Friday, July 12, 2019

India: Part 3 - Bhopal

After the long-ish train ride from Khajuraho without food, we arrived in Bhopal late at night. A driver picked us up and drove us to the Courtyard hotel.

Funny story about the Courtyard. As I previously mentioned, India is the land of surveys. After our first morning breakfast buffet at the Courtyard, our waiter gave us a survey. I think Nestor filled it out for the table, and rated the experience maybe an 8 overall? Which is pretty good. Of course that's not good enough in the minds of our Indian service staff. They rushed over immediately and asked how they could improve because they needed a 10. I was a little sad that they didn't have bacon, so I yelled out that I wanted bacon the next day - half joking and feeling weird because this is a heavily Muslim city and I don't really need pork. But, bacon. It's delicious.

The next morning we show up again for breakfast, and our "usual" table is already prepared with the drinks we ordered from the first day, and as soon as I sit down, a waiter tells me that my bacon is on the way. So, so funny. It wasn't out on the buffet, but they made a plate of it especially for me. They work hard for that 10! It wasn't the best bacon I've had, but I'll take it.

Also I noticed that when we got back to the room one day, my little tiny travel pillow had been adorned with a regular pillow case, and my backpack on the floor was now lovingly placed on top of a towel. Heaven forbid it just sit on the floor. I'm sure the whole staff was also very confused about me staying in the same room as two men. We were in Bhopal for three nights and it was the most expensive place, so we just shared a room. Whatever. But I do think it was very intriguing to the staff.

Another Courtyard perk was the government rate that Tim was able to book, and it got us access to the executive lounge. That means free food and drinks around happy hour time, so that's what we did every day after our excursions. I would highly recommend this Courtyard hotel if you're ever in Bhopal. And now to the adventures.

The first day we had a tour at Sanchi Stupa, another UNESCO site that are a grouping of Buddhist monuments. We had a driver for the day, as well as a guide who met us here. And tipping is very much a thing in India - you should tip your driver and tip your guide at each site that you visit. 

This is the oldest Buddhist sanctuary in existence. After Buddha died, his ashes were divided up among various kingdoms, and some of them are covered by one of these stupas.

Moving on from the stupas, we drove a little ways to the Udayagiri Caves.

Here we are at these caves. They are rock-cut caves from the 5th century, but we didn't have a guide here and there aren't many signs to tell you anythign.

And a lot of them are barricaded off. Not a lot to see, I didn't think.

Time to head back into town.

Our driver had us stop at the Heliodorus pillar - you can read about it here. It's really, really old.

And then we stopped at the Tropic of Cancer!

Back into Bhopal for a city tour. In 1984 there was a huge gas leak incident that poisoned a lot of the city and left some lasting effects. It's one of the world's worst industrial disasters. It's really sad to read about, and I don't recommend looking at images of it.

We visited one of the mosques here - it's the largest one in India and one of the largest in Asia. It was a Friday, so it was full of people (men).  I got to borrow a robe to put on, even though I already had a long skirt on. But they didn't care about me covering my head, so I didn't. 

Tim and Nestor had been living in India for 1.5 years at this point, and they were used to the selfie madness. Everywhere we went, people asked them for selfies. But they're usually too shy to ask women, so I didn't get it as much.

Tim and Nestor are buried in there somewhere.

However, one of these younger guys summoned the courage to ask me for one. And once I said yes, the flood gates opened. It was a mob scene. It's fun for about 30 seconds, and then I'm over it. It's weird to have all these dudes staring at you.

Moving on to other parts of the city...

This is Jama Mosque

No one was really in this mosque, but a younger guy who came in said I should cover my head. He said he personally didn't care, but if an elder came, he would. Interesting that the other full mosque didn't care about my hair, but about my calves.

Trying to cross the street. So many obstacles.

Maybe this was a 3rd mosque.

I actually liked the city of Bhopal. There are some pretty things to see around here. And it's got a huge lake around it.

On Saturday we had one more outing - the Bhimbetka caves. Another UNESCO site checked off. These rock shelters are also very old, and there are some neat drawings still on the walls.

That was our only activity for the day, so we spent some good time at DB City Mall, next to our hotel.

Fries and McFlurries still taste pretty good. But I couldn't do the corn and cheese patty.

This looks weird and random. But we found a pretty nice spa there, so we got massages. Not a bad way to end this trip in Madhya Pradesh.

The next morning we had early flights - Tim and Nestor back to Hyderabad, and me off to explore more India before joining them again.

Madhya Pradesh was a great region to explore - still lots of touristy things to do, but much quieter and a bit less crowded. Felt good to ease into India this way. Up next - my favorite city in India....

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