Tuesday, July 28, 2009

December 31, 2008 - New Year's Eve - Orchha

Today began with a train ride through beautiful agricultural countryside as we made our way to Orchha. As our trip progresses, we are seeing more of the India we knew had to be there, but which was invisible the first few days. People in this part of the country do not live like sardines in a tin. There are nice middle-class homes here and there, and at the resort where we are staying there are Indian families on vacation.

Yes, there are still dogs and beggars in the streets, but not in such numbers as we saw in New Delhi and Jaipur. We visited a working temple this evening and saw three or four people sleeping in the courtyard, compared to the scene in the Delhi train station where we had to pick our way through sleeping bodies laid out in ranks like wounded soldiers at the railway in Gone With the Wind.

The main thing we saw in Orchha was a palace--this one not fortified--with a number of surviving magnificent murals. There was no light except what came in through the doorways, and of course no flash photography allowed, but my new Fuji camera performed miracles: my photos look as if I used flash when I didn't. I may not be able to blow them up very large, as I did keep getting a "camera shake" warning, but on the LCD screen they appear to be fine.

We walked past the local laundry--the river. There was the hotel bedding being washed and laid out on the bushes to dry. This is not an isolated case--we saw laundry being done this way everywhere we went.

Then we returned to our "luxury tent." The hotel has two parts, one a building with ordinary hotel rooms and the other a ring of these large strange tents around a green area that today was set up for a New Year's Eve party. They are tents--canvas over pipes--but they have indoor plumbing, air conditioning and TV ... but no hot water. They're supposed to have hot water, of course, but at least today there isn't any. My video is the best way to show how the luxury tents look:

When we got back from the palace, I turned the light over the sink on to get ready for dinner. And"pop!" The bulb burst. No light to wash or comb hair or put makeup on by, as our tent had only dim floor lamps elsewhere. So I called housekeeping (yes, we have a phone in the tent).

Two different people I talked to could not comprehend "burnt out light bulb," "broken lamp," or any variation I could think of, so they sent an electrician who found that it was not just the bulb--the fixture had somehow broken. So he changed the fixture. Kyle and I then got ready for dinner--but there was a knock at the door. The electrician was back, with the newly repaired old light fixture. While we watched in disbelief, he replaced the new fixture he had just installed with the old one!

The day ended with an incredibly noisy New Year's Eve party right outside our door. Well, we're exhausted, so I expect to sleep despite the throbbing electronic music. Lois and Eric and I have signed up for one of the tour "extras," a trip to the famous Kamasutra temples at Khajuraho tomorrow.

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