India - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 204 (14)
Tuesday 28th September
First order of business for this morning was to find a better hotel and to check out of this one as soon as possible. I can tolerate the noise of the air-cooler whilst sleeping but I have a much harder time with the temperature and even sleeping without a sheet or blanket was still uncomfortably warm. Our hotel is located just off a very busy stretch of road containing tourist hotels, money changers, Internet cafés and travel agents. This part of town is clearly geared towards the tourist trade so we were spoiled for choice with other hotels to check out. We looked at a few rooms in several different hotels before finding one that we both liked. It was one of the hotels that I had chosen from the guidebook last night. I had repeatedly tried to call them last night but could not get through. We checked in and are quite comfortable here now.
The staff here are quite helpful and one of the first things we did was to send of some clothes to be laundered. They charge something like R5 ($0,10) for small items and R15 ($0,30) for larger items. I don’t know what happens to our clothes when they are whisked away to be cleaned but they always come back spotlessly clean.
For the rest of the morning, we just sat around watching TV in our room. Forest Gump was playing on the HBO channel so we sat through this as we rested. Shortly before noon, our tummies were telling us that it was high time to find more sustenance so we ventured out into Delhi to see what we could find to eat. We are both very finicky eaters and the Indian cuisine has never been completely to our liking so decided today that we would indulge ourselves with some good old American fast food. As it turns out, there is a Ruby Tuesday’s here in Delhi and they were handing out R100 ($2,20) discount vouchers in the lobby so we decided this would be just the ticket.
We finally found the place in an area of town known as Connaught Place. We got ripped off by the driver to the tune of about R20 but this was just as much my fault as anything else. In each new place that we go to, it takes us at least one or two rickshaw rides before we figure out what the real cost of a given ride should be. Once we are familiar with a place, we never get ripped off. By showing confidence in where you are going and how much you are handing over, the driver soon realises if you are game for an inflated fare or not. This confidence comes after a while but initially there is always a bit of hesitance and the drivers pick up on this with amazing intuition. It is, after all, their livelihood and I suppose I can hardly blame them.
The meal was actually quite similar to the Ruby Tuesday’s that we know and love back in America. They even had spare ribs on the menu. Thus far, the only meat we’ve come across on any menu across the land has been chicken (comprising the vast majority of the meat dishes on a given menu) and mutton. We tried the mutton just the once but I could not tell you exactly what it is, or even which animal it comes from. It wasn’t particularly nice. The host at the front door of the restaurant told us that the only meat on the menu was chicken and mutton but he was apparently new and clearly was not used to a restaurant that served pork. Beef, apparently, is banned from being served at restaurants in India by law.
At the end of the meal, we were handed one of those customer satisfaction survey slips. I always like to complete these accurately so I checked the ‘needs improvement’ box for the ‘host’ category. I figured the guy outside should have been better informed about what the restaurant served. For the most part, I filled in ‘average’ for everything else. Our waiter took the slips and the manager shortly appeared. What he had to say made me quietly chuckle to myself. Apparently, these customer survey slips are numbered and each one has to be presented to head office. Any ‘needs improvement’ feedback form any customer is apparently quite the problem. The manager explained this and asked if I wouldn’t mind changing my answer to something more complimentary. I told him no. After all, what is the purpose of asking the customer for feedback if you are uninterested in finding out where improvements need to be made? He reluctantly accepted my position on this and quite profusely apologised for the failings of one of his staff. He seemed quite sincere about this and even handed us another R100 discount coupon for our next visit. Since the cost of the meal was a whopping R1,400 ($31), it was probably more expensive than it would have been in America, not to mention more than twice the cost of our hotel room, so I doubt very much that we will be going back there anyway. With a total daily budget of no more than $80, we cannot afford to be spending nearly half of that allowance on a single meal.
There’s just one more thing I want to add to this log entry for tonight. It’s somewhat of a ‘delicate’ subject and not something that is easily put into words. For the very first time since starting our travels, we find ourselves in a situation where the only toilet available to us is of the squat variety. We’ve come across these before, obviously, but have always managed to find a sit down toilet when push came to shove. Having now had my first experience with one of these retched things, this evening, I can only conclude that there is some sort of knack to the whole procedure that I’m yet to master. We’ve continually seen men (mostly older men) sitting on walls or along the sides of the road in a squat position, just sitting there watching the world go by, and it certainly seems to be a very comfortable a natural position for a human male to assume. It has to be said, however, that almost everyone here is quite thin. Myself being somewhat portly and more rounded, shall we say, I find this position to be extremely awkward and uncomfortable. I found that the only way I could, how can I put this, make the whole process work, was to completely strip naked. Even then, I still found the whole thing very awkward and humbling. There are ‘disadvantages’, let’s say, in the derrière being so far from the ‘receptacle’ when using a squat toilet. The tap and jug that are always present are there for very practical reasons. I’ll say no more than that.