Sick in Orchha
Trip Start Oct 21, 2006
115Trip End Mar 21, 2008
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Saturday, January 13
Jane is feeling a lot better today, though not yet 100%. She didn't go out at all yesterday so we tentatively creep out into the daylight in search of something conservative to eat. All things been-like and pea-like are out of contention.
Finally, after a full two days in Orchha, we get around to seeing the monuments that put this village on the map. The Jehangir Mahal is the more spectacular of the two adjacent palaces, with its turrets, balconies, secret corridors, dark chambers and stairways and rickety railings. There are only about four other tourists in the whole palace, which makes it about the quietest and least densely populated area in all of India. The quiet also helps you to imagine what the place might have been like 400 years ago: the king strutting around admiring his creation, his harem sitting and doing whatever harems do, and the guards and various other insignificants filling in the gaps. The Raj Mahal Palace is right next door and is from the 16th century but isn't as ornamental as the Jehangir.
The attraction of Orchha for us, as with Mandhu, is not the monuments but the escape from the noise and hassle of the cities. We are just as happy to stroll around the unpaved streets, wave hello to the children and admire the local handicrafts as we are to visit palaces and temples.
The locals are used to but not overrun by tourists. For some reason, this town attracts gazillions of Koreans. Almost all the restaurants feature imitations of Korean dihes on their menus and some even have Korean signs outside. We saw the odd Korean in Australia and Thailand but here I would estimate that 75% of the tourists are from Korea. They all wear wide-brimmed hats and masses of clothes, in spite of the warm weather, and some of the women even wear white gloves and those ridiculous over-sized sun visor things. The owner of our hotel is not a great fan of the Koreans, accusing them of being tight with money and trying to bargain for every little thing. We hear this from a couple of other people in the hospitality trade too, although we have yet to notice it ourselves. The anti-Korean feeling works in our favour though - even though we are probably on tighter budgets than most of them - as we are warmly welcomed by all the restaurateurs and shopkeepers who are more icy to our Oriental counterparts.
The food here is very good. Our first dining experience in Orchha was pretty bad: super-oily food, slow service and over-priced. Then we found a couple of good places and have been eating all our remaining meals there. Back in Canada we used to love going out for Indian food but one such meal would be enough Indian for a few weeks. I was worried how we would manage eating curry, naan and rice twice a day every day. Now, the more we eat, the more we like it. The restaurants here in Orchha cater to the various homesick tourists by offering Italian, Chinese, American, Israeli and, of course, Korean menu items. While the macaroni cheese or chow mein may well be excellent (though probably not), we don't feel like anything else but Indian. We love sampling all the mysterious menu items, most of which turn out to be delicious, and we now know our aloo from our pulao so we can order with some confidence.
Our only complaint is that the food is hardly ever spicy enough. I never though this would be a problem in India but, despite our explicit requests for "very, very spicy", our curries are invariably somewhere between mild and medium hot. When we find a waiter with good English, we ask him why this is. "Most Indians don't really like spicy food", he explains. "At least in the north anyway. South is more spicy."