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Farewell Ladakh, Farewell India on the Chennai Express!

Leaving Ladakh and our favorite Hotel Oriental, Leh, Ladakh, India

Leaving Ladakh and our favorite Hotel Oriental, Leh, Ladakh, India

Air India took us back to Delhi, across the mighty Himalayas. An experience itself! It is literally breathtaking to climb up amidst all these snowcapped summits and then pass right over them, so close you feel you can touch them… The other real thrill are the numerous and wide glaciers running in between.

Looking at them, nobody can escape the thought: how much longer are they going to exist? They feed so many rivers in Southeast Asia, lifelines for billions of people! “Sitting in a airplane certainly doesn’t help” was the guilty thought that followed. The fact that the lengthy three-day trip back through Manali would also have left a large carbon footprint, eased our concern.

Delhi’s tropical heat and pollution hit us right in the face. On top, arriving on the very day of Eid Al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, put us right into the middle of everything – parties, demonstrations… And the release of “Chennai Express”!

This film, starring god-like actor Shahrukh Khan, kept India hyperventilating to an extent that it could not escape our attention. The big question that kept a billion people in suspense: being an Indian film, will it be released in Pakistan that very day as well? Let’s cut a long story short: Yes, it was! And it broke all box office records in Pakistan’s biggest city.

With nothing else to do – our hotel was in the middle of Delhi biggest construction site – we decided to go crazy and watch a film in Hindi in a nearby shopping mall. Another cultural experience that started with entering the shopping center through metal detectors and drawing quite some attention, being the only tourists… This was all the more true at the movie theater, where security spotted our camera when passing through – yes – another metal detector. It seems to be strictly forbidden to take such a dangerous thing inside, so for a few Rupees we left our 2.000 Euro camera with a security agent. There is always a solution, isn’t? We had a clue what Chennai Express was about, but with everybody roaring with laughter, we figured we were missing it all. Add the eye-rolling, head-sliding of Bollywood movies and we called it quit during break.

The 4* Park Plaza Delhi CDB Shahdara (there are many Park Plazas in Delhi) was top notch, but we felt imprisoned. Gilles had booked the hotel because it was extremely reasonable, had a pool and was next to the subway. Actually, MAYBE it will be close to the subway in a few years. In 2013 it was a gigantic construction site in a large and completely undeveloped area!

Our high-rise hotel, stuck out like a sore thumb. Goats were grazing nearby. Families in shacks and tents were our neighbors. Not very inviting to take a stroll through the rubble and undergrowth. On top of that, as soon as you left the hotel, people stared at us as if we were aliens. For those who don’t like to leave their hotel, it is surely a good and cheap place to hang out when you got your plane leaving at 02:00 am.

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