1. The first person I met in India was a cab driver who wouldn't take me to the hotel I specified. He kept on insisting that I switch to a hotel of his recommendation (Cosmos Hotel). I have tried to explain that I have already booked and paid for my hotel (as if I would admit it if I haven't.) and yet he stopped right in front of Cosmos Hotel. It was after minutes of refusing to go down and "see the hotel" did he finally drive me to the correct hotel. Upon arriving to the hotel of my choice, I gave him Rs 600 in payment and he gave me a big Indian smile and said thank you to my horror. (The meter read Rs 525. After what he did, I wasn't really inclined to give him any tip.)
2. My hotel of choice was Hotel Grand Godwin. Upon my arrival, they presented me with a very much appreciated mineral water bottle. (Much more appreciated because I found it so useful as my alternative tripod. =) ) The staff who looked like Ricky Martin was very attentive to everything I asked for and left my room immediately without lingering about. (Which meant he didn't expect any tip!)
3. Come morning, I woke up early in my luxurious hotel room and prepared for my train ride to Agra. The tuktuk driver outside the hotel charged me Rs 50 even though the station was walking distance from my hotel, but I guess that's one downside of being a tourist.
4. The second I arrived in New Delhi Station, a porter showing a "government" badge took my ONE luggage and asked which train I was taking (Shatabdi Express, the best trains in India meaning it offers the most convenient time schedule, offers food and water plus newspaper, and offers the best location to board). He brought my luggage up on his head and walked in the entrance then walked a little farther, placed down my bag and asked for Rs 500! He must've thought himself lucky! Alone that I was, I just tried to look pitiful. I claimed not to have that kind of money. He said, "Okay, Rs 200 then." and I felt I should've felt lucky. I asked if I could give him Philippine Pesos instead since I haven't changed to Indian currency. We stood there arguing and haggling for ten minutes. (Good thing I came 1 hour early!)
5. A good samaritan (Indian as well) overheard us and tried to negotiate on my behalf. Finally, he told me to just give the crazy porter Php 100. Later, he explained that the porter had no idea of the exchange rate (almost Php 1: INR 1) and thought he got his Rs 200. The kind Indian asked where I came from. When I said Philippines, he scoffed/laughed/snickered and said I should've known better. My country is full of cheating guys as well, I know. His parting words were "You have to be careful. They would literally get money from your pockets if they have to."
6. Aboard the train to Agra, I sat next to Susheel. He was going back to Agra to work coming from Delhi where he played in a cricket tournament (they love cricket!). I would've been suspicious of him if not for the fact that a. he did pay the pricey (relative to other trains) ticket as well. b. he did have his boss's family sitting a little farther back with the kid screaming "Uncle Susheel is flirting!" and then going back and forth playing peek-a-boo with us. He told me a lot of places to visit in India, even showed me pictures from his Blackberry. When we got to Agra, he offered me a ride to my hotel. When I refused, he gave me his calling card and told me to call him if I ran into any problems.
7. There were lots of tuktuk drivers right outside the Agra Cantt. station. They shout at you to ride with them or where you're going. Susheel helped me pick one explaining where I am going (in english so I'll understand). This tuktuk driver pretended (will be proven later) to be lost. This is impossible because a. I had a map with me. b. It's right beside Taj Mahal. *roll eyes* He pretended to approach an "innocent bystander" who pretended to help him get his bearings and then approached me to explain that the hotel I'm going is quite far and would need a car to drive me there. I refused to accept this. The tuktuk driver took me round and stopped in front of a store renting out cars and surprise, surprise! the "innocent bystander" was there offering me rental car services. We kept going over and over until I said I'll think about it after I get to my hotel IN THE TUKTUK. There I have it, after five minutes, I start checking in.
I chose to book a car (Rs 1200 more expensive than the "innocent bystander" offered at R1000.) with the hotel just so if I disappear, my family would know who to ask. When I did, the earlier tuktuk driver got mad. The concierge told me that if I had booked with the driver, I should honor it. I explained to the concierge that I haven't booked with the driver and I didn't want to go with him since he tried to fool me earlier.
8. Upon my arrival for my first tour in Fatehpur Sikri (that trip) complex, an "official" tourist guide got in the car. He showed me an ID with the rates printed on it. I guessed it was harmless. All through the tour in Fatehpur where the stories revolve around Akbar and his wives and concubines, the tour turns to sexual jokes about them. I guess these stories made him feel comfortable to ask things he shouldn't. (I'm sure you can guess a few of his questions.) One time, he was showing me how to pose when he asked if he can touch me up-there and I felt like emptying my pepper spray on his eyes! I would've also kneed him solid if only I knew where to run after. I therefore contented myself on a big, loud "NO!" and stared daggers at him. When I got back to the car, I felt tempted not to pay him the Rs 600 rate he asked for but then what would I do if he does something more terrible?
9. During the tour in Sikri, a man selling quadrants (what you offer, means for all you know, you pay for it, offer it and they get it back to sell it again.) asked for R1500 for the smallest one. I was surprised of how expensive it was and tried to haggle. He told me that the last price is
Rs 1000. I said I didn't have that kind of money with me. Apparently, my maniac tour guide is willing to lend me the money which he would collect from the driver who in turn would collect from me when I get back in my hotel. (They're really in the conspiracy! -_-) I didn't want to pay but at the same time, they always ask if you're happy with "donating" that kind of money that makes you feel bad for haggling.
10. I walked around Agra (that trip) one free day when Laki, a rickshaw driver kept following me around. I was going in the theater when he told me if only I ride in his rickshaw, he'd be given a small commission. He consented. He said that since I was kind, he'd drive me around Agra the next day IN HIS RICKSHAW for Rs 50. The next day, he showed up in a tuktuk and said he'd charge us Rs 300. Despite this, we thought he was kind, even gave us both anklets. When we were ending the tour, he mentioned that he'll charge us Rs 100 more. Oh well, he did pick me up (without my instructions) the night before after the show "for free" saying it was dangerous for me to walk back to the hotel at night.
11. Leaving Agra aboard a train to Jaipur (that trip), we met another friendly Indian named Sourahb. He went to Agra for a convention but he works for Pfizer in Mumbai. He was very talkative about places to see in Jaipur, highly recommended in Chowki Dhani. Other than that, he mentioned several places to visit. He gave me his calling card where he wrote his personal email and told me to email him in case I need some help planning another trip to India. We asked him about rates of the tuktuks and he made sure we'd get the right rate (even called some friends up to be sure!).
12. The tuktuk driver we paid to take us to our hotel (for Rs 50 prepaid in the tuktuk booth outside the Jaipur Jxn station) "Muslim promised" to us that he'd be outside our hotel the next morning to take us for a tour. He didn't show up.
13. We got another tuktuk driver for Rs 300/day to tour us in Jaipur was rather old. He was straight forward. He didn't bring us to any tourist trap nor did he ask for additional payments.
14. We had a rather quiet train ride to Delhi, although we met a foreign couple who were helpful in carrying our luggage up and down the station stairs. :)
15. Back to Delhi, we got a cab to the hotel (no more tuktuk available.). The cab driver said he knew where our hotel was only to go down the cab several times to ask others where to go. When we got to the hotel, he was asking for Rs 150 when the meter read only Rs 50. Good thing, what we did was first go in to the hotel. The manager was kind and asked what the matter was. He explained to us that the driver wanted Rs 100 (what he said the meter read) and an additional Rs 50 for parking in the station. I put my foot down to pay only Rs 100. I could understand the additional parking fee (it's common in every other country) but the meter really did read Rs 50 only and the train station really was very near. The manager gave the driver the Rs 100 and asked him to go away.
16. This is a very funny thing that still puzzles me until now. Remember I said I stayed in Hotel Grand Godwin and that it was luxurious? Well, apparently, that first time I stayed in Godwin Deluxe Hotel instead which was right next door. Why I came to stay there I have no idea. This time around our hotel was bad. It was dirty and damp with leaky shower (and a very weak heater). We checked in right after another group tour and they were going back to the front desk to complain for something. I guess we should've asked to be upgraded to the hotel next door.
17. Delhi (that trip) was better, or else it's just better to have somebody when traveling to India. We only had one other incident in India Gate where a guy asked to have a picture with my friend and she didn't agree. The creepy guy and his friends kept on following us around and finally just stood beside her and had his picture taken even though Lovely was facing sideways.
Actually, all through our trip in India, we were approached so many times by locals and foreigners alike to have a picture with us. I would've thought this suspicious if not for when the first time it happened, it were kids that asked to have a picture with me. I asked them what for and they answered that they found me beautiful. I thought this weird since I found them more beautiful.
We had a lot of funny/freaky experiences in India and I would've thought all these creepy (although wonderful). I think it's usual though because of the book HOLY COW! by Sarah Macdonald, an Australian who lived in India for a year and shared similar experiences. I should've bought and read it earlier. It could've saved me much Rupees. :)
P.S. An American flight attendant joined me while eating breakfast in the hotel. We talked some about traveling and he mentioned his next trip. Where? In Antarctica!!! How bout that??