By 5pm we reached Orchha, a small village in the state of Madhya Pradesh and approximately 400km south of Delhi. The village has quite a lot of monuments such as palaces, temples, tombs and gardens but except for a hotel in the Sheesh Mahal palace, all of them have lain deserted since the 17th century. There is one other peculiarity in this village which struck us when we entered through one of the many gates: the main street is an accumulation of half broken down houses. First we thought there must have been an earthquake because there were so many but we were told when the government built the new road they broke down the illegal parts of the houses. It seems to be very common that people just add new parts to their houses with the growth of their families and they mostly don’t have a license for it (which is a global phenomenon). You have to know that if a son gets married his wife moves into his parent’s house and usually at least three generations live under one roof. In Orchha, people just continue living in the untouched parts of the houses and some even rebuilt their shops around the ruins.
You should never look forward to something before you are there. Johan told me before, I should have know from previous experiences. But I couldn’t help. I was exhausted and I was looking forward to a nice guesthouse, with good WiFi connection, warm water, a nice restaurant serving porridge and banana/honey or Nutella pancakes and a garden to chill-out (we are still in love with our 5.70EUR guesthouse in Jaisalmer or the even cheaper place in Udaipur). What a deception.
At the reception of the Ganpati guesthouse in Orchha, the rough guide’s recommendation, we met some Dutch backpackers who told us that the hotel is very nice. From the outside it looked quite shabby, but that’s nothing unusual in India and it didn’t concern us too much. The travel guide described it as a family run and impeccably clean guesthouse. Almost all we wanted! The whole area smelled like a sewer which also didn’t really bother us, we are finally getting used to strange reeks. Johan saw a few rooms and got a huge discount for a big room. At this point we should have gotten slightly concerned, but as we got good discounts before, we thought the manager was just a nice guy trying to please us. When we wanted to take a shower we discovered that there was no hot water, the water boiler was broken. We were offered another bathroom in another room and took a warm shower there (at least I did, when it was Johan’s turn, there was no more hot water left). They are also advertising their beautiful fort/palace views from their ‘hotel garden’, which is unfortunately just their personal garbage dump and used dishes storage, a disgusting place with great views. The whole place is completely neglected and run down and while the bed sheet and towels were relatively clean, we couldn’t disagree more with the rough guide’s judgement on the cleanliness. We decided to look for another guesthouse the next day and actually also found a few even cheaper places, but in the end decided to stay at the Ganpati as we could wash and dry our clothes there, which wasn’t possible at the other places. And as I caught another cold again, I admittedly wasn’t really in for the hassle of packing and unpacking everything again. The Dutch girls moved to another guesthouse in the meantime – we are really upset about them recommending the place – and we overheard a few more complaints from other guests. Ganpati has a serious problem! But what bothers us the most is that the staff and the manager are sitting the whole day long at the reception, drinking chai, praying or taking a bath in one of the available rooms, we hardly see them working. It really doesn’t cost much money to clean up this place and to just try to make it a bit nicer. This by the way is true for many other places we stayed at and we started telling the owners what they really need to change if they want to be successful in the long-term.
What we are surprised about as well is the fact that everywhere everything is the same. Either we are in a village or town where all guesthouses or hotels have restaurants and WiFi, or we are at places where there is none of it, as it is the case in Orchha. If you run a hotel, wouldn’t you want to make a difference and not just do what everybody does? I guess the word differentiation doesn’t exist yet in India. Other crazy examples are the restaurants. We are sitting at the ‘Blue Sky’ restaurant with free WiFi while I am looking at the sign of the restaurant next door, offering the same menu with ‘treditional food from Orchha, Indian, Italian, Chines, Continental, Cappuchines & Big Pizza Home made’ – spelling mistakes are NOT my own). Or the shops in the half broken down houses: if one shop doesn’t have what you need, don’t worry about asking at the others, they won’t have it either.
But now enough complaints. We extended our stay in Orchha by one day as my cold got worse. I think our pancake/Nutella/banana diet combined with overcooked Indian food doesn’t feed me well enough, I am clearly missing some essential minerals and vitamins as I’ve never been sick so often. We really try hard to eat healthy, but the choice is very limited. Another reason why we look forward to moving on, as we hope that there is more food choice for us in Thailand. We will hopefully leave tomorrow – another long trip of 120km to Gwalior, our last stop before we will reach Agra and the famous Taj Mahal.