NOTE: I've edited this post to move the beligerant travel rant to the end of the post, so to find out how I got to Delhi, you'll have to wait.
I land at around 23:15 and on entering Delhi airport I first pass the health check desk where white coated, mask wearing staff take my swine flu questionnaire (it pretty much boiled down to "do you have swine flu? - y / n") before I can clear immigration. At baggage reclaim there are about 5 guys per active conveyor who lift the bags down to the ground. Past customs, the exit channel brings a sea of bobbing name plaques and I walk slowly down struggling to find my name. By the end, I still haven't spotted it, so I walk up the sides and finally spot my name and thus my driver. As we exit the airport and just at the moment that the heat hits me, I see four guys all mopping the same bit of floor. No one stops or walks around where they've cleaned, everyone just goes straight over the top; I wonder if the clean/walk cycle goes on forever?
Did I mention it's hot? I think the pilot said 32 degrees, but it feels hotter and it's now past midnight. A short walk to the car park reveals my transport for the next 2 weeks, it's some kind of 4x4. There's a newspaper for me on the back seat. On the way out of the car park, one guy is writing down the number plates as the cars leave, while another takes payment. There are a lot of people doing a lot of jobs. Getting out of the airport is interesting, there are about 5 lanes of traffic crammed into 3 lanes of road, with the situation worsened by checkpoints where blockades introduce a chicance and take it down to 2 lanes. The cars seem to drive inches apart from one another, both front and back and at the sides. There's a sharp contrast between cars with a single passenger (like me) and those that are overflowing with Indians and luggage. Auto-rickshaws (tuk tuks), mopeds and motorbikes weave through the traffic, beeping their horns and flashing their lights. In fact, everyone is beeping their horns and flashing their lights. A pretty girl wearing a headscarf and riding side saddle on the back of a motorbike pulls level with my taxi, I smile at her and she smiles back.
At the final blockade there are 3 armed guards from the Delhi police. They aren't stopping anyone and one of them yawns lazily as we drive past. Between the airport and the expressway I see people with no shoes lying on top of burnt out cars, I see small, simple brick buildings with open fronts and bright lights, I see a herd of cows and calves mingling with the traffic and causing more beeping horns. By this time, the traffic has thinned out. On the expressway there is no lane discipline, save that of being half in 2 lanes most of the time. More beeping and flashing as we weave through the traffic, over and undertaking. Thankfully the inches between vehicles have increased to feet. In the back of a lorry with its rear gate half open, two pairs of eyes flash back at me from amongst the boxes and crates. We overtake the pretty girl in the headscarf, she has no helmet and her head is pressed into her driver's back; she is still riding side saddle.
The hotel offers up more security. This time 2 guys with metal detectors and 1 with a shotgun. The driver pops the bonnet and opens the boot so that the metal detectors can do their dectecting. I enquire if this is normal, it is; it happens every day. I'm momentarily blinded as my glasses steam up as I step out of the car. My luggage magically vanishes while I tip the driver. I'm greeted with a smile and a bow by a man in traditional dress and I have to walk through an airport style metal detector to get into the lobby. My bag is inspected by another man with a metal detector. Once I've checked in, the guy tells me he'll take me to the room and arrange for my luggage to be brought up. He picks up the phone and dials, I hear the phone ring on the desk opposite, about 20 feet away. In the lift there's another smiling, bowing staff member. After guiding me to the room, the check-in guy insist that I sit down and "make myself comfortable after a long flight" while he takes me through the paperwork.
The room is impressive and well equipped - perhaps the best hotel room I've ever stayed in. The pillow menu tantalisingly offers "The Wheat Pillow - Our grandmother's pillow, filled with 100% grains of wheat." AND "The 'Anti-Stress Millet Pillow - Allows you to evacuate stress and muscular tensions filled with 100% gains of millet.". Along with the pillow menu and all the standard hotel items there is a BOSE SoundWave, 3 500ml bottles of complimentary TATA water and a huge, glass walled, wetroom style bathroom with both a monsoon shower and freestanding bath. Speaking of the bathroom, it's getting late so I'm going to go and brush my teeth with bottled water and then get to bed. More later in the week.
I awoke at 05:45 this morning and got picked up from the house at 06:15. I got to Heathrow for 07:40 and checked in at the T5 business class desks (section G fyi). Next I t ook the "Fast Track" through security which turned out to be the slow track. In the BA Lounge, I hit the Elemis Travel Spa and had a 15 minute acupressure massage from an "intelligent chair". The back and legs bits worked well, but the combination of squeezing foam pads and rotating rollers on the feet was a little bit unpleasant and claustrophobic. I grabbed a thorough breakfast consisting of: a bacon roll, mushroom roll, fruit, pastries, bran flakes with dried apricots, sparkling water and green tea.
On boarding I proceed to my "cocoon" at 14E, I wish I'd spoken to Adam before I chose my seat as in retrospect I think a backward facing window seat is actually the best option. The Club World seat is spacious, comfotable and highly adjustable, and travelling backwards is certainly a novelty even for a jaded flyer like me, but it felt like there was less privacy than in Virgin Upper Class. The service was pretty hit and miss, with long delays waiting for tray clearance and the need to remind the crew for your sparkling water a few times before it actually arrived. The inflight entertainment selection was also lacklustre and had nothing I really wanted to watch. I settled for "In The Loop" to check out the gratuitous swearing as penned by Simpso's Uncle and then Trans Siberian which was a mediocre thriller featuring Woody Harelson as a meek Christian.