Even coach in Thai Airways is extremely comfortable. The attendants are earnest and warm manner and the seats recline farther back then you'd think. They welcomed me with my favorite snack of late - roasted cashew nuts, commonly found in Asia but somehow rare in the US. I'm now anticipating a delicious lunch that is sure to follow. Pity that this trip from Delhi to Bangkok is a quick one at about 4 hours. I'd have gladly chosen this carrier over United for my rather long but drab trip coming to Delhi from San Francisco - The service and the amenities are tolerable at best. There is a lot that Asian carriers can teach their Western counterparts.
The service and this relaxing flight is more to be appreciated as I realize that the next chapter of my travels is bound to be grittier as I plan to economize with overnight buses and budget accommodations. I can hardly complain - I'll be posted up in some of the most decadent environs the climbing world has to offer - warm sunshine, sandy beaches, karst cliffs and some downright fantastic seafood. I'm thrilled to bits actually.
Leaving Delhi is always a mixed bag. As content as I am about returning home to the US or alternately for my current adventures, overflowing love from the family can leave me feeling ja bit sad and empty. Despite thirteen years of adjusting to life abroad, saying goodbye is still hard.
I traveled to India to relax with my family and prepare for the journey ahead and was fortunate to be able to schedule in two weddings. My cousins Shubhi and Anshuman were getting married in back to back festivities in Jaipur and Delhi. I flew into Delhi in the wee hours of Thursday morning on Dec 7th and we immediately hopped on to the Shatabdi to Jaipur. Indian train journeys can be fun affairs as my friend Monisha Rajesh wittily alludes to in Around India in 80 trains. After 24 hours of travel I was only too happy to pass out over hot chai and biscuits. The Jaipur wedding was a lavish do at a resort hotel on the outskirts of town with liveried staff, overflowing buffet tables and a open bar from morning to night. Two days in Jaipur left me drained. I realized how much I acutely dislike big wedding affairs. Love catching up with family and of course glad to wish the newleds good wishes, I am chagrined though at the soulless display of excess - comical extravagance that amplify the class differences between the guests and the benighted staff. To me these fancy affairs are emblematic of the class divides in India and the indifference of the privileged classes. I was secretly looking forward to the main wedding procession where the groom was supposed to lead a cavalcade of a dozen elephants and horses! We unfortunately had to catch a night bus back to Delhi and missed the finale of this Bollyhood glitzier :( We came right back to Anshuman's wedding in Delhi - a smaller, simpler affair but equally vibrant with milling cousins who I danced with till the wee hours. I've known Anshuman and his family my whole life and was quite glad to be with them.
Coming down to earth after 4 days of partying was painful, literally so. I had neglected some basic principles of acclimation, in my greed to partake in the delicious food on offer. That and travel fatigue left me with a bad tummy and a sinus infection that has snagged me for the last 2 weeks and kept me from anything too wild. I hit some bureaucratic snafus with my Thai visa with a result that now I may have to constrain my stay in Thailand to only 15 days instead of the intended 6 weeks. I'm sure I'll find some fun alternatives.
Delhi does always have a few highlights. I was thrilled to bits at the small but friendly climbing scene at the dilapidated outdoor climbing gym of the Indian Mountaineering Federation facility in South Delhi. These kids love to climb and train with passion! I was inspired and reminded me of how much I love small and tightly knit climbing communities. I was in for a similar surprise when I managed to locate a couple of salsa parties in town. These salseros are good! The level of dancing could rival any club anywhere. Pity that they focus on the LA school of salsa, less rhythmic and exuberant than Salsa Cubana (in my opinion). Still a bundle of fun regardless and luckily I found a few partners who were happy to follow (or tolerate?) the unfamiliar moves I had to offer. Man, if I ever move back in India I'd have to kickstart a dance studio and arm twist some of my Cuban friends to come over and teach!