By BRANDON TAYLOR
Hitting up India's major attractions was definitely the focus of my trip, but I also wanted to see a few of the country's sleepy, out-of-the-way towns and cities, the ones tourists typically overlook on their way to and from the Taj Mahal or while taking spiritual journeys to Varanasi and the Ganges River.
Orchha, a town smaller than my hometown Tamaqua but with large temples, two palaces and several monkey families, provided that much needed respite from otherwise tourist-packed areas. Traffic was light and the atmosphere was mostly calm and laid back. This allowed my friend Brian Peach and me to really enjoy the town and its surroundings.
Orchha's Chaturbhuj Temple, which looks more like a medieval European castle, dominated the landscape on the town's western side. From its top, we got a stunning view of the nearby farms, huts and Jehangir Mahal and Raj Mahal palaces across the river.
We also made a friend: Gorup, a young boy who showed us around the plaza area and told us about the town. Then he took us to his mother's souvenir stall where Brian bought a few gifts for friends back home. The next day, Gorup helped us get a tuk-tuk to the train station at a special friend-of-India price.
In Gwalior, another small city in central India, we marveled at the city's fort, which stood guard over the old city below. The light sandstone walls had sky blue patterns painted on, with little ducks inscribed around each tower.
On the side of the mountains near the fort were Jain statues, massive carvings etched into the rock walls. Some of the statues stood 20 feet high; others sat in lotus positions, their giant stone legs crossed as if deep in thought.
This is the third in a series of columns on Brandon Taylor's recent trip to India.
Brandon Taylor is a language consultant/foreign expert for the Beijing Review, an English language weekly newsmagazine in Beijing, China. He is a former correspondent for the TIMES NEWS. Read Brandon's blog at www.btay200.wordpress.com.