Well. Today has been sort of amusing.
One of the cool (and maddening) things about traveling is that you never know what to expect. Sometimes you get a great experience, sometimes you get a rotten one, and sometimes you get an experience SO rotten it’s great. Today, what I got was a brilliant scam tour of Delhi. Which was delightfully surreal, although i didn’t actually get to see any of Delhi’s tourist sights. (This completely fails to bother me–monuments and such are pretty boring, anyway.)
So picture this. You’re on a bus, populated largely by Indian tourists, with a gay German couple and an extremely confused Brit (doing the Southeast Asia meditation retreat tour) to spice up the scene. You’re cruising around town, almost completely at random, herded about by a guide who segues randomly between English and two other languages–but is unintelligible in all three languages.
Oh yeah, and the last thing the guy who actually spoke English said, before getting off the bus, was “Memorize our next stop before getting off. If we leave you behind, take a taxi and find us at the next stop.”
Pure delight. just think: the opportunity to be confused, lost, and left behind! All for a mere 100 rupees ($2). What a deal! Everyone else near me paid 150 rupees for the privilege. 🙂
And, better yet, the tour apparently didn’t include a single stop on the advertised tour. this didn’t bother me one bit, since I hadn’t bothered to ask beforehand, but it drove the others nuts (including a lot of the Indian tourists)–I suppose they’d actually planned on seeing something. (Silly gits.)
At any rate, my morning consisted of being herded through various randomly-selected spots, driving past good tourist spots because they were “closed for the day”, and standing around in “scenic spots” waiting for the tour photographer (100 rupees a photo!) to finish taking photos.
The crowning point came at 2pm, when, after a long spiel straight out of Mad Libs (“mmph mmph mmph ‘Australia’ mmph mmph mmph ‘merino lambswool’ mmph mmph mmph ‘Good people never talk'”), we were herded into God’s own tourist trap. This was a “handicraft center” containing the world’s most splendid tourist kitsch, including a life-sized copper deer (it apparently had a horrible skin disease), grotesquely gaudy silver chariots, and (my favorite) a life-sized bronze Spanish Conquistador statue (!). I spent a good ten minutes in there, mostly because i couldn’t *believe* they didn’t have a bronze flamingo or garden gnome.
(And Edouard, you should be grateful for that. I would have bought one for you. 😉 )
They did, however, have life-size, ceramic-and-lacquer yak, so you should all be receiving your gifts shortly. 😉
At any rate, after that last stop, the people who actually wanted to see Delhi were seething. I stuck around for a bit to see if they’d lynch the guide (I was giving 50-50 odds, and preparing to take photos), but after they disappointingly didn’t, grabbed the Brit and took off to Palika Bazaar.
(I’m really sorry I couldn’t have been two places at once. Considering he almost got decked at that last stop, he must have had an interesting afternoon.)
Palika Bazaar turned out to be a real feast for the textile enthusiast. I found the bookseller I’d been looking for, paged through eight books, and reluctantly pared it down to two (one on tibetan textiles and one surveying Indian textiles). And, i found a textile shop selling the most *fantastic* shawls. Kashmir, not too surprisingly, has a long history of weaving cashmere shawls (where do you *think* cashmere got its name?), and the decorated shawls are just stunning.
There are two main styles: woven-border and embroidered-border, both featuring elaborate paisley designs. The antique shawls are particularly nice–the newer ones tend to have sloppier and larger stitches, for economic reasons. Very pretty. When I get back, I must get some.
I am, by the way, getting very interested in tibetan rugs now–they do knotted pile carpets as well as plain weaving. I may try studying that, while I’m up in Himachal Pradesh.
Speaking of which, it’s just about time for me to run catch my bus, so I think I’ll do that.
See you in Rewalsar–