Tuesday, February 9, 2010


In the morning, we took an ill-fated trip to Mathura by bus. Mathura is the birthplace of Lord Krishna, and as such is a major pilgrimage site for Hindus. However, it seems to see few foreign tourists. This seemed like something to recommend it, until we got there. The moment we got off the bus we were surrounded by cycle-rickshaw drivers begging to take us to various places. We wanted to just stand there and get our bearings for a few minutes, but this was, of course, not possible. Mary spotted a "Mega-Mart" across the street and we dived in. They had a small array of groceries, including some plain peanuts (yay), and tea-biscuit things. We also browsed their everyday sarees (starting at just 99 rupies!), before eating lunch at the cafe inside. We decided to take the long route to our hotel to avoid walking past the drivers again, but overestimated how far it was (should have taken the rickshaw). We walked through a very crowded market, and through a very dirty and smelly street with lots of cows and begging children. Some of the children followed us, saying, "Money. Money. Money." We finally arrived at our hotel and checked in.

After a brief break, we walked to the Archaeological Museum, asking directions a few times along the way. We developed quite a following of little boys, who at first wanted to talk, then wanted chocolate, then money, then as we arrived they wanted us to pay them a dollar each for "guiding" us to the museum (except they hadn’t guided us at all—they’d followed us and some adults we’d seen along the way had given us directions). Fortunately they didn't follow us inside. It was definitely getting pretty uncomfortable by the time we got there.

The museum had nice carvings and castings, but very little information in English. Supposedly one of the best collections, but without an understanding of what we were looking at, it wasn't that interesting.

Next we went by rickshaw to the big Hindu temple on the site where Krishna was born. No photos as we had to check our camera and all our electronics—never a comfortable experience. It was very different from what we are used to in the West, with lots of bright colors (especially teal), and lots of little shrines containing figures that look more like waxworks than statues. It was beautiful though, especially the paintings on the ceiling. Also, there was a general discomfort of not really knowing the protocol of behavior inside a Hindu temple the way we know it in a European Cathedral. And I'm sure the art would have been more interesting if we knew the stories behind it.

After, we took a rickshaw back to our hotel, hoping to arrive in time to see the ceremony where they put all the candles out on the water. We seem to have missed it, or gone to the wrong place, since we waited a while and saw all the boats bringing back Indian tourists. We also saw a big wedding procession. I don't think the bride could have been older than 15.

After, we had dinner at our hotel. Josh had a lassi, while Mary passed on due to having a runny noise and sore throat (ugh, pollution). Later in the meal they brought us bottled water and dirty glasses to drink the water from. We passed on the water glasses, but didn't think about the implications for the lassi until 36 hours later when Josh started throwing up. Our hotel turned out to have no hot water morning or evening, and either didn't have or didn't use the generator backup mentioned on their sign. And the room was buggy, so we used our mosquito net to sleep under. In the morning when we paid our bill for the hotel and meals at breakfast, the guy took our change after we made it clear we weren't going to give him a tip right that second. And then two other employees asked for tips as we were trying to pack up and leave, one with a story about is daughter's throat cancer, but after having our change stolen, we weren’t in a generous mood. We took another overpriced rickshaw to the bus station (if one driver offers you a fare of 10 or 20 rupies in this town, another driver will run up to him and tell him to accept no less than 50, no matter how short a trip--and then you can either pay 50 or walk). So glad to get out of there. And we didn't even know yet how much we would wish we hadn't come.

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