India 2001 Travel Diary, Part 10

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© 2001 Giles Orr

Monday 21 May 2001, 0725

The courtyard of Hotel President Park. More pictures here.

I might as well write for a while: I'm at the "Hotel President Park" in Aurangabad (which makes the "Sea Palace" look very shabby indeed), and the lights have gone out so I expect breakfast will be late.

I've acquired a certain notoriety for my constant writing. I was given the nickname of "official photographer" early on, for my voracious consumption of film. Eleven rolls in eight days, so far.

I cannot describe how much better I feel. I mixed myself a liter of water for the day, with electrolytes. I still have a cold, and it'll be with me another day or two.

One thing I've noticed that really sets India apart from North America is the cost of labour. Hotels have multitudes of people working for them. Small stores almost always have at least two, sometimes three or four employees when I would expect only one in North America. This also means that handmade items are much cheaper and much more common. Cloth products are very cheap (although good saris can be very expensive). Carvings and woodworking are much cheaper than you would expect. This makes the available goods radically different than in North America - what is cheap is widely available. In N.A., that means plastic crap, and here that means hand-made.

Yesterday ... the trip to Aurangabad was a lot less stressful than I expected. The bus was at the airport fairly early, and the airport wasn't very busy. Our waiting area was air-conditioned, and Marc was kind enough to let me have the window seat on the flight. They served us veggie pizza and a sweet carrot-cardamon dessert. Aurangabad's airport is tiny, although I'm told the population is one million.

1420

There's a bus trip this afternoon to Paithan, to see the making of some special cloth. It would seem that the majority of us are staying here, to relax and enjoy the hotel.

I don't remember what we had for breakfast this morning. Oh yes ... a buffet of sorts - the rather thin pancakes were to my taste. Western style. Dinner last night was quite weird - a western style buffet, but after you loaded your plate with their rather bizarre interpretations of western standards, they walked from table to table with small pots giving small samples of Indian/Aurangabad food. They should stick with the latter, which was quite good, because their interpretations of western food were incorrectly spiced, and just weird.

Bibi Ka Maqbara. More pictures here.

We loaded onto the bus at 0900 this morning and went to Bibi Ka Maqbara, a rather beautiful tomb that's more or less a half scale replica of the Taj Mahal. I'm told the Taj is much prettier. Fred said it "literally brought tears to my eyes" when he was there in 1996. We then went on to Panchakki, which is a pool and fountain driven by water brought through clay pipes in the hills. An impressive technological achievement, but a relatively dull site compared to Bibi Ka Maqbara or the Elephanta caves.

Our final stop was a sort of medium sized tourist/craft shop. The husband and wife team who organized our travels (Rumah and Arvind (male)) have joined us for this leg of our adventures, but we also had a tour guide talking to us on the bus and leading us around. I wasn't alone in speculating that he got a kickback from that particular store (a common practice in India).

Lunch was a buffet of Indian food at the Hotel, quite good.

Aurangabad feels radically different than Mumbai. Less crowded, very few street dwellers. Flatter. Much, much drier (we're apparently pretty near a desert). I said to Julia that it reminded me of photos of Egypt that I've seen. I'm planning to wander around some this afternoon and take some photos. I hope they'll show what I mean, because I don't have the words for it yet. I'll take some pictures of the hotel as well. I've already shot about 50 frames today ...

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