Day 139: Staying with the Maharajah
Orchha Travel Blog› entry 187 of 260 › view all entries
Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Ed (Netherlands)
After breakfast we were picked up by a car to drive us to the town of Orchha, which is near Jhansi where we had arrived by train two days ago.
Our heads were a little heavy after last night's drinking, so we tried to spend the 3.5 hour drive as best as we could: asleep!
In Orchha we pulled up at the Bundelkhand Riverside Hotel, a converted palace of the local Maharajah's family. When booking the tour Mahinder had told me that the night in Orchha would be special, and he was not lying. Wow, what a place. The place looks how a palace should look, with beautiful ornaments everywhere, beautifully decorated rooms, a wonderful garden with comfy seating areas, etcetera.
OK, not the type of hotel I would usually stay in, but it is nice to be pampered for a day.
Orchha was a nice, quiet town, especially after yesterday's onslaught of touts and postcard sellers in Khajuraho. Orchha means 'Hidden Place' and even to this day it doesn't really seem to be on the regular tourist trail.
There are some interesting palaces and temples to be visited, so after checking in to the hotel, this is what we did.
We grabbed a quick lunch (a variety of stuffed parathas) in the town centre and walked across a bridge crossing the Betwa river to the small island containing two former palaces (and the ruins of a third).
The Jehangir Mahal was the most interesting of the two, proving to be a nice place to get lost for several hours in the maze of stairs and hallways. The place has been well-restored and offers an interesting example of medieval Islamic architecture.
The second palace, the Raj Mahal, is apparently lauded for its frescoes in the old queen's bedroom. I dunno, I wasn't all that impressed (seen to many frescoes this trip?), even less so by the fact that the caretaker expected a tip for doing his job despite the fact that we had bought tickets to see it!
More interesting was the stunningly large Chaturbhuj Temple, built over a period of 20 years in the late 16th century. No, no porn today, just impressive architecture.
The temple is no longer used for worship, but it is open to public.
After spending some time at the Chaturbhuj, and trying to find another nearby temple described in our guidebook, we took a tuk-tuk to a collection of Chatris, which lie just beyond the city limits. Chatris are large cenotaphs, built to honour dead kings. This being India, a small village like Orchha has had plenty of kings over the years, most of them being dead, so there were many chatris at this place. I liked them better than the palaces. Guess I am more interested in royal afterlife than royal life...
After yesterday's midnight swim (and the drinking that preceded it) we were quite knackered, so we decided to escape the heat and return to the hotel. On the way back our tuk-tuk driver cranked up the volume of his radio so loud, that the our ride was transformed into a genuine Disco Tuk-Tuk. We managed to turn quite a few heads as we drove through the streets of Orchha.
We had originally planned to go back to town in the evening for some food, but in the end our royal hotel proved too comfortable to leave, so we decided to eat in the 'Turqoise Diner', the restaurant of the Bundelkhand Riverside hotel. While we could have done with the royal live band, belching out traditional tunes, the royal food we were served was very good indeed. The price was rather royal too, but it didn't matter. The food had been worth it.