The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step – Lao Tzu
In our case, the journey of 7,161 miles began with two big suitcases, two stuffed backpacks, and a resignation that getting to our destination was going to involve over 36 hours of sitting for long stretches on crowded planes and in airports.
Actually, our trip over to Delhi from Portland, although long, turned out to be nowhere near as miserable as our flight from Montevideo to Paris was. That trip was truly awful; this journey was merely long.
We flew from Portland to Vancouver, B.C. on Alaska Air, with a short layover in Seattle. Both flights, although bumpy because of the weather, were quick and easy. Once we got to Vancouver though we began our long layover with a long walk from our gate to Immigration followed by a long wait in line there as there were only three immigration officials handling incoming passengers from two flights. Thankfully once we got up to the official we were whisked through in moments. We got our suitcases at baggage claim and headed up to check our bags through to Delhi (another l-o-n-g walk) only to discover the China Airlines’ station didn’t open for another three hours. There was nowhere to wait except for the food court, so that’s where we sat, along with several others who were also waiting to check in for their flights.
One thing we learned that evening was that Indians apparently know when and how to make a queue. China Airlines opened check-in for our flight at 9:00 p.m. but when I strolled by the station at 8:40 I discovered there was already a long line snaking through the airport with people ready to check in and check their baggage (we could not check in online because we had to physically show our Indian visa). Brett and I quickly got ourselves in line, a good thing because the people ahead of us had a LOT of luggage to check and the process took a while. A family of three or four seemed to be traveling with six to seven large suitcases, which we assumed were filled with not only clothing but gifts for family in India. We noticed one family who began checking bags when the stations opened that was still checking bags when we got to the head of the line 45 minutes later, and was still going after we finished – I don’t even want to think about what their additional baggage fees were. The whole making-a-queue process started again about 20 minutes before it was time to board each of our flights – it was interesting to observe both the process and that people did not attempt to jump the line, nor did anyone push or shove. Everyone just got in line early, ready to go.
We had not been able to reserve seats for the first leg of our journey, Vancouver to Taipei, and discovered at check-in that we had been assigned seats at the very back of the plane – ugh. We asked if any upgrades were available, but although premium economy was sold out and first class was way out of our price range, we were moved to exit row seats at no extra charge! It was lovely having all that leg room on the long flight, and I slept for nearly seven hours, a new record for me. Brett didn’t get as much sleep because the man seated next to him was quite big (tall) and his arms kept bumping Brett all night.
The transition in Taipei was fairly easy (lots of walking again, and of course yet another security check). No upgrades this time, but our seats were OK and the flight offered a wonderful selection of movies which helped make the time pass quickly. Before we knew it we were landing in Delhi. Immigration was again a snap thanks to our eVisas, but the wait for our luggage was something else, long enough that I was beginning to worry before our bags finally showed up. Brett and I calculated though that there were probably well over 500 pieces of luggage coming off of our flight, with ours merely two small blips in sea of hundreds of suitcases.
We were met by our tour company at the airport and whisked to our hotel for the night, the Maurya (we move however to the Taj Diplomatic Enclave tonight). We were surprised by the extent of the security required to enter the hotel, but after the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Indian hotels do not take any chances these days. Once in the hotel we were presented with a beautiful silk folder that contained information about our tour, our personal itinerary, and all other information we might need as well as a beautiful journal to keep during our tour. As we went over everything with the tour company representative it very quickly became apparent that we are going to be well taken care of while we are here.
Brett and I showered and were in bed by 6:30 pm last night and slept for nearly 12 hours. Breakfast was included in the price of our room, with our choice of two restaurants. This morning we headed for the buffet in the rooftop restaurant, where I had a traditional Indian breakfast while Brett stuck to pancakes and sausages.
Lunch and dinner today will be over at the equally luxurious Taj Diplomatic Enclave hotel, and then our tour begins tomorrow. There were originally eight people booked for our group, but two families had to cancel at the last moment (one family couldn’t get visas for some reason, and the other family had a major medical issue arise) so it will just be us and another couple – almost a personal tour.
I am still pinching myself that we’re here – the long journey was worth it. India has been my dream destination since I was young, and we finally made it!