Thursday, 13 January 2011

Lounging Like a Lord - Orchha

For Relaxing Times, Make it Orchha Time

We all left Orchha with some fantastic memories, helped no doubt by giving ourselves time to take it all in, a comfortable place to stay and some really great food. After Agra it was just what the doctor ordered. Having thoroughly hated the hassle of fighting the drivers to get a taxi at Agra Cantt we decided to book a taxi via the hotel for the longish ride from Jhansi to Orchha. Orchha is not particularly accessible by train/bus so a cab was clearly the best option. After mistakenly thinking our driver and the hotel staff were touts (they were ready to meet us on the platform but forgot to show their sign so we tried to get rid of them!) we had an enjoyable ride talking about the differences between life in the UK and India and that we kept neither a car nor livestock...

Arriving after dark at the hotel we were greeted with flower garlands, a warm welcome and after a quick check in we were shown to our rooms. Wow, what a difference a day (and a decent hotel) makes. We were staying at the Bundelkhand Riverside and whilst it cost five times more than Hotel Sheela it felt like it was worth 100 times more! This hotel is a heritage hotel owned by the government and was a former Maharaja's retreat. We had a big bedroom with a small seating area to the side, a giant bathroom which was clean and hardly a hint of damp or rust to be found. There was also plenty of space to place all our things as well as a tray of complementary tea/coffee, fruit, drinks and biscuits. I could get used to this! After a short rest we headed for dinner. Again a marked improvement from anything we'd eaten so far. Unfortunately I cannot remember exactly what I ate but I do remember having my first taste of butter chicken washed down with a huge bottle of Kingfisher beer... in all it was like eating at your favourite local Indian restaurant both nights we were there.

Anyway, enough about the food and the hotel for now, the reason we came to Orchha was to see the beautiful old palaces and temples there and to see something a little less Mogul influenced. After an interesting breakfast in the morning we met our guide and visited the first set of temples which were actually royal residences one of which was only used for one night! The steep steps and hot sun made for a tiring start to the day but our guide was good. We also saw some of the active temples (you can tell by the flag) and some historic ones including a fascinating fresco of the locals fighting off the British. In the afternoon we saw the royal tombs which were quite interesting also.

The rest of our time in Orchha was spent at a leisurely pace, enjoying the good weather and walking along by the riverside where the locals wash their clothes out. it really was a beautiful place. Early evenings were spent on the hotel's roof terrace watching the world go by and talking to other guests at the hotel (who were ironically enough on the package tour we nearly booked). Suitably recharged after our stay it was time to take the car along the narrow bumpy roads to Khajuraho and its special temples. We left with many fond memories.

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