Definitely getting more into the swing of things now.
Yesterday was a trip to Samode, a small village of about 5,000 people (according to the guide). The only real thing keeping the village going is that the local palace has been converted into a hotel, and that is feeding the economy. It's in a rocky place between 3 hills, so there's no agriculture unless you drive a bit out of the town. Hence, the hotel being the driving force of the economy. The palace wasn't really all that nice, but you gotta do something with your time so that's what the travel agency had me doing. First slow place I've been in India so far.
Today I slept in and went to the bazaar in the old city. Wandered around and bought a few souvenirs, and probably paid too much for them cause I didn't bargain especially hard. At the prices I was buying things at though, I wasn't too worried if I spent an extra $5 or not. The driver seemed a bit worried to let me wander around on my own, but I didn't have any problems.
The one souvenir that really intrigued me I didn't buy. It intrigued me because it wasn't meant to be a souvenir. One of the shops had men sitting outside on the sidewalk banging hubcap sized pieces of metal into wok-like pots. If I had a way to get one of them into my suitcase, I would have bought one. That particular shop was definitely geared toward locals. Those pots were all they sold.
I wanted to see a Bollywood movie at the theater. The guide recommended the Raj Mandir as the theater to go to. But when I got there for the 2:45 show at around 2:30, it was already complete sold out (as was the 6:15 show). Alas, I had already told the drive to come back in 3 hours. I could have grabbed an auto-rickshaw to get back to the hotel, but I don't have the driver's cell to call him to tell him (and I wouldn't have the foggiest idea how to dial it either, the Indian phone system is weird). I wandered around the corner to a place I had seen that advertised Internet access. Their one working computer was occupied though.
Walking back to the theater, I saw a small strip mall across the street, and it had a Barista in it. Every place that is even slightly upscale has a security guard posted outside. Even McDonalds (mmm lamburgers). The building was mostly empty inside. But I did pick up a book and headed to the coffee shop. It's a Starbucks style coffee shop. For those of you who are coffee addicts, a latté costs Rs. 38 at Barista. That translates into 89 cents. Including tax. So I had a smoothie and then a hot chocolate and read for a few hours until the movie let out and my driver returned. It's significant because this is the first time I stayed anywhere for more than a couple minutes that had exclusively upscale Indians as clientele (the hotels have been primarily French and German tourists). Things I saw there that I really haven't seen: twenty-something Indian women who were unmarried, Indian men with long hair, non-Indian locals.
Oh, and to tantalize everyone, I didn't mention in the last entry that I was invited to an India wedding while at Agra. Or, more properly, a wedding reception. So far that has been the most interesting experience on the trip, attending an Indian wedding reception. But… since I have several pages written down in the paper journal, y'all'll have to wait until that gets transcribed when I return. Definitely been keeping that thing up better than I did on the New Zealand trip. (Speaking of which, anyone wanna make a few bucks typing that up for me?)
Tomorrow, I head for Jodhpur. I am halfway through the trip today. (And keep the comments and email coming, please.)