This is how much I loved Hyderabad:
It’s always nice coming back to Vizag though, (although it is significantly hotter) because I actually feel like I am coming home, and that is a good feeling. Not Utah home, but you know, India home, for sure.
We (this trip started off just being John and Daniel, and then slowly ALL of us minus one ended up tagging along) took a sleeper train, (can I even say how much I love sleeper trains? I love them).
On our trip over, 4 of us were in one compartment and Dan was across from us with 2 random people. In his compartment was a tiny, frail, raspy-voiced, white cotton, sari clad Indian woman. You know, one of those precious old women where her cheekbones are protruding and her mouth is sunk into her face? She looked exactly like a Pixar character! I didn’t get a picture, but she was adorable. The other woman (her daughter, I think) was a brusque, pompous woman. And she came in carrying/sneaking in a dog with a muzzle on its mouth. After about 30 minutes, muzzle came off. When the women went to the bathroom, Dan and I snuck over to get a picture in order to have a clear view of the dog and have photo documentation. We were pleasantly surprised to get this photo:
Oh, just happy and smiling away.
And this is me loving sleeper trains:
(Yes, Faj, I really am that white and pasty. Keep the judgments coming!)
The first thing we did was go to Charminar, which is the old city of Hyderabad. It is a Muslim center, with a beautiful mosque and impressive city gate. Monday was one of the two official concluding days for Ramzan.
As we took the auto into this part of town, it was cool because there were Muslims everywhere headed for this part of town as well. It was spectacular to see so many white-clad Muslims arriving at the same place, but we did not stay long because it was so overwhelming. Once we got there, we were so in the minority, and immediately received so much attention that it made us uncomfortable. Also, all the beggars were so persistent, clutching to us and constantly following us. We were also a bit uncomfortable being there on a day that was so sacred for them. I do not have any pictures from that day, because we decided it wouldn’t be wise to get our cameras out then, but I did take pictures when I went back on Wednesday morning.
After being there for a while, we went to lunch at a little street place. First they gave us already-opened “bottled” water, aka tap water, and then kept going next door to get our food because there was actually no kitchen in the restaurant. We were a little sketched out, but Courtney investigated and realized that the restaurant was an extension of the restaurant next door and it looked legit next door. That makes my story not as funny, but also not as sketchy.
After lunch we headed to the lake and took a boat ride to the Buddha statue out in the middle of the lake. (Funny side note story - a few years ago, as they were bringing the statue out to erect it in the middle of the lake, they somehow dropped it and it sank. At the time, they did not have adequate funds to retrieve it, so it stayed at the bottom of the lake for a few years until they had enough money to bring it back up.) And, the Dalai Lama consecrated the statue as well. Some of us took a boat ride out to the statue.
After that we went to this Hindu Temple called, “Birla Temple.” It is on top of a hill, and overlooks Hyderabad. No cameras were allowed, which was a bummer because it was absolutely beautiful. It was kind of nice to not have cameras though, because it made it a more peaceful experience. (Especially because then everyone wasn’t constantly flashing cameras in our faces.) From the bottom of the steps, you couldn’t really see the temple. First you walked up steps, which are all white marble, with ornate lattice carvings on the sides, passing by different deities. Actually, the entire temple was made out of white marble, making it opulent and gorgeous. This temple was different than other temples I have been to because it was mostly outdoor, and had many different levels. There was this one bridge going to a clock tower. The view of the city was amazing. The temple was just so pretty and tranquil - definitely one the best experiences I’ve had thus far in India. These pictures obviously do not do it justice at all.
But, I loved it so much and wish I could write better about it. While we were there, this adorable 12-year-old boy kept coming up to us and talked to us with superb English. He was with a group of friends, and he would run up to us and then slide on his knees. Then he told us that he wants to be a dancer and kept doing awesome dance moves for us. (Indians are good dancers, by the way.) I loved him.
Doesn’t little dancer boy have the most beautiful skin color?
After the temple, we went to a bookstore. Totally heavenly. Totally therapeautic. I loved it so much. I miss browsing bookstores. I miss the smell of coffee in bookstores. We have a couple bookstores in Vizag, but they have totally lame selections. I bought The Little Prince and Brothers of Karamazov by Dostoyevsky.
For dinner we ate at this place called “Paradise” to have renowned Hyderabadi byriani. Byriani is a way of preparing the rice, where they cook the rice with certain spices and/or meats, so it flavors the rice so deliciously. Another one of my new favorite Indian foods - roti. It is a soft, thin, stretchy tortilla-like bread. I think I even like it better than naan. I love eating spicy food so much and I love when your lips burn after you are eating. Soooo good. Also, we had Baskin-Robbins, which was exciting. (But, actually, I think Vizag has better ice cream at this place called “Jack Frost.” It is so delicious that I will blog about it sometime.)
(Sorry this is getting so long - I just have so much to write about...)
Tuesday morning we went to Golconda Fort. It is a huge stone fortress with tons of levels and rooms. The Muslims built it, and it is quite a ways outside the city, but apparently has an underground passageway to Charminar. We hiked all the way to the top and then back down through different passageways and rooms.
Oh, and just some dreamboats who wanted their faces on my camera:
That took the whole morning/early afternoon. We had ice cream for lunch at Baskin-Robbins, and then tagged along with John to the home of some of his converts. I debated whether I wanted to go or not, but I am so glad I ended up going. They are seriously some of the best, most kind and stellar people I have met. It was also cool to meet them because they are friends with my good friend Perry Kimball, who served with John as well. After feeding us a huge plateful of rice and spicy beef (beef in India, I know, right?) curry, we went up to the terrace/roof top to chat and feel the breeze.
We pressured Daniel into showing them his duck walk:
And then somehow got on the topic of games. By this point, tons of neighborhood kids had gathered and decided to play a game. I guess it was just like the game “Bacon” in the US (which I have never played), but here they call it “Dog and Bone.” Basically there are 2 teams and each person has a number that is the same number as someone on the other team. Someone calls a number and those 2 numbers run to the middle and try to steal the handkerchief, but you can also tag each other. You get a point if you retrieve the handkerchief and get back without getting tagged. We were all so loud and had so much fun. Even the mother played, wearing a sari and everything, and she was good.
During one round, my same number was this little boy and he was so good! He beat me every time! Meghan later pointed out to me that he was totally using sports psychology on me because he would scream every time to catch me off guard. It worked. I played how I normally play sports - spastic with lots of unnecessary screaming. And apparently, I did this:
What the Lars dance? I'm glad I have made my blog into a shrine to embarrass myself.
But, the highlight: So, there was a rusty clothes line going across the roof, and before we started playing, we were making jokes about how someone was going to die by running into it. Well, sure enough, as soon as we started playing, Daniel gets the handkerchief and darts back to his side, and rams his neck into the rusty wire, which catapults him to his bottom. I was dying. He had a red mark going from his chin, across his cheek, and then a rust mark on his shirt. And he still has a line across his chin and cheek. So funny. Meeting this family and being able to connect so well with them and the children who didn’t speak my language, and having so much fun was another one of the best India experiences I’ve had.
That night we went to a swank mall. I forgot how much I love shopping and retail therapy. I made a couple super cute purchases. And I did not purchase the cutest shirt I have ever seen in my whole entire life because it was too expensive. Maybe I already regret it a little bit. But the Faj Mahal should be proud. For dinner that night I had a mango smoothie and rose water granita. The granita even had rose petals in it. SO divine.
Okay, final day in Hyderabad. Wednesday morning we headed to Charminar again, since the festivities of Ramzan had died down.
We shopped. There are millions of bangle shops.
Awesome perfume shop (Muslims are known for their perfume because they make oil based perfume, because they don't use any alcohol)
Also, bought Indian shoes, ate delicious, spicy chicken tikka masala, and went to this huge museum. (See I got to do practically ALL my favorite things in Hyderabad.) Then we had to rush to make it to the church (where we dumped our luggage for the day), and then to the train station. It took us forever to get an auto and get across town to the church/train station, so it ended a little stressfully. But, we made it to the train station just in time, and then I spent the evening on the train playing with this cuteness:
I was trying so hard to make her smile. She drew pictures in my journal, and had way good English, especially since she was only 3 years old.
Sorry for the biggest travel log you've ever read in your life.
Ps, sometimes they sell doors on the side of the street: