At the end of our two week, action packed, exhausting tour of the Rajasthan region of India, hubby and I booked ourselves three nights in a 5 star hotel in Delhi. We were well aware we would want some time to kick back, chill, and process all we’d seen and done before rushing onto a plane back to real life.
The hotel we were staying at on the last night of the tour in Delhi was fine… but it wasn’t more than that. And when we were woken up early because apparently breakfast was served right outside our room, we decided, time to go.
We booked an Uber Tuk Tuk, which is hilarious in itself. What was more hilarious, was that our Tuk Tuk wasn’t allowed to drive us to the front entrance of Le Meridien. Instead we were escorted around to the out-of-view back entrance. Still, the experience of emerging into a giant foyer filled with fresh, clean, filtered air, was no less magnificent. It was like entering a new world.
Walking into our room felt like discovering our own tiny island in this new world. Everything was clean, the bed was large and the pillows soft and abundant. The view from the 15th story out over the India gate was magnificent. But there wasn’t time to enjoy the room, it was straight down to buffet breakfast for us. Now I don’t stay in many 5 star hotels, so I’m probably easy to impress; but there was a guy making eggs and omelets, a guy making Indian dosas, a guy making waffles and pancakes and French toast. There was fresh juice, and cut-up fruit that we could actually eat. There was as much tea and coffee as we liked, and since we weren’t planning on leaving the hotel that day, we could enjoy as much as we wanted, without the secret fear of needing the bathroom at an inopportune moment during a long bus ride.
The shower was one of the best I’ve ever experienced, and I’m not just saying that because I hadn’t had a decent shower in two weeks. Of course while hubby showered I stood stock-still in the room, not wanting to touch or soil anything with my fetid dirtiness.
I emerged from the shower (full heat and full water pressure) like a butterfly from a chrysalis. I was new again. We headed out to explore the hotel – the pool – the gym – the spa – the various restaurants and bars. Then we plonked ourselves by the pool and spent the afternoon reading.
Coincidentally, we were in Delhi for Diwali, or the Festival of the Lights. Which is a massive deal in India. We’d watched the build up to the festival during our travels: the cleaning and restoring of streets and buildings, and the incalculable number of lights being strung up. That night was the pinnacle of the festival – we’d been encouraged to head out and experience it. But we just couldn’t. We were India’d out. We needed some time and space away from the madness. And to be honest, we were a little worried about how mad it would actually get. Due to pollution problems (of which India already suffers), they’d banned a lot of the fireworks – in previous years countless flights had been delayed the day after simply because the planes couldn’t take off and land with the additional smog.
We enjoyed the buffet at the hotel restaurant, spent an astronomic amount on food and wine (at least in comparison to what we had been spending up until that point), and then enjoyed some drinks in the rooftop bar, watching all the action from our privileged birds nest view.
Yet all the while we were doing it, we were aware that this new world we had shut ourselves in was absolutely not India. We could have been in any fancy hotel in any part of the world. It was so far removed from what was going on in the streets below that it felt almost surreal. In the preceding two weeks I’d never had to think about not putting my toothbrush under the tap – whereas in this new, clean environment, I found myself almost forgetting – just because I was in some fancy hotel it did not mean the water was cleaner than it was outside. I still had to clamp my mouth shut in the shower, and I still had to use bottled water to brush my teeth.
It’s not the way I like to travel in general. I’d rather have a bit of discomfort and be in the thick of it. But since we’d done that already, I felt no guilt whatsoever in not venturing far from our safe haven.
Despite the firework ban, we awoke the morning after to still air and thick smoggy skies. Our walk that day (with weird looks from hotel staff as two people left the hotel on foot, was short-lived. After about half an hour you could feel the acridness in your lungs. The midday sun was a mere pale disk in the sky – it wasn’t at all cloudy – it was pollution.
Our hotel was right near Connaught Place – and there was a huge Diwali celebration at Central Park. We headed there the following evening to experience Diwali in a hopefully less crazy way (FYI, it was still crazy). But it was fun. We watched the hordes of people, we ate from stalls with the locals, and had some very friendly conversations.
We spent our last night back near our original hotel, with a friend we’d met on tour, at one of our favourite restaurants, Kitchen with a Cause. It was great to be back in the middle of it all, albeit a little cleaner, a little more rested, and we enjoyed the exceptional food and service, along with cocktails at a third the price of what we had to pay for in 5 star luxury.