As a rule, I am trying to avoid big cities. One main reason for getting out of Bangalore is to see a little bit of rural India; and I was not planning to spend a lot of time in cities. But after visiting Undavalli Caves this morning, I had a bit of time before proceeding out of Vijayawada.
The cloak room at the bus station is a convenient service. Thy charge only ten rupees and it relieved me of the weight of my backpack for most of the day. The enquiry service counter is just as useful, one of the few places where I could speak in proper English and be understood. More importantly, the women (only women at this counter) were all knowledgeable and had all the information at their finger tips. They could tell me bus numbers, platform numbers and frequency of operations. Just one of the few cases when I was actually pleased with the service from government bodies.
I had trouble finding a good restaurant near the bus station. I had taken a chance last night at a shady place across the highway. Nothing happened to my stomach but only by luck. I was not going to take another chance. So I asked someone if I could find a 3-star restaurant in town. He was a bit puzzled.
‘You eat only in star restaurants?’
‘Actually, I have some stomach problem,’ I replied to keep the conversation simple. He knew only a little bit of English. I did not want to confuse him with discourses on the merit of precaution being better than cure.
‘You can go to the Gateway. Many buses will go there.’
So I took a bus to the Gateway, which happened to be Gateway Hotel. From the looks of it, it was a high class hotel, something of the equivalent of Bangalore’s Leela Palace. I did not bother to check out the prices. This was M.G. Road, a primary throughfare of Vijayawada. I was sure of finding an option suitable to my budget. I had an excellent lunch at a restaurant simply named “Family Restaurant”. Somehow I felt that I had missed the name of the restaurant in a confusing mix of billboards and signs. Jamun was excellent. I limited myself to a single serving of rice. Andhra people, it seems, like to eat mountains of rice. The only problem with the restaurant was that the lighting was too dim, as if they do not want you to see what you are putting down the throat.
Having finished lunch, I took a bus to the Archaelogical Museum down the same road. I met Mr. Sivaramakrishnan, caretaker, gatekeeper or official, I couldn’t say. He informed that the museum is closed for a couple of weeks for building maintenace. Just my luck. But could he tell me anything else to see in Vijayawada?
‘You can visit the Krishnaveni River Valley Museum at Prakasam Barrage. There is also Mogalarajapuram which has some caves. There is also a park worth visiting.’
‘Since I have already seen Undavalli Caves, I think I’ll visit the museum. It should be interesting,’ I mused.
He directed me to board bus 1 or 10. I took number 10. The bus conductor was furious. The bus does not go to Prakasam Barrage and I better get off right away. He made no attempt to stop the bus but traffic jams are common at intersections. I got off quickly. It seems the conductor was convinced I was trying to get a free ride.
After further enquiries, I got bus 5 to Prakasam Barrage. I walked up and down bridge, took in the wide scenes of the Krishna river and the controlled flow of water. Ayyappa devotees were bathing in the river. Many locals were doing their laundry. The green hills around the river stood out in the harsh afternoon sun. The river glistened. Lines of neatly hung laundry caught the sun.
I found the museum but it was closed. Perhaps the guy was out for lunch. There was no notice whatsoever. So my attempts to visit a museum in Vijayawada failed. I returned by walk to the bus station, did some blogging at the Internet center, picked up my backpack, boarded the bus to the village of Kuchpudi and waited for departure. The bus was just about pulling out when I pulled up my sleeve to check the time. I had to get down from the bus in a hurry. I had forgotten my watch at the Internet center. So I had to wait once more but now with my watch to keep time.