November 1, 2007
I arrived at the Jhansi train station with only about 7 minutes to spare. I won’t lie – my heart was beating a bit fast. You just
never know what tempo (a larger auto-rickshaw) traffic is going to be like. But I made it.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I got on the train. I knew I was booked on a 1st class/ air-conditioned train. But I thought it
would only make the ride ‘manageable’. I didn’t know it would be like being in an airplane. We had attendants who started our
journey off with a 1-liter bottle of water for all of us on-board. Then they were feeding us! We got to choose what type of soup
we wanted and were also given a good roll of bread (pretty uncommon in India). Lunch was an unexpected surprise. But then I
would learn that we did not just have lunch – we had the first course. Now we were being asked if we wanted veg or non-veg
meals. The veg consisted of an Indian-style tortilla-like thing, rice, a tomato and bean dish, palak paneer and some curried
potatoes. This is what they call thali out here – a meal made up of lots of small dishes. After we were done, the filling-up-the-
passengers’-stomachs wasn’t over. The attendants passed around pieces of fruit for us. And then there was even more. We got
individual cups of ice cream. And then the requisite aniseed-sugar mixture that is the ‘breath freshener’.
But that was just a small part of my 3-hour trip to Bhopal.
I had an ‘all-of-the-stars-are-aligned-in-my-favor’ moment. Just twenty minutes before heading to the train station, I
checked my email to find out that the Jehan Numa Palace hotel I wanted to stay at wasn’t available for tonight. My hotel was
great and gave me photocopies of Bhopal hotels that had in a book that they had. I thought it would be a piece of cake to get a
hotel room in a city that I had never heard of. Wrong. I wasn’t super excited about going around a city trying to find a place.
Oh yeah…I had absolutely no guidebook for this place or any information whatsoever other than the photocopies I was given. I
am only coming to Bhopal because there is an airport here and I can easily get to Goa via Delhi from here.
My neighbor on the train and I started talking. I was asking his suggestions from the list of hotels I was given. He took it upon
himself to start calling to see if places had rooms so that I knew where I would be going when I got off the train. So sweet of
him! But then there was a glitch. Not one of these hotels had availability. Now I was internally getting a bit worried but he told
me not to fear. He was going to call his friend who would be able to find something. In the meantime I was already booked for
tomorrow night and the following night at the hotel I wanted. Now it was just time to find me a home for tonight…
It turned out the man’s name who was sitting next to me was Ganesh! How appropriate! Ganesh is my all-time favorite Indian
god. What’s not to like about an elephant-headed man, right?
About an hour before we got to Bhopal, Ganesh got a call. It was his friend. I had a room at the Jehan Numa Palace hotel for
tonight. Amazing. Gotta love people with connections!
Ganesh’s hospitality didn’t end there. He told me he could have his driver drop me off at my hotel since it was on his way to his
office. This way, he said, I wouldn’t have to deal with the rickshaw guys.
On our way there, he also invited me to go with him and a colleague on a lake cruise tonight and some drinks. Of course I
accepted the invitation. I am here for the next three days with all too much time to myself – this will be a great chance to chit-
chat with people.
It is 6:57pm. Ganesh is coming at 7:00pm. Gotta run…
Wow. Didn’t expect to have a night on the town in Bhopal. Technically, it was more like ‘a night on the lake’. But close.
Ganesh picked me up with his colleague Sidharth. The driver first drove us around the lake where there were some great
views and extremely nice homes. All I came to this place for was an airport – who knew there was a lake? Fun unexpected
treat. We made our way to the pier where we boarded the ‘Lake Princess’ for a night boat ride. All Indians and Jen. Oh. And
lots of skeeters (for once I came prepared since while journaling earlier this evening I got bit at least seven times just from
sitting outside for 10 minutes!). We were all tapping our feet to the sounds of Hindi music (okay, okay…I’m also guilty of doing
the stupid-looking moves with my head and shoulders when hearing songs I can get into).
What better way to continue the night than to go to a restaurant with terrace overlooking the lake and having some nice cold
Kingfisher beers and some Indian papads (i.e. thin, spicy crackers)? I am just a fan of Kingfisher everything (as they also fall
into ‘my favorite Indian airline’ category) – oh, and the bird is pretty darn cute, too!
We all had such a great time talking about everything from different funny books that they were recommending (Three Men in
a Boat is one that was recommended to me) to what it was like out in Pune when Angelina and Brad were out there (Ganesh is
from Pune) to how Ganesh got his elephant-head (clearly the God ‘Ganesh’ and not the one sitting at the table) to ways to get
drunk really fast to how Bollywood actors lip-sync to the songs (I am probably the only person in the world who actually
thought the actors were the ones singing the songs!) to them asking me questions about Judaism and not quite knowing the
answers (though I was able to provide the info that it was the torah that was the center of importance in a synagogue and not a
Star of David when Sidharth asked me why he didn’t see the star in the synagogue in Fort Cochin). We ate some Indian-style
Chinese food (Chinese food is on almost every menu in this country – even at the nice Indian restaurants!). Then we moved
our party into the city to the local ice cream joint. Originally Ganesh wanted Baskin Robbins (funny to hear somebody crave
that in India) but he didn’t know where it was out here. Oh, how wonderful it would have been to get my mouth around some
World Class Chocolate or Pralines ‘n Cream. But I would have to go with Mocha Mountain at the other place. The two men
were trying to convince me to chew some betelnut stuff with them but that’s when I had to put in a polite refusal of ‘No way!’
Sidharth laughed and said I was a disgrace by not trying the stuff. I could handle that.
As I always say, once again I am blown away by the kindness of strangers. You just never know what being on a train ride
might lead to. In my case, a hotel room I wasn’t able to secure on my own and a night out in a town I know nothing about.
Damn, I love traveling!
November 2, 2007
Ah. Sitting at breakfast right now listening to the fountains and having a nice breakfast complete with ripe pineapple. I am
going to love these next two days.
There is an UNESCO site not far from here – though it would take about a day to drive out there and check it out and drive
back. It would also cost over $40. To me, it would just be a really old stupa and temples. I think my money will go much better
towards spa treatments (which are around $14 a piece!) at my hotel. Forget sightseeing while I am out here…it’s all about R&R
for the next couple days! Hell, I will consider strolling around the lake as my ‘sightseeing’.
I am just going to get a workout in at the gym before my 11:30am Ayurvedic massage. Damn, I like the sound of that!
Is this place for real? I just had an amazing Ayurvedic massage. Oh, it was wonderful. Well, once I got over the idea that a
woman was rubbing oil all over my boobs for several minutes. All in the name of Ayurvedics!
While here, I also decided ‘Where would be a better place to get my first eyebrow threading than in India?!’ I knew the price
on the sheet had to be a typo because it was way too low. But even if they forgot a ‘0’ at the end of the number, it would still
only be $5. How could I pass it up? It was funny that I don’t get nervous about running off a cliff to hang-glide but I was having
a bit of trepidation when she was coming my way with the thread. It ended up being quick and pretty painless. At the end
when it was time for me to sign off on my treatments, it turned out there was no typo – the threading in the spa setting was a
whopping $.50! This was the moment when I booked three more treatments for tomorrow – a luxury facial, a cleansing body
polish and a pedicure. I guess it’s time I just consider this my spa weekend. Especially as I am about to head to the pool and
will wrap up my afternoon at the sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi…
Ahhh…. Just getting ready for dinner. So relaxed. So very relaxed. I just spent time in the sauna, steam room and the cold-
water Jacuzzi (that felt soooo good after the heat of the steam). Can’t wait to do some more of that tomorrow.
November 3, 2007
Where does the time go when you have been enjoying different spa treatments during the day???
I am, once again, in between appointments. My pedicure is at 6pm. I am about to head out to make use of the sauna, steam
room and Jacuzzi.
I started the day taking a walk to check out the lake. Afterwards, I put in some time at the gym to actually get my sweat pores
going. Felt good. Funny how sweat feels good in the gym but disgusting when you are out-and-about. My face was then
restored later this morning with a ‘luxury facial’. Then I was back for more an hour later to have my ‘skin cleansing body
polish’ and a head massage. In fact, I still have the oil in my air to show for it.
I am quite proud of the fact that I have neglected all city life here in Bhopal. The pampering feels way too good to do anything
Off to the sauna and steam room!
I am so sad I have to leave this place. Boo hoo. I could have spent much more time here. But there’s still more of India to see!
So much more, in fact, that I decided today to extend my stay in this country for a few extra days.
Enough about that. Back to my day o’ pampering thyself.
I think I have officially sweated out all of the India dirt that has gotten into me over the course of many auto-rickshaw and
rickshaw rides. And if I didn’t sweat it out, it was removed via facials or cleansing body treatments. I’m a clean and happy girl
And my tootsies just got a bit of pampering. Though the sound of a pedicure sounds much more luxurious in theory than in
reality. Probably because my feet are as ticklish as they come. Am I the only person with this problem? I have yet to meet a
pedicurist that doesn’t look at me like I’m a total loon when I flinch and squirm and grip onto the chair when they go to scrub
the arch of my foot. It is far from blissful for me. I’m always happy when it is time for them to put the polish on. Then the
torture part is over.
But now I am looking down at the little piggies. I ended up screwing up one of my big toes. Damn it. Story of my life with
pedicures. Oh well. The little smudge doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that my feet are ready for Goa tomorrow!
I just had a fab last dinner here and I think I am going to go to the café to smoke some cappuccino tobacco from a hookah. Did I
say that I am sad to leave???
The pool at my hotel.
The spa - which was more like a second home.