Thursday, 21 August 2008

21 August 2008: Bhopal

First impressions of Bhopal weren't great. Disembarking from the train at 3.20am to a platform full of women sleeping rough, being swamped by numerous taxi touts and then walking down dimly lit streets to our hotel didn't bode well. And being the unenviable home of the world's worst industrial accident, Bhopal needed to do a lot to make us like it. Why then did we come here? Because it's a good base for some other sights.

Surprisingly, by the end of our first day, we warmed to the place. First, we managed to get our next three train tickets booked without too much hassle. We paid in rupees rather than our limited US dollars. We wish we'd managed to get a photo of us at the ticket booth, as it was quite the comedy scene. A crowd of Indian gentlemen were literally breathing down our necks, wrestling each other to be served next. If you leave even a tiny gap in between you and the person in front in a queue, every man and his cousin will be guaranteed to squeeze in. So you have to just forget about personal space and get territorial.

Once finished at the train station, we got an auto-rickshaw to our lunch venue. Unfortunately, the driver was rather confused and needed directions to where we wanted to go. He was a bit miffed that we weren't going to pay for his lengthy detours. It was hard to argue with us as we were running away. Lunch at Bapu Ki Kutia was excellent – today's special was Mushroom Hyderabadi which went down easily. This country is truly a vegetarian's paradise with lots of very nutritious and tasty dishes. Look at the portion sizes too. This is the dosa which Jen ordered yesterday (right).

We walked off lunch at the Van Vihar National Park. It's home to many animals living in fairly decent conditions. The 4km walk goes past hyenas, bears, lions, leopards, tigers, crocodiles, snakes and birds. It was a bit like the West Midland's Safari Park but without a car. The local Bhopalese also got to see a rare exhibit today – two white Europeans – and they were busy staring at this surprise addition to the menagerie. One guy on a bicycle took a paparazzi photo of us as he rode directly at us – he didn't even ask!

Early evening we went on a cruise of the Bhopal's Upper Lake, a 46km long expanse of water which was beautiful in the setting sun. We ended up missing most of the scenery, as we were too busy swapping stories with a couple of Italians who were also staying at Hotel Sonali. As a special treat for our evening meal, we visited the luxurious Jehan Numa Palace Hotel. The food was very good, and the prices were reasonable.

A great first day in Bhopal.


David said...

Good to hear that you are finally enjoying India.

Today we did very exciting stuff - we went to a playgroup in Holyport and this afternoon went to Sainsburys and a new play area.

Oh well at least we have a glass of wine now and Jack is asleep.

Auntie Liz said...

Hi Andy and Jen

Uncle John says "you haven't sold India to him" !!!