Before we left England I asked everyone what their anxieties were about India…. Ella’s were about being driven, and what she’d heard about the roads (and seen on Guy Martin programme – thanks Guy – who handily showed a compilation of scary crashes, which we saw the day before we left…) Jack’s were mainly about busy-ness and chaos, Steve’s were so numerous he couldn’t/didn’t want to list them… (But as we’ve gone along and we didn’t miss the plane, the plane didn’t crash, we didn’t miss the connection, we didn’t lose our luggage, the visa documentation we were carrying was more valid than it looked,the driver WAS there for us, and we did make it to the apartment, he’s been able to tick off the first few anyway…)
My main mental image prior to be setting off seemed to be of a very busy crowded place where I can’t make myself understood. I pictured crowded (vibrantly coloured) streets, with everyone moving very fast, and me not having a clue what to do. This, I’d realised, would affect everything from eating, finding where I am, visiting anywhere… every part of the trip, really.
So far so good, we’ve arrived at the apartment… we were driven here… The driver didn’t seem to speak much English but he knew where he was going, as he was booked by the apartment-guy, Dev, who speaks excellent English and who had already been in touch by email, by whats app and by phone, so we knew the driver would be waiting by ‘pillar 13’. He wasn’t, but after just long enough to make us worry, he turned up holding a piece of wood on a stick with ‘CAROLYN SIMS’ written on it… I didn’t know if he’d been busy constructing it and that’s what had delayed him… His car was noticeably dented. Every panel had a story to tell, but neither the car nor the driver was able to communicate, so we clambered aboard with gritted teeth.
The journey was mostly uneventful – 2 out of 4 seatbelts didn’t work, and the car was boiling (Steve tells me the aircon was turned up to 25 degrees), he slammed the brakes on for a cow crossing the road, there was much obligatory horn-blowing, which I believe is so the tuk-tuks and motorbikes are seen as they undertake, but non of it was as terrifying as we might have thought it was going to be. I realised I was tensing and flinching quite a bit and that I might as well try and stop that or I’ll spend the whole trip in a state of tense flinchyness..
The apartment was accessed via some slightly grubby back alleys. There’s an amazing view (as we knew from the pictures on Booking.com) of a tomb literally just outside the window… The only issue was not having the right amount of bedding, (one bed made up, sofa bed not made up), which happens in pretty much every Premier Inn we’ve ever been to, and the solution was the same – ask for some more…
The apartment-guy, Dev asked if we’d like to look around the tomb and gardens which the apartment overlooks… The tomb was about to close but he says he knows ‘the management’ and could get them to let us in… So we went and had a look around, feeling very guilty as quite a number of other people were being turned away…
The ‘management’ turned out to be the security guys, and one of them took it upon himself to show us round and take lots of pictures for us/of us. That brought up another anxiety which I’d already discussed ad-infinitum (thanks Josie) of ‘am I supposed to tip and how much of a tip is too much, and how little is an insult, or how can I tell if someone is just being friendly and helpful, etc’. So, it seemed pretty clear he would like a bit of a tip… and a ‘bit’ of a tip he got… 100INR = less than a quid.
No idea if that was OK or not but he seemed to up his game after that (I’d handed it over after wandering around the tomb bit but he then found us a college, a lake and a mosque to look at too…) The tomb turns out to be that of Shah Feroz, a Turkish muslim from 14th century, who also set up a college in the same grounds… Health and safety was terrifyingly non-existent, with a piece of barbed wire between us and a headlong-certain-death tumble.
Shortly after our tomb trip we went out for food… I’d asked apartment-guy-Dev, where to eat and he’d pointed out a restaurant very close by with a great view over the lake and temple/tomb. Seemed ideal. Five floors up and we realise that the fact it’s called ‘Mia Bella’ does indeed point to its slightly less than authentically Indian heritage and everyone’s eating pizza…. So, although they looked very good, we apologetically climbed 5 sets of stairs back down again. We asked the restaurant-guy (didn’t ask his name) if there were any good Indian restaurants in the area… and he said no… which led us to walking up and down a very crowded, busy street, with us being the only noticeable tourists.
It seems there’s a pattern to it – keep walking, ‘no thank you’ and you get left alone. Stand still to try to discuss and you get a face-full of ‘rooftop restaurant’ ‘lake view’ ‘mild food’ or whatever else looks like it might entice us in. So it’s difficult to make a choice, cos you can’t stand still. Ultimately we settled on ‘awesomest lake view’.
Well, it probably is during the day, but at the time we were there it was dark, as was the terrace, so difficult to read the menu too… The food was OK… the mushroom keema very good… We’ll get a chance to improve the average tomorrow hopefully…