First impressions--What is that giant cement mushroom? (It looked bigger in person.) Later our driver told us it was a disused water tower. We saw several.
Casey noticed that the hotel groundskeepers were cutting the grass by hand with clippers.
And then we went downstairs to breakfast. Oh, Westin Hotel breakfast buffet! Where have you been all my life and how will I live without you?
Just some of the bakery items at the Westin Hotel Buffet--new varieties daily
On our first full day in India, Casey and Dan didn't go to work. The four of us piled into the car with our driver, Joseph Anthony, and he took us to a pearl shop. I got the seat in the middle, without a seat belt. Anthony insisted that was okay. But after a brief experience with Hyderabad traffic, I insisted that was not okay and we dug the belt out from under the seat.
Hyderabad Traffic--"Honk Please"--This was painted on the back of many of the vehicles we saw in India, especially large ones like trucks; as if anyone needed encouragement. This seemed to be the equivalent of "Coming Through!" and since no one paid much attention to lanes, the honking was constant. At least half the traffic was "two-wheelers,"--motorcycles or scooters. It was common to see four people (usually two adults and two children) on a two-wheeler. Someone said they saw one with six but the most I saw was five. And they drive on the left, which should never happen to anyone.
Hyderabad is known as "Pearl City," not because they gather them there (it is located in central India, far from the ocean) but just because it's been a trade center for pearls for so long. We had been warned by Karunesh to pay less than half of the asking price for any pearls we bought, but I found it difficult to navigate the process of bargaining while feeling like my spine was collapsing from jet lag. I came close to buying a strand of silver-grey pearls, but in the end we bought one pair of earrings, and took pictures.
Gracia, on the other hand, got right down to it. She has 7 children, most of whom are married, and several grandchildren as well. This amounts to a long list of presents.
Then Anthony took us to our first tourist trap shop. There seems to be some kind of symbiosis between drivers and this kind of shop--we learned to recognize them pretty quickly. For one thing, they had every kind of traditional craft--carpets, wood and stone carving, shawls, saris, papier mache, jewelry--and they would lead you from one kind to another while plying you with bottled water. They also offered tea, which we declined. For another thing, the things at these shops are expensive! Thousands of dollars for carpets, hundreds of dollars for shawls, etc. We left the first shop fairly quickly, but not before Gracia made Dan sweat by seriously considering a carpet.
It was around 3 in the afternoon when we decided we needed lunch. We had heard that we should try Hyderabadi Biriyani. So Anthony took us to a restaurant called Paradise. Casey, Dan, and Gracia ordered Chicken Biriyani, and I ordered Butter Chicken so Casey and I could share. The Biriyani was good, but the Butter Chicken was better--both were very spicy. That was the spiciest food I remember eating while we were in Hyderabad. As in spicy hot. There were other things we ate that had more spices without being hot.
There was way too much food for the four of us.
Then Anthony took us to another tourist trap shop!
Several of my culture lessons on India came through the process of listening while Gracia was instructed in the history and value of traditional crafts in India from silk carpets to Pashmina (and Shahmina) scarves. Shopkeepers could tell that she was the one to talk to and maybe, if they kept talking long enough, she would feel the need to possess an heirloom quality item representing a dying craft that took centuries to develop and was only made in this one place by a few remaining families. (Personally, this kind of talk turned me off wanting to buy them--I don't need the stress of trying to care for something so valuable.)
Gracia had promised her daughters-in-law a sari each, and she negotiated for some at around $140 a piece but didn't close the deal. I considered some child sized pashmina scarves (the "international size" was just too big for my taste) but in the end we bought nothing. This being my first trip to India, I didn't really know the value or even the variety of things available, and I was hesitant to get started.
It was getting dark as we left the shop and we were seriously lagging so we went back to the hotel. Casey and I skipped dinner and were in bed pretty early. I had only two meals a day at least half the time we were there--usually because we had overeaten on on one or both of those meals.
For the next four or five nights, I would wake up pretty regularly and then lie awake after 4:00 a.m. I got a lot of mileage out of some audio books on my phone--Thank you Jane Austen, and L. M. Montgomery.