Diversions: A Hidden Gem by the River

Along the way between Agra and Khajuraho, there is a small town named Orchha. Few tourists have time for it or are even aware of its existence. After all, it is not easy to compete for attention with the Taj Mahal in Agra and the “erotic” temples in Khajuraho. By the way, these temples are not about “Kama Sutra”; the erotic carvings are only one part of the teachings about something much more spiritual. Just do not ask me to describe the spiritual part. I have forgotten much of that already. I guess I have a long way to go before reaching nirvana.

For those who have a day or two (or even more) to spare, a stay in Orchha can be quite enjoyable. Without hordes of tourists (at least not yet), the locals have not developed the habit of chasing you around to sell souvenirs, offer guided tours, find hotels, etc. You are likely left alone and undisturbed to see the temples or wander in the market. This reminded me of an old T-shirt from Kathmandu — “No souvenir, no rickshaw, no change money…. no problem!”. It is hard say that in Agra.

The palace and temples are quite magnificent, though a bit run down. Without many tourists, there is not enough money to maintain that many palaces and temples. The cows contribute to the problem with their frequent droppings inside these buildings. Watch your steps!


One “selling point” of Orchha is its location by the river. There are many palaces and temples in nearby Rajasthan. But they all are in the desert (except for City Palace and the Lake Palace in Udaipur;  they are by the lake or in the middle of it). The view of Orchha palace and temples from the other side of the river is magical at sunrise and sunset. Get your camera ready!


There are two high-end tourist hotel complexes in Orchha. They look somewhat small and empty. Most foreign visitors coming to town are backpackers. Low-end guest houses are more commonplace. I stayed at this guest house right by the market. At 650 rupees/night(US$14) with AC, it was “cheap” (you know what I mean) though not exactly inexpensive. So what? I did not need much.
Orchha 2010 -- Shri Mahant guest house by the market

I took the photo above while sitting in a street-corner restaurant. Its location by the market meant “flies, flies and more flies”. I ate my meal with one hand; the other hand (holding a handkerchief) was busy fanning the flies away. Well, that’s the way it is in India, or anywhere else in the tropics. You will be tuned into it after a while. On this, I remember an old story. In the first few days in the tropics, you get very upset seeing some flies floating in your cup of tea and demand to have another cup. After a few days, you get used to seeing flies in your tea; so you simply scoop out the flies and drink the rest of the tea. Then a while longer, you come to expect seeing flies in your tea; so once again may get very upset, only this time for an opposite reason: “Waiter! What’s wrong today? No flies!” Well, there is so much of this world to see and to experience. A few flies do not matter much, if at all. So, bring out your backpack and get going.

Diversions: A Day in Delhi

I was in New Delhi, India, in mid-August. Looking at the sign below, for a moment I thought I was in another place thousands of miles away.

Not for too long. The realities around reminded me where I was. Long time no see — 23 years sine my previous trip to India. Much has changed while in some respects much has stayed the same.

Dig It Up

In preparation for the  Commonwealth Games 2010, Delhi was getting a face lift. The whole Connaught Place area was dug up apparently to get new pavements and sidewalks. All dug up, but where were the construction workers (the photo below was taken at around 9:30 am)? I could not help wonder if all would get done in time for the Games. May yes, perhaps temporarily just for the look and the photo ops; all can be dug up again and reworked afterward.


Knock It Down

The Main Bazaar in Pahar Ganj (Delhi’s backpacker ghetto) was also getting a face lift. The frontal section of most buildings was knocked down to reclaim about two yards on each side of the street. For the moment at least, the Main Bazaar was turned into a messy construction zone.

It did not look too bad in day time. But I got to the area around midnight. All the shops had been closed; the  street was in total darkness; it was mostly empty of people but full of debris. Quite spooky. After 23 years from my last visit to Delhi, I was not totally sure that was the Main Bazaar. It took 15 minutes and half a km into this dark alley before I saw lights and hotel signs. That section of the Main Bazaar was probably too far (and invisible) from the main street and the railway station to need a face lift.


“Social order, Indian style” — with the cows in front, everyone waited for his turn. Jumping the line in this case would be an unholy act!

But Keep Moving Forward

Even if nothing else got done, one thing would: getting an education. In India,this is a serious mission where failure is not an option. Move forward by any means available!!!


No need for school buses…

Bicycle rickshaws will do.


I wonder if there is much of an audience for Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”