Exploring the city of pearls...
I woke up refreshed after a successful night's sleep on our overnight train to Hyderabad, India.
Our train rolled into the station at 5:30 am and we schlepped our sleepy selves off the train and into a rickshaw to take us to our hotel.
We took our time getting situated, watched some TV and ate breakfast before heading out for a busy day of sight-seeing.
Driving around Hyderabad was pretty much what I expected; poverty, pollution and over population.
Lonely Planet described traveling here like a treasure hunt: the jewels have to be earned and I was on a mission to find the subtle charms and archeological gems I had heard so much about.
The first stop on my treasure map was Golconda Fort.
Built in the 16th century this massive infrastructure kept Mughal armies from invading Golconda for 8 months.
Only after an insider turned treacherous were they able to conquer the complex.
Besides massive gates adorned with iron spikes, their successful defense strategy was also attributed to acoustics.
They built the structure with advanced technology and precise angles so the acoustics guaranteed that even the slightest sound from the entrance would echo across the entire fort complex.
The fort was built on a 120 meter high granite hill allowing you beautiful views of the city below. We climbed up and down the fort and spent a good two hours trudging through sprinkling rain and over slippery rocks and it was absolutely worth it.
Definitely puts to shame all the bed sheet forts I used to build as a kid, that's for sure.
Being a walking spectacle is not something I was prepared for when I came to India. All the time everywhere we go, people stare at us like we are conjoined twins with elephantitis. They point and take pictures like we are celebrities. I'm obviously not Indian but I'm not Britney Spears either. To quote Marshall Mathers, "y'all act like ya never seen a white person before, jaws all on the floor.." it's like they either think our white skin is some sort of evolutionary astonishment or an absolute abomination of skin pigmentation, I don't know. Anyway, we were walking around the fort and were being stalked by a group of 10 high school boys that seemed to be infatuated with our every move. Finally one of them grew a pair and approached us for a picture.
Once we obliged him and the others knew we wouldn't bite, the flood gates opened and we were swarmed by gawky teenagers who wanted their picture with the whities. We had quite an entourage.
Next we headed over to the Tombs of Qutb Shahi Kings.
These charming domed tombs scattered amongst wild gardens hold mausoleums of ancient kings and their families and are the subject of some great photos.
I wish I would have been able to enjoy them more however my bladder had been filled to the brim for quite some time and was about to overflow in my pants at any moment. There was no bathroom anywhere and too many people to pop a squat anywhere (plus I like to avoid urinating on holy monuments, it's good for my karma). The tombs themselves had an impressive exterior, however the interior mausoleum was simply a stone box draped with cloth in the middle of the room, with no literature about the tombs, the kings, or the construction anywhere.
So I didn't feel bad when my bladder won the coin toss of whether to stay or leave.
We hopped in a rickshaw and headed back to the hotel where I was guaranteed a sanitary toilet not just a hole in the ground, handled my business and set out for lunch.
Now before I tell you where we went to lunch, let me just say one thing: it is true what they say about Indian food. I love spicy food. I eat it almost everyday back home and a lot of time I will plan my whole meal around the hot sauce I intend to use. I buy the super sized bottle of Cholula at Costco. I love spicy food. I thought India would be a breeze for my palette and I laughed off all the warnings I'd heard. But no. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. After indulging myself on the spiciest, sauciest, delectable Indian cuisine, day after day, meal after meal, I was paying for it... Big time. I was downing Imodium and Pepto tablets like sweet tarts and nothing was helping the matter. This would be a problem in the states as well, a rumbling tummy is a bad situation no matter where you are. However, being in a third world country whose idea of a toilet is a whole in the ground and whose idea of toilet paper is your left hand, it makes the situation really shitty.. Literally.
Do I paint a vivid picture cause I can go on...
So I didn't feel like the tourist sellout I vowed not to be when I strolled my American ass right into Subway. I needed blandness. I ordered the safest thing on the menu, a spicy Italian (made with lamb not beef, they don't have beef in India), a little mayo, a squirt of mustard, pickles, olives, lettuce and a warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie. It was just what the doctor ordered. I never thought I would be so stoked on subway.
With my tummy satisfied and settled, it was time for the shopping maze of a lifetime. The Laad Bazaar is a dream and a nightmare all wrapped up in a pretty bow.
You could get lost easily navigating through this labyrinth of vendors. Shiny bangle bracelets call your attention one direction and the smell of fresh naan pulls you in another. The organized pandemonium gives you a rush to see all you possibly can but it's that same pandemonium that will rush you right out the door.
It is madness all around and it is easy to get sucked in and spit out. You'll find fine silks, gold, silver and the most beautiful fabrics, scented oils and perfumes made from scratch right in front of you! We came in search of something specific.. Pearls.
Hyderabad is known as the 'pearl city' and this bazaar in particular is the center of India’s pearl trade. I've heard that you can get great deals on real pearls here, so I set off in search of the perfect neck ornament. We went to several shops and got price quotes and finally settled on one shop that showed us perfectly round pearls of every shade and I indulged myself in a little eye candy. I wanted to shop around more but it was ridiculously overwhelming swimming in a sea of people and sweating like pig. I looked at a few street stalls and after about five minutes and 500 'Madam's" I through in the towel. There's only so many times you can hear "Madam you come here, I have something very special for you, very good price!" before you want to rip off your own arm just to have something to throw at them.
We flagged down a rickshaw rode out of the congested shopping Mecca and back to the Abids area where we were staying. The last time I had laundry done I mysteriously had only two pair of underwear that made it back to me. Apparently someone needed my thongs more than I did. I went to the market and bought a few pairs to replenish my collection.
After a great vegetarian dinner it was time to relax my eyes after a day of running around the city.