal 6 inch, dual pronged hair skewer from Goa!! They all smile, I smile, and say, next time, I'll wear it. They say "Yes, madam!" They provide me with a security tag which no one ever checks.
We run into the Mormon missionaries from our group. They have spent the whole night at the airport trying to catch some sleep in a couple of lounge chairs. Their flight has been delayed until 10 am. We're happy to be going to Bangkok.
Brian needs a book. We stop at Starbucks. Hooray, it's 7:30 am and we get coffee and the girl says $3 and asks my name. I tell her Debra, and she starts telling me how this is a very famous name in India. I give her $3 and she says no madam, $5. I say, you just told me $3, and she says we talked and she got distracted. It is $5. I give her $5 and she gives me 10 rupees and some paisa change. I give her the coins as a tip. While Brian is getting his coffee I check the bill, and it is $3.19. What can you do but laugh at India. We ask where is a bookstore and another staff says down by your gate and points towards our route. We head off but see a cart and hop aboard, thank goodness, because it's miles to our gate. We get there and the lovely lady cart driver asks for her tip. We have no rupees left. I have given all my US ones to the Starbucks girl for both mine and Brian's coffees, and I simply can't give her a $100 Canadian. Sorry no tip. I offer her a blouse I meant to give away, but she is insulted. Very sad all around.
Brian still needs a book so asks the attendants at the gate. Oh dear, it's way back from where we came, before the Starbucks. The girl had pointed in the opposite direction from where the store was located. Off he went, while I waited with the packs. He returns 25 minutes later, saying they had 4 English books, 3 of which he had read, so settled for the Lee Child that was new. Off he trots to the washroom. 15 minutes later he returns to say an Indian guy puked all over his leg, so he had to find the next washroom to clean off in, as he didn't want to walk through the mess!!
They call our flight. We board! It's very squishy, so thankfully we have opposite aisle seats which we had requested through three different sources. The two Russian girls next to me are really squished because the guys in front of all of us have their seats back even for take off. I eventually ask the guys if they are a team, because there are so many BIG guys that can't put their seats upright. Yes!! Get this Macey and Phil -- there is a World Bodybuilding Competition in Bangkok from today unto the 30th. Some on the plane are from India, some from Afghanistan. We ask where in Bangkok, so we can go, but I can't understand his accent. He says he will tell me later.
I wonder what adventures await?
P.s. No more photo room on this journal, and that's too bad, because on the plane I got a great one of a poser: the Afghanistan head of the Body Sports Department of the Afghani Official Olympic Team, who is/was a wrestler and won bronze in 2012, 2008, and 2004. Or so he told us. He is accompanying and coaching the Afghani body building contestant(s). Maybe I'll figure out a way.