After feeling a bit stagnant in Ulaanbaatar, we were ready to get moving again. Mongolian immigration however, felt they hadn't sucked us dry yet. We were pulled aside at immigration because we didn't have a registration stamp in our passports. Not this registration crap again! Our diligence in Russia over our visa registration yielded nothing. They wouldn't even take our registration and now we were in Mongolia, where American citizens don't even need a visa, yet we were being fined for not registering. WHAT? They hand us a piece of paper that says if we were planning to stay in Mongolia for over 30 days, we had to register at the immigration within 7 days of entering the country. Mongolia allows for a 90 day stay for Americans, so we had no idea. This paper is conveniently not given to you when you enter the country, so we had no idea. But just like any good corruption scheme, they write down a number that is just pulled out of thin air and we find ourselves at an ATM taking out what equates to about $125 each. So then we get our registration stamp so we can get our stamp to exit Mongolia. We just paid $125 for a stamp so that we could get another stamp. Makes perfect sense. By this time, we are more than ready to get on a plane. We arrive in Delhi around 2am and had arranged for a driver to pick us up. It's probably good that we arrived at such an odd hour so that we weren't thrown into the madness of Delhi traffic. Save that for tomorrow. We get to our hostel around 3am. The area we are staying in— Paharganj, is known as "backpacker ghetto" and lives up to the name. We are too tired to think too much about it and we check into our room which does not live up to expectations but is livable given the $17/night price. At least the AC works. Phew.
The next day, we venture out. So we left Mongolia which is the least densely populated country in the world to one of the most densely populated countries in the world and somehow we thought this was a good idea. Stepping onto the main road the first time is overwhelming. A complete assault on the senses. I can only concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other without getting hit or run over by a car, tuk-tuk, bicycle, or other various modes of transportation. The haggling is exhausting and the 90+ degree heat isn't helping. After day 1 I become more acclimated to the surroundings.
The madness is still madness, but I am less overwhelmed.
A cow over there, a stray dog over there, men peeing over there, the usual.One thing to note is the male to female population disparity. It is palpable. It feels like a country of men. Groups of men. It can be intimidating as a women to feel these waves of testosterone. I stay close to Rick, and luckily most people will address him and not me in this very male dominated society.
(Ironically, while perusing CNN, I came across this article about the imbalanced male to female ratio)While we've explored our area a bit, we've conquered and mastered the Delhi metro system and found there are several different areas in Delhi. We've also discovered that the Delhi metro system is surprisingly the best metro system we've come across on this trip. It puts the NYC subway system to shame. Just a few blocks from us is metro station that is modern, clean, fast, and cheap. It's around 50 cents a ride depending on where you are going, many stations have safety rails, trains have a women only car, and the longest we've waited for a train is 2 minutes. You have to go through security at every station and I think the NY MTA could learn a thing or two.
The juxtaposition of the modern and the impoverished live next to each other here in India.
But it is never boring.
More madness to come...