From the Exotic to the Erotic
Trip Start Oct 13, 2010
58Trip End Jun 20, 2011
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As promised, the train conductor woke us up at 5:30 on Tuesday morning, as we were pulling into Khajuraho station. We rubbed our eyes and once we figured out what was going on, we were thinking: "Oh crap….we gotta get all our stuff together and get off this train". Sleep on the overnight train was pretty spotty. Between the stop-and-starts, the noise, the tiny pillow, the hard bed, and the cold (yeah, it got pretty frosty in there!), it was on-again, off-again for the entre night. Yeah I know…I'm a prima donna….I admit it. I’m pretty sure Jill slept quite peacefully.
We had a tuk-tuk driver from the hotel waiting to pick us up (so that we didn’t have to think too hard early in the morning) and we sputtered off in the dark and cold to Hotel Harmony
We’re supposed to be travelling to Agra tomorrow, but because of all the problems we had booking travel while in Varanasi, we decided to head directly to the train station first thing, to try to buy some tickets – at this point, we just need to go to the actual source. The attendant there apparently had someone defecate in his corn flakes that morning, but despite his mumbling and grumbling, we were finally successful in getting our tickets. Looks like we’ll be taking a 4˝ hour bus ride tomorrow followed by a 3˝ hour train ride. Boy, I cannot wait!
Since we’re only here for a day and have lots to see, we decided to just hire a driver, Salman, for the entire day to take us to all the different temples. Total cost…350 rupees….or $8. Sounds pretty good, huh? Didn’t even bother trying to negotiate THAT one downwards
Pretty much the only reason people come to Khajuraho is to see the Kama Sutra temples, some of the most beautiful and well-preserved in all of India. There are three different sets of temples here, but all of them have 2 common themes that appear repeatedly: women and sex. So hide the children or get ready to practice your “birds-and-the-bees” explanation (one of my favorite childhood songs by the way), because even though we’ll be trying to keep it PG-13, what we saw was actually R….or whatever comes after R (I guess we don’t see many movies!). Please don’t blush.
We dove right into the Western temples first, the most interesting ones and the only ones you have to pay to see – and also the most graphic. Given that these carvings were sculpted in the 10th and 11th centuries, the level of detail was remarkably well-preserved. They were amazing….and also amazingly….ummmm….”embellished”, shall we say. The carvers back then definitely seemed to have a leaning towards huge-breasted women…my, how we’ve progressed in 1,000 years! The women were shown dancing, posing, flirting, and in a series of acrobatic sexual positions…sometimes with several grateful “participants” and onlookers
Walking around the temple complex, we notice that the now-customary picture-taking of Jill (or maybe the both of us?) continues. At one point, when a young guy tried to sneakily take an inconspicuous shot of her from a distance, I took our camera, walked up to about 6 feet from him, lifted the camera to eye-level, and clicked one of him. He responded by blushing. Busted!! A young couple sitting beside him though, then nervously asks if we could take a picture of them…with our camera! That’s another funny thing about India…some people just want you to take a picture of them, even though they’ll never see it. Maybe knowing that we’re bringing a picture of them back home with us makes them feel special in a way. We don’t mind those requests at all…it’s kinda cool.
Other random things that happened as we walked around the complex…At one point, a lady threw some flowers at Jill and then asked Jill to give her money for them. Uhhhhhh, no….I don’t think so
We broke for lunch at a café overlooking the temples and had some awesome paneer kofta and chicken kababi (we’re branching out!), as well as some refreshments that seemed to be tough to find in India…beers! Just what we wanted after walking around in the blazing sun for a couple of hours, staring at erotic carvings. We hopped back into the tuk-tuk and buzzed our way over to the Eastern temples, which are scattered around an old village and are rougher than the Western ones…cows walking around, people pushing hard to sell us stuff, and kids staring at us and asking for coins
Back into the tuk-tuk, Salman then took us to another set of temples – these ones of the Jain religion. We were told it was free but when the ticket-booth guy called us over and said it was 5 rupees each, we paid it, despite the fact that there was a French couple there arguing against doing so. Jill turned to them and said: “We agree with you, but 5 rupees is only like 10 cents, right?”. The guy replied: “Yes, but 5 rupees here and 5 rupees there….”. Yeah, we get it. But you’re seriously gonna stand here arguing about it?
We soon realized that the French guy was right. Turns out that the 5-rupees was not to see the temples, but instead was a fee to enter a pretty crappy museum. Oh well. Moving on towards the temples, we had to take our shoes off first, as usual, and then the “guards” pretty much herded us into this little square, where we were forced to walk on the scalding-hot pavement to view an uninspiring photo exhibit
We walked back to the entrance to find Salman lying on the grass taking shade under a tree. We took a load off after a long day and sat there together chatting with him. He showed us a bunch of different bills he had collected from tourists from all over the world. We didn’t actually have any Canadian bills on us, but Jill did have some Chilean pesos buried in her wallet. Hmmmm…how much is 1,000 Chilean pesos again??? That was soooooo long ago. Ahhhhhh, it can’t be much…so we added to Salman’s collection.
Back to the guest house by 4:30, we sat in the lobby doing some planning for Agra, as we’ll be there tomorrow. The couple sitting beside us, we found out, were French-Canadian and actually live in Repentigny, Quebec, where by brother-in-law Joe owns a restaurant. Again…small world. We decided to just eat at the hotel tonight, which ended up being a bit unsatisfying, as they were preparing for a large dinner party at 9PM and were operating on a very limited menu. Big party at 9PM, huh? And our room is right next door.
Given that we have another early morning and a big travel day tomorrow, I decided to head out, while Jill rested, to pick up some snacks. As is the norm, I’m stopped and chatted up by a bunch of different people on the street…”What you need, man???”. When I tell one guy that we’re heading to Agra tomorrow by bus and train, he scoffs at that idea and says that he can drive us there for 1,500 rupees, which is about $33. I’m tempted, but we’d first have to get refunds on our bus/train tickets (which were considerably cheaper anyway) and Jill isn’t here to help me decide. I tell him that: “I gotta speak to my wife”. Oh yeah…that’s another thing. In India, we’re masquerading as husband and wife to keep things a bit more simple. Jill even wears her rings on her “wedding” finger to repel attention. We decided to take this approach on our very first day in Delhi, when we were asked if we were married. When we answered that we were just boyfriend-girlfriend, there was dead silence, and possibly crickets chirping, in reply. So now, when anyone asks – and they DO ask….every time – yes, we are married and we’re actually on our honeymoon! That helps them understand the answer to the inevitable next question, which is: “How many children do you have?”. Marriage and children seem to be predominant in everyone’s mind in India. Or maybe they’re just checking if Jill is available?
So I pick up enough food to keep me from getting grumpy tomorrow and graciously turn down all the other offers that are flooding my way: “Beer? Hash? Weed? Whatever you need”. Yeah man, I just need some snacks…thanks
This is a whirlwind part of our trip right now and tomorrow we head to Agra, the city that boasts India’s most famous sight….the Taj Mahal. If you ask anyone what they know about India, even if it’s very little (like we knew prior to this trip), they usually know that it’s the country where the Taj Mahal is located. So there’s obviously a lot of build-up associated with it. Will it live up to expectations or will we be leaving there rapping badly to “Don’t Believe the Hype”? You’ll find out soon…