Leaving Bhopal, we headed further into the huge state of Mahdya Pradesh. We love to explore, and we often venture off the beaten track. But often places are off the beaten track for a reason. Most likely, they are either too difficult to reach, or they are lacking in basic comforts and “tourist services”.
Our next destination was Chanderi. Google it, and you’ll find almost nothing on its tourist facilities. Go to Tripadvisor, and you’ll find a handful of poor ratings. Most definitely it’s very much off the beaten track.
Yet, in many ways, Chanderi is quintessential India. It has a fascinating history and many incredible monuments – better than lots of other places, and it’s completely empty of tourists. It also has the most dedicated tourist guide I have ever met – Mr Kalley Bai, who single handedly is trying to put Chanderi on the tourist map. It will be a hard slog though, as we discovered. We were planning to stay the night at the local, state run hotel. Usually the government hotels are poor, but they will do the job for a night. In Chanderi, the hotel was really terrible. We had lunch there, which was actually fine, but the rooms were not, coupled with the fact that there seemed to be at least 20 people just hanging around the lobby doing nothing. I would not let the family stay. The other option in town is as bad. Kalley was devastated – he was planning to invite us home that night for a home cooked meal, and clearly there were no other tourists in town. We decided to stay just a few hours – enough to see something of this really incredible place.
The town was fascinating – imagine an old walled town, packed with sights and not a single tourist. It is famous for its silk weaving, and one can walk right into the silk workshops and buy the silk at source at ridiculously cheap prices. Chanderi will be a wonderful place to visit one day – all they need is an enterprising entrepreneur to open a decent guest house, b&b, or hotel.
We decided to carry on, which meant having to drive for hours in the dark, through a part of the state that has terrible roads. Furthermore, we had to sit through a raging electrical storm. It wasn’t fun but it was unforgettable!