Blog : Hyderabad
The Hyderabad bus was long, cold and uncomfortable and according to Nelen, who went to sit up front with the driver so she could get off quicker to be sick at stops, terrifying! We all sort of rolled off the bus at a stop that the lady next to us said was close to our guesthouse and obviously looked like newbies again so the tuktuk drivers took the piss with prices. With our big backpacks on and standing at the side of a busy road at 6am we looked vulnerable of course we did and all of the drivers had a pop trying to charge us an extortionate amount. One started at rs800 and when we said no, did the Indian head wobble and walked away he said ok rs400 - f***er! We jumped in and headed to what we were hoping was a nice hotel. We got there and were greeted with stony stares and scorching rooms with no aircon. After a painful check in process whereby we each had to relay pointless information like our home addresses to the receptionist who insisted on doing the writing himself, Kate and I went to our room, which was stifling. It was actually cooler outside than in and almost unbearable. We all napped for a few hours to catch up on sleep before heading out and exploring the city.
We had the complimentary but pretty disgusting breakfast delivered to our room and we ate like food sluts in bed. Kate and I then got ready and I phoned the number of one of Mougli (from Hampi) friend, who could hook us up with cheap shisha pipes that we thought would be cool presents for home. The phone call was like pulling teeth though as all we wanted was the shop address so we could see whereabouts in town it was and whether we had time to go, but all he kept saying was he'd pick us up in two hours - not helpful when we only had one afternoon to explore the city before the big Indian wedding we were going to the following day. In the end the receptionist pried an address and we jumped I to a tuktuk to a watch shop :/ which turned out to be where this bit worked. We spoke to him for a little while but I got so exasperated at all the running around town we'd been doing trying to find the shisha pipe place, spending money on tuktuks and having left Al and Nelen back at the guesthouse. We stormed out pretty annoyed and went back to Golden Glory in Banjara Hills, where they'd had a power cut and the girls had moved to the last available airconned room. The reception guy recommended heading Hyderabad house for lunch, a famous chain, which once we'd walked to felt very much like a McDonalds and not in a good way. It was Hyderabad that the Biriyani originated from, my favourite Indian dish and so I'd saved myself from having one across all our other stops to have one fantastic Hyderabadi one. It was a blessing in disguise when the manager came over to tell us that there was only one veg Biriyani left, which was what we'd all ordered and so we picked up and left. We remembered the name of a top choice restaurant in LP - Paradise and caught a rickshaw over to it. It was a million times smarter than the previous place we'd been into and not that much more expensive, but the food looked gorgeous and the Biriyani's huge! We scoffed down the big spiced rice and veg bowls until we could fit no more it. It was a bit if an error ordering three seperate veggie portions as really we only needed one between three but we'd not really gotten the hang of Indian ordering for the table! We were so full and satisfied and couldn't believe it when we realised the time - nearly 5pm and that we'd arrived at 6am to this city but yet had seen nothing. We made our way through the rush hour traffic to Charminar - the oldest market area in Hyderabad, to shop obviously but also to see the beautiful mosques and the ancient fort building.
We had been told that Hyderabad was a particularly liberal city and that we'd be fine not being as covered up as in other party's of the country, which once we'd felt how hot it was outside, sounded like heaven. Although I didn't want to risk it so I wore covering clothes but the girls all headed out in short dresses with their arms and legs bare. When we pulled up to Laad Bazaar in Charminar they felt extremely uncomfortable as we hadn't realised it was the Muslim quarter and most of the women were walking around in burkas. We did get some very funny looks, which we'd have probably gotten anyway as we were definitely the only white people there! Laad bazaar was a pearl and wedding gift street, which sold everything from jewellery, glass bracelets and spangily shoes to men's suits, saree trimmings and black sea water pearls. It was an incredible clash of colours and was all hustle and bustle, hot and sweaty and we were hassled quite a bit to go into everyone's shops, but I loved it. It was funny because I hate spangily things really but having been surrounded by them in India for the whole month I was looking at all the bangles and necklaces in a new light! A lot of the stuff on sale was similar to what you might find in Claire's Accessories or Accessorize at home but at a fraction of the price. I was tempted to buy some bling for my saree but decided that being in a bright yellow one would be standout-ish enough! We nipped into a spice shop where I managed to pick up a little pot of saffron to take home and also a couple of bags of the local loose leaf chai tea as presents for home. A massive bag of extra hot chilli powder happened to catch my eye as well, so I decided to get one for Dad. Suddenly I'd gone from not really doing very well on the girl front to rolling in stuff! Next I found a kitchen ware shop, where I really wanted to buy one of the Indian spice pots, the big round ones with lots of little circular tins inside, in a kind of flower formation, that one of my housemates had at Uni. I couldn't find one that was small enough though , they were all whoppers which my spices at home would drown in!! Next we went to a pharmacy, where the girls brought tiger balm and hair oil in spades as presents for home and how sweet we were all given a chocolate eclair with our change! It made me very nostalgic for the long car journeys to go skiing in Austria when we used to gobble bags of them!
It had started to get dark and pretty busy when we decided to try and make a move home - after we'd popped into Coffee Cafe Day (AGAIN!) for a quick wee. I felt as though something in the air had changed a little bit and that the men were beginning to look a bit creepy letching on us and the women giving us some serious evils for having flesh on show. It traffic was absolutely jam packed through with tuktuks, motorbikes and people in gridlock, facing every which way on both sides of the road. The market stalls were spilling right out on the the road from the pavement and with so many people pushing and jostling past it was very difficult to walk anywhere without being touched up and clinging to your bumbag. I had to sort of put my hands up sometimes in defence of a way to close motorbike pushing past or a car wing mirror and at one point we just had to go for it and wiggle across the road and weave in and out of all the pushing traffic. We squeezed into a tuktuk and got him to head towards our hotel, via a road we'd seen on the way, which had stalls and stalls of shoes, for Kate to replace her broken 'Prada' flip flops, as we didn't think wearing her saree to the wedding the following day would look so great with her converse trainers! The tuktuk man pulled up onto the path whilst Al and Kate dashed out and made the quickest shoe purchase in the world. We got back to Golden Glory guesthouse at about half past eight or so and we had a really quick turn around time, where I literally grabbed some more money and wrote the address of a bar down and was ready... The girls changed and make upped and everything but I just went to the bar looking and probably smelling like a tramp! We were going to see Als birthday in with a drink in a bar that was meant to be quite lively on a Friday night. We caught a cab there after about half an hour of faffing and the little rooftop bar that we'd headed to - CoCo's - was so full that we had to sit downstairs in a pretty boring by comparison indoor bar and wait for a table to he available. The girls ordered some nice looking cocktails and I my standard G and T. I had a waiter come to the table with an iced glass and the gin in and he then proceeded to open the tonic in front of me, add the ice cubes one by one, looking t me after each to see if I wanted more and then he squeezed my limes, a good amount of limes, and stirred the whole thing before putting it on a little placement and he may as well have done jazz hands and said voila to emphasise how over the top the whole serving charade had been. It was a delish G and T though and I guess was served like that because like everywhere in India, the bar was massively overstaffed and the poor men were probably bored s***less! It was funny when Nelen had two men open her beer and pour it for her! The bar was really lifeless with just a few people sitting around either eating a proper meal of just gawping at the cricket being shown on the huge screen on one wall. The Dj was playing some pretty electic and criminal music, most of it 80s cheese and not really setting the mood at all. Nelen and Kate ordered some food but after the huge Biriyani, Al and I were still stuffed! We sat chatting and chilling for an hour or so before being told a table was ready for us upstairs, which was immediately much cooler, a live band was playing, a few people were dancing and we were on a table next to the local police force on a night off obviously. They were raucously drunk and clearly having a good time with the amount of empty rum bottles that they had on their table. We kept asking the waiter if the band would play happy birthday to Al, they gave us the head wobble and so we sat for ages in anticipation before realising that it was obviously not coming! We brought Al a surprise cocktail as her birthday drink. We tried to choose the most gross sounding one on the menu, with banana liquor in it, but she liked it!! The bar closed at half eleven and at twelve o clock the staff were ushering everyone out of the doors. Although we were saying how tame everything in India had been, it was probably a good thing, because we had to be up at the crack of dawn the following morning to have a birthday breakfast with Al and get ready for our first wedding function - the bridal ceremony, at 10am.
I had a terrible nights sleep in our un-air conditioned room. The fan seemed to make the air hotter and it was genuinely cooler outside on the balcony than inside our box room. Kate and I must have been trying to sleep in nearly 30C which was so stifling it almost felt suffocating. All the way through the night I kept waking up, with my hair damp from sweat. I know it pretty grim but every time I woke up, I dashed to the bathroom and stood under the shower, in my PJs, for a quick blast of water before getting back into bed. Being soaking wet meant that when the fan whizzed round, it sort of felt like a cooling breeze. I can't say its very nice to sleep in soaking sheets, but it only took an hour or so before I was completely dry and wake up to start the whole process all over again. My alarm in the morning went off at half past six and it felt like I'd only just fallen to sleep, but up I got and went to sort out ordering breakfast for everyone, to be delivered to the other girls room - a simple choice of tea or coffee wirh the standard omelet and toast brekky - and the decorating Al's birthday cake which we'd ordered through the reception boys. The cake looked great, or was a dark chocolate one, which looked really moist and was covered in a creamy, fudgey looking icing and big ornate dark chocolate wafers on the top. I stuck in the couple of candles the hotel had left out for us, in one of their back kitchens and we were all set to burst in and start singing to Al but Nelen hadn't held up her half of the bargain - to secretly unlock the door before Al woke, so we could burst in! We had to ask the reception boys for the spare key, which at first they were pretty reluctant to give us but we got a bit stressy as we'd already lit the candles and they'd burnt halfway down already and were beginning to make the chocolate melt! We opened the door and sang happy birthday as Kate put some big balloons on Al's bed and I took the cake over to her, for her to blow the candles out. We let her wake up a little bit before giving her out few little presents and then noshing down at least half of the chocolate cake, which surprisingly had a lot of brandy in it(!) and then moving onto breakfast. We didn't have that much time to get ready before we had to head to the Taj Krishna, the really posh hotel that the bridal ceremony part of the wedding was taking place in. We had asked the cleaning lady the day before to come in and help us wrap and pin our sarees, which she did and looked positively ecstatic about the whole time. Mine was really heavy because of all the embellishments and she told me off for not wearing a bra ( because I thought it would be too hot with the tight blouse on as well) but she said I had to so that she could pin my saree to it! It took a lot longer than we'd thought to all get wrapped up and pinned, but in the mean time I did both Nelen and Kate's hair in plaits for them, which looked really good. I wore mine in a half up, half down style and it had gotten all crimped and frizzy from the plaits I'd slept in overnight, but I thought it looked cool like that; a bit like a lions mane and matches my bright yellow saree! We got a taxi to the hotel an were about twenty minutes late but it didn't seem matter and the ceremony hadn't started.
The hotel was absolutely magnificent and so decadently decorated. There was strings of fresh jasmine flowers everywhere, which made the whole place smell delish and thousands of other flowers in ornate arrangements. Each of the steps leading down to the main ball room had a banana leaf with jasmine flowers and offerings to the gods on as well as a little electric tea light which looked so cute. We all decided there and then that we all wanted an Indian florist for whenever we get married! It's so difficult to describe how beautiful and colourful the actual ball room was with all of the wedding decorations and hundreds of women in bright patterned sarees. We were greeted at the ladies entrance (it was a women's only ceremony) by a lovely lady who have us each a string of jasmine flowers, which I put in my hair like a little crown as the girls wore on their wrists, and she led us to the seats. The room was huge with at least a couple of hundred chairs, all facing towards a big decadent purple and whole decorated stage, which is where the bridal ceremony would take place. There were more flowers in this room than outside, which we wouldn't have believed possible before seeing it! A pretty loud wedding band was playing very Bollywood sounding music and we were shown to seats on the second row!! Yes the second row! We had no idea why, but so many of the women came to tell us how gorgeous we all looked in our fantastic quality sarees and like real Indian women, which was such a nice compliment, that we could only assume it was because of our effort that we'd been rewarded with sitting so close. Next to us was an auntie of the bride and other pretty close family. We noticed later that the other western dresses westerners were seated right at the back of the hall. The lady next to Kate gave us an almost running commentary of what was going on in the ceremony once it had started, which was really helpful and we didn't understand any of the Hindi and Sanscrit that was being chanted by the priests on the stage. Essentially the ceremony was to prepare her for marriage and make her a ready bride. Traditionally only women are aloud in the ceremony and the bride isn't aloud to be seen in public then before she is married. We were told that Ani and Sushmita were breaking with traditions and holding both the bridal and the tying the knot ceremony on the same day to minimise any time Sushmita had to be 'hidden'. The bridal jewellery Sushmita and who we assumed to be her sisters were wearing was incredible and as we found out during the toe ring blessing, was all real gold, because when marrying into a royal family , silver is seen as disrespectful and can never be worn. We hadn't realised the height of Ani's royal status... India has a royal family in every state and so we'd assumed it wouldn't be thy much of a big deal, but one of his western friends later explained to us that his family was one of only a few families left that were acknowledged by the British monarchy as royal and the Queen would cruelly have to address them by their formal titles. Essentially we were at the Indian equivalent of Wills and Kate's wedding, which explained the security screenings we'd been through before entering the hotel and the serious amounts of photographers and film cameras flying around everywhere. It was absolutely incredible and we sat for about three hours or so with our jaws on the floor! Dandelion lemonade drinks were brought round by waiters in white and nibbles offered in the aisles. I liked the cheesy jalapeño balls and I accidentally had a mini garlic crostini which I dunked in the salsa, not realising it had chicken in it and so i had to discretely wrap it in a napkin and hide it, whoops! I didn't want to break my three months of vegetarianism one day before heading home! There was a break in the ceremony where the lady next to Kate told us the bride would be changing into clothing and jewellery given to her by the grooms family as a welcome into the family present. She came back looking absolutely stunning and glittering head to toe, swathed in gold. She even had a big statement piece weaved into her long plait. We really liked the gold waist belts that some of the younger girls were wearing to give their sarees some shape and found ourselves getting saree envy all day!
The bridal ceremony last about two hours or so and right at the end Ani snuck in - Als friend and the groom. She nipped over to say hello and then we headed to the toilet quickly which was ridiculously decadent! I wasn't quite sure how to go, but managed to hoik all of my material up and hover near enough! My saree was so heavy with all the embellishments on it, and it kept pulling on the shoulder of my blouse where it was pinned, which made me look a bit slovenly, so I had to keep an eye on it. Al was worried about hers being too short - Indian women as a general rule of thumb aren't tall! And after a little tug and a play the ladies toilet attendant sidled over and offered her service, demonstrating with her hands that she would re-tie Al if she wanted... Al agreed and the ladies eyes light up bless her... I suppose at a wedding of such calibre you'd expect other well established guests and westerners in our sarees probably fit the bill quite nicely. We were a bit naughty and milked it quite a lot, gliding along as we walked, holding our heads up high and standing talk but that's only because of how unexpectedly glamorous the sarees made us feel! So the toilet lady tied Al in a completely different way again from that mornings cleaner and the women in Hampi. It was much more of a high on the hip bones, low at the front jobby, so there was much more middle flesh on show but Al was happy as it meant the material then covered her ankles. I decided mine was fine and we headed back to the grand ball room to watch the last of the ceremony. I didn't look so great with the big camera bag as my handbag but I really couldn't pass up the opportunity for such fabulous and colourful photos! We swapped places with the girls as they then headed to the bathroom - it was very much the done thing to just wander in and out of ceremony as it was going on. Amazingly, the elder women of the family then came and asked the front couple of rows of obviously other close family members to go up onto the stage, bless the bride, scatter rice on her head and give their presents (mainly thickly stuffed envelopes) and the elders beckoned to us too, saying absolutely we must go up on stage. We must have all hesitated as one lady virtually grabbed us and shooed us onto stage - we must have been one of the first ten people to have gone up!! If it had been my wedding I'd have looked completely blankly at these four girls all dressed up that I had no idea who they were, but she didn't bless her heart, she sat smiling serenely and looking beautiful. We watched the women in front of us take a small handful of rice and scatter it on Sushmitas hair and so we followed suit. I panicked though and instead of just saying congratulations or even keeping schtum I said well done! Idiot girl! After the blessing was over we were heralded as even more of celebrities, as only such a select few had been asked onto the ceremony platform. We had women crooning over us and even one couple who said they recognised us from the previous day at the market we'd been to! We were all ushered into a huge marque with thousands of air con units and found ourselves surrounded by the most incredible looking foods from all over the world! The veggie lasagne and the Bombay potatoes were to die for!! I couldn't help myself, I didn't wait for the girls, I wasn't polite, I just grabbed a plate and made a dash for it. By the time I'd done a full circle of just the four sided salad table my plate was piled high and so I decided it was probably more ladylike to eat in courses (aka pretend I was only eating a little!) and we huddled together, Nelen and Kate nursing glasses of water and me shovelling lentils and rocket and roast veg parcels into my mouth like they were going out of fashion - attractive! In India though it is sexy to be fat. Some of the women have the most tremendous rolls on their backs its unbelievable. In western society you'd think immediately that one would never have such a gross amount of flesh out on show but now at the end of our world of adventures, or seemed to be a very normal thing to see and we were embracing the eastern culture whole heartedly and repped our own fatty rolls too! Research purposes only obviously!
We scouted around the main course areas of the marque and were wholly overwhelmed by the selection of pastas, noodles, breads, chicken chow mein's and curry dishes galore. Again I piled my plate as high as I could balance and pretended it was my first. Al was not as skilled as me in this department and sent a stuffed courgette or something flying in my direction and it slime smeared its way all the way down my saree! It was quite hot in the marque so we went to stand near one of the air con units, which hilariously emptied half of Kate's plate of crispy wafers, as they were so light and got caught in the fan breeze! We had a couple more women come and talk to us, ask us where we'd brought our sarees from, whether we'd tied them ourselves or not - everyone seemed to be obsessed with the idea that we could wrap ourselves and in the end we thought it would be funny to add to our celebrity status and say yes - and if we'd enjoyed the bridal ceremony and would be attending the 'tying the knot' service later that evening. It was into pudding last, which although still yummy scrummy, is always the worst part of any meal - imagine UK Indian restaurant puddings , s***ty ice cream and overly sweet puffy things, they're generally pretty authentic and spot on! I did have thirds and then fourths of the chocolate poached pear tart though which had the most incredible and unexpected texture though, so they weren't all bad I suppose! In many ways it was very much like a grand English wedding reception, however it was very bizarre that a) everyone was sober - where was the embarrassing uncle dancing in his underpants? And b) that the only drink served was water, not even in a wine glass and no orange juice or anything!
The girls spotted a 'hotty' (I use the term lightly, remember where we are!) in a tent extension to one side of the main marque, (where to my delight there was MORE food - the same selection though, disappointingly!) and so we glided on through and eye stalked the guy in a gold and brown salwar kameez and raybans around the room. I had a quick nother portion of chocolate pear tart but it didn't really count as an actual serving as it was weeny tiny!! We started talking to a western couple that had been sat at the back of the bridal ceremony, dressed in non Indian clothes and learnt more about the to be wedded couple and the other goings on of their wedding week! These two, from Norwich had travelled in India some years with Ani but told us that the main group who'd been eyeing us up suspiciously all went to RCA with him in London. They unwittingly have us a HUGE compliment when telling us they'd thought we must be ex-pats and living in India, as we carried off the whole saree/bindi/lots of gold look so well and that that was our link to Ani and Sushmita and also would explain the celebrity like auoras we all seemed to have (they said!) haha... We arranged to meet later at the evening ceremony and parted ways as the mornings events finished and people started emptying from the marque. We had an awkward three and a bit hours to kill, which would have been fine but it was about half an hour back to our place and then another hour to the evening venue (because of all the traffic and 6 thousand people attending) which didn't leave us with that much time. Plus it was Als birthday so we wanted to have a drink to celebrate, which generally in India is difficult to just stumble across!
In the end we decided to suck up the costs and have a drink at the v posh hotel bar where we already were, which was expensive but not too bad... I had two G and T's which were really nice and once again we were treated like royalty, with waiters fussing over us and bar men pouring us drinks! We sat and chatted and marvelled at the bridal ceremony and then speculated about the next party to come. It was fun and a nice way to put Al back as centre of attention birthday girl for a little bit :) As we were at such a posh hotel it was impossible to get a cheap taxi and so in the end we let the porters call us chauffeur driven one. The driver was an absolute delight, who when he sneezed thought her committed an absolute cardinal son and who rushed round to each of our doors to open them for us and help us get out. It was twice the price of the taxi we'd organised for the way there though and so we decided against asking him to take us to the next venue in a few minutes and called another one from our guesthouse reception. We all picked up a little more ££ and retouched our slap and then took some pictures whilst we were waiting for our next cab. We did have to say after about ten that all the working boys really had to stop taking pictures of us on their phones as it was creeping us out! Our next driver couldn't be any more different from the first - he was an absolute road terrorist, driving like a maniac in an F1 car... It was one of those white knuckle rides, which it turned out was because he had taken on more than he could chew and already had a passenger waiting for him at the other end of town! He kept trying to drop us at random corners saying the venue was just a bit further down the road but we were having none of it and it was more than a 20 min drive from the first fake stop he'd tried to make us get out at! We'd been really conservative with time, not wanting to miss the start of the ceremony or get s*** seats but thanks to Indian Schumacher , we were at least 45 mins early and the venue was still being set up and literally only half ready! We saw the hundreds and hundreds of seats laid out in three columns, one for his family, one for hers and one for friends we were told. And inside the big hall which was an exhibition centre like earls court or excel there were huge food stalls being set up with different signs hanging above each stand with a different type of food on it - not that it made any difference to us because we had no idea what any of them were! It was amazing to see and everything was on such a big scale that we were so excited - about the food, about the sarees, about the ceremony! We messed about in and out of the toilet and drinking coconut water until more people started arriving and then we went outside to go and bagsy good seats. There were sofas right at the front but we thought. (And were right) that they were probably reserved, so sat in the first toe of normal seats behind them and about half an hour later all of the people sat in those sofas got asked to move and had to go right to the back where the only space was. I thought it was pretty poor that the venue was still being out together and decorated whilst the bulk of people were arriving! Especially as the guest of honour was no less than the state Governor, who arrived in a bullet proof car with security staff jogging around the outside and sat on a scanned sofa with a burly guts right behind him and blocking the view. Everyone was very shocked though that such a 'celebrity' was in the vicinity and suddenly quite a few women needed to go to the toilet or inside - the route passed right in front of our celeb friend!
Ani arrived first. He was escorted into the area through big candle lit archways (disappointingly not on an elephant though) but in full Indian wedding brigalia, by a big group of people who had been asked to wait for his arrival as it is meant to be good luck to walk in behind the groom
to his wedding ceremony. The stage that Ani sat in was huge, with enough lights and cameras and decorations to fool you into thinking you be watching a big pop concert or something! Someone near us said that the Indian Ok magazine would be documenting the wedding and that many of the film cameras would be broadcasting the happenings live to TV so we were suddenly very conscious of being sweaty and shiny faced outside in the still stifling heat at about 6pm! There were huge screen on either side of the seating area as well and one inside the food hall which relayed whatever was happening on the stage for those who couldn't see - the wedding was certainly no small affair. Sushmita arrived relatively quickly after Ani and was dressed in a beautiful saree with so much gold that shed probably have neck ache for a week afterwards! As she walked down the aisle between the middle bank of chairs there was a screen held up to shield her from the view of Ani's family seated to the right. It was another Indian tradition apparently... Another westerner was telling us that from a quick Wikipedia search shed found out the groom is not pliers to see his arranged marriage wife until after they've tied the knot. Although Ani and Sushmita knew each other, this tradition was still adhered to, with two men standing on stage holding the cotton sheet, hiding her from his view. She held a coconut, an offering to the gods and during the actual marriage ceremony their hands were tied together with strong to symbolise being together forever. Much like the bridal event earlier in the day, people wandered in and out of the seating area and chatting, not really paying any attention to what was going on on the stage. The ceremony was taking place in Sanskrit, an uncle of one of the two told us, which not very many Indians understand and is only translated to Hindu for the bride and groom as tradition again dictates. The uncle did not mince his words and said this did make weddings very boring for all those in attendance as they never really know what's going on. Although we were still all absolutely fascinated, glancing between the stage and the incredible costumes and ornate decorations and the screen showing a zoomed in version of the ceremony being performed at the feet of the couple, we would have completely missed the actual 'I do' bit if luckily we hadn't been looking and seen the screen between the two on stage suddenly drop and them see each other before some and then all of the audience (those that hadn't been watching) started clapping cheering and whooping! The uncle told us that we were in for a long evening if we then sat and watched all of the next procedures as, 'unlike western wedding, ours is double time'. There were more blessings to be done, offerings to the gods, thanking of families and hundreds more vows to exchange, rice to be thrown and presents given, so we headed back inside to the transformed food hall, our mouths already salivating.
Disappointingly when we had seen the food hall being set up earlier in the afternoon, we'd definitely seen men stringing up big signs above each food station denominations Veggie from Non-Veggie and the type of cuisine on offer, but second time round, all of the signs had been switched over to say just one cuisine type and the twenty or so stands around the room were all serving the same food, alternating between veggie stuff and slabs of meat. Kate was so excited though bless her that as our second but one night in India and at the reception of a Royal wedding, she decided to break her month of vegetarianism and try all of the Indian chicken, lamb, pork and fish on offer! Al and I walked round together piling our plates high and then we walked back to find the girls at a table. We went for seconds and thirds of most things, figuring - why not!? And then over to the pudding set up where there was amazing caramel sponge and something that was a bit panna cotta like in texture but didnt taste anything like it... There was an ice cream mixing bar as well which everyone was going crazy for. The guys working there were smashing up chocolates/nuts/ fruit you name it and throwing around ice cream balls in the air before mashing the flavours and smashed bits together to create something unique to each order. The girls queued for ages for mango ice cream with mango bits because they panic ordered! We were literally waddling around the hall by this point!
Back outside and not only was it still hot but the ceremony was still going, with a trail of people getting on and off the stage to bless the couple, smiles all round as posed photographs were taken (our one included) and the smell of happiness in the air... After a bit of people watching and our cringe on stage photo we decided to call it a night at eleven or so as we were absolutely shattered and knew it would take a long time to get home and that we still needed to pack ahead of our early flight the next morning. It was more difficult than we thought to get home because all the taxis outside the arena were either pre booked or waiting for their return fare and to be paid so no one was easing up and would take us. In the end a nice gent helped us out and although we got absolutely arse raped on the price rs200 for a less than 30 second journey, a guy dropped us at the end of the arena road, next to the main road and fixed us up with a cheap little car to get home in. It took about 45 mins to get back to our guesthouse and was about half past midnight by the time we'd managed to get our sarees off and think about bed time! The next morning we were up early, finishing our last minute packing and then headed off to the domestic airport to catch our flights, Kate and I to Goa and Al and Nelen to Delhi...