Salar Jung Museum
So I did two days of touristing in Hyderabad. The first day, I went to the Salar Jung Museum, which I mostly found somewhat disappointing. Some of the collections were interesting, but much of it felt like the kind of kitschy stuff you'd find at a rich person's house. Well, a really rich person's house, but still. :P My favorite piece there was Veiled Rebecca by Giovanni Maria Benzoni, sculpted in the late 19th Century. (Cameras were not allowed.)
Next I saw the Chowmahalla Palace. I think I even paid an extra 50 rupees to bring my camera in, but I didn't really find anything interesting enough to shoot. :P I dunno.. I just don't have that much to say about it. It was interesting how the back of the palace had an exhibition of vintage cars!
And so, disappointed, I trekked out on the second day, which went much better! First, I went to the Birla Mandir. No cameras or shoes were allowed, so I basically left everything in the car. I even took my socks off for the truly authentic experience. :) The ground got hot in places, but mostly they had straw mats laid out for you to walk to. The temple was built entirely with white marble, and it has various areas for worshipping each god. I find it interesting that Birla is basically a really rich family, and their foundation financed this and many other temples, and named them after themselves. I was the only foreigner at the temple, I think, so it was interesting watching how people would pray or rest or just kind of hang out.
I also dropped by the nearby Birla Science Museum and Birla Modern Art Gallery. It was the first time I went to an attraction in India that didn't have a separate 10x price for foreigners! That said... So the art gallery was interesting though small. There were three workers there, and I was the only visitor.
One of the workers followed me around, turning lights on, and explaining some of the art to me. Oddly, even though I had to check my bag and camera, she asked me if I wanted to take pictures of one of the drawings (where all the lines were actually tiny letters). Confused, I said that I had to check my bag. So she asked if I had a cell phone camera. I didn't want to break the rules even if she seemed to want me to. I walked on, and then she said, "I want tip." :\ I was low on change, and so I handed her a 10 rupee note, a 5 rupee coin, and a really wrinkled, kind of disgusting 5 rupee note. She looked at it and handed it back! :P I replaced it with a 5 rupee coin. :\
I hate the whole forced tipping thing, but I suppose that's the flipside of not having to pay more as a foreigner. For instance, I felt compelled to tip the bag check guy, too, whereas I hadn't at previous museums I went to.
Onward to the Birla Science Museum: It was also kind of sad. They had a hands-on exploratorium type area, but half the exhibits were broken or missing parts! These museums both seem rather underfunded. It made me kind of wish they did charge foreigners extra, so they could afford to patch things up a bit!
Finally, I came to my favorite site in Hyderabad, the Golconda Fort, a massive ruined city. I was stopped several times there by people who wanted to take a picture with me. The most amusing was when four guys came up to me. Three of them stood next to me, while the fourth took the picture. Then that guy wanted a picture, so he took a picture with me. But then the other guys got jealous that he got to have a picture with me by himself, so each of them then got another individual photo with me! Hilarious. :P
When I was near the top, a resting family sent their little boy to talk to me, asking me where I was from and so forth. I gave him my camera to take a picture for me:
Afterward, I asked them if I could take a picture of their family, and they said sure:
Finally, here's a shot of some other tourists:
Being from the US in today's political environment, I can't claim that this photo was just random. I wanted to show Muslims doing ordinary things, and in particular, Mr. Strongman here displaying a sense of humor. :)
(Though I have to say: Anyone who claims to be an objective photojournalist is lying anyway; someone who's truly object would mostly end up with pictures of people with blank expressions, looking mildly bored. :P)