Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Hyderabad pit stop

Hyderabad, 26'030km

Here's another non-touristy post, as I had yet another pit stop, for doing some mechanics although this time it has nothing to do with the bike. My (still) camera was down since Rajasthan, and recently my video broke down so I was left without means to record the trip. Not a show-stopper of course, but still I enjoy a lot taking photos and videos on the trip. The conditions (sand, dust, humidity, shocks) are taxing the electronics heavily and I'm not that surprised that these gizmos finally gave up. So I stopped in the next big city, Hyderabad, where I found a facilities to fix them, but it took 2 weeks in total.

Before I got there I stopped in Hampi, which is an ensemble of dozens of temples set in a very picturesque environment. The landscape is so beautiful and the atmosphere so peaceful that I spent 4 days there, not even bothering to visit the ruins after the first couple days. Having a chai next to the river, watching the Indians washing, eating a dosa for dinner at the light of a candle due to the usual power cuts, getting an auspicious tap on the head from the temple's elephant (for 1 rupee), all this contribute to the atmosphere.

The change with Hyderabad metropolis is striking, here there's a mix of middle-class and lower class people leaving together but very differently: eat and work on the street for the poor, hang out in malls and coffee shops for the richer. You sure can find everything here: McDonald's, Barista & CCD (Starbucks rip-offs), IMAX cinemas, even a beef butcher (Muslim for sure, and he made to sure to put a sign saying:"imported beef"!).

Still there was something strange in this city that I couldn't figure out, until suddenly it popped up: there are no cows! How strange it is to walk in a city without bumping into a cow at every corner. But you get used to it, and of course it's better for the traffic, a nightmare of course with 19'000 buses running like mad (and on petrol unlike Delhi where they all switched to CNG) and innumerable rickshaws serving 6 millions people.

One thing also that's so relaxing, probably because Hyderabad sees very few tourists: you can actually walk around almost without touts, and the rickshaw mostly run by the meter, avoiding the time-confusing haggling before taking a ride. So much that I even have been asked directions in Hindu twice. That's very different from Delhi and the touristy places.

Some people avoid India's big cities like plague, but I find them always interesting, there's always something that will amaze you at one point or another. And after a few days you get to know the good places to drink your chai, eat your thalli - and write your blog. There's not a lot to see though, the landmark Charminar is pretty uninteresting, only the Golconda fort and the Qutb Shia tombs are worth the visit. It seems that the big thing to do for Indians is to visit Ramoji Film City, where most Tollywood (Indian films in Telugu) films are shot - supposedly, up to 40 at the same time, which make it the largest film studio in the world, well ahead of Universal Studios and others.

Having a room with TV (and no power cut), I've been able to follow with the news - in order: the world cup (yeah, cricket, what else?), the "Q" scandal and the 2007 budget (total: 6.8 lakh crores). But also catch up on "Desperate Housewives" and enjoy the weirdness of Crorepati: the Indian version of "Who wants to be a millionaire" (2 crores, so about 500'000$), with questions written in English but asked in Hindi, often related to cricket or Hinduism.

Last week-end was Holi, the Indian carnival, celebrating the end of the winter. Of course, there isn't much of a winter here in south India, but it is also a religious celebration. It starts by lighting huge bonfires right in the middle of the street, and then continues with people throwing each other color dyes, so that during a few days you see purple faces all over the city. See the photo album for more pictures.


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