March 15th, 2009
As I write this, I’m watching the streets of Pakistan on my TV in the Meena Hotel in Hyderabad, a prominently Islamic type town, waiting for CSI to start. I just finished a very nice Chiken Bityani from room service, and had a decent pot of Chai, so I’ll take you back in time now to:
March 13th, 2009
So I got into Hospet around 1am and a tuk tuk driver drover me to Hampi for 100 Rs. ($2 USD). The trip runs around 13 kilometers. The guy wanted me to try some place, but I managed to talk him in taking me to the Gopi the Canadian couple had told me about but it was full, so I let him take me to his friend’s place, but it was too grungy for a longer stay. The only way I coulld get him to take me to the Gopi First was to tell him I was meeting my friends there. So I told him I wanted to go back near the Gopi and try another place near there. SO we went back but almost every place was full. The only place with a room was a guest house with three rooms, one of which was empty. 500 Rupees a day. It had hot water, so I was pleased with that and I only had one cockroach and a gecko living with me.
The next day some ricksha driver, a friend of the family offered to drive me to all the sights, but I put him off till the next day, but then decided I might as well let him drive me around for 500 Rs. He also booked a bus for me to take to Hyde3rabad, as I decided I had better go straight to Delhi and try and straighten out my visa so I can travel to Katmandu. It was 700 rupees which I thought was quite abit, but it was a sleeper coach, so I figured it must cost more. So, I went out into Hampi, and a big part of the town uses the ruins here for framework for shops and shacks. I didn’t go to the main temple itself but walked down the long promenade lined by collonnaded walkway. It had to go that way as you have to register at the police station in Hampi. They even ask the make and model of your camera on the guest book.
So I made my way along a staircase, and started talking to Christine from Washington DC, a very nice girl. Her sister had retreated to Goa, having had enough of India for a while, but Christine had travelled alone to Hampi to check out the temples. So we hung out together for the day and had a nice snack at the Princy Restaurant. When I first read the sign, I thought it was called the Pricey restaurant, but the food was quite good. I walked to the Rocky Hotel with Christine where she was staying, which was two hotels down from mine, as she had to catch a bus to Hospet to catch the bus to Goa. I stopped to check out the Internet, but all the terminals were taken. I decided to go visit the main temple and walked part way with Christine as she was leaving for the bus. They wanted 50Rs. to go into the temple, but for some reason dropped it to 3 Rs. but the light was fading and I decided I would visit in the morning when the sun was stronger.
The next day:
14th March, 2009,
I had to check out at 9:30AM as that was check out time, but they agreed to let me leave my bags for the day. The tuk tuk driver Rachal didn’t show up. Turns out the owner’s son also drives a tuktuk, so they said he could drive me around for 400 Rs. which was 100 Rs. lesss than Rachal. He wasn’t ready right away so I walked down to the Mango Tree restaurant. Christine had said it was very good, and the people at the Venue Hotel agreed. I ordered a cheese omelette which was actually a very delicous hummus omelette. I also ordered a banana and honey pancake and chai. Oh, and freshly squeezed orange juice.
I had been chatting with a soapstone carverr at the gate to the Mango Tree (its in a banana plantation by the river, very nice place and built around a giganterific mango tree) and on the way back I bought some small carved elephants from him. I was very pleased to hear his name was Krishna, because in my novel Krishan and an elephant figure quite prominently. I returned to the Venue and hooked up with the tuktuk kid, but I can’t remember his name. I said I would give him 400 for driving me around and 100 to take me to Hospet, but he didn’t want to go to Hospet for any less thean 200 because “he lived in Hampi not Hospet”. So I agreed to gove him 600 Rs. to drive me around for the afterrnoon and drop me at the Ganesh Tour place to catch my bus to Hyderabad.
There are a lot of temples in Hampi! The whole countryside is dotted with them. The original town must have been quite large. I went to some temples, the Lotus Mahal by the elephant stables, some kinda moslem inspired pool, and some more temples, all quite impressive, and all in all it was a pretty goo day. There were a bunch kids at the elephant stables and they absolutely swarmed two German girls with cameras to get their picture taken. D. I stuck my camer in my pocket and got away with just taking a couple of pictures. Lotsa people here just stand in front of whatever you’re taking a photo of to get their pictures taken. But I digress….
I got to Hospet and found out my bus didn’t leave till 8:00pm. I had thought 18:00 for some reason. I wandered around to find some food but all they had was places that had the dosa platters. Dosa is the same thing as the Ethiopian Injera and doesn’t taste any different, which is bad for me causae I don’t like either. But I manage to order some kinda rice thing at a “fast food” restaurant. I got back and had a Chai and had a discusiion with a girl about the price of tea cause she didn’t want to spend 5Rs. for a 3Rs. tea. She said it wasn’t about the 2 rupees. She didn’t like being overcharged. I was getting used to it.
Or so I thought. When the bus came, my 700 Rs. ticket got me a seat in the non airconditioned section which really costs 250 Rs. Seems I got royally ripped by Rachal and he had made quite a commission on a 250 Rupee seat. After some haggling, I got 150 Rs. back. The girl, I think she was English or more likely New Zealandish, got her ticket refunded so she only paid 250 Rs. But I ended up getting screwed. I paid 550Rs. for a 250 Rs. seat! The AC seats were only 350 Rs. I wasn’t happy, and I guess it was kinda the last straw after overpaying for everything, and quite soured me on travelling in India. Everywhere you go, you get gouged on the prices, and I hate having to haggle. It takes all the pleasure out of travelling.
Like the guide at the temple in Mysore, the hotel guy in Mumbai who carged me 200 bucks for the room and the trip to Goa, like me getting a room for 600 when the Barcelona girls got the same room double for 400. And I hate to say it, but pating 5 rupees for a 3 rupee tea. I have been ripped off and overcharged more times here in India than the entire previous 50 years of travelling, and I am just really tired of it. Like I was walking to the Mango Tree Restaurant and three guys in costumes wanted me to get my picture taken with them, and after I said I didn’t really want to, they insisted saying it was free. Yeah, right! They wanted a 200 Rupee “donation!” I gave them 70 Rupees and they kept insisting I would pay them the rest later and wanted me to write my name in a book with a 300 Rs. donation. I wrote 70Rs, in hopes the next person they stopped saw that and decided it would be better than paying these guys the price of a room to get the photo done.
To make things worse the ride I got to the train station here in Hyderabad was 80 Rupees and it was really only a 40 Rupee fare, and some guy insisted to “help me” and it was really hard to get rid of him. By the time I ditched him and stayed in the station to figure out where in Delhi I was going, I was getting really frustarted cause as soon as I stepped outside I had more touts trying to get me to go to various hotels for like 1100 Rs. I was really close to jusst telling some guy to “Fuck off and leave me alone” till he said the hotel I was standing beside was only 400 Rupees. Of course when I went to the desk they produced a rate card with 600 Rupees, but after I said the guy outside told me 400, they relented and I was quite surprised. I AM SICK OF HAGGLING!!! To make it worse, it looks like Delhi is going to be very expensive. I was looking at hotels in the guide for 6,000 Rupees near the office I have to visit. I’m hoping I can just go there in the morning and have my Visa fixed by the afternoon, and I can go back to the train station and catch a train right away to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. I have about three places I have to go to in India after that, so I think I’m just gonna express my way through them and head for Katmandu and wait until the last possbile moment to return to Mumbai from there.
The people I meet on the buses and trains have been OK, and in fact a few take me under their wing every trip, but it’s the very people whsoe livelihood depends on tourism that make touring here unpleasant. They’re killing the goose that lays the golden egg, and it seems to be an Indian trait to get what you can now no matter what kind of damage you do to your long term income. No, wait a minute, that’s the oil companies! And bankers. Oh, and Real Estate Agents….
I’m trying really hard not to let this constant hassle get me down, but it does. For all the money India puts into promoting tourism, it should be promoting honesty and service here at home as well. I can’t even get a proper visitor’s visa for heaven’s sake! Every other country, I got my Visa no problem at the airport! To say I’m bummed out right now is an understatement. I will really be happy to get back to Ethiopia at the beginning of April!
15th March, 2009
I got into Hyderabad around 9:00 I asked the girl from the bus if she wanted to share a tuk tuk to the train station but she didn’t answer me, so I left her surrounded by drivers and “guides”. After I checked into this hotel (The Meena), I walked down the street to the Museum and they had some very fine 18th century bronzes of different gods and goddesses which I found very interesting, but theyhadn’t got any of the publications they had displayed for sale in a bookcase available which was unfortunate, because the pamphlet on the bronzes looked pretty good. I have no pictures inside the museum and took a very bad shot of the exterior not suitable for public showing. I had a bite to eat at the ritziest Quality Inn I have ever visited. Quite good and the coffee was passable. The service was at Silver Service level, and it was quite disconcerting to having the waiter continually filling my coffee cup and water glass and spooning the dish (spring rolls) onto my plate every time I emptied them. I got back to the Meena Hotel and watched Jurassic Park in Hindi and copied pictures from my camera onto the laptop, and after this I’ll back everything up on my flash drive.
I had a really freaky moment yesterday. Actually the day before. I uploaded some elephant pictures from the drive onto Facebook, and later when I went to back up the pics from the 12th found out my Mary Magdalene Folder, My Photo Folder, a folder with stuff about the first temple in Jerusalem, and the complete Sacred works of Planet Earth, and some other stuff (8 folders in all) were missing and some virus protection thingie had installed itself on the drive. Luckily my McAfee stopped the trojan from getting into my laptop and three files were quickly quarantined, but it took me all night to finally figure out the files were there, they had just been marked as hidden files. Only I couldn’t change the settings in XP for the drive so I could un-hide them. I finally found them by searching the drive in the “Search..” menu, and managed to restore them to health. By that time it was 7:30 AM. Two hours before checkout… All in all the Ides of March has been almost as bad for me as it was for Julius Caesar. I gitta get up at 4:30 to catch my train. Once more into the breach, my friends! Once more!