The Calm Before The Tourist Storm

Seriously India, I love you but you sure do like to punish people for last minute plan changes, and it was a last minute plan change that had me thoughtfully munching my way through a masala dosa whilst trying to decide if I’d rather spend the next 48 hours of my life either on or waiting for a “luxury” sleeper bus, or spend over 14 hours overnight in an unreserved train carriage in general class, a class which is notoriously cramped and uncomfortable, where you basically have to rethink your definition of personal space. “Luxury” sleeper bus. Haha. Yeah, right. I opted for the train ride.

Orchha

I’ve travelled in general class a few times for shorter journeys and I’ve been sold a ticket without anyone batting an eyelid, but when I rocked up to the ticket desk in Aurangabad and asked for one ticket to Jhansi please, good sir (which in India you pronounce, “Jhansi. One.”) he stared at me in confusion for a couple of seconds before saying,
“Jhansi?”
I replied in the affirmative. He asked me if I wanted to book a ticket and I said that no, there were no reserved berths left for today and I wanted to travel this afternoon. He studied me for a second more before saying,
Jhansi?!

I confirmed his suspicions. He was like, “You don’t want to book?” I was like, “No. I want to travel today.” He told me that there might be no seat for me. There was no reservation. I told him I understood. He looked at me like I’d just told him I wanted to surf the train, goofy stance perfected, all the way to Jhansi as he charged me ₹270 and casually tossed the ticket in my general direction as is traditional when purchasing travel in India. I’m not gonna lie, I wasn’t looking forward to this journey, I had no idea how it would work out. General class is usually one coach at the front and one at the rear, and sometimes there’s a ladies coach, but when the train rolled in I was standing at completely the wrong end for the chicks only bogie. Oh yeah, in India a bogie isn’t a slimy, green morsal you excavate from your nasal passages, it seems to be what folks call train carriages.

Anyway, I considered the mad dash to the other end of the train but have you seen the length of those fuckers over here?! They’re massive, you could work a small cheesecake off walking the length of one of these things, so I piled on at the front with everyone else but it wasn’t so bad. Another bloke expressed mild horror at my intentions to travel such a distance in general class. It’s not like Indians don’t do it every day but I think he was concerned because I’m a delicate foreigner and everyone knows foreigners can’t function without air conditioning and western toilets and clean sheets. He got off at the next stop, made sure I got his seat and I settled in with my travel buddies for the next 14 hours; eight lovely Sikh blokes who spoke about as much English as I speak Hindi, insisted on feeding me, moved over so I could lie down and get an hour’s kip and made sure I got off at the right stop. You just don’t get that on First Great Western back home ay.

Jehangir Mahal. It’s be pretty impressive if I hadn’t been all Mughal palaced out in Rajasthan.

So the reason I was going to Jhansi is so I could then get a tempo, which is basically a shared tuk tuk on steroids, to a place called Orchha because I wanted a few days to chill out before heading onwards to Kharjuraho and the notoriously chaotic Varanasi. There’s not much in Orchha, most people head off for a homestay in a nearby village but I didn’t think I had enough time for it so I checked into a guest house. So here are things I did in Orchha arranged in a convenient numerical order so I don’t have to bother forming proper paragraphs.

1. There’s a temple called Ram Raja Temple… you’re meant to go inside it, it’s the done thing… I didn’t on account of the fact there were people pretty much constantly getting married outside it and I didn’t want to crash their party. I’ve never seen so much marriage occurring before, there were always mini processions with drummers wandering past the guesthouse which was right near the temple and no one apart from the drummers seemed to be having a good time.

Jehangir Mahal on a hill. It’s cool and I like it, it just looks like all the others though.

2. There’s a palace called Jehangir Mahal which costs ₹250. So I knew Orchha was a Hindu town, y’know, on account of the big temple I failed to go in to, so I was a bit confused when I rocked up to this Mughal looking thing. Seriously Orchha, stop fucking with everything I think I know about architecture. I overheard a guide telling his group that it was built by a Raj for a Mughal emperor because he wanted to be in his good books, but Wikipedia reckons that it was actually built by a Mughal after they took over the town. This sounds way more feasible. In Rajasthan I got so over looking at empty Mughal palaces that I actually ended up slumped on a bench in despair wondering what the fuck I was doing with my life, but that was then and I thought I was ready to put some more empty rooms in my eyeholes. I gave it and the surrounding stuff and things such as the camel stables a couple of hours of my time. This sufficed. Turns out my brain has developed a shut-down function when faced with the shells of former Mughal palaces.

I basically bought all of my food from this guy whilst in Orchha. I mean, I’m sure there are many fine places to eat, but I really liked this guy.

3. There’s a naturey type place that has a road running right through it. You have to pay to get in and there’s a turn off to the left and the guy on the gate there gives no fucks that you already fucking paid and demanded more money off me to let me down the gravel road. Add to this the fact that the sole of one of my sandals was half off and I’d tried to fix it with various bits of rubbish littering the side of the road until I could get to a tube of superglue but each quick fix lasted about twenty paces before coming undone and causing me to stumble in an undignified manner. I fucked off the whole idea and went back home.

4. There’s an awesome dhaba two doors down from my guest house. This is pretty much the only thing I got right in Orchha. I ate many foods here from samosas to some manner of mixture that started life as a potato cake and ended up being refried, mixed with spicy sauce and beans and handed to me in a bowl made from leaves. There was also a cow who hung out on the street and showed waaayyy too much interest in my breakfast. When a dog sits next to you and wants your food you can largely ignore it but when some manner of bovine shows up and stands really, really close to you thus making its intentions of relieving you of your tasty snack abundantly clear, it’s much harder to pretend it’s not there. Even if it is only a tiny cow. I glared at it for a little bit whilst I finished my food. Then I let it lick the bowl.

No, tiny cow. No. This is my food. For me.

So usually I put quite a lot of pressure on myself to make each post readable, but I’m not gonna lie, this time you’ll have to make do with this shit. Orchha was lovely but a complete non-event, it was literally inserted into my itinerary to chill for a bit before the tourist storm. You’re just going to have to put it in your own eyeholes ay.

Orchha, Uttar Pradesh, India
Stayed at: Shri Mahant Guesthouse

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